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What is Inside Sales?

What is Inside Sales?

During the past few years, in response to corporate restructuring and the need to reduce operating expenses, many companies have focused on building inside sales organizations. The current challenge is to optimize the performance of these specialized, contact center-based sales organizations.

What is Inside Sales?

Inside sales staff are required to take on many different roles, including acting as administrative assistants for field sales staff, resolving customer inquiries (from billing questions to technical issues), generating leads, telemarketing (even when they don’t call it that) and/or selling. The cost benefits of using an inside sales organization are compelling. These are complemented by enhancements in service quality and customer satisfaction. Customers enjoy the convenience of being able to easily reach their sales representative.

The market recognizes the value and importance of inside sales organizations. There are a variety of numbers floating around the market, but based on what I’ve seen in the last couple of jobs I’ve worked on, an inside sales person costs at least 50% less than a field sales person. An inside sales person is also able to spend more of his or her day dealing with customers, since there is no need to spend time traveling from place to place. For the corporation, there is a clear financial benefit in that there are no travel-related expenses for inside sales folks.

Advantage of Inside Sales

Inside sales staff have many other advantages over field sales staff. Inside sales representatives are readily available by phone, whereas a good field sales person generally spends more than 50% of his/her time in customer meetings and is therefore very hard to reach. An inside sales person also has access to a great deal more customer information than a field sales person, even one with a sales force automation application. And, many inside sales people are located at a company site that allows immediate interaction with operations and production to resolve customers’ issues on a timely basis. When empowered by management, trained properly and given the right tools, inside sales personnel are positioned to cost effectively provide an outstanding customer experience.

Contact Center Best Practices for Inside Sales

So, what’s the hitch? Best practices intended for service-oriented contact centers are generally not appropriate for inside sales organizations. Companies that want a successful inside sales organization must implement new best practices custom designed for this purpose.

Inside sales organizations, like many classic contact centers, can realize great benefits from the productivity and quality orientation of contact center infrastructure, but they cannot rely on these metrics alone. Too narrow an emphasis on productivity can be detrimental to the performance of inside sales staff, as the primary objective should not be to keep the average talk time down to 180 seconds. But traditional productivity-oriented data are still relevant, as contact center infrastructure can be used to identify when inside sales staff does not spend enough time on customers’ calls.

Primary Goal is Revenue Generation

Like all contact center functions, inside sales organizations need to have one clear primary goal and then use the contact center functionality to help them reach it. Inside sales’ primary goal is revenue generation. Each inside sales representative must understand his/her role in achieving this essential corporate objective. All other activities, such as resolving customer inquiries, providing technical support, doing clerical tasks and assisting the sales staff, are secondary. However, a good inside sales person appreciates that they’ll have a much better chance of selling, if they have a good relationship with the customer.

An inside sales organization’s primary mission is to sell. So, any inside sales organization without revenue goals is unlikely to succeed. The issue is that field sales organizations are the life-blood of many companies. While executives know the benefits of using inside sales, they are often so concerned about disturbing their field sales force and distribution partners that they end up tying the hands of their inside sales organization by presenting them with conflicting goals and objectives.

Inside Sales Alters the Landscape for Sales Organizations

Life needs to change for sales departments. Inside sales organizations need to be viewed as essential corporate contributors and be assigned revenue goals. Field sales, partners (distributors, value added resellers, etc.) and inside sales organizations need to figure out how to co-exist in a way that allows all three organizations to optimize corporate profitability. The interaction among these departments is going to get even more interesting once field sales organizations realize all they have to gain from being tied into their contact center infrastructure, even though they are rarely going to take live calls (although, inside sales may chose to receive them during specific times of each day).

Customers want to reach their sales representatives when they are ready to do business, not when a sales person decides it is time to reach out to them. Customers are increasingly demanding and view most products as commodities. Using the technology of real-time contact centers, sales organizations can optimize the performance of their sales staff – whether field sales, inside sales or partners – by allowing contact center adaptive analytics to locate the most appropriate sales person to respond to a query at any given moment. This will allow every customer to speak to a sales representative at their convenience and minimize the cost and expense of reaching customers.

Contact center technology has evolved. While it’s taken a few decades to mature, the real challenge is yet to come: convincing sales organizations that now is the time to change.

Ask the Experts

We’d like to know what metrics we should use to measure our contact center. We are an inside sales organization, servicing a combination of our own sales staff, customers and occasionally partners. We do not receive a large volume of calls, but we still want to measure our activity. Quality is important to us, and we’re not sure how to include quality in our metrics.

– A high-tech inside sales organization
Inside sales organizations require metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs), just like any operating area or contact center. As the primary goal of an inside sales organization is to generate revenue, the primary measure of success for your department and for each inside sales representative should be revenue. It’s essential for your department to have a revenue goal that is aligned with corporate revenue objectives. It’s also important for your department to work cooperatively with field sales and distribution partners to assist them in meeting their goals. However, as inside sales is still a contact center, productivity, quality and customer satisfaction matter as well.

Here is a general list of KPIs for your inside sales organization:

Productivity Metrics:

# of calls offered and handled
Percent of calls answered in 20 seconds
Average talk time
Average wrap time
Average handle time
# of emails handled
Average time to respond to emails
Percent of calls resolved in first contact
Percent of transactions resolved in first contact
# of outbound calls
Average talk time
Average wrap time
Average handle time

Orders and quotes:
# of quotes processed
# of lines/quote
# of proposals issued
# of lines/proposal
Average price per quote
Total dollar amount of items sold
Average quote turnaround time
Average proposal turnaround time
# of up-sell/cross-sell opportunities
# of leads identified
# of referrals
Quality Metrics:
Accuracy of orders
Accuracy of quotes
Call QM score
– Product knowledge
– Technical knowledge
– Communications skills
– Problem solving skills
Email QM score
Quality of technical knowledge
Reasons people called

Satisfaction Metrics:
Monthly real-time survey of customers
Monthly real-time survey of field sales staff
Monthly real-time survey of partners/distributors

Note: It is critical to measure the performance of each inside sales representative, contact center site and the overall department on a consistent basis.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at