Should Inside Sales Reps Visit Customers?
Lately, I’ve been seeing a trend towards a hybrid sales role where an “inside” sales rep goes out to visit customers. Is this a valuable way for sales reps to spend their time? I say yes, but you have to put some metrics around when they go into the field and who they’re visiting.
The traditional model
In general, an inside sales team is responsible for smaller accounts and as the accounts grows, a field sales rep gets involved who goes and visits the customer. While this can be a good approach, it can create some challenges.
- It’s expensive. A lot of small sales teams want to visit customers to help close deals, but they just don’t have the budget for an additional layer of field sales.
- It can cause internal friction. If an inside sales rep has owned a relationship for a year and grew the account to a decent size, then handing over a portion of that hard work can be frustrating.
- It creates a natural career path that makes field sales “better” than inside sales. And this isn’t always the case. What if you have a great sales rep that doesn’t want to travel often but will step up when they need to?
The hybrid model
As inside sales becomes more popular and more people prefer to buy over the phone than on the golf course, it’s important not to lose sight of the value of face-to-face meetings. I still strongly believe that the best relationships are built in person. That being said, you can indeed build relationships over the phone and strengthen the important ones in person. Some suggestions on deciding when and whom to visit:
- Meet more than one customer per trip. If a customer wants to meet in person, try to meet with other prospects or customers in the area, especially if you’re flying. Extend your trip a couple of days and set up multiple meetings.
- Visit customers at trade shows. Don’t go to a trade show to visit booths and attend the seminars only. In the months and weeks leading up to a trade show, ask your prospects if they’ll also be attending and set up meetings.
- Assess the long term potential of a prospect. If a small business that has no growth potential with low spend wants you to come see them, think twice about that use of your time. If a large company with multiple divisions spends the same initial amount, I suggest doing everything you can to take the beach head and expand.
There is often a need for both inside and field sales roles. When you have large accounts in multiple geographies, it can be more cost effective to have outside sales reps in those areas. If you’re small and growing or medium sized, a hybrid sales role might make more sense.
Which sales rep model has been the most successful for you? Let me know in the comments.
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