As an outside sales rep, you know hard work and determination is what it takes to close the deal. You’ve beat the pavement. Knocked on doors. Left countless business cards and spent what would amount to several lifetimes waiting in reception areas. You’re a road warrior and nobody does it better than you.

But the times are a-changing. Inside sales is on the rise while outside sales forces are shrinking.

A recent survey from Salesforce confirmed this trend:

  • Forty percent of large tech companies plan to increase their inside sales headcount by 2016.
  • Smaller high-tech companies and startups already generate 55% of sales from inside teams.

What does that means for outside sales reps? Basically, the days of frequent flyer miles, power lunches, and living out of a suitcase are coming to an end. According to the Harvard Business Review, 46% of businesses are moving to an inside sales model.

Driving the move towards inside sales are the proven analytics of inbound marketing, marketing automation, and online lead generation. Inside sales technologies such as these are often more productive, cost-effective, and pragmatic. Inside sales reps don’t often incur travel expenses, and they can touch more leads each day since they are not spending time traveling to various physical locations. Sophisticated video conferencing software can be used as a proxy for face-to-face meetings.

We're all thinking it, so let's get it out in the open. Is there still a need for outside sales?

If you’re thinking, “Wait a minute -- a face-to-face meeting is necessary or my client may say no to a deal!” you’re probably right. Sales reps might still need to meet in person on occasion to finalize a deal. “Furthermore,” says Mike Moorman, managing principal at ZS Associates, “field sales may still be the best model for companies that hold large accounts because of complex needs and buying processes.”

But before you dust off that suitcase and start packing, Moorman suggests that companies should consider dividing sales models by market segment, stages of the customer engagement process, products/service lines, and geography in order to provide the best customer experience.

If you have to transition to inside sales and take up a cubicle, don't panic. Instead, think of the move to inside sales as an opportunity to learn and master new sales techniques. To help you along the way, here are six tips to build rapport with your coworkers and hone your inside sales skills.

1) Prepare to use new tools that take the place of traveling.

All kinds of new technologies have sprung up to enable inside sales and replace traveling. These tools include web conferencing platforms, intelligent dialers, CRM databases, social selling tools, and presentation analytics. Meetings can take place in cyberspace through communications tools such as Skype or HipChat, which allow for a more fluid conversation compared to email.

2) Think of yourself as part of a team versus a solo soldier.

Gone are the days of the seasoned road warrior who generates leads through grit and self-determination. Instead, you’ll be relying on inside sales technologies to generate qualified leads to follow up on. You’ll also be working with other parts of the organization as well as fellow inside sales reps to close larger sales in less time and drive more revenue.

3) Learn the CRM software.

It’ll make your job much easier. Yes, you’ll have to be more accountable. But it will pay off in the end, because it’ll help you stay organized with your prospects and allow company leaders to verify that their shift in strategy is working.

Because sales teams have been demanding more from their CRM software, many companies have been enhancing their systems with the cloud-based software add-ons mentioned earlier. If you haven’t heard of these types of tools yet, take note. It’s likely that some of your competitors are already using them in one way or another.

4) Practice the subtle art of building rapport with someone you haven’t met.

Today many customers would rather not have an in-person meeting. And Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be handled without talking to humans. Sales is becoming more objective. Prospects want to buy from representatives who can quickly provide the right answers.

As far as building rapport over the phone, you might need additional training and practice. But if you combine the variety of communications tools mentioned above with your established field sales skill set, you’ll be a long-distance master rapport builder before you know it.

To ensure a great customer experience, keep in mind the issues the prospect or customer is looking to solve. This means having data on hand to quickly establish a connection, solve pain points, and close deals. 

5) Embrace the company culture.

As an outside sales rep, the world was your office. But with inside sales, you’ll have to get used to a cubicle. On the upside, embracing the company culture, interacting with colleagues, and cultivating relationships can set you up for long-term success. A company's culture is made up of more than the personalities of a group of employees; it’s an amalgamation of common lifestyles, environment, traditions, and shared goals.

6) Build an inside sales infrastructure.

Gearing up now and learning a more efficient way to sell means a smoother transition. However, your preparation should also include building an inside sales infrastructure. In other words, assemble the relevant technologies and data you'll need to do your job.

Here are a couple stats from a Bridge Group report on why this is a great idea:

  • 88% of the companies surveyed used at least one data provider for contact and account information.
  • 91% used at least one social source. 

If you're not prepping ahead of your transition, you run the risk of falling behind the competition.

For tips that can lend credibility to the products and services you pitch, be sure to check out 7 Traits of Highly Successful Sales Professionals in the Digital Age. If you want to better understand the convergence between inbound and outbound marketing and why humans matter so much in the sales process, then download our ebook How to Create a Love Story Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing.

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Originally published Aug 12, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

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