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Telemarketing, Telesales, Inside Sales: what's the difference?

We tend to hear the terms ‘telemarketing’, ‘telesales’ and ‘inside sales’ used interchangeably and it is true that all involve contacting prospective and existing customers over the phone to promote products and services remotely.

New technologies and changes in buyer behaviour have transformed the sales and marketing environment dramatically and traditional channels such as telemarketing and telesales have had to evolve with this change. However, perceptions around them have generally not kept pace – far from it, in fact.

As a result, many definitions exist, depending on who you talk to, their particular viewpoint and how recent and close their exposure to the channel. To help provide clarity for those considering a ‘phone-based marketing’ approach, let’s consider each in turn.

What is telemarketing?

Telemarketing is a service concerned with maximising opportunities across all areas of the sales funnel, using skilled agents to feed a healthy sales pipeline remotely – prospecting, nurturing relationships and developing opportunities over the phone. A broad-based term, it can encompass other phone-based activities that also support the sales process – phone-based research or data cleansing, for example.

Contrary to some sticky perceptions, telemarketing is not a purely scripted process and supports a much wider range of activity than simply cold calling. A flexible, highly personal, and insightful approach, it can strategically communicate high value propositions across the whole of the customer journey. Supporting multiple sales objectives, it can help expand sales channels and reach new markets, regain market share and drive revenue in competitive and disruptive markets.

What is telesales?

Telesales is a narrower function that focuses on the direct sale of products or services to customers over the phone. A telesales agent will close the sale and potentially process a payment. Again, outdated perceptions often associate telesales with somewhat aggressive, high volume sales of products to homeowners, but that is far from the reality.

Depending on requirements, telesales can support a whole raft of sales strategies, from cold calls and new product launches, to cross- and up-sell to existing customers and account-based selling. It may be transactional but it is often consultative, creating value, building trust and positioning benefits around complex propositions. As with telemarketing, telesales can be very effective standalone but even more so within a multi-channel strategy, which is most often the case.

What is inside sales?

Many tend to think of inside sales as an alternative (or fancier) name for telesales. Inside sales professionals utilise high-touch methods to secure sales with prospects or clients, often for high value services requiring longer-term nurture and strategic targeting. Their strategy may include a mix of phone, social media and email conversations, as well as remote demonstrations or presentations by web conferencing technology.

As technology has developed over the years, it has become easier to conduct sales of more complex, and hi-tech products and services remotely, ‘inside’ the office, rather than ‘outside’ in the field. Inside sales is a very cost efficient way for sales representatives to sell high-ticket products or services and has, therefore, increasingly become a model of choice for companies in B2B, particularly in the technology sector.

In truth, the nature of today’s sales and marketing environment, means that most sales and marketing approaches involve multiple touchpoints, integrated channels and technologies. In this respect, telesales and telemarketing often share what some may see as the ‘distinct’ characteristics of inside sales.

Still confused?

If you are, don’t worry. The reason these terms are fluid and may never be pinned down is that the ability to flex and evolve is one of the biggest benefits of voice contact as a channel, so these definitions shouldn’t be set in stone.

Every requirement is unique and the shape of the service is defined, not by its label, but by the nature of the product and proposition, and the requirements and objectives of each campaign.  The most important definitions, therefore, are around the outcomes and the value that the calling campaign needs to deliver. Once that is understood, the calling strategy and approach should follow.

With almost 30 years in this sector, specialising in high performance telemarketing, telesales and inside sales, we speak from experience when we say every campaign is unique. Our philosophy and approach is always collaborative, working to understand how our efforts can address the client’s specific requirements and continuously refining our approach as their needs change. These services should never be applied ‘off the shelf’ in a ‘one-size-fits-all way’, but tailored to the requirements of each client engagement.

If you would like to find out more about how our services can help optimise your sales strategies and receive a tailored proposition for your requirements, get in touch today.

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