Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve built a career in the world of inside sales, you already know first-hand that sales tactics aren’t just learned in the classroom and immediately applied to driving real business results.
While there are certainly a stable of proven sales strategies that are widely applicable to growing your startup regardless of the industry you’re in—it’s not quite as simple as copying, pasting, and kicking back to watch your numbers soar.
Becoming a master at inside sales takes time, repetition, the willingness to adapt on the fly, and a dedication to improving your craft on a daily basis.
For most, that bank of experience and knowledge takes years to accumulate.
However, if you decide to learn from the right people who’ve already put in thousands of hours sending cold emails and picking up the phone to close deals, you can significantly chip away at the inside sales learning curve.
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That’s why today, we’re sharing the best sales tactics from over a dozen inside sales professionals, that have been honed over countless years of experience.
And beyond just the advice these pros are sharing, we’re drilling down into the fundamentals of how to take their tips—and implement them directly into your sales process today. Let’s dive in.
1. Develop a deep understanding of your prospect’s business.
— Julianne Gsell, Director of Enterprise Sales at Box.com
Starting as the company’s very first Sales Development Representative back in 2009, Julianne Gsell is now the Director of Sales on the Enterprise team at Box. Though her work is now largely with a field sales team, it’s safe to say she’s learned a thing or two about mastering both the art and science behind what it takes to be effective at inside sales throughout her career.
When asked about the single most effective sales tactic her team employs to close more leads, Gsell shares, “For my team and I, it’s very important to focus on the business process and relate our value back to how it impacts their business. IT and Security today are under a lot of pressure to drive business outcomes, so in order to partner with them, we must deeply understand their business process.”
This selling tactic really cuts to the core of what it means to partner with your customers, as opposed to simply selling them something.
Gsell and her team aren’t just seeing dollar signs, selling widgets and moving on to the next prospect. They’re investing in the upfront lead qualification that’ll ensure their solution drives real business results for the client after they’ve signed on the dotted line.
Sound too time-consuming for your inside sales team? Well, the alternative—not truly qualifying leads—can be devastating for any business.
To qualify your leads before selling to them, take these four steps:
Build a profile of your ideal customer. Don’t forget, you get to choose who your customers are. Starting with this foundational step will help you eliminate the noise and rule out prospects that aren’t a good fit for you, right away. Ask yourself questions like:
- What industry is your ideal customer in?
- How large is the company?
- Where is the company located?
- What’s the ideal use case?
- Have they used any similar tools in the past? If so, which ones?
Understand their needs. At the end of the day, even in B2B sales, you’re still selling to real people. Therefore, your inside sales team needs to know what kind of downstream results your solution will do for your ideal customers on all levels within the organization. Ask yourself questions like:
- What’s the specific goal your ideal customer wants to achieve?
- How will they be measuring these results internally?
- What are the needs of the individual, the team, and the company?
Gauge their decision-making process. Depending upon the solution you’re selling, your prospect could need high up executive buy-in on making the purchase. That can take minutes, days, months or more. Early on in your qualification process, it’s in your best interest to get a clear picture of how long your sales process will be. Ask your prospect questions like:
- How does your company usually make purchasing decisions like this?
- How many people are involved in the decision-making process?
- Which teams are involved?
- How much time does it typically take to buy a product?
Know your competition. In order to fully understand whether or not you’ll be able to thrive with this prospect, you have to know who you’re competing against. Ask yourself questions like:
- Are you competing with other vendors, or the prospect’s internal team that could build their own similar solution?
- Which similar vendors have they worked with in the past?
- What relevant criteria do they base their decision-making process on?
When you qualify your leads, turn them into paying customers, and deliver the results they’re expecting, you’re laying the foundation for a referral engine that’ll bring unpredictable numbers of new customers your way.
The best part is, the more great work you deliver, the more referrals you’ll likely bring in.
2. Learn to thrive in the discomfort that is selling.
— Lane Caruthers, Enterprise Account Executive at Zendesk
Selling is an inherently uncomfortable activity for many people.
If you’re not careful, it’s easy to allow your own fears, insecurities, and natural desire to be liked, to creep into the conversation and ultimately lead you to pay less attention to what your prospect actually needs. And if that discomfort gets in the way of helping the prospect you’re talking to, you’ve already lost the sale.
Lane Caruthers, now an Enterprise Account Executive at Zendesk, has experience working in inside sales for several bay area startups including Cloudera and Box.com. Through his own selling experience, Caruthers has learned how to befriend the variety of uncomfortable activities involved in closing a sale.
Caruthers explains, “You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Sales reps go through a lot of uncomfortable things during a sales cycle. For example, taking advantage of silence when you break news about pricing. Let it sink in. Rambling on to justify the cost of your system won't help.”
If you try to quickly gloss over an important detail like product pricing, that could be a deal-killer for your prospect, that’s the fast track to losing their trust. You’ll only sign your own death certificate.
Instead, choose to acknowledge the uncomfortable reality that your product is premium priced—and use that as an opportunity to explain why it’s significantly better than other options on the market. Lean on your sales scripts if you’ve got them, and justify your cost by showing clear value through case studies.
Following up doesn’t have to be uncomfortable either
When it comes to following up with your prospects, Caruthers has strong convictions, based on his experience of what works best out in the real world.
He shares, “If a champion doesn't return your call, shoot them a text. Don't worry about whether or not you're bothering them—let them tell you that. Don't assume the worst. You're doing things other sales reps aren't which puts you above just about everyone else. It's a hard tactic to implement as it takes time and practice to not feel overwhelmed; however, it's extremely rewarding.”
If you commit to following up with your prospect until you get a definitive answer either way, then you’re guaranteed one of two outcomes:
- Eventually you’ll get a yes
- Or, you’ll get a no
The positive outcome is a huge win, and the negative won’t kill you. What you absolutely need to avoid is staying in the maybe zone with a prospect—that will kill your business in the long run.
The world of inside sales is built on clarity
After qualifying a lead, it’s your job to get a definitive yes or no. Because when you don’t get a clear answer, and the number of maybe’s stack up in your CRM, they’ll bog down your effectiveness. They’ll lead to hopeless optimism, slowing the momentum of your inside sales team, and ambiguity.
3. Treat yourself as a consultant and chief problem-solver.
— Megan Dunn, Inside Sales at Lever
Now as a mid-market account executive at Lever, a leading recruiting software company based in San Francisco, Megan Dunn has worked in inside sales for years—including time spent at both Oracle and Okta.
When asked about her most effective sales tactic, Dunn shares, “I personalize everything and take a very consultative approach to sales. Whether I'm sending an outbound email to a cold account, or getting on a demo with 10 executives; I make sure I know my audience and do my research on the company.”
This makes sense right? Taking this consultative approach of being a true advisor that cares about the challenges her prospects are facing during the inside sales process, is what helps Dunn stand out from the pack of other salespeople that are just clamoring to close a deal.
Personalization is the key to showing empathy
And when you show true empathy to your prospects during the inside sales process, experience shows that you’ll create a range of long-lasting benefits for this new relationship you’re building. Things like:
- Deeper levels of trust and stronger confidence in your solution
- More willingness to experiment, upgrade and grow into new features & offerings
- Eagerness to offer introductions and referrals to other potential customers
To build on all of this, Dunn adds, “People just like to feel that you took the time to make an email, presentation, or demo about them. No company is the same, no use case is the same, no buyer is the same. It’s my job in inside sales, to adapt my presentation or demo to the specific company, use case, and buyer.”
When you can effectively do that during your selling process, it’s only a matter of time until your prospects want to work with you—even more than you need them.
4. Craft a powerful story that builds value and excitement.
— Poya Osgouei, Inside Sales Manager at Automile
As an experienced inside sales manager at Automile, Poya Osgouei also spent several years building his skills in the world of sales as an inside sales manager at HackerRank, a technical recruiting company in the bay area.
Throughout his journey in sales, Osgouei has learned the power of storytelling to help build value, share relatable experiences, and and get prospects more invested in the purchase.
When asked about his most effective sales tactic, Osgouei shares, “One sales tactic that’s extremely undervalued is telling a story that can create a powerful perception of value by showing both the before story and the after story—in a way that gets the customer excited to partner with your team, and excited about your offering.”
Think this sales tactic is overstated?
Well, telling a story sounds pretty simple, but let’s take a closer look.
Humans have been using storytelling as our primary means of communication for more than 40,000 years. From ancient cave paintings in Spain, to the war chronicles of Julius Caesar, stories—whether written, visual or verbal—have long been used to show, tell and convince.
Moreover, our evolution means we’re literally hardwired to not only want to tell stories ourselves, but to more easily consume and understand information that’s communicated through a story format. When structured properly, you can use storytelling at every stage of your sales process.
As you’re crafting the story you’ll be sharing with your prospects, keep in mind the seven core elements of a story you’ll need to hit if you want to have your desired effect.
- Stasis: This is the norm—everyday life that sets the stage for what happens next.
- Trigger: The trigger is beyond the control of the protagonist and can be either unpleasant or pleasant. In the context of inside sales, this is the challenge or struggle your prospect is facing; often some sort of growth obstacle.
- Quest: The trigger leads to a quest for a solution.
- Critical choice: This is when the protagonist needs to make a tough decision which reveals their character. You’ll want to play to your prospects desire to take control of their situation; to take an active role in growing beyond their struggle, rather than be idle.
- Climax: The decision the protagonist made results in the highest peak of tension in the narrative. This could be a momentary dip in performance as your character repositions and shifts priorities.
- Reversal: The reversal is the result of the critical choice and climax. This will change the status of the character, and is where you’ll emphasize what your solution has done.
- Resolution: The resolution is a return to a new, fresh (ideally better by measure of core metrics) stasis. The characters should be changed, as they’re now wiser and enlightened.
After you’ve shown the final resolution (i.e. positive business impact your character experienced), the story is complete. Your message should’ve been effectively driven home and your sales plan is kicked off on the right foot.
To bring home the point of what your story is designed to achieve, Osgouei emphasizes, “The best way to really get a customer excited is to talk about how you’ve helped make the lives of your other similar customers easier. More often than not, I’ve seen leveraging this inside sales technique, as a great method for earning a prospect’s business and finalizing a partnership.”
5. Be quiet and build trust through listening.
— Jill Angelone, Account Executive at Lyft Corporate Travel Emerging Markets
For more than seven years, Jill Angelone has moved her way up in various different inside sales and account management roles within AT&T—bringing in deals that placed her amongst the top sales managers in the country, overseeing a $300 Million account with Apple, and more.
Throughout her career in inside sales, Angelone has learned just how powerful of a sales strategy it can be, once you learn how to let your prospect talk and fully explain their situation.
Angelone explains, “In all honesty, my most effective sales tactic is to just be quiet. When reaching out to prospects, I have a few probing questions in order to gather the information I need to qualify an opportunity. However, the key is to allow your prospect to talk. If you're talking more than the customer is, you're doing something wrong. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and an employee of a company is no different.”
There’s a lot of truth to that.
In fact, most people spend a whopping 60% of conversations talking about themselves. A scientific link has been shown, connecting the positive feeling we often experience while talking about ourselves—to higher levels of activation in areas of the brain associated with reward.
This sales tactic has consistently netted positive results for Angelone over the years.
She adds, “Allowing your prospect time to explain how the business operates, shows that you're just genuinely interested in how their business runs and by being a shoulder to lean on, you build trust. Once trust is built, it opens up new avenues of opportunity. People will want to refer you to the right decision makers when it doesn't seem like you're pushing your agenda, but rather, hearing them out and finding ways to optimize their business.”
By taking advantage of our hardwired tendency to talk about ourselves, and allowing your prospects to really express themselves during the sales process, they’re more likely to feel good about the interaction you just had.
Feeling good—becoming comfortable—is the first step to building trust with your prospects.
6. Personalize your conversation around real needs.
— Heidi Effenberger, Sales Development Rep at Zenefits
We’ve all gotten those copy and paste cold sales emails that read like a robot wrote them.
My personal favorite is when something goes wrong with the automation tool they’re using and it actually says, “Hi [First Name]...”
Either way, when I get the impression that the “person” emailing me hasn’t even taken one minute of their time to look at my website to judge whether or not I’d actually be a good fit for needing their solution, the deal is already done before it’s even gotten started. Delete.
Here’s an example of one of these emails I got just the other day…
- Reads like a template.
- No mention of anything specific on my website, leading me to believe she probably didn't take the time to look at my content.
- Spends 75% of the email talking about their solution without a clear connection to how a partnership would stand to benefit me.
With these emails, how many times have you read the full message, let alone actually respond or end up making a purchase from them?
My guess is probably zero. Add to that, the fact that decision-makers are probably getting a dozen (or more) cold emails each day, and you can’t afford not to personalize your conversation from the moment it starts.
Zenefits Sales Development Rep, Heidi Effenberger, knows first-hand the importance of personalizing her inside sales conversations when she’s talking to prospects—whether it’s through cold outreach or further down the sales pipeline.
Effenberger shares, "Sales gets a bad wrap due to lack of personalization and understanding of customer needs. I've found the most important selling tactic is to start by learning about the person, how they work, and their specific challenges.” She continues, “At Zenefits, we often talk to leaders of HR, which is a complex role. There are common challenges, but every workplace is different and our prospects are dealing with competing priorities. I always start by asking questions and listening to make sure Zenefits is a good fit for their needs, which allows me to really tailor the conversation to what matters most."
This is great advice. Do what you can to research your prospects ahead of your outreach, to try and develop a baseline understanding of both the person and the company—it’ll help you better assess their needs.
Then once you’ve gotten your prospect on the phone, it’s then your job to actively listen, ask the right questions and craft a pitch that truly addresses those needs they’re telling you about.
7. Never stop following up.
— Steli Efti, CEO (here) at Close.io
Steli has been sharpening his teeth in the world of inside sales for over a decade, having grown multiple seven-figure startups, including Close.io. So much of his success with inside sales is due to his philosophy on following up—never considering a deal dead until he’s gotten a very clear no from a prospect.
“I follow up as many times as necessary until I get a response,” Steli explains. “I don’t care what the response is as long as I get one. If someone tells me they need another 14 days to get back to me, I’ll put that in my calendar and ping them again in 14 days. If they tell me they’re busy and they don’t have time right now, I’ll respond and ask them when they feel like a good time would be for me ping them.”
What I like most about this selling tactic is that it’s easy as hell to implement.
No complicated tools, tricks or scripts necessary.
All it requires is a mindset of persistence, and a commitment to see through every single deal until you get a clear answer either way. It’s not about following up to close every single lead all the time, rather it’s about making sure you’re never in the deathly maybe zone.
“The key here is to actually keep following up,” Steli explains. “If someone tells me they’re not interested—I leave them alone. But here is the kicker—if they don’t respond at all, I’ll keep pinging them until they do. And trust me, they always do.”
What makes something as simple as following up so effective then?
It’s easy to make initial contact with a prospect. Find their email address or phone number, send that cold email, schedule a first meeting, get across your pitch. But right here is where many inside sales reps pause or stop altogether, hoping their prospect is so sold that they’ll be clamoring to sign the contract.
It’s tempting to want to just sit around and wait for them to respond at this stage. You don’t want to be a pain in the ass, right? We all want to avoid being annoying, and the feeling of rejection is never fun.
That’s why, when you commit to never stop following up, you’re differentiating yourself from virtually everyone else who’s competing with you for this client’s business (and attention). The key with your follow up is to keep it short and sweet, yet remain persistent.
There’s been a very clear, positive return on this selling tactic for Steli
“Once I followed up with an investor 48 times until I got a meeting,” Steli adds. “Now mind you, this investor was introduced to me and had responded positively to my initial email, but then disappeared in limbo and I couldn’t get hold of him anymore. After all the follow up, he finally responded, we met, and he ended up investing.”
Now ask yourself, how bad do you want to close the deal?
We know how hectic it is as a founder in sales mode, or when you’re grinding in inside sales, so we built follow up reminders into the core sales workflow that comes straight out of the box with Close.io. Give it a try and sign up for a free trial today.
8. Ask, define and explore.
— Arjun Varma, Sales Manager at Quantcast
Director of Sales Arjun Varma from Quantcast is tasked with driving new business revenue and building strategy to grow the company’s high potential accounts. In his time at Quantcast, he’s contributed over $60M in revenue, while managing over 35 sales reps.
When asked about his most effective sales tactic from nearly a decade in sales, Varma shares, "My most effective sales tactic can be utilized in a quick exchange or in a big meeting, and has helped me win as both a sales rep and now as a sales manager. Ask, define, and explore.”
Varma explains, “Ask discovery questions to uncover the largest business challenges a prospect is facing. Define the implications of these challenges. Explore a partnership or sale that addresses the defined challenges and helps the customer do more business."
Let’s break this selling tactic down and take a closer look at each component.
Asking the right questions from the moment you strike up a conversation with your prospect is crucial to qualifying whether or not their business is a match for what you’re selling. As we covered earlier, there are four main stages of lead qualification—that’ll be assessed through asking the right questions.
- Determining if they’re an ideal customer. If it’s not abundantly clear upfront, it’s your job to ask questions that get to the bottom of whether or not this prospect in question is the right size company, whether or not they’re in one of your target industries, the right geographic location, have the correct use-cases, and so on.
- Understanding their needs. This is the big one. Asking your prospect questions that get to the bottom of what they want to achieve, how they’ll be measuring these results, and getting a feel for what expectations will be across the organization.
- Feeling out their decision-making process. If you’re not dealing with a decision-maker, you need to know that. Asking questions that’ll determine exactly who will be involved in the purchasing & implementation process is crucial to closing the deal. You’ll also want to get a very clear expectation for the timeline on making a buying decision for what you’re selling—if it’ll take a year to go through, you need to know that.
- Learning their level of experience. Have they used a similar solution in the past? If so, you’ll want to know exactly what they’ve tried so that you can compete effectively, set the right expectations, and buffer against upcoming objections.
More often than not, the solution most inside sales reps are selling—whether a physical product, tool, or service—has a primary purpose of helping customers to do one (or more) of two things:
- Do more business
- And/or do business more efficiently
Don’t assume that your prospect immediately understands how your solution can help with the challenges they’ve already expressed. Your job in this sales process is to partner with your prospects to develop a clear understanding of their unique challenges and create a convincing plan of action that’s likely to net positive results for their business—as per the metric they want to achieve.
It’s not always realistic, no matter how much information you already have, to walk into a meeting (or phone call) with your prospect who’s interested, and be able to land on an immediate game plan for them.
As Varma alluded to, coming up with the right solution is a collaborative process that needs to be done with your prospect, and not in a silo from where you’re sitting at your desk strategizing. There could be unforeseen internal organizational requirements, implementation hurdles, hidden challenges, and even obstacles that your prospect hasn’t anticipated yet.
It’s your job to walk through this combined process with your prospect and come to the best solution together.
9. Know when to pause your pitch.
— Caitlin Burch, Inside Sales Rep at Universe (a LiveNation Company)
At Universe, a Live Nation and Ticketmaster-owned company, Caitlin Burch is responsible for bringing on new clients—event organizers, that’ll use the Universe platform to create event pages, incentivize their communities to promote events, and sell tickets all in one destination.
When asked about the most effective selling tactic she’s learned in inside sales, Caitlin shares, "It’s almost silly because it's so simple and obvious; listen. Let me correct that, really and empathetically listen.”
It does sound pretty obvious, right?
Well, research shows that on average, people tend to talk about themselves during 60% of a conversation—and when there’s something being sold by one person in the conversation, a less experienced salesperson could be tempted to fill a void of silence with a laundry list of more selling points and value propositions.
Instead, take the time to let your pitch sink in while you’re delivering it. When you see that something might not be connecting, or your prospect starts to sound confused, invite them to speak. Encourage questions.
This is a technique that should be a core component of every sales training program, but it often doesn’t stick. You need to make it abundantly clear that you’re here to help your prospects, not just make the sale and move on with your day. That requires listening and collaborating.
“More often than not, clients will tell you exactly what their needs are and provide the opening for you to offer a solution and seal the deal,” Burch adds. “You've just got to pause your auto-pilot long enough to hear it and reply with an assertive but friendly way to quell their needs."
Not only will your prospect feel that you’re understanding their needs better if you listen intently to what they have to say, rather than rambling on about your features, but research shows you’ll actually be more effective at helping them once the deal is closed. Shocker, I know.
Case in point, know when to close your damn mouth and just listen. Because everyone benefits when you do.
10. Be honest, transparent, and provide value first.
— George Vitko, Sales Executive at Reply.io
While the first two pieces of sales advice from George Vitko at Reply sound pretty intuitive, figuring out how to provide value first—in the way your prospects want to receive it—is a unique challenge for those less experienced in inside sales.
“In most cases, our prospects are waiting for other vendors to respond for days or weeks, while we’re able schedule calls with them on the same day or next,” Vitko explains.
By being quick to qualify his leads and get them on the phone shortly after initial contact, his sales team keeps the initial excitement and momentum going right off the bat, which is very valuable to prospects that are ready to move quickly and start testing out their solution.
And due to the nature of Reply’s product that helps people scale their one-on-one email outreach, this quick-to-reply selling tactic is a live, in-action case study of how their prospects will be able to use the product to grow their outreach (and sales) once they’re on board. That makes their selling experience all the more crucial.
Providing value through product demos
Some products just need to be test driven before you can fully understand what they do and how they’ll be able to impact your business. Plus, demo’s are arguably one of the best ways to give your prospects a quick “Aha! Moment” that helps push them over the edge.
But, you can’t just send a cold email asking when your prospect is available for a demo of a product they may not be familiar with yet. You need to establish relevancy, build credibility, qualify, and get them excited first.
Here’s how Vitko and his sales team at Reply do just that. “Our script is pretty simple. Get people on the phone as soon as possible by sending a few personalized cold emails sent via our platform. We’re advocates of meaningful follow-ups where you not only ask, but also give something of value during the conversation.” Vitko continues, “From there, our goal is not to pitch the product, but to listen to which challenges they’re facing. Then, only if we’re a good fit, we’ll do a demo and discuss use cases.”
When you’re ready to deliver your demo, keep these four pitching essentials in mind.
- A good demo balances business and emotional needs. No matter who you’re demoing for, you have to hit them on both emotional and business levels. Sure they want to see the quantifiable impact your solution can have on their business, but how about the less obvious benefits like saving countless hours of their time each week, helping them over-deliver on their manager’s expectations, and so on.
- A good demo is succinct. In most cases you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention at the beginning of your demo and get your most important point across. Focus and momentum are your friends.
- A good demo tells a story. Humans have been telling tales for thousands of years. Which is why it’s a great idea for the flow of your demo to follow a narrative pattern, whether it’s a live walkthrough of your product or via a slide deck using visually appealing templates from solutions like Slidebean.
- A good demo focuses on benefits. Value beats price every single time. Rather than focus on cost or features, your pitch needs to focus on the value you’re going to create for the person you’re pitching.
Remember, your customers care about how you’ll help them.
Show them how you’re better than the competition, don’t just tell them.
11. Don’t oversell and know when to ask for their business.
— Jennay Golden, Sales Manager at Yelp
Yelp sales manager Jennay Golden is a true people person. She’s outgoing and can strike up a conversation with someone she’s never met, walking away minutes later with a new friend. That skill has translated directly to supporting her career growth in inside sales over the years.
But not everyone has that ability to build quick camaraderie after getting a prospect on the phone. And for those of us that don’t, it can be a natural response to ramble on during a sales call.
Highlighting more benefits, listing out every product feature, reiterating the same value props in different words over and over again to our own detriment.
To fight this urge, Golden has trained herself to embrace the silence. She explains, "There’s endless value in asking a pointed question followed by a deliberate, confident pause.”
Why does this selling tactic work so well for her?
Well, rather than continuing on ad nauseum after asking an important qualifying question in hopes of nudging your prospect’s answer in a particular direction, you’re letting reality sink in.
“Tech sales has gotten more competitive,” Golden adds. “As such, stressed out sales reps will all too often try to sell and negotiate at the same time by layering questions with value points, or worse, answering their own question on behalf of the prospect.”
Here’s an example of what you don’t want to do. Ask, "What's holding you back? Is it the contract?” And then launch straight into negotiating against the barriers you just put in your own way. “If it's the contract maybe we can negotiate that, but you really don't have to worry because... oversell, oversell, etc.”
Instead of overselling, Golden suggest, “Ask a smart question that's relevant to their specific pain point. Pause confidently. Acknowledge their response. Negotiate if needed. Ask for the business. Wash, rinse, repeat."
12. Treat your prospects like real people.
— Adam King, Director of Sales at Vidyard
With the proliferation of undoubtedly useful sales automation tools like Prospect.io and Reply, comes a natural trade-off. What you gain in productivity and scale from employing these kinds of services that do automated outreach on your behalf, you lose some when it comes to the personal touch that can often make all the difference.
Vidyard’s director of sales, Adam King, has mastered the art of building that initial connection with prospects in a way that virtually nobody else is—through video.
King explains, “We love using video as our first outreach tool, because it shows our prospects that we are human and that we’re not automating our emails. Video is personal and different, so it increases our initial response rates and saves our team time as they don't need to go through an entire cadence.”
Here’s a great case study breakdown of how Vidyard customer and inside sales rep, Lauren Wadsworth from Dynamic Signal used customized outreach videos to get a massive 200% increase in meeting bookings—with an additional lift in conversion rate.
Standing out from the crowd
If recording a customized video for each of your prospects won’t fit into your sales cycle, fear not. As long as you take a few minutes to really personalize your outreach, you can experience a major lift in response rate. Most people just want to know they’re talking to a real person.
Start with these outreach personalization techniques:
- Find your prospect on social media and craft a message that highlights a shared interest
- If your prospect has a blog, mention what you liked about a recent post they wrote
- Mention a mutual connection you share and establish more relevancy right away
This personalized sales tactic extends beyond just the prospecting phase, too.
By investing in the upfront creation of guides, video demos, case studies and walkthroughs that cover the most common questions your prospects have during the selling process, you can deliver much stronger—and time saving answers to their questions and objections.
Vidyard’s Adam King shares, “We also love to record short 2 to 3 minute 'micro demos' for our most commonly requested feature demonstrations. These micro demos change our game because they free up our solution consultant's time from doing the same demonstration over and over again.” He continues, “If a prospect won't take 2-3 minutes to watch a short demonstration of a feature they expressed interest in, then we start to question their level of readiness to work with our team and prioritize our efforts on our most engaged customers.”
The real effectiveness with this video sales strategy lies in your ability to further qualify leads throughout the buying process.
At first you’re qualifying leads with a personalized video that’d pique the interest of most people. Then further down the funnel, if your prospect isn’t willing to dive into a deeper answer to their questions by watching a micro demo, the purchase intent might not really be there.
13. Identify your prospect’s primary motivation.
— Christian Keroles, SMB Account Executive at Reach Analytics
In the world of inside sales, cutting to the core of your prospect’s deepest motivation is the name of the game. Christian Keroles knows this very well.
“Throughout the years, I’ve learned that the most important thing when it comes to selling anything, is diagnosing the need first,” Keroles shares. “Before you do anything else, you need to identify what your prospect cares about right now and what’s motivating their actions today.”
If you waste five minutes of your prospect’s time droning on about a product feature or service offering that isn’t going to positively affect their primary business need right now, chances are high that you’ll lose the sale.
You’ll get shot down, ignored, or even worse—the proverbial "maybe later" that leaves you sitting in sales limbo for the coming months. While a clear answer in either direction is better than maybe, it’d be a hell of a lot better to land more yes’s in your corner. How will you do that?
Become your prospect’s number one priority
“If you can successfully identify your prospect’s motivation and deepest need, then you can position your product or service in a way that solves that need,” Keroles explains.
No matter the product or service you’re selling, there’s going to be a pretty long list of benefits that span across different potential needs your prospect could have.
Use your early conversations to really probe which of those needs are the highest priority—don’t just take their word for it, do your own homework and ask the right questions to cut through the noise. Start with these five killer sales questions:
- How did you hear about us?
- What’s the top challenge your team or company is currently facing?
- What’s the top challenge you’re personally facing?
- What are the results you want to achieve and how do you want to achieve them?
- What concerns do you (or would the decision makers) have?
If you’re not able to identify your prospect’s biggest pain point, it’ll be difficult to get your prospect to care—or treat your solution as a must-have.
14. Use social selling to your advantage.
— Cole Sutliff, Sales Operations at LinkedIn
We’ve all seen it. That LinkedIn connection or Facebook friend who’s frequently sharing statistics, insights, thought leadership pieces on the state of their industry.
Whether you like it or not, social selling is here to stay (and it’s working).
Thanks in a large part to professional networks like LinkedIn, any inside sales rep can instantly leverage their network to find the right prospects, build relationships, and start conversations that could lead to an uptick in closed deals.
This sales tactic has a focus towards the front end—on helping to improve your lead generation and sales prospecting process—with the goal of eliminating time-intensive cold calling. By positioning yourself as an industry expert (if you are in fact one), you can bring more qualified leads directly to your inbox by regularly showing up on your social platforms.
Cole Sutliff, sales operations associate at LinkedIn, works to empower more than 300 sales development representatives to put social selling to work in building their pipeline of potential members who could benefit from upgrading to LinkedIn’s more advanced selling tools.
“Regardless of sales level, those who engage in social selling win,” explains Sutliff. “Establish your brand, find the right people, and engage with insights to foster organic, rapport building conversation with prospects about your solution.”
Based on LinkedIn data, 51% of social selling leaders are more likely to reach quota and 78% of social sellers outsell their peers who don’t use social media for selling. Sutliff and his team are constantly looking for best practices across the globe, to help optimize their sales team's ability at generating the most pipeline.
If you’re starting from the ground up with social selling as a sales tactic, prepare for the long haul. While you shouldn’t expect to publish a status update and get a flood of qualified leads in your inbox, the payoff can be huge over time. Jump into social selling with these four steps:
- Create a professional brand. Prospects want to work with people they can trust. By establishing a strong professional brand for yourself, you’ll show anyone you reach out to that you’re an active force within your industry. Not only can elevating your personal brand result in more inbound leads, but it’ll also boost response rate to your outbound communications.
- Find the right prospects. Blind cold calling is dead. With social selling, you’re connecting with prospects that are much more qualified. On top of that, 76% of buyers report being ready to have conversations over social media. Plus, social selling helps you identify prospects based on your ideal customer criteria—filtering by role, function, or industry.
- Engage with insights. Social selling gives you an incredible opportunity to position yourself as an expert by sharing relevant industry insights and thought pieces. With inside sales in particular, you can use insights to stay up-to-date with happenings at your prospect companies, by identifying new contacts, and finding the right decision makers.
- Build relationships. Build trust with your prospects by becoming the ultimate education resource for topics within your industry. Have genuine conversations and focus on the needs of your prospects first in your content, and selling second—that’ll show them that you’re in this to provide real value, not just make a quick buck.
Show up, be present and engage. Rinse, repeat and the payoff will be there.
15. Mirror your prospects.
— Carlos Ballesteros, Business Development Manager at Continu
We’re all familiar with mirroring. You probably do it too, whether you realize it or not.
When you’re in a conversation and either you or the person you’re talking to begins to subconsciously imitate the gestures, facial expressions, speech pattern, or attitude of the other, that’s mirroring. Essentially, it’s a subtle form of mimicry.
Mirroring is most common within close groups of friends and family, implying a certain level of understood comfort with each other—which makes it a great potential sales tactic for establishing a closer connection with your prospect (if you can pull it off well).
When you do, our modern psychological understanding suggests that mirroring positively affects the other person’s thoughts and/or feelings about you, which can lead to building quicker rapport with them.
In the context of using mirroring in inside sales, your prospect will feel more like they can relate to you on a personal level. Carlos Ballesteros, formerly inside sales at Databricks and now in busniess development at Continu, is no stranger to this sales tactic.
“My most effective sales tactic is mirroring my prospects.” Ballesteros explains. “There are two ways in which I go about doing this. The first is a more traditional facet in which I literally match the customers nonverbals or tone of voice.” That’s classic mirroring.
But Ballesteros takes his version of mirroring much farther than that. He adds, “The other way I apply the concept of mirroring is in understanding where my prospects are coming from. I put myself in the prospect’s shoes and ask myself what the clear value in my solution is to them. Whether this is done via email, phone, or in person, this sales tactic has been very successful for me.”
There’s actually evidence to support this hypothesis, too
In a 1974 study conducted by Word, Zanna and Cooper, job interviewers were asked to follow very specific types of body language over the course of several interviews.
In one condition, the interviewers were asked to show a very distant and uninterested body language. They leaned away and avoided direct eye contact with the interviewee. In the other condition, the interviewers were asked to be more welcoming with their body language—smiling, nodding their heads, and making eye contact.
In both cases, the individuals being interviewed began to mirror the actions of the interviewer. As a result, the individuals in the condition with less friendly body language performed worse during the interview than the individuals in the friendly condition.
The outcome of this study suggests that the initial attitude an interviewer has about the person being interviewed may strongly affect the performance of the interviewee, largely due to mirroring.
In your day-to-day inside sales role, do what you can to mirror the attitude, tone and expressions your prospects exhibit. What does that mean?
- If your prospect has a naturally calm demeanor, don’t talk a mile a minute.
- If your prospect sounds confused or isn’t giving much input, don’t just drone on with a deeper explanation of features and benefits. Pause and ask if what you’re telling them makes sense.
- If you’re meeting a prospect in-person, doing a presentation or demo, make frequent eye contact and reinforce warm facial expressions—if they return similar expressions, you have their attention.
Remember, you’re in a unique position to dictate much of the tone of the conversation you strike up with your prospects since you’re kicking things off.
Do your best to get started on the right foot and keep the momentum going with mirroring.
16. Customize your pitch for each individual.
— Bill Mooney, Head of Sales at ClickTime
If you want to be successful in inside sales, realize today that you’re selling to people, not companies.
Whenever you pick up the phone to call a prospect, you’ll be talking to a real person on the other end of the line—not just an imaginary entity with deep pockets. You have to understand the individual you’re pitching, which starts with doing your homework ahead of time.
ClickTime’s head of sales, Bill Mooney, knows the importance of this sales tactic.
"Put in the work to customize your pitch,” Mooney shares. “Research your prospect. Learn where they’ve worked before, what their social media footprint tells you about them, where they fit in the organizational chart at your prospect company, and get a feel for who else will likely be involved in the sales process. Make sure that every interaction you have with a lead reinforces their belief that you understand who they are and exactly what they need to be successful."
That means positioning your solution not just how you see it working for your prospect’s business, but in a way that solves the problem they personally care about most too.
Your prospect might be most interested in a particular feature that’ll help them perform better in the eyes of their manager—than say a feature that could have the biggest net impact on the company’s bottom line. Use your understanding of the position your individual prospect is in, to your advantage as you sell to them.
A couple years ago, Steli interviewed Vaynerchuk about what’s different in his business now that he’s selling his services to Fortune 500 companies instead of mom and pop wine shops.
Vaynerchuk explained, “Nothing has changed other than me having to learn what my new customers care about. As soon as I know what the other person needs, I will sell them that as long as I feel good about what we’re doing.”
You’re selling to people, not companies.
And remember what people buy—they don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.
Over to you
Inside sales can be a grind, especially as you’re just getting started and going through the learning curve every salesperson has to experience for themselves.
Prospecting for potential customers. Sending cold emails and dialing numbers for hours on end. Following up with warm leads. Tracking the status of deals in your pipeline.
Arm yourself with the right technology, sales training, and tools you need to get the job done.
Keep these time-tested sales tactics in the front of your mind and you’ll be well on your way to inside sales success.
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