Forming an Inside Sales Team for Lead Generation

No lead can turn into a customer without the help of inside sales — they are your team on the front line and are often the first people to speak directly to a lead.

What is an inside sales team? According to sales thought leader Ken Krogue, "Inside sales is remote sales, or sales in the cloud." Many B2B companies with longer sales cycles have both inside sales teams who qualify leads and set appointments (sometimes called sales development reps, or SDRs), and account executives who engage in a relationship-based in-person sell. (This is sometimes called field sales because those folks are out in the field.)

The inside sales function is a critical part to lead generation and ensuring that all of your effort as a marketer pays off in the end.

You should consider forming an inside sales team to round out your lead-generation efforts, even if it is just one or two people. You don't want your account executives focusing on cold calling and qualifying leads, so with an inside sales team, your top sales executives can focus on what they do best — closing deals.

As thought leader Craig Rosenberg of Funnelholic says, "The most successful lead-generation programs have dedicated phone resources whose sole job in life is to take raw inquiries and qualify them before being sent to sales."

Hiring the best inside sales team

Inside sales teams need to have sales acumen and be excellent communicators on the phone, which is a very specific and hard-to-find skill. Your sales reps need to be interesting, engaging, credible-sounding, and able to serve up a rebuttal for any form of rejection a lead gives them. Test their communication skills by doing extensive phone screens and role-playing.

LinkedIn is a great resource for good inside sales team candidates. Scout for people who have phone sales experience in high-volume businesses such as technology. You probably will find a lot of reps with phone sales experience within the technology sector.

Here are some other characteristics to look for when searching for your winning inside sales team:

  • A college degree.

  • Four to twelve months of experience on the phone or in a sales function.

  • Leadership positions in college and high school, or involvement in competitive hobbies like sports.

  • An outgoing personality: You don't want a shrinking violet as your sales front line.

  • Excellent written skills: Your inside sales teams will be spending time creating emails, so make sure they know how to write one.

  • A desire to succeed and move up: In many organizations, the inside sales team members get promoted to account executives.

Setting inside sales goals and quotas

You need to think about how your inside sales teams will be measured and what their daily activities consist of. A good rule of thumb is that an inside sales rep should spend about two-thirds of his time calling on inbound leads (sourced through marketing efforts) and the rest of the time cold calling and researching.

For example, some companies want their inside sales reps to have about 40–60 meaningful interactions with leads per day. This means a good phone call or email exchange. This does not include voicemails or hang-ups — these are not meaningful in any way, and you want to avoid them at all costs.

How do you come up with an inside sales quota? You take your number of daily meaningful interactions (say, 50 in this case), multiply that by 20 (because there are generally 20 business days in a month), and multiply again by two-thirds (because most sales reps are only spending two-thirds of their time qualifying leads). This gives you a target of interactions per month per inside sales person.

You can take this number, about 650 in this case, and divide that by 2.6 (which is the average number of calls it takes some inside sales reps to qualify a lead), and you can target your inside sales reps to work with about 250 quality leads per month.

Be sure to take into consideration your own sales cycle. Your inside sales reps may be qualifying more or fewer leads, depending on your sales cycle and how many leads your marketing team generates.

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