SAMPS was previously Association of Commercial Professionals for Life Sciences (ACP-LS)

The Rise of Inside Sales

March 5, 2018

The concept of an “Inside” Sales team is relatively new. With the rise of the Internet and the increased use of email, websites and other sales technologies, companies have started to leverage inside sales teams as an addition to their commercial organization.

Right now, about 3,100 professionals in the Life Science industry list Inside Sales in their title on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, there is no way (that I know of) to quantify the growth of those professionals, but from my conversations with life science sales and marketing teams, it seems as though more companies are adding, or thinking about adding, inside sales teams.

The Ambiguity of Inside Sales

When companies consider creating an Inside Sales team, the first question they ought to consider is what specifically that team will be responsible for. Unlike Marketing or Field Sales, there isn’t broad consensus for what Inside Sales teams are actually responsible for or how to use them most effectively. The responsibilities, processes, and structure of Inside Sales teams can vary significantly among companies.

The two main types of Inside Sales teams are:

Teams with sales goals - Teams with sales goals are often responsible for a territory and/or product line(s). They act as indoor account managers and work best when acting as part of the Sales team.

Teams without sales goals - Teams without sales goals primarily prospect and qualify leads, ensuring that field sales teams spend more of their time talking to the right customers. They act as lead management between Marketing and Sales and generally work best when they are closely aligned (if not part of) the Marketing team.

Depending on how often the Inside Sales team interacts directly with customers and depending on the company, both types of Inside Sales teams can vary in their technical expertise.


Why Inside Sales is on the Rise

Based on my conversations with Life Science companies, it seems as though more and more companies are taking advantage of Inside Sales teams. Individual companies make this decision for different reasons, but the trend aligns well with three industry changes:

  1. It is more difficult to physically access customers
  2. Sales is becoming more consultative
  3. Sales technology advancements that enable teams to qualify leads and provide an excellent customer experience from their desk

Locked down labs and better educated customers are forcing sales teams to re-adjust their tactics. They need to be more insightful with less face-to-face time with customers. It now takes more effort to establish the same connection and demonstrate value than it has in the past. These changes require that the whole commercial organization adjusts to make sure that Field Sales spends their time with the right prospects and has enough information to provide consultative insights around applications and workflows, rather than surface level product information.

Both inside teams that carry a quota can help organizations develop better customer relationships given the constraints:

Inside teams that carry a quota reduce the number of accounts or SKU’s that Field Sales needs to worry about, which lets them focus on creating meaningful customer interactions at their remaining accounts or around their remaining SKUs. By taking advantage of technology, Inside Sales can still provide an excellent customer experience from their desk.

Inside teams that don’t carry a quota help drive the meaningful customer interactions by delivering well-qualified leads and managing the middle of the funnel between marketing and field sales. Not only does this keep Field Sales from wasting time on poor prospects, but it also provides them with enough information to move the relationship further towards purchasing.


Starting Your Own Inside Sales Team

Because the Life Science industry is full of scientists, companies are methodical and strategic when adopting new strategies and techniques. So how would you know if you would benefit from an Inside Sales team? How do you go about setting it up?

Inside Sales teams are created when their respective teams are overwhelmed, but adding more of the same won’t fix the problem or it just costs too much. “I started my first inside sales team because my department was spending a lot of money producing leads via traditional marketing channels. I was responsible for generating leads, organizing our trade show plan, and running marketing campaigns. We were struggling to get fully qualified leads that were useful for our field sales reps,” said Barb McKittrick, Principal of The Strategy Factory, a life science consultancy. “The drive for me (in starting an ‘inside sales’ team) was purely lead development. In fact, I didn’t even call the team members ‘inside sales representatives’ but instead coined the title ‘lead development specialists’.”

Advice for setting up an inside sales team:

  1. Understand your goal: You need to decide which type of Inside Sales team is most beneficial. You could start with one and switch later, but at any time, they should have a clear primary goal. The expectations and activities associated with each type of inside sales team are so different, it is difficult to do both. “When you’re always being reactive, you don’t have time to be proactive” said Shidong Wang, an Inside Sales Account Manager, whose team evolved from not carrying quotas to being indoor account managers.
  2. Outsource it: You can outsource it at the beginning to help show ROI before committing more internal resources -- Barb McKittrick
  3. Get buy in: Everyone should be involved at the beginning. If the Inside Sales team will fall under marketing, sales still needs to be involved and vice versa. You need to define what the relationship will look like, how processes will change, communication and what the expectations are. -- Barb McKittrick

As life science sales and marketing continues to change, companies will need to adapt through strategies such as inside sales teams. In order to be successful, companies need to clearly outline where their organization needs support and what the goals of their inside sales team. While the goals will inform the structure and organization of the inside sales team, it will require experience and communication before it provides maximal benefits.


by Collette King, Business Development, Acenna Data & Editorial Board Member, SAMPS

SAMPS, Sales And Marketing Professionals in Scientific research, is the first and only organization dedicated to sales and marketing professionals within the life sciences.

The association’s goal is to serve its members who work in commercial roles for life science products and services companies and associated businesses, globally.
SAMPS was previously named ACP-LS. We feel that SAMPS more clearly describes the membership, and will form a better foundation from which to expand this membership globally. 
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