Technology shifting focus to inside sales

The role of the salesman is changing. New technology, shifts in consumer behavior and increasing competition have led to the creation of large inside sales forces. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and SungKyunKwan University showed that inside sales positions grew by 7.5 percent in 2009 while outside sales jobs increased just 0.5 percent.

Inside sales teams have more tools at their fingertips. Cloud-based platforms, social media and mobile devices make it easy to create a highly informed, well-connected sales force that can close more deals faster and at lower cost than traditional outside salespeople.

"For the last four years the remote selling trend has grown," said Dave Elkington, CEO of InsideSales.com, told CFO Magazine. "Remote selling offers cost savings and time efficiencies that make it the method of choice for many companies."

In addition to lower costs, consumer behavior is driving the shift in strategies. People are much more comfortable completing transactions online or through mobile devices. Companies wanting to remain competitive are altering their sales process management to account for the increased online activity.

Business 2 Community notes that salesmen looking to increase the number of leads they generate need to become intimately familiar with social media marketing strategies. Having real-time data about customer preferences and online activity makes it easier to approach them with personalized offers that will pique their interest and result in a sale. However, this same technology is also creating challenges for companies.

Matt Bertuzzi, a consultant for The Bridge Group, states that consumers have access to more information than ever before. This means salesmen need to have a very intimate knowledge of the products they are pitching.

"If you can't give me, the buyer, new insight or new ideas, you're just adding to my workload and I don't have time for you," Bertuzzi said. "You have to know more than the buyer."

The time and effort it takes to cultivate a client is an important factor for companies to consider when coaching their employees. Most businesses have started to shift to a long-term view of customer value. Rather than completing a single transaction, employees are taught to build the foundation for an ongoing relationship. It is easier for staff to keep in touch with their customer with social media and email leading to higher repeat business down the road. These changes in strategy are impacting sales on-boarding programs and the composition of departments.