Today's post is by Anneke Seley, coauthor of Sales 2.0 and founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, a digital/social and inside sales strategy and implementation consultancy. Contact her at email@example.com.
Recently, IBM released findings from a survey of nearly 1,000 information technology (IT) decision makers in 12 countries. The research illustrates some interesting trends that support IBM’s decision to ramp up its inside sales team. Here are some highlights:
1. Inside sales is an increasingly standard way for clients to engage their vendors. More than 60 percent of clients cited an inside seller as their first point of contact.
2. Clients routinely rely on inside sales reps to purchase higher-value products and services. While transactional, preconfigured offerings and renewals are still considered the sweet spot for inside sellers, they’re also handling sales for mobility services, network integration, backup and recovery, storage and server services, and public cloud products.
3. Clients use social and digital communication tools to engage inside sellers. Younger IT decision makers (under the age of 35) are two times more likely than those over the age of 50 to use social platforms as a way to engage sellers. Also, overall usage of digital and social tools is double the worldwide average in faster-growing emerging markets, such as Brazil, India, and China.
4. The Web is being used with significant frequency to purchase IT products and services — at every step in the buying journey. In 2013, 56 percent of IT decision makers purchased products and services via the Web, up from 34 percent in 2011.
IBM inside sales, led by general manager Paula Summa, has been conducting this research since 2011 to understand how to serve customers most effectively in the digital and social age. Summa says that these findings clearly indicate the need to adjust to the rapidly changing ways clients are buying, as well as to the melding of the inside sales and digital channels.
As an industry consultant, I’ve seen that companies large and small are making investments in inside sales to align to the way customers buy today. Some are shifting personnel from field selling positions to sellers who use the phone, email, social media, and online technology to communicate with buyers. Others are launching divisions or entire businesses with inside sales teams, especially as customers purchase more over the Web. So it’s no surprise to me that IBM has made a big bet on inside sales. (Currently IBM has 43 global inside sales locations, including major centers in Toronto, Atlanta, and Dallas in North America, and Bogota, Beijing, Tokyo, and Dublin, opening this August.)
As more selling is conducted online and purchased as a service, inside sales will play a critical role.
What trends are you seeing in inside sales? What do you think of IBM’s research? Share your thoughts in the comments section.