Guide to Building an Inside Sales Team

Sales is changing forever because the buyer has changed.  Buyers are more informed and more comfortable with digital engagement as they do more research and buy more products online, and this has extended to their business lives as well.

What this means for sales is that there is a new inside sales role emerging that is better adapted to the new buyer’s journey than the traditional appointment setters who were out of the picture once they set an appointment.

If you are growing your business, or looking to expand your existing sales team, building an inside sales team is right for you.  A well-designed and trained B2B inside sales team can cut a company’s time to close, reduce overall cost of sales, and create better relationships with buyers throughout the sales cycle. These are just a few of the reasons why inside sales is growing 15 times faster than field sales. I’ve done several spot surveys in San Diego over the past few months and at any given time there are 100 to 200 openings for inside sales / sales development reps / business development reps – just in San Diego! Today, I found 107 open positions listed on LinkedIn alone for Inside Sales reps.

With this much growth, if a company wants to hire even a core team of two to three reps, they are facing stiff competition which means you need to put your best foot forward. 

Getting Started Building an Inside Sales Team

First, don’t just hire one rep.  Hire at least two, and preferably three.  This gives you several advantages.  It covers you if there is churn, for one.  And on the plus side, it creates energy and a little competiveness. Sales people are social and a team will get a much greater return for you. And it gives you a farm team who can advance into other roles.

Second, you need to think differently about this role and write a great job description and post. Think about the title as well.  It’s not telesales, and even “inside sales” carries over some historic negative vibes. Many companies today trying to break away from any old stigmas by using the tile “Business Development Rep” (BDR) or “Sales Development Rep” (SDR).

Begin by designing the role to attract top talent who will grow with the company and to best engage with today’s new educated and very demanding buyer. This means the old telesales or telemarketing description needs to be tossed out, because it’s not the role you need today.  This is not a “smile and dial” role. We are NOT talking about boiler rooms or call centers – in fact that experience is actually detrimental I have found.  I’d rather have someone untrained than who was trained in an out of date model where they’d been motivated to push appointments, rather than build relationships. This new role is a bridge between sales and marketing, and requires broader skills that pull from both functions. They need to be able to write well (these days sales should write cover letters, tweet, and blog!), do research, build relationships with customers, use social media like Twitter, and be technically savvy enough to use new sales automation, CRM, and sales enablement tools.

Ok, so with so few candidates and so much competition, what are your options?  Here are three to consider.

  1. Direct hire an inhouse team. This is the most difficult and time-consuming way to go if you are a startup and don’t have an HR team, a recruiter, and an experienced dedicated manager to lead them. You can look at LinkedIn or ZipRecruiter for candidates but do you really have the time to screen them personally?  We recommend working with a professional recruiter who specializes in inside sales such as Premierehire. And you can’t just leave your reps to their own devices when you hire them since they’ll need training and coaching to grow their sales skills.
  2. Temp to Hire Options. This option is becoming more available with sales, however many agencies are new to sales placement, so you’ll need to work with them to make sure your needs are clear or find one that specializes in sales.  You will invest some money in them.  The upside is they’ll find you better candidates, more quickly, and then you both have time to decide if it’s a cultural match.  You do have to show them you are a company they want to grow with.
  3. Outsourced teams.  I don’t mean old school appointment setting companies that just charge you (a lot) for leads that may or may not show up for the appointment.  A newer model is evolving where you can engage dedicated reps who work just for you, are trained on your business, and act openly and honestly as agents of your business.  Avoid the ones where they use fake names.  This can be a low risk way to get started since they’ll do the hiring, and they’ll manage the team for you.

Think about your options before you just throw up an ad on the local college board and hope someone will show up.  The inside sales role can be a stepping stone to other roles in your company. Keep in mind that this may well be the first moment of engagement a prospect has with your company so you want that to be a quality one.

If you want to learn more about this new role and how it can work in your company, please contact me directly, join our San Diego AA-ISP LinkedIn Group, and check out the resources at

About the author: Kathleen Glass is founder of Oinkodomeo, a sales and marketing consultancy focused on building Inbound and Outbound programs.  Kathleen is an AA-ISP National Advisory Board Member, and president of the San Diego Chapter. Join the San Diego AA-ISP LinkedIn Group for more best practices tips and to learn about local meeting dates and times. 

The AA-ISP (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals) is an International association dedicated exclusively to advancing the profession of Inside Sales.  AA-ISP’s mission is to help Inside Sales Representatives and Leaders to leverage association information and resources through published content, local community chapters, national conferences, career development, and an Inside Sales Accreditation program.