IDC recently reported on the power swaps occurring in the sales industry: “A rich dialog has shifted online and away from the sales person.” Accenture noted the trend similarly, saying “the customer journey is now dynamic, accessible and continuous.”Customers no longer need to be handheld through the typical discover and consider phases of the buying cycle. In fact, 60% of the buying cycle is complete before the vendor is engaged. Where customers want and need vendor input is during the evaluation, purchase and use phases.Across these phases, they expect vendors to be able to engage with them instantly via multiple online and social channels in a highly interactive manner. They also want vendors to learn from what is said on social platforms and adjust their strategies accordingly.Inside Sales provides an agile platform that attracts the empowered buyer. According to the Department of Labor Statistics, Inside Sales is estimated to reach 3.4 million employees by 2020. Today, Inside Sales represents 21% of overall sales headcount and growth significantly outpaced Field Sales in 2013 (3.9% vs. 1.3%, respectively).Businesses are taking notice and enhancing their own Inside Sales operations. For instance, Inside Sales runs SAP’s <1000-employee business. At IBM, 15% of cloud wins are from Inside Sales’ social media efforts. And in Q3 2014, Oracle hired and socially trained 400 cloud Inside Sales representatives.Inside Sales also offers a lower cost model. Cost to business becomes more critical than ever when competing against startups and “as a service” providers. In those markets, Inside Sales is quite often the only go-to-market strategy.Inside Sales also enables companies to bring on fresh talent and train them on the ins and outs of the products, services and organization itself. It’s a great opportunity to groom the next generation of sales superstars.EMC: Out Front on Inside SalesFortunately, EMC has built a strong foundation to embrace this era of the empowered buyer and develop a strong bond on whatever platform they choose to engage with us.Inside Sales is essential in several aspects:We protect ourselves from the lower end of the market that otherwise would be at risk to up and coming competitors. We feed the talent pool for Field Sales, especially around diversity. Recently, we promoted 62 Inside Sales representatives to Field Sales roles and have five Inside Sales alumni in Field Sales leadership roles.We provide a strategic lever for demand generation. In 2014, Inside Sales produced $2.6B in forecasted pipeline opportunities. We have created an agile environment that pushes the envelope on virtual sales skills, using video and social selling techniques. This makes us highly attractive to the empowered buyer.I am a 25-year veteran of high tech and I have never been so excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for Inside Sales and EMC as whole. We have the leading edge right now in this industry and our challenge is to keep it that way!