The field sales force is an extremely valuable resource for every company in the B2B business. It has a strong effect on sales success, it is usually a scarce resource, and it is cost intensive. No question that everything must be done to maximize the effectiveness and the efficiency of this resource.
One contributor to the effectiveness and efficiency of the field sales force is the internal sales force. Its role is becoming increasingly important. This is to a great extent attributable to the availability of modern IT technology, which strongly contributes to its effectiveness and efficiency.
Depending on the nature of the business, internal sales can fulfill various different tasks. Typical examples are:
- Organizing visits for the field sales people
- Making first contact with a new prospect
- Price calculation
- Preparing offers
- Follow-up calls
- Regular care calls
- Interface to other internal functions
- Clarify technical questions before and after submitting the quote
The list could easily be extended. Some tasks, such as data entry, internet search, or any kind of administrative work, can often be better performed by internal sales people because field sales people are traveling. Follow-up calls often require several attempts at different times before a target person gets on the phone. To prepare quotations generally requires a lot of interaction with other departments, which will be difficult for someone being on the road.
And one other factor should be mentioned as well: Most field sales people hate all kinds of administrative work because they regard it as bureaucracy and an infringement on their time with the customer. One of the typical consequences of this is a poorly maintained customer database. A gap which can best be filled by internal sales.
Proper use of internal sales offers many benefits to the company and heavily contributes to sales productivity. The most important contribution is created by relieving the field sales force from many time consuming tasks which helps them to respond faster to customer requests and to work more effectively. Since the cost of an internal sales organization is much lower than the field sales organization, the whole sales operation becomes more cost efficient at the same time as it increases its effectiveness. On top of that, an efficiently working internal sales organization can offer much better customer care than the outside sales organization could do alone. This leads to increased customer satisfaction which will eventually lead to even more sales.
Nevertheless, there are a number of prerequisites to be fulfilled before the internal sales force becomes a real contributor to the sale productivity. Number one is the organizational integration. There are many different ways to do this and they depend on the nature of the business. In some cases it may be best to assign individual inside sales persons to specific sales territories and sales people. This would be the case where internal sales helps the field sales people to organize their visiting schedules and where they are responsible for follow-up calls and make regular customer calls in between visits. In other cases, where the main job for internal sales is to work out technical calculations, it may be better to assign people based on available capacity. In any model, workflows and responsibilities have to be made absolutely clear to every person within the organization.
Another no less important prerequisite is a flawless exchange of information. Imagine the impression a company leaves with a customer if internal salespeople ask the same question again which he had already answered to the field sales person. Or, even worse, an important requirement which has been told to the field sales person didn’t find its way into the quotation because the responsible internal sales person didn’t know about it. If internal and field sales persons are working on opportunities in teams, both should also share about priorities so both are correctly focused. With limited resources, not only the field sales person, but also the internal sales person must allocate his or her valuable time to the right opportunities at the right time.
All this can only be achieved through the application of modern technology. Information must be made available instantaneously to everyone who needs it. Cloud technology, smartphones and tablet computers offer a powerful platform which enables inside and outside sales people to work together in highly effective and efficient teams.