Inside Sales Report Reveals Rapid Career Growth and Key Trends

Inside Sales has been a key sales function for a long time. The “The Great Recession” has heightened its importance as more companies realize the revenue driving potential of inside sales.  According to Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group, the 54% increase in career demand for inside sales roles from 2009 to 2011 shows real proof of this fact.

The growth can also be attributed to:

  • Buyer acceptance of online interactions (vs. face-to-face)
  • Newer and innovative lower cost offerings that don’t support a heavy field sales structure
  • Reports indicating that 50-60% of the sales process is complete by the time sales interacts with buyers, eliminating or at least delaying ceremonial on-site intro and seller qualification meetings
  • Technologies, like GoToMeeting, that can quickly put buyer and seller together remotely to assess solution fit

Ken Rouge, CEO of inside sales tools maker, and Forbes contributor, recently distributed a report titled Lead Generation: Metrics and Compensation Report for B2B Technology Companies. Authored by The Bridge group each year, the highly anticipated report is a must read for CEOs, sales, marketing and lead generation executives following the latest strategies and trends in sales organization structure.

The research data is gathered from 197 companies, most of which come from the innovative tech industry. However, keen insights and trends from the report will benefit sales leaders in any B2B industry.

As an advisor to established organizations transitioning from “traditional” sales models to integrated social sales and inbound marketing strategies, The report confirms my observations. Below, I’ve highlighted key findings from the 21-page report and included commentary and conclusions drawn from my experiences.

Key Finding: Inbound and Outbound Strategies Coexist

Inbound marketers need to take note that inbound tactics do not stand on their own as a lead generation strategy in B2B environments. Every company surveyed utilizes both inbound and outbound tactics for lead generation.

My observations show that inbound programs are vital to lead generation, but they typically cannot support the volume of leads needed to drive growth and revenue targets. Outbound is needed to fill the funnel and complement inbound leads generated from content marketing, social and website leads.

Trending: Inside Sales Reports to Sales Leadership

I believe that inside sales should report to sales leadership – not marketing. The report supports this theory with 70% of companies aligning inside sales under sales leadership in 2012.

I’m also a proponent of marketing reporting to sales in organizations. With increased marketing and sales integration to support top of the sales funnel activities, inside sales needs direction by sales leadership to leverage marketing initiatives effectively and provide critical feedback required for improvements.

Inside Sales Infrastructure

This year, The Bridge Group added infrastructure to the study. Infrastructure is defined as the “use of commercial data sources, public social sources and other technologies.” I call this “Sales Intelligence”. This is a great review of sales intelligence strategies to engage with prospects.

  • 88% of the companies surveyed use at least one data provider for contact and account information.
  • The top data providers used were: (formerly Jigsaw (45%), Hoovers (45%) and Zoominfo (28%). In general, these services are paid services, with limited information available in free subscription options.
  • 91% use at least one social source. 87% used LinkedIn as a source, followed by Twitter (27%) and Facebook (15%). Google+ – didn’t make the cut.
  • Only 21% of respondents utilize auto-dialer technology.

Dials, Touches and Conversations Per Day

  • 56 average dials per day represent a five-year high. Those using auto dial technology in outbound-focused companies averaged 81 dials per day – an increase of 45%!
  • 9 conversations per day on average. Inbound-centric companies had more conversations at 12+ even with fewer dials than outbound-centric companies. This fact speaks to the benefits of inbound marketing, where prospects “find” sellers through search and content and then engage with sellers.
  • 5.6 attempts on average at establishing contact before moving on.

As I see it, there’s too much emphasis is on how many calls go toward a target account. This suggests that inside sales reps are not leaving voicemails and/or emails early in the campaign process. Trying to “catch” a prospect at their desk for a phone call 5 times is a questionable strategy.

Top Challenges for Inside Sales

The top two challenges for inside sales leaders are prospect data sourcing and productivity.

The Bridge Group mentions an emerging trend in hiring full or part time resources to focus on data cleansing. It continues to surprise me that companies are understaffed or not staffed for this task. The challenges with data sourcing and inside sales productivity are joined at the hip when organizations don’t dedicate support to build and curate data.

With my own company’s sales teams and as an advisor to tech and SaaS companies, this is one of the first items I recommend. There’s great talent out there in the form of marketing internships or recent college graduates trying to get experience in marketing research or sales support. Turn this task over to them for anywhere from $10-$15 per hour – it’s worth it! Given the average compensation of inside sales professionals, it’s critically important to have them focus every minute of their day on prospect interaction.

Typical duties for an intern include: establishing LinkedIn connections, sourcing phone and email data, updating CRM systems and sending out email campaigns.

It would be hard to argue that Inside Sales is not a growing and critical function to a B2B sales organization. Don’t forget to access the full report to dive deeper into the details on topics like compensation, quota attainment, and turnover. Also, follow Ken Krogue and Trish Bertuzzi on Twitter for regular updates on what’s new with inside sales.

Trish Bertuzzi – founder, president and Chief Strategist at the Bridge Group @bridgegroupinc

Ken Krogue is the President and Co-founder of Follow him at: @KenKrogue

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