The “big middle” market segment—companies with $100 million to $1 billion in annual sales—represents a huge opportunity for high-tech firms. ZS’s recent research on the big middle shows that there are several opportunities for high-tech companies to improve their sales processes to better target this segment. One way to do so is to more effectively leverage inside sales teams.
A recent Gartner article suggested that sales development reps (SDRs), a type of inside sales rep, should report to marketing, a notion that highlights the fact that high-tech firms aren’t maximizing inside sales reps’ potential. The basis for this position is that SDRs, whether focused on qualifying inbound leads provided by marketing, or generating leads through outbound efforts, have typically focused on moving leads into and through the sales funnel until they are qualified to pass on to a field sales rep. At the end of the day, this is more aligned to traditional marketing demand generation activities and performance metrics than it is with sales quotas and incentives. The SDR role is in many ways the connective tissue between marketing and sales within tech firms. Because buying decisions are often longer and more complex in nature, there is more need for low-cost nurturing to engage the potential buyer and provide targeted information until the buyer is ready to move forward with making the decision. At the point when potential buyers are “sales qualified,” then it makes sense to hand them over to a higher-cost field sales rep or partner to close the deal.
However, there are different types of roles that inside sales can play beyond lead qualification, some of which may still carry sales quotas and be better aligned with the sales organization. It comes down to how you’re defining and specializing the role of inside sales reps. Especially in the “big middle” market segment, inside sales reps have the potential to bring a lot of value to the sales team if they are empowered in the right way.
Here are three ways that high-tech companies can better utilize their inside sales resources:
- Avoid using inside sales reps as “sales assistants.” Rather than adding value by engaging and qualifying opportunities, inside sales reps often are used to alleviate administrative burden from field sales reps. When direct field sales reps complain that they’re spending too much time filling out paperwork or doing non-selling work, they push that work to people in inside sales. That reduces the potential impact you get from inside sales and diminishes the role they can play.
- Differentiate inside sales roles. Inside sales can play greater roles beyond just inbound or outbound lead generation and qualification. Instead, let inside sales reps handle simpler transactions, like renewals or cloud-based offerings that don’t require heavy technical expertise. Which offerings or use cases that make sense for inside sales to own end-to-end will vary by company, but if you do this, field sales reps can focus on issues that are closer to the decision, so they can have a higher win rate.
- Use advanced analytics, artificial intelligence or sales tools to make inside sales resources more effective. These can all help better align opportunities, leads and contacts with the right inside sales rep at the right time, and provide the inside sales rep with the insights, content and messaging they need to be successful at engaging that specific lead. One ZS client recently expanded the role of its inside sales reps to take over farming existing accounts for opportunities. However, they struggled to prioritize leads across all of their accounts and product offerings, so the company rolled out an AI engine that leverages data to recommend specific daily actions for the inside sales reps to identify new sales-qualified opportunities within existing customer accounts.
When it comes to engaging the big middle market, inside sales resources have been underutilized in high-tech. The big middle is simply too expansive to be covered solely by field sales reps, so high-tech firms need to move beyond thinking about their inside sales resources as only handling inbound leads or doing outbound calling to generate leads. Inside sales, when provided with the opportunity and sales enablement tools, can provide tremendous value in the big middle by farming existing customer accounts to handle simple transactions and identify upsell or cross-sell opportunities for their field sales rep or channel partner counterpart to follow up on. Inside sales hunters can also handle more responsibility, and carry quotas, for closing simpler transactions with new customers, going from lead generation and qualification through to actually closing the deal.