What Really Matters? An Inside Sales Guide

November 2, 2011 by

When it comes to inside sales, two things are true:

  • Many expansion stage companies have tried inside sales and failed or were unable to scale appropriately
  • Many expansion stage companies are unable to correctly assess their inside sales team and have not reached maximum productivity within it

What are the most important factors/elements to avoiding or correcting these pitfalls?

Before I answer that, a few caveats:

  • Assessing and understanding  your sales process from identification to closure is critical
  • EVERYONE in the organization must invest in the inside sales team
  • Does your culture support your inside sales expectations?

What follows is a guide I built to get the most out of your organization’s inside sales team.  (Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like a copy in a guide format.)

The critical elements for a highly productive inside sales team:

Culture & Team Structure

Sales Metrics

  • Measurements/Expectations
  • Feedback

Tools & Resources

  • Training
  • Automation Systems
  • Scripting & Content

Hiring & Recruiting

Setting the right culture and structure in the inside sales team:

Hire a very committed  manager

  • Someone who drive metrics and feedback
    • Proactive mentality
  • “Lead by Example” Philosophy
    • Holds everyone accountable
    • Coaches/Participates
    • In before everyone out after everyone
    • Campaign Driven

Set up a “Model Day for Success”

  • Expect 8 hours of productivity
  • Assess best time for activities to take place
    • Two types of activities
      • Reactive
      • Proactive

Drive productivity through campaigns

  • Assess “sweet spot”
  • Define resource to make successful
    • Emails
    • Scripts
    • Reference material
  • Run contests around them
  • Evaluate success quickly or change course
  • FEEDBACK…let everyone know how they are doing

Establish the correct sales metrics — and USE them!!

Obviously…REVENUE IS KING!!!

  • Set realistic revenue targets and drive over-achievement
    • True sales people will gravitate to good comp plans
  • Revenue results are a “lagging” indicator to performance

Set good metrics around “LEADING” indicators to performance

  • “If an Inside Salesperson does XXXXX weekly, we can say that we had a good week and our pipeline is moving correctly.”
    • Call activity
      • Number of outbound?
      • Number of Inbound?
      • Time?
    • Email activity
      • Is the number of them important?
    • Demos/downloads
      • Is a demo critical to my sales process?
      • Is a download important?   

 

  • Net new opportunities added to the pipeline
    • Define what a “net new” is
      • Example: “A new opportunity is an opportunity where we have spoke to the correct person, identified pain, have a definitive next step(download, call , demo) and confirmed the prospect is truly interested.”

Set expectations for each

  • Competitive salespeople want targets and challenges
  • Each metric should have an expectation or target
  • Present these expectations to the team in a written format and confirm that they are understood

Feedback

  • Post results on white boards in your office
  • Send results out weekly to entire organization
  • Discuss them at weekly meetings
  • Use them to praise, reprimand, or (if not understood) redirect the focus

Use metrics to scale your team

  • Assess a “day in the life” of your salesperson
    • Are they following your “Model Day for Success”?
    • Are the number of reactive activities taking time away from proactive ones?
    • If so, it is time to scale

Use metrics to act on low performers

  • By only evaluating revenue numbers, you risk investing too long in an underachiever
  • The 90-day factor
    • If in 90 days, a salesperson is not hitting your “leading” indicators, you must act quickly regardless of revenue numbers
    • Blue birds and ramp up quotas can allow underachievers to hide; productivity metrics do not

Tools and resources — You cannot expect high productivity unless you are supporting it!!

Training

  • Don’t just focus on product training
  • Focus on:
    • Sales Training as it relates to your methodology
    • Buyer profiles
      • Who buys our product and what do they do all day?
    • Competition
      • Who are they?
      • How do they sell against me?
      • How do I sell against them?
    • Pain/gain
      • What pain is a prospect suffering that will lead them to buy?
      • What gain does my solution provide?
    • Technology landscape
      • Train on the environment your product works on/in
      • 101 stuff….the history of

 

  • This will allow you to hire less-experienced, highly motivated people if done right! We will talk about  hiring in a minute…

Invest in a good automation tool  

  • There are many out there
  • Map the automation to your sales process and expectations
    • This will allow you to track metrics effectively
    • It will allow your salespeople to maximize productivity if they are not working through various resources
      • Example: Calling out of spreadsheets or Excel files, searching the Internet for names and numbers, tracking activities manually or even not having a database of customer information.

Scripting & content

  • Provide your team good scripts
    • Scripts should be written for each scenario the team will have:
      • Objection handling
      • Cold Calling
      • Customer Calling
      • Follow-up
    • Good email templates
      • Follow-up emails
      • Prospecting emails
      • Clarifying emails

 

 

  • Provide the right material
    • PDFs
    • Reference docs
    • Objection handling guides
    • Sales literature

Recruiting and hiring

Hire commitment over competence

  • If you have a good 90-day ramp-up program, you can invest in competence. You cannot, however, coach commitment.

Focus on behaviors

  • Competitive?
  • Goal-oriented?
  • Career-driven?
  • Motivated in the industry?

Don’t be afraid to hire out of college

  • Experience is costly
  • Many experienced inside sales people have learned bad behaviors
  • Invest in your team’s development and it will work; if you can’t, it will not

OVERHIRE!!

  • Attrition will happen no matter what you do
  • Use metrics to know when to hire
  • You can hire low-cost individuals to start by focusing on proactive activities with a career path to deeper sales roles and more reactive selling activities

Set culture in motion from date-of-hire

  • Entry testing
  • Set expectations while interviewing, when making an offer, and on the first date of orientation
  • Communicate investment in the individual’s competency development

Invest in recruiting

  • Use the obvious:
    • Social Media ( i.e. LinkedIn)
  • Partner with local colleges
    • Work with career departments:
      • Internships
      • Co-op programs
      • Business schools/professors to source the best talent
  • Prospect the interviewing candidate for more talent
    • If you are going to hire the person, ask for more names
  • Offer a referral incentive program
    • Sales people will generally recommend only talented individuals

Conclusion

  • The right culture
  • The right metrics/expectations
  • The right feedback
  • The right investment in tools and resources
  • The right hiring and recruiting program…

…equals…

A HIGHLY MOTIVATED, HIGHLY PRODUCTIVE INSIDE SALES OPERATION!!!!

  • David Cherson

    >OVERHIRE!!

    >Attrition will happen no matter what you do>Use metrics to know when to hire>You can hire low-cost individuals to start by focusing on proactive
    activities with a >career path to deeper sales roles and more reactive
    selling activities

    >OVERHIRE!!
        >Attrition will happen no matter what you do
        >Use metrics to know when to hire
        >You can hire low-cost individuals to start by focusing on proactive activities
        >with a career path to deeper sales roles and more reactive selling activities

    Unfortunately I couldn’t disagree more with this point.  Brian and I have exchanged emails regarding approaches to inside sales so I don’t think that my perspective will come as a surprise.

    My focus in the lead generation business has been on business systems and software development tools and application lifecycle management.  In my view (depending on what you are selling)  the “Armies of novices” approach misses the mark and is also needlessly expends overhead in the need to provide support mechanisms for resources with little to no experience, particularly in trying to sell solutions.

    My thoughts as to an effective business development organization and strategy are more akin to “guerilla war”.  A contained group or ‘cadre’ of business development specialists who have at least five years or more of experience.  And that experience should have optimally been on the customer-facing side of the business.  As has been said time and again there is no substitute for experience.

    I also find the the term of “low cost individuals” somewhat negative, both in terms of skills and lack of appreciation of just what it takes to succeed in sales.  My “guerrilla cadre” idea does not imply that I hire a dozen individuals who require six figure base salaries, etc. It should be possible to agree to an equitable arrangement that recognizes a person’s approach to sales and rewards for successes, etc.
     
    And yes there is always turnover in staff.  However I have seen far too rapid turnover in staff with the “low cost” approach.  It’s important to integrate the inside sales resources into the overall organization.  Otherwise it becomes a temporary appendage with a constantly revolving door.  And that is counter productive.

  • http://www.DealBuilders.com/ Peter Ekstrom

    Great Points Brian! Building an inside team & a field team and those two to work in a sync is one of the most challenging tasks. You really need to invest a lot of time in building a positive and healthy relations between these two teams. The challenges that you would face will be: Will it be complimentary or competitive? If competitive, what will be the incentives for both sides to drive sales to the next level? If complimentary, how will the teams divide the responsibility of who cares for what part of the sales process?

  • Paul Fischer

    To build upon Brian’s point, it is crucial to equip your inside sales team with the tools necessary to be successful. Asking a carpenter to build a house without a hammer is futile, just as expecting sales reps to sell over the phone without a CRM and PowerDialer.

  • Chris Beall

    Awesome list. We switched to an inside sales model over the past couple of months and everything on this list can be meaningfully mapped to our experience. One metric that we focus on and has turned out to be the best leading indicator, but which is not explicitly on the list, is conversations per rep per week – with targets (leads/prospects/customers), not gatekeepers and voicemails. We have found that by cranking that number up to around 100 conversations per week a whole bunch of other good things happen, especially with regard to rapidly ramping reps – both skills and pipeline. Admittedly we had to apply some heavy-duty technology to get to those levels (CRM and a dialer aren’t enough), but the alternative is paying our reps for zero value add activities like navigating phone systems and chatting up gatekeepers, and that would be even more expensive.