How to Unlock the Value of Inside Sales

By Ben Taylor

People often say that any successful product design must be at least two of the following: fast, cheap, and reliable. An MIT scientist later upended this idea, suggesting that space exploration would be more successful if it were “fast, cheap, and out of control.” He argued that, instead of sending one large robot into space, sending 100 tiny, “out of control” robots would be better.

Why? Sending more robots offers a greater chance of success. If one failed, there would be another that didn’t. NASA could afford to lose a few.

This strategy presents an unsettling similarity to how some approach inside sales.   

Advances in sales and marketing automation allow sellers to reach more customers in less time. However, inside selling cannot succeed on volume alone. Unlike those tiny robots, sellers can’t afford to lose a few customers. Each one counts. Therefore, inside sellers need a framework to yield value from every interaction. That framework is Consultative Telephone Selling.

The Rise of Inside Sales

Traditionally, many businesses relied on face-to-face meetings to win the sale. However, “Cost pressures resulting from the economic downturn have forced many B2B vendors to reevaluate that stance, with surprising results,” writes McKinsey. By emboldening their inside sales team, one global brand “reduced travel costs for sales specialists by 50 percent globally, saving millions of dollars a year.”

Meanwhile, today’s customers are also getting accustomed to inside selling for two reasons. First, they are more comfortable making a buying decision without meeting the seller because they want immediate solutions. Second, the average number of decision makers is rising as the logistics of managing different schedules has become prohibitive. For customers, working with sellers over the phone and video is becoming a necessity.

However, in the race to reach more customers, sellers cannot afford to sacrifice quality. The customer must still be part of the inside sales equation. However, according to Gallup, less than half of customers believe that sellers adequately address their problems. A consultative approach is helping more sellers overcome this challenge.

Unlocking the Value of Inside Sales

The core of Consultative Telephone Selling is the ability to understand customer needs. It’s also the skill most lacking in sales today. Effective questioning starts by providing the rationale for the inquiry. This preface encourages customers to share information.

Remember, questioning shouldn’t be an interrogation. Sellers need to earn the right by balancing their questions with insights. By offering relevant ideas, the seller establishes credibility. As the seller moves through these questions, they must acknowledge what the customer said as they lead to the next question because it’s too easy for the customer to disengage over the phone.

Ultimately, customers will be receptive because the information is relatable. However, keeping information relevant means avoiding the tendency to show the volume of one’s findings. Sellers must share only the most relevant information. Otherwise, they risk losing the customer. Volume doesn’t necessarily equal value.

As this exchange builds, rapport develops – allowing the seller to float ideas. Doing so starts with a carefully crafted value statement linking the seller’s capabilities to the customer’s challenges. The value statement must address:

  1. What’s important to the customer
  2. How the seller can help
  3. What outcomes can be expected

A strong value statement fits the inside selling model because it’s brief. Brevity matters because inside sellers leverage technology to reach more customers in less time. With a concise articulation of value, a seller can form a connection faster over several calls.

After sharing insights and a value statement, consultative sellers need to get feedback. Customer feedback offers clues to closing. Take time to check with the customer that the solutions discussed meet their challenges. This information is needed “in the moment” when the seller can react. Getting the customer’s reactions is critical in keeping ideas malleable. Additionally, asking for the customer’s perspective demonstrates a commitment to a collaborative, consultative process.

Excellence in Consultative Telephone Selling is the driver of inside sales. Sellers equipping themselves with these skills are learning how they can approach each call with dialogue that’s relevant, persuasive, and “in control.”

Ben Taylor is content marketing manager at Richardson. He has an MBA in finance from LaSalle University and more than a decade of business and writing experience. He has covered content for brands such as Nasdaq, Barclaycard, and Business Insider.