One of the biggest challenges for B2B SaaS sellers is lead generation. Whether you choose to prioritize outbound or inbound leads, you’ll have to dedicate a lot of time and patience to nurturing prospects before they buy.
Before digital tools transformed the sales funnel, outbound sales was the top dog. You’d build a team of salespeople whose job was cold calling and cold emailing in huge numbers until they hit on the right person who wanted to buy from you.
Or, you’d send a few of your top salespeople to every annual SaaS conference in the United States, hoping they would contact your ideal customer.
Today, however, SaaS brands recognize that this isn’t the savviest way to sell. Outbound marketing might get you airtime with potential customers immediately, but when only 5% of your market is ready to buy at any given time, you’re wasting your time more often than not.
Enter inbound sales.
Inbound sales focuses on understanding customer needs and consistently building brand awareness. This way, you can get your ICPs to come to you rather than wasting time reaching out to them, resulting in a cost per lead that is considerably cheaper than outbound leads.
But how do you get the most out of your inbound sales strategy? That’s where an inbound sales representative comes in.
At Warmly, we distinguish between our sales development representatives (SDRs) and our inbound sales representatives (ISRs). While both focus on identifying potential leads and closing deals, ISRs are uniquely positioned in the sales process.
Understanding the Traditional Inbound Sales Funnel
In contrast with outbound sales, inbound sales are all about your customer: the pain points, goals, and sticking points they’re experiencing.
As a result, because inbound is less about outreach, an effective inbound sales strategy relies on the strength of your brand awareness. Your ICP can’t connect with you unless they know you’re out there, providing them with the answer to their problems.
Essentially, an inbound sales team aims to build an ample supply of ToFu leads—those who learn about you through social media, podcasts, and blogs—so that when they’re ready to buy, they instinctively come to you.
Research into buyer journeys and demographics of your ICP helps you identify the right MQL to pass on to your sales team, who begin converting ToFu prospects into MoFu and BoFu leads and, finally, new customers.
Of course, if your sales strategy is based on account-based marketing, you’ll want to think of the funnel slightly differently. In both cases, the quality of the lead generation you accomplish is critical.
But inbound sales strategy also relies on effective sales reps. Distanced from traditional sales strategies like cold calling, your inbound sales representative must be far more agile.
Research from Gartner shows that B2B buyers spend 27% of their time researching solutions independently online and just 17% meeting with potential suppliers. Your ICPs will likely not reach out until they’re ready—in fact, 41% of B2B buyers view 3-5 pieces of content online before communicating with your sales team.
With your marketing team focused on increasing brand awareness and your sales team intent on closing deals with those they’ve identified as SQOs, there’s a gap where your inbound prospects may be slipping through the cracks.
Where Does an Inbound Sales Representative Fit?
Inbound sales representatives are sometimes called business development representatives (BDRs) or sales development representatives (SDRs). However, at Warmly, we consider inbound sales representative jobs to be crucial roles independent of other members of inside sales or marketing.
The traditional inbound sales funnel clearly distinguishes between marketing efforts and sales efforts. Inbound marketing brings leads into the funnel; sales focuses on conversion.
In the current B2B buyer landscape, the line between marketing and sales is more blurred. With prospects increasingly taking a non-linear path through the sales funnel, marketing and sales teams must work collaboratively to nurture leads and get them ready to buy.
Your inbound sales representative sits at this cusp between marketing and sales. With extensive product knowledge and traditional sales skills like objection handling, inbound sales representatives are the ideal people to nurture warm leads before passing them on to an AE.
At Warmly, inbound sales reps are an intermediary step between an SDR and an AE. ISRs are responsible for a combination of SDR tasks like prospecting and closing smaller deals as an AE would.
For this reason, introducing ISRs into your sales funnel can speed up the sales path for junior team members, turning them into competent AEs far quicker than if they spent additional time as an SDR.
Alternatively, the ISR role can be more of an inbound sales development rep: a permanent position that speeds up the process of qualifying leads and passing them onto AEs.
Whichever strategy you choose for your inbound sales representative, implementing this position in your team accomplishes two things:
- Speeds up the process of identifying SQOs.
- Enables AEs to spend more time on potential customers with a higher ARPA.
The Role of an ISR: Nurturing, Booking, Closing
Inbound sales representatives are responsible for the three main types of lead during the sales process.
Leads that aren’t likely to fit the definition of an SQO. They may not have the resources to make a purchasing decision or simply aren’t ready to buy.
‘Whale’ leads that are usually the responsibility of an AE. 92% of B2B buyers report being likely to schedule meetings with a company they might buy from, so getting whales in front of an AE is critical.
Just Right Inbound (‘Goldilocks’ deals)
Smaller than whales, but still viable opportunities for revenue. These are the optimal leads for an inbound sales representative to cover from prospecting to closing.
Consequently, we can categorize an inbound sales rep’s role comprising the following three primary responsibilities:
For those unqualified inbound leads, ISRs take the lead in asking challenger questions and direct leads to the free product tier if relevant.
For leads where the SDR has indicated a higher likelihood of conversion, the ISR can conduct more extensive nurturing tasks using a combination of manual communication (emails or live chat) and automated tools. Traditional sales skills like active listening and negotiation skills, plus product knowledge, will come into play here.
It’s vital that the most lucrative of warm leads actually get in front of a talented AE. The inbound sales representative is responsible for filtering leads to ensure that only the most worthwhile leads are sent to the AE, reducing the likelihood of wasted calls.
However, inbound sales representatives can also book calls with those ‘goldilocks’ leads, who are too small for AEs but have been qualified as solid prospects by the SDR.
In general, ISRs are only responsible for closing deals with ‘goldilocks’ leads. However, the extent of these more minor yet still viable leads means ISRs quickly get a feel for pitching and general sales strategy.
Crucially, inbound sales representatives have a broad remit as far as sales development goes. But their role is more than just closing those smaller deals; they also allow SDRs to focus on discovering quality leads and AEs on closing deals.
And when B2B companies face a landing page visitor conversion rate of just 9.5%, it’s even more important to have a sales team in place that can get leads through the funnel as efficiently as possible.
KPIs for an Inbound Sales Representative
The performance of an SDR or an AE hinges on clear sales targets:
- SDR = Total # SQOs generated
- AE = Total # Closed Won deals
In Warmly’s case, as they sit between the SDR and the AE, we measure inbound sales representative KPIs according to a mix of the above.
Closed Won deals are worth twice as much as SQOs. So, a typical monthly KPI for an ISR may look like:
- 6 Closed Won deals
- 6 SQO + 3 Closed Won deals
- 12 SQOs
As outlined above, ISRs aren’t responsible for the largest ARPA deals. These go straight to AEs. However, an inbound sales representative can cover those all-important goldilocks leads—the prospects we know are in the right mindset at the right time and are just small enough to work as training ground for ISRs.
Because inbound sales reps are in-training for senior AE positions, we look for ISRs to be quickly improve their sales metrics. This might look like:
- Q1: 9-12 SQOs and 1-3 Closed Won deals
- Q2: 3-6 SQOs and 2-4 Closed Won deals
Important Factors Affecting the Success of Inbound Sales Representatives
Quality of MQLs
Unfortunately, if your inbound sales representative isn’t being fed accurate leads from your SDR or marketing team, they’ll find converting much more challenging.
While identifying MQLs will be the responsibility of the marketing team, to improve the quality of MQLs, your marketing and sales team should be completely aligned on the kinds of prospects you’re primarily seeking.
This is one reason why many B2B companies are turning to account-based selling and account-based marketing, as it’s a strategy that considerably reduces the risk of imperfect data being passed between marketing and sales teams.
Robust Understanding of Your ICP
If your inbound sales representative doesn’t understand your ICP, their sales metrics will suffer.
Any leads that don’t align with your ICP will inevitably be a waste of time, whether that’s through conversations that don’t progress or prospects not bothering to attend booked meetings at all.
To give inbound sales representatives the best chance of closing deals, they should only spend time with leads that match your ICP.
Timing of Engagement
In his observations on a month of working on inbound leads, Ernest Teh notes that “capturing all the demand” was one of his biggest learnings. ISRs must react quickly to every lead that qualifies, requiring integrated CRM software to alert inbound sales reps to opportunities.
Research shows that sales reps who respond to leads within five minutes are 21x more likely to see conversion. The SQOs driven to your inbound sales representative might match your ICP exactly, but if your inbound sales representative doesn’t have the bandwidth to respond, you’re throwing away good prospects.
The Future of the Inbound Sales Representative
We predict that inbound sales representative jobs will only grow in an increasingly automated B2B sales landscape. In a world of increasing SaaS competition and an emphasis on personalized experiences, inbound sales representatives are ideal to ensure consistent collaboration between your sales and marketing teams.
For inbound sales representatives to work at their best, they need the correct data and resources. Intent is an essential factor in B2B buying decisions, and for inbound sales representatives to take advantage of every prospect they’re given, they must have the right tools to track and identify leads.
At Warmly, we consider inbound sales representative jobs pivotal to our inbound sales team.
An inbound sales representative is an ideal stepping-stone position between an SDR and an AE. It’s a six-month boot camp in inbound sales, priming staff for more senior responsibilities in account management.
Ultimately, we’re seeing two benefits to implementing ISRs within our inbound sales team: reducing the time between salespeople moving from SDR to AE and optimizing salespeople, so they’re ready for the challenge of account management from day one.