By Alison Brattle
The structure of most sales organizations hasn’t changed much in the past few decades. The average organization is made up of a number of sales reps working in the field, who meet face-to-face with current and prospective clients. Those field reps are supported by additional staff members and “inside reps” who complete the internal work associated with completing the transaction.
However, that’s slowly changing. Organizations are transitioning their sales staff members from working as external reps in the field, to internal office-based reps who work primarily via phone and email. The inside reps are no longer support staff who do the “back end” work – they’re now the people who are actually closing deals.
One study by Steve W. Martin surveyed over 100 vice presidents of sales at leading service providers and tech companies and found that 46 percent of sales teams had shifted from the external to the internal model. However, 21 percent had done the opposite, moving from an internal sales model to an external field model. So, while there is some shift either way, there was more than twice as much movement from external to internal – a clear indication of a trend.
The Advantages of an Internal Sales Team
There are some big advantages to be gained from shifting to an internal sales model. One of the biggest is that sales rep training becomes much more effective with an inside model. Under the external model, sales reps don’t necessarily come into contact with one another on a regular basis; but, with reps working internally in the same office space, it’s much easier to provide sales training for new reps, share “best practice” sales tips, and disseminate new information.
According to Steve W. Martin’s survey, 84 percent of respondents who shifted from an external to an internal sales model cited these and similar benefits, as well as this:
- 79 percent said the internal model provided for more rapid growth of the organization
- 76 percent said the internal model was more effective for reaching mid-markets and small businesses
- 78 percent reported increased call activity and volume of sales
Is the Internal Sales Model Universally Superior?
These are some exciting statistics, which definitely point to the value of internal sales, but it’s important to note that this isn’t the best solution for all organizations.
For example, for a newly-established organization, it’s often more prudent to adopt an external model to more effectively build the personal relationships sales reps rely on. As the organization expands, switching to an internal model may become more fruitful, since it provides the ability to integrate new staff more effectively and allows for more rapid growth.
Another highly influential factor is the complexity of the organization’s sales cycle – how many individuals are involved, purchase size and value, and the complexity of the product itself. An enterprise sale cycle, for example, is a long cycle based on high-value purchases involving multiple individuals at various levels of the organization. In these cases, external sales are necessary – again, because selling extremely high-value products over a long period of time is something that relies on the development of more personal business relationships and networking.
On the other hand, a short and simple sales cycle is where the internal model really shines: high volumes of low-value sales, where the customer’s purchasing decisions are made by a single department or individual.
Choosing the right model is key to any business’s growth and future profits objectives. However, in many cases, a mixture of both models is needed at various periods of time in the organization’s cycle. The most important element to consider is timing – when to implement the model (or models) that fit with the company’s current goals and capacity.
Alison Brattle is a marketing manager at AchieveGlobal UK, a global sales training and leadership development firm based in London. It specializes in providing exceptional sales coaching and helps organizations develop business strategies to achieve sales success. Find her on LinkedIn.