What Really Matters? An Inside Sales Guide

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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!!!!