Inside sales teams and outside sales teams have traditionally sold in different ways. Inside sales teams sold over the phone or fax or walk-in orders. Face-to-face interaction with customers was transactional and generally uncomplicated. Outside sales teams sold primarily in person and were responsible for larger volume accounts. Existing and emerging technology, however, is challenging these traditions. These changes require a new type of collaboration in order to improve customer service and top line growth.
E-commerce will continue to drive customers towards greater interaction with inside sales teams. Inside teams will need to expertly support the self-directed customer. As self-service options become the preferred choice among clients outside sales teams will need to build value in increasingly non-transactional ways. From a field salespersons’ perspective it may feel like the inside sales team and e-commerce capabilities are invading their turf. However, e-commerce represents a lower cost to serve. It improves loyalty providing the experience is low-effort. It also allows outside salespeople to thicken their value proposition with innovative strategies.
Both inside and outside sales teams already interact with their customers and conduct a significant amount of business remotely. Technology provides inside and outside sales teams the ability to meet increasingly complicated client needs. Products, pricing, programs, promotions, events, trips, incentives, marketing and advertising–these are no longer the exclusive domain of the outside sales team. All of these advantages are offered in on-line formats that inside teams need to master in as much as outside sales teams need to grow comfortable with the idea that inside sales means inside sales. As such, inside teams need higher level communication, problem solving, and client support skills in order to venture beyond scripted interaction.
Sales and operations leaders will change the way they hire and the way their teams use technology to serve customers. Traditionally, hiring an inside sales representative emphasized transactional characteristics (lift, drive, pass a drug test). In the future, inside sales representatives will need to be comfortable and competent in more self-directed roles–given the latitude to pursue customer development needs in the interest of sales. Many inside sales representatives that I work with do not feel they currently have this permission. At the same time, outside teams will need to excel at using data, virtual selling, and social selling. Technology helps an outside sales person reduce his effort, scale his message, and reduce the effort asked of a customer.
Technology of forcing traditional inside and outside sales roles to evolve. In the coming years it’s fair to expect artificial intelligence to answer phones at branches everywhere. It’s equally fair to expect that expert remote selling and data utilization skills will be an expected competency for outside sales professionals. Companies that capitalize on these opportunities and create hybrid teams will create a selling advantage by not relying solely on one team or another to meet their needs.