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Building an Inside Sales Team: How to Recruit, Retain and Scale Effectively

Published Date: Thursday, Jun 22, 2023
Last Updated on: Thursday, Jan 18, 2024

By 2025, an estimated 80% of all sales between suppliers and buyers will occur digitally, according to Gartner.

The B2B sales model, much like its B2C counterpart, has changed. Buyer habits have moved toward complete trust in digital. Remote working is the new normal. Self-serve is now more than a business reality. This continued shift in the way buyers expect to buy, and sellers expect to sell, has made the benefits of inside sales impossible to ignore.

The writing is now on the wall: If you’re an established firm looking to scale revenue, an enterprise looking to break into new territories, or a newcomer looking for a faster route to market — you need to build an inside sales team.

In this blog, we explore the basics that should inform your strategy. This includes how you can make the right choices to cut risk, successfully hire and maintain your team for long-term revenue success.

Why do I need an inside sales team?

Inside sales is no longer a “nice-to-have,” but an essential business practice. Companies need inside sales to be agile against changing buyer demands, and competitive in the face of increasing market saturation.

Modern buyers have become self-sufficient in researching buying decisions. They no longer expect the face-to-face “traveling salesman.” Whether over the phone, on social media or by email, buyers want a fast and painless way to do business — one that’s entirely on their terms.

This trend is so apparent that the digital approach to selling has already become second nature in the B2B world, just as e-commerce has boomed for B2C. This suits businesses just as much as it does buyers. Now, with Web 2.0’s global reach, companies can achieve shorter sales cycles, lower customer acquisition costs and increased sales opportunities, because they are no longer bound by time, region or travel.

In fact:

Building an inside sales team: The essentials

Often, the biggest mistake businesses make is misunderstanding the time, agility and decision-making needed to build an effective inside sales operation. As a leader, you need to cultivate an environment that empowers people to succeed, with the right onboarding, coaching and tools in place to facilitate high performance. You can’t just rely on skill sets or experiences to grow your pipeline and generate revenue.

While there isn’t a plug-and-play formula for building, there are some considerations every business will need to prioritize before advancing. We’ll break down five elements you need to consider before trying to build a team from scratch.

Capacity planning

Before searching for new hires, you should build a capacity plan to evaluate the headcount required to meet your goals. Insufficient capacity can lead to missed sales opportunities. If the team is understaffed or lacks resources, it will be impossible for them to handle an influx of leads and nurture prospects through the pipeline effectively. On the other hand, overstaffing without a well-defined plan can lead to underutilization, wasting both valuable time and budget.

In fast-growing companies, it’s common for managers to wear multiple hats and stretch themselves across different departments. This can create serious bottlenecks across the business. By understanding the workload and resource requirements upfront, you can make more informed decisions about the hiring, training and tech investments needed to prevent stretching resources too thin, and assign new responsibilities proactively.


Hiring a sales team is not exclusively about filling seats — it requires some additional thought at the strategy level. Before you look to hire the best talent for your business, you need to first establish the role of each individual on the team. Consider how your next hire would ideally drive the success of the business, and how they will progress alongside it.

The sales hiring market is more competitive than ever, and salespeople are known to have some of the shortest tenures in business as a result. Compelling compensation and career progression plans offer a way for businesses to attract the market’s best talent — even if they aren’t able to compete on salary. The right incentives are essential in driving both talent acquisition and long-term retention. You need to build a culture where sellers understand the part their role plays, and realize that their work is respected and recognized by their employer.


Metrics offer crucial insight into the performance of your inside sales operation on both a macro and micro level. They help decision-makers to understand how team activity impacts their business’ goals and objectives. To run a successful sales team, you need to be able to quantify performance, monitor progress, analyze data, and define the role of each member in the sales funnel. This means uncovering the metrics that matter to your process, with benchmarks that offer clear accountability for your sales team — both independently and collectively.

There are dozens of metrics that aid decision-making when they are correctly integrated, but it’s worth being flexible with your chosen benchmarks. By monitoring trends in real time, leaders can pinpoint high-attention risk areas, both individually and strategy-wide, as well as set goals to remedy underperformance. Doing so will drive more sustainable target-setting and with it, performance, team morale and accountability.

Focus On:

  • Activity-to-connection rates
  • Connect-to-conversion rates
  • Closing rates

Technology and integration

Technology is the most important weapon in every remote selling team’s arsenal. For your team to sell in the most agile and proficient way, you need to give each member the tools to understand the impact of their actions in the sales cycle — and what they can do to move the needle. By arming sellers with this data, they can manage their own performance and behaviors to drive a better return on effort.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

A central store of interactions – and your archive for customer data. These systems help businesses save and track conversations, as well as nurture efforts with both outbound and inbound leads. They offer a 360-degree view of all prospect and client interactions in the funnel, so you can prioritize actions, distribute leads and pay closer attention to team activity.

Sales enablement and automation

Sales enablement tools make it easier for reps to carry out their work. They improve the quality of interactions with prospects or existing clients by providing clarity across the sales cycle. Sales enablement improves rep performance, generates a better buyer experience, and enables personalized conversations to be achieved at scale. Through automation, these tools can also help sellers to lessen their routine admin work, freeing up precious time to focus on increasing revenue.

Prospecting tools

Sales prospecting tools help sellers to rate a prospect’s ideal fit for their offering. This can ensure all outreach efforts are directed at the right ideal customer profile (ICP) and buyer persona. On top of this, they also provide reps with priceless customer data at their fingertips, which can be used to gauge prospect intent before engaging with them one-on-one.

Reporting and analytics

Fully integrated reporting and analytics provides a clearer view over sales performance on a strategy and rep-by-rep basis. Reporting tech enables you to dive deeper into historical benchmarking data, set well-balanced KPIs and track team productivity.

Sales intelligence tools

Sales intelligence tools help inside sellers to sell smarter, rather than harder. They supply quality insights that help reps engage with buyers in the most impactful way. The term “sales intelligence” is broad, but can cover everything from lead-scoring to call recording software that helps to identify the best keywords and call tonality.


The value of team communication is often overlooked. Now, inside sellers are not just communicating between themselves — they’re communicating to the field, to product developers and product owners to enable sellers to ask questions in real time. Get answers. Get direction. Get respondents.

Communication in today’s landscape doesn’t just mean setting up Microsoft Teams or Slack channels. Your salespeople are on the front line for your business. Offer them the opportunities to ask specific questions to those more knowledgeable about the offering and in return, they’ll be able to hold more memorable, engaging and relevant conversations with prospects at a faster pace.

How long does it take?

At Harte Hanks, we believe it takes a year to build a successful, winning team. We break the creation process into four 90-day sections — quarter by quarter.

90 days: After setting the requirements at a strategy, capacity and planning level, physically building a team should be doable within 90 days. This will include creating job specs, a person specification, and selecting the relevant sales tools for your business. Over the first 90 days, we aim to deliver results based on a 33%, 66%, 100% ramping model.

180 days: Between 90 and 180 days, focus should shift to building the outside framework for team growth. That is, delivering training and nurturing new team members on a one-to-one level. It can take up to 90 days from hiring or transition for a seller to be fully comfortable with the tools, tech, products, services, expectations and intricacies of the company.

270 days: By 270 days, you should have laid down a solid run rate, and evidence of building success taking shape in terms of sales funnel progression. At this point, businesses should be able to understand the people within their new inside teams. Then they can make more informed decisions on their best-suited roles.

360 days: The final 90 days should be reflective. Review your data and understand the learnings from the creation and sales process up until this point. What have you learned? What do you need to change? Where should you invest? Gauge team engagement and data analysis to help you make better-informed decisions for your team.

What are the challenges?

Time: Building an inside sales team doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to recruit the personnel, then train and ramp before they become a truly effective asset to your business. This all takes time. In a dynamic, fast-moving market, you may not have that luxury. Your company will likely not have the experience, technique or specialist personnel in place to ramp quickly or effectively. That means figuring it out through trial and error — which can be extremely costly.

Money: Before you commit to building your own inside sales organization internally, you need to be aware of the costs. Cashflow is yet another common issue we see with fast-growing companies. Some businesses may hinder their growth, both in the short and long term, by allocating a large portion of their limited resources to the lengthy and costly process of establishing an inside sales organization from scratch.

People: Retaining staff is a challenge for businesses at all levels of the sales world. Salespeople are prone to movement, and with a range of competitive salaried roles live at any one time, there’s never any guarantee that your top performers will stay put.

Execution: Inside sales’ rapid rise is both a blessing and a curse. It is no longer possible to become an “early mover” in this field, because your competitors are likely already deploying some degree of inside selling. Paired with increasing market saturation and the extended reach provided by Web 2.0 — the competition is now much fiercer. As such, it takes more than ever before to stand out to a buyer.

Training & management

Onboarding and training are vital to the success of your inside sales operation — but not just for new hires. If you want your team to be engaged, connecting, converting and closing, you need to train them on the most effective ways to do so.

Training shouldn’t just be about how to use your technology and procedures to make appointments. Training has to be about who you are as a company. That includes what your history is, your place in the industry, what your aims are, your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and where your product fits in the market.

As a leader, you need to be totally clear on the goals of the business from the start. You should know (and be able to explain) how the role of each member on your team contributes to those targets. It’s easy to lose long-term visibility by focusing on cold-calling activity metrics, but for a true return on investment from your sellers, they need to feel incentivized, recognized and stimulated.

Is outsourcing the answer?

For those wanting to speed up the process of building an inside sales organization, outsourcing some (or all) of the work is a popular, effective way to resolve this.

Allocating the time and resources to building your own inside sales organization may sound like the best approach. There are plenty of companies that still have their own inside sales teams. But, if it wasn’t clear already, fast-growing companies can’t always afford to spend valuable time and money creating an effective inside sales team.

Plugging directly into a managed inside sales team comes with a range of benefits. You’ll gain instant access to an established team of inside sales professionals, ready to learn everything there is to know about your business, industry and pain points.

Final thoughts

A successful inside team can be the backbone of your business. In fact, according to Distribution Strategy Group, a proactive inside sales rep can keep up a 30 to 50% lower cost of sales than a field rep. At the same time, they can still grow sales productivity.

Although, as we’ve established, you can’t put weight behind weak resources. Set your team up with tools to excel and watch your business and pipeline go from strength to strength. Companies need to be aware of the realities — both in terms of timescale and costs — that go into building and ramping up a successful inside sales business. Make sure you have the tech stack, processes and culture you need to deliver results for your company.

There will always be an argument for creating an inside sales team internally — but you could have one ready to elevate your organization in a fraction of the time. By drawing from the knowledge and experience of our sales experts at Harte Hanks, you can mitigate risk and continually unlock new levels of revenue performance.

Whether you want to build an inside sales team, create sales messaging, develop strategies, or partner on a range of initiatives, we’ll help you take action inside 30 days.

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