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customers like to buy.
Consider yourself, by way of example. If you need to make a
purchase – any purchase – my guess is that your general preference is to buy online (with no human contact whatsoever). And,
if this isn’t practical, you’ll probably seek help from a person via
online chat or over the telephone.
Even if you are making a large purchase, I doubt your first
instinct is to call and request that a salesperson come visit you in
your home or place of business. It’s likely that you’ll do as much
research as you can before agreeing to a face-to-face meeting
with a salesperson (if, in fact, you agree to a meeting at all). And
if a salesperson does come visit with you, it’s likely that this visit is
after quite a number of email and telephone conversations. If this
is how customers buy – and it surely is – then this is how we must
An inside-out approach means that we start with an inside nucleus – as close to operations as possible – and then add additional
layers only when they are absolutely required:
E-commerce and Customer Service: The nucleus consists of your
website and your customer service team. Your website should
allow those customers who are so inclined to serve themselves to
consume information and to transact. These customers – it should
go without saying – are your very best customers, so it makes
sense to look after them.
Your customer service team is an extension of your web presence. Think of it as a concierge service that sits on top of your
website. Regardless of what you sell, your customer service team
should be responsible for processing simple transactions (those
where customers know pretty much what they want), generating
quotes and handling issues.
Inside Sales: Once you have customer service looking after simple transactions, your next step should be to add sales. But your
first sales layer should be an inside one. Your inside salespeople
should have skills and knowledge equivalent (or superior) to your
competitors’ field salespeople. But, because your inside salespeople are inside specialists, they will each have 30 meaningful selling
interactions a day.
And, as a part of your inside sales team, you’ll need a promotions machine. I say ‘machine’ because those 30 interactions a day
will result in an insatiable hunger for sales opportunities. You will
need to generate 10 to 20 sales opportunities a day to keep each
inside salesperson busy.
Field Sales: As you start to scale inside sales, you will experience
an increasing requirement for field visits. After all, there are still
some activities that genuinely do need to be performed outside.
At this point it will be tempting to recruit a team of traditional
salespeople, but a modicum of caution is advised. If you examine
those activities that genuinely do need to be performed in the
field, you’ll see that they fall naturally into two categories:
1. Technical activities (e.g. technical requirement discovery and
2. Enterprise sales activities (e.g. running discovery workshops
and presenting to executive teams).
You’ll also discover, in most all environments, that the greatest preponderance of activities lands in that first category. This
should give you pause. It turns out, in most organizations, your
initial field hires should be technical specialists (with some sales
sensibilities), as opposed to archetypal salespeople. These field
specialists will be an invaluable resource for your core inside sales
team. When inside salespeople discover a requirement for a field
activity, they can push it to a field specialist, who can perform the
necessary activity and report back to the inside salesperson who
(hopefully) can proceed to finalize the sale.
You will discover that you can build quite a significant sales
team before you have a requirement to add true enterprise-class
salespeople. In fact, if your organization is generating less than
$10 million a year in sales, it’s unlikely that you can really justify
such a hire. You’ll be better off focusing on building out your core
team and pushing enterprise-type activities to your senior executives.
When you can justify your first enterprise sales hire, it’s wise to
make two hires. In addition to the salesperson, employ an executive assistant. The executive assistant can take responsibility for
the essential inside activities, leaving your (expensive) new enterprise salesperson free to spend 100 percent of their time in the
field. With this configuration, an enterprise salesperson can easily
perform 3-4 field meetings a day — which is about 10 times the
volume of work that they could handle if they worked alone.
Built to Scale
You’ll discover that this inside-out approach results in a vastly
superior interface between you and your customers. That’s nice,
but the better news is that this model is easy – and inexpensive
– to scale. Because almost all of your marketing and sales activity
is performed by an inside team, you don’t need regional sales
offices, you don’t need layers of management, and you don’t need
a team of operations people to process expense reports and adjudicate border skirmishes between over-caffeinated commissioned
The death of field sales does not mark the end of field salespeople. They still exist and they always will. What it does mark
is the beginning of a new era, where sales is essentially an inside
You’ll come to discover that the inside-out sales model results
in happier customers, a lower average cost of sale, and a fast-er-growing business. It’s time to be done with the grieving so we
can knuckle down and exploit this exciting new reality.
Justin Roff-Marsh is the founder of Ballistix and the author of The
Machine. You can get the first few chapters of The Machine free