Full speed ahead: why the auto industry is gearing up for an ‘inside’ sales revolution

Field sales may be a well-established sales technique, but switching to inside sales could enable OEMs to gain a competitive edge by building better customer relationships, writes Paul Black

It’s a prosperous time for the automotive industry. Consumer demand is high and sales figures around the world are rising. Nielsen attributes this growth to swelling middle classes in emerging markets such as China and South-East Asia. These ‘new’ customers are aspirational, urban and tech-savvy, and have an array of high quality goods and affordable finance packages to choose from. The opportunity for salespeople along the automotive supply chain is clear, but the highly competitive nature of the industry does present a challenge.

To fully capitalise on the current boom in customer demand, the method of selling is shifting from a traditional or ‘field’ sales approach to an ‘inside’ sales methodology. What exactly is inside sales? According to Forbes, it’s a method of selling remotely rather than in-person.

Using virtual platforms, this methodology can help identify, contact and respond to more customers in a shorter space of time, freeing up time for research on targets and for planning deal strategies

Driven by technology, the inside sales technique has the potential to reach more customers and leads more quickly, and with more relevance. This makes it a powerful sales technique for those lesser known OEMs in the automotive industry seeking to widen their reach globally.

Advantage OEM

The use of field sales relies heavily on face-to-face engagement with a customer or prospect. While it does emphasise the all-important personal touch, it is time-consuming for busy salespeople and can leave them unprepared for meetings or behind on admin. Given that automotive customers are increasingly purchasing online or as part of buying groups, travelling to see them in person is fast becoming redundant. In fact, McKinsey & Company reports that more than one-third of customers would consider buying automotive products online, and almost 90% of customers use dealer websites or OEM websites in the early steps of their decision making journey.

Driven by technology, the inside sales technique has the potential to reach more customers and leads more quickly, and with more relevance

As an OEM, the inside sales approach provides a competitive advantage. Using virtual platforms, this methodology can help identify, contact and respond to more customers in a shorter space of time, freeing up time for research on targets and for planning deal strategies.

The technology behind inside sales

Using inside sales means much more than just having an online presence and reaching out to customers via email or phone. CRM and Business Intelligence (BI) software systems can help gather important customer and lead information in one central database. These ‘power tools’ store and track interactions, and provide easy access to the customer information required, helping staff to refine their sales pitches quickly and intelligently.

With the right system on their side, predictive analytics technology can help salespeople spot market trends or identify any business threats, allowing a quick response or adaptation of their sales strategies. What’s more, with increased visibility across the board, data can highlight upselling or cross-selling opportunities that may have been lost in the paperwork beforehand.

With a strong database at the ready, fresh leads can be accessed at a click, and a variety of communication methods can be used to reach them – without anyone having to leave their desk. Not having to rely on face-to-face engagement means not only can customer reach in numbers be increased, but it can be extended globally. This is a considerable benefit for companies looking to sell to multiple prospects along the automotive supply chain, or for smaller companies with less resources to send out on the road.

Building better customer relationships

The field sales technique is long-established, but it depends on a successful in-person interaction to seal the deal. Keeping track of individual customer needs and maintaining a solid relationship over a longer period of time is challenging, especially as higher growth targets are driving salespeople to hunt for new business and add more customers to their books.

Inside sales can help build better, more satisfied customer relationships that ultimately give any OEM, large or small, the competitive edge

The use of inside sales, while operated remotely, is far more responsive when supported by the right CRM or BI system. These tools enable salespeople to forecast when their customers are likely to be in the market for new or repeat products, allowing them to build a sophisticated, proactive schedule for approaching customers.

While field sales is still a successful methodology for many, inside sales has the power to convert more leads into sales faster. And with more time free to concentrate on delivering the personal touch, inside sales can help build better, more satisfied customer relationships that ultimately give any OEM, large or small, the competitive edge.

About the author: Paul Black is Chief Executive, sales-i

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