3. Companies Don’t Understand the Skill Set
Required of an Inside Sales Rep
Many distributors think they can take a good customer
service rep and turn them into an inside sales rep. But the
skill sets for these roles are polar opposites. The skills that
make a good CSR do not make a good inside sales rep,
which means they are being set up to fail in the new role.
They don’t have the training or skills to succeed. Instead,
look for someone with a hunter personality. Someone
in inside sales should want to pick up the phone and ask
the right questions to understand what your customers
need and how you can serve them better. Develop a
compensation plan in line with your goals to incentivize
the right behaviors.
4. Account Selection for Inside
Sales Reps Is Flawed
Most companies want to work on “house” accounts
which are house accounts for a reason, because they
typically have no potential or are too difficult to service.
But the best source for inside sales accounts are those
5. Inside Sales Reps Morph Into
with the potential to grow. I recently worked with a
distributor that grew its sales to small and medium-
sized customers by 14 percent in just five months using
its inside sales team. Double-digit sales increases are
not unusual if you select the right accounts for the
program; inside sales reps will be more responsive to
these smaller and medium-sized accounts. The 80/20 rule
applies here. I suggest you take a portion of the bottom
80% of field sales-assigned accounts for this program, as
these are often overlooked.
Customer Service Reps
A common pitfall to avoid is inside sales getting
caught up in processing quotes and orders for their
customers instead of making outbound calls. Make sure
the proactive inside sales reps are properly supported by
CSRs. View inside sales and customer service as a team,
so that CSRs can focus on inbound service and inside
sales can focus on outbound calls. Communicate this
process to customers so that they understand the value
of both teams.
6. Field Sales and Customer Service Reps
Feel Threatened, and as a Result Don’t
Support the Inside Sales Team
Proactive inside sales can drive growth when
used as part of a multichannel strategy integrating
field sales, e-commerce and marketing. But if a
distributor’s strategy is not well communicated, it is
destined to fail. To avoid pushback, management
needs to communicate what the inside sales team
is responsible for and how they fit into the larger
picture. After all, field sales reps may perceive their
compensation is at risk because they see inside sales
reps as “taking” some of their accounts, even though
the field sales rep doesn’t have time to work on them.
Customer service rep compensation must be reviewed
to ensure no bonus programs are tied to unassigned
accounts that are also assigned to inside sales.
When You Should Act
Most distributors should consider a proactive inside
sales team as part of a multichannel strategy. Signs that
you should reevaluate the role of your inside sales team
include a low average order value, missed cross-selling
opportunities, customers’ making repeat purchases
(with no change in order size) and too many one-time
A successful proactive inside sales strategy will address
these challenges and more. Thanks to the lower payroll
cost and the ability to make more contact than field sales,
distributors often see ROI in as little as six months if they
avoid the pitfalls outlined above.
Debbie Paul is a partner with Real Results Marketing.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit