In Sales? Best Get Inside Before it Really Starts Raining!

This week we have been examining the current state of play within the sales space – well at least I have - and hopefully you have been reading the words and understanding the philosophy! (Do please scroll down if you have missed any of the posts)

I fully appreciate that there will always be those that are wedded – if not chained – to the status quo, fearful of change, because it is nice and cozy as it is thank you very much. But change is constant, and it is one of the few things that we really can rely on in life: If we accept that premise, then we have two choices – adapt and thrive, or resist and risk perishing.

Good chum Dave Stein of ESR said quite recently that the past three years have witnessed more changes in the sales environment than in the previous fifty, and he is right. But what is going to come in the next three is going to be even more disturbing or exciting – depending on where you are positioned.

This year, I anticipate we will see a reduction in external sales positions of around 20%: 10% will be lost for good, and the other 10% will move inside. I believe that this pattern will continue for the next three years, until we are left with less than 10% of the total sales population working externally.

The reasons for this are obvious: Advances in technology mean that we can communicate just as easily from our desks, using video conferencing etc. Why do we need an expensive outside sales force, with all of the huge financial investment that is required, when the task can be handled far more efficiently – and more profitably?

For years, an inside sales position has been considered as the bottom rung on the sales ladder – their immediate ambition to gain promotion to an outside sales job, with a car and an expense account: An obvious sign to their family and friends that they were “making it” in sales.

Not anymore. Today’s breed of inside sales professional is bright, qualified, and well rewarded. Inside sales is now a career, not a mere stepping stone. Their commercial bandwidth is much, much wider, and their skill-sets are at the very least, the equivalent of their “outdoor” colleagues.

How do they fit in with the new overall selling landscape? Actually, what will that landscape look like? What impact is all of this going to have on the 10% of external sales positions that survive?

I will answer all of these questions - and more - in my JF Uncut column in the January Top Sales magazine, which will be published next Tuesday over at Top Sales World


News:  I am not usually prone to hyperbole – natural exuberance occasionally maybe – but this week’s sales tips and articles over at Top Sales World and Top Sales Management have been exceptional, and today is no different: Dr Tony Alessandra provides today’s sales tip over at TSW – “Confirming the Sales Signals” and in fact it is my turn to provide a daily article over at TSM – “Are Self-Limiting Beliefs Constraining Your Sales Team?”

It’s been a great first week of the year, and I’d like to say that I have eased my way back in gently, but I would be lying! So many exciting things going on, which I will be able to share with you very soon.

Wherever you are in this rapidly shrinking world of ours, have a great w/e, and be sure to join me on Monday – JF

Oh, almost forgot, Open View Labs announced their “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012″ I am of course honored to be on the list – do check out the other twenty-four, all good people!

And this is my 1350th post – a real milestone.


  1. says

    Jonathan, you’re right about outside sales moving in. And I can’t dispute your projections. They make sense.

    I do want to point out one thing, which I’m certain you know, but haven’t explicitly mentioned. We’ve seen companies, in an effort to save money, bring outside sales inside, without really understanding how their customers buy and therefore proceed without a well-founded (and well-funded) strategic plan. We’re called in to help figure out how to get them back on track.

    Although I talk a lot about understanding how your customers buy–their preferences, patterns, tendencies, alternatives, etc.–we have trained those customers, to a lesser or greater extent. If your competitors are sending highly competent sales people and consultants out to call on and sell to customers, and you try to do this from the inside without a plan, you could wind up in a nasty situation.

    On the other hand, there are many companies that could, however quickly or gradually, alter the inside/outside mix, and be far better for it.

    There are many cases to look at as models with respect to what to do, and what not to do. One client of ours sells $350k to $850k software solutions only by phone. They moved their outside reps inside. Those reps carry a $3.5 million quota. With a new methodology, processes, training, tools, reinforcement, and some powerful technology, they turned their operation upside down and are selling more with greater margins.

  2. says


    Yes, you are right, I have considered the possible ramifications of a company transitioning its sales force indoors, and again you are right, I was not explicit on this fact – I intend to expand on it in a later post.

    The reality is that 98% of companies in North America have less than 100 employees, and that typically means that they cannot afford to employ dedicated internal sales staff: It is most common for frontline sales professionals working for those organizations to wear two hats and operate both internally and externally. With this in mind, the transition is going to be a lot less challenging; It is simply a case of basic economics and to a large degree, customer preference.

    As you know only too well, as we have discussed this on a couple of occasions, I am a devoted evangelist of “face to face” selling, but we have to move with the times, and like thousands of others, my personal preferences don’t mean a jot.

    As I will discuss tomorrow here, all of this is going to create massive opportunities for sales training organizations, because buying companies are going to need as much help, support, and advice as they can get, in order to create and develop their new strategies.

    Thanks for commenting!

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