What is an Inside Sales Process & Steps in it

There was a time when sales people was more about number of doors knocked and number of calls made. Those times are long gone and the way we do sales has evolved. The customers have evolved and with internet revolution, they can easily access your product information and your competitors offering.

Customers today search for your business online, gather knowledge about your products and compare vendors before sales people can reach them. They can easily get reviews about your product and even get in touch with businesses who have used your product. The power is with customers and they have access to everything. Sales people had to change with new kind of customer to close a sale. There is a reason why people say cold calling is dead since customers don’t like to be bothered by cold calls or door knocking anymore.

Due to all the above reasons sales process have also evolved over time and smart sales people started using subtle ways to reach out to potential customers.

Some of the channels which generate qualified leads are:

  • Cold Emails
  • Cold calls
  • Knocking on doors
  • Online advertisement
  • Content marketing for search engines
  • Trade Shows

These are all the known and popular channels through which you can promote your product and generate qualified leads. Of the above channels, content marketing comes under inbound marketing which we don’t want to discuss in this article. Online advertisement is another inbound marketing channel. Attending trade shows are a good way to generate leads, esp. if you are focusing on medium & enterprise level businesses.

Cold calls or knocking on doors are very disturbing and disliked by most customers. In fact, if you pursue these two channels then the lead will ask you to send an email to move forward which is as good as cold email. This can give a sense why cold email is so important in today’s world and why you need to adopt inside sales process which starts with cold email.

Below I have shared a detailed inside sales process.

inside sales process

Let me start with the steps that come early in any sales process.

Primary Lead Qualification

Sales manager should create an ideal customer profile based on business objective, industry segment and existing customers. If you don’t have existing customer then you can make an intelligent assumption about potential buyers.

Sales manager should also make sure that entire sales team understands profile of an ideal lead and this will help marketing team pass relevant leads to the prospecting team.


Cold Email Stage

As we discussed above, cold email is the only subtle and outbound channel where you will see actual results in today’s world. This is the first step of an inside sales process. This step is also popularly known as cold calling 2.0

You will use this step to initiate a conversation with the lead and create awareness about your product/solution. This is not really done by just talking about your product, it is done by talking about the problem you are trying to solve.

This is the stage handled by prospecting team whose job is to generate interest in lead and move them forward in the process. It is their responsibility to get lead to a stage where they want to give more time to your sales team either through a detailed phone call or they are ready to take a demo.

A few things can happen at this stage:

  1. You get a reply and you can take lead forward in the process.
  2. You get referred to relevant person who will then reply to you.
  3. You get a negative reply or stalling reply.
  4. You don’t get any reply.


In case of positive reply, you can pass the lead to the closer team through an email introduction. That is the best way to pass the lead to the team who will be responsible to close the lead.

In case the lead has objections it will be shown in the reply of their email with standard replies like “We already are using another vendor” or “We haven’t heard about your brand before”

Make a list of standard objections that you receive from leads and also train your team on how to handle these objections. Example – You can respond to them with customer testimonials or a PR article that will create trust in them when you sense lack of trust in their response. This is called objection handling activity.


Schedule a call or demo

After the lead is introduced through an email to the closing team, they will schedule online call or a demo depending on the lead to move them forward in the process.

This is the stage where lead has shown some interest but still not sure where your business can solve the problem that they are experiencing. This is the stage where lead will try to match the problem and the solution you are offering. They will need convincing that your solution is best for them and they will get the ROI for the money spent for solving problem.

It is also job of closing team to find out if lead considers the solution as good to have or must have.

Closing team will try convince the lead to try the product/solution mostly through online calls and emails but no face to face meetings. This small aspect can make inside sales process very scalable but this comes with a caution. No face to face meetings might not work depending on the kind of customer you are going after and geography you are in. So, you may tweak your sales process according to your target customers and geography. It all depends on deal size and how much effort should you put to get it.

First call made by closers team at this stage is as good as a cold call but with a difference, you are no more a stranger calling the potential lead like telemarketers. This cold call is permission based and lead is actually prepared in his mind to give you time. The kind of conversation you will have now is more engaging and fruitful.

This is why I say that “cold calling is not dead but the way cold calling is done has changed”

If you receive negative response from customer or lead becomes non-responsive for a long time at this stage, you can send lead back to marketing team for a lead nurturing process. We will discuss lead nurturing process in some time.


Proposal & Cheque Stage

This is a stage where your lead has liked your solution and wants to give a look at aspects like pricing, trust towards your business and deliverability of your business.

To validate the pricing of your product, share some case studies with lead talking about QVP (Quantified Value Proposition) that your solution offers. QVP is like the ROI your clients have received and is typically in % of change of a certain metrics. Example, “10% increase in conversion rate” “20% increase in customer satisfaction”. It will give your clients some real numbers that you have delivered for other clients and remove trust or deliverability question that pops in their head.

Testimonials and PR articles are also very effective to close leads at this stage.

Optimize and learn over time based on what is working for your business.

If you are not able to convert lead at this stage then you can send it to marketing team for lead nurturing. You can bring lead back in the process after a certain time and closing team can directly contact them instead of taking the lead again through the entire process.

Once lead is converted to customer, the responsibility is moved to customer success team for customer on-boarding and customer success.


Lead nurturing Process

This is not at all part of sales process and it is not handled by sales team. Lead nuturing process is for leads which are qualified to buy your product but not interested yet. This is the process handled by marketing team. Here are what marketing team should be doing for lead nurturing:

  1. Email nurturing campaign separately for leads which need nurturing.
  2. Typically leads which have shown some interest in your business will go in lead nurturing process
  3. Lead nurturing process not about selling, it’s about sharing educational content with the lead which can add value to their business. Never ever sell your product during lead nurturing process.
  4. You are doing lead nurturing to create a communication channel between your business and potential leads. You are waiting for the right time for leads to feel the need for your product and at that stage you can bring them back to sales process.

Typical content for lead nurturing: Blogs, Case studies, Infographics, Webinars etc.


Do share your thoughts and feedback about the inside sales process.

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