The inside sales market is growing at a mind-blowing rate of over 42,400 net new jobs per year, which is 300% faster than traditional outside sales, according to the 2013 Inside Sales Market Size Study.
In a brand new ebook, 7 Essential Strategies for Leading a Stellar Inside Sales Team, I had the chance to interview six record-breaking, inside sales leaders. In my conversations, I wanted to find out what made them stellar, and the commonalities, as well as the unique perspectives. That’s what you’ll find in the complete ebook, but here are some highlights and takeaways from my findings.
Optimization is the underlying strength of top performing inside sales teams. Optimization is about focusing in the right places where you’ll get the maximum return.
DoubleDutch has optimized for productivity by outsourcing much of their lead research and data collection to the Philippines, where workers use web and screen scrapers to build massive comprehensive lists of leads for his sales teams to call. All of this is done at a fraction of the cost and time it would have taken his own sales staff.
“I believe in theory of constraints. A big part of my job…was to break work into tasks, look for any constraints that may impede maximum sales velocity and throughput — and eliminate them,” shared Russ Hearl, Vice President of Mid- Market Sales at DoubleDutch. (Meet me and Russ at Dreamforce in this session.)
For inside sales, movement is what matters. To understand this, it’s crucial to leverage metrics for performance improvement. However, with so many metrics to choose, it’s important to find a focus. What really matters? Jill says to focus on leading indicators, not closed deals.
“The only metric that matters is this: Did I have a great conversation with my buyer that established credibility and moved the ball forward? All other metrics should fall into the category of ‘touch points.’ I don’t want to be touched. I want to be moved,” shared Trish Bertuzzi, CEO of The Bridge Group, Inc. (Meet me and Trish at Dreamforce in this session.)
LogMeIn focuses on inbound lead metrics such as on-time lead follow up, the number of dials, the amount of talk time, total number of meetings set up, etc. In addition, they review individual reps’ performance to identify and stop problems.
“We don’t use all of these metrics in isolation. What’s important is effectiveness — the quality of the conversation. We’re constantly focused on improving the skill levels of our inside sales team,” said Ellen Matsell, Vice President of Sales Operations at LogMeIn.
Culture is essential to hiring and retaining top talent. Work to create a set of shared beliefs and camaraderie throughout the organization. ADP provides games like ping-pong and foosball. Intuit Demandforce sponsors Waffle Wednesdays and delivers ice cream and tacos at the end of the month. However, most important of all is servant leadership.
“My people know that I care intensely about their personal and professional success. My managers do this, too. We take pride and joy in celebrating the success of others. We want our people to be credit givers, not credit takers,” shared Shep Maher, SVP of Sales at GuideSpark.
With today’s intense competition for top talent, the emphasis on culture is paying off. Employees who enjoy their coworkers, feel valued, have fun, and see advancement opportunities, will work harder and sell more. Bonus: With great culture, employees tend to invite their top-performing friends to interview.
“To us, happy employees lead to happy customers, which leads to more profits. That’s why we make our work environment fun — a place where friends work and you can make friends at work,” shared Vaughn Aust, EVP of Integrated Solutions at MarketStar.
Focusing on training and people development is what creates a stellar inside sales organization. Successful teams rigorously train and regularly coach their employees.
At Intuit Demandforce, different onboarding programs are created for each of the positions. Their training program seeks to improve a salesperson’s skill level relevant to key metrics such as contact-to-demo conversions or the demo-to-closed deal ratio. The training kicks off with a week of classroom work filled with shadowing, beginning sales skills, and vertical industry. Over the next few months, sales reps are trained three days a week in 30-minute increments, and move from basic to more advanced skills such as recognizing buying signals, handling objections, probing, and more.
“We do the training to develop confidence. In this job, it’s easy for LDRs and AEs to get a quota mentality, chasing outcomes. We need to keep them ‘present,’ focused on the process, because that’s how they’ll get the results,” shared Mike Bohnett, Director of Sales at Intuit Demandforce.
Stellar inside sales leaders focus on motivating their teams to achieve a high level of performance. In addition to offering a compelling compensation plan with spiffs and contests, keeping reps focused on a day-to-day basis is viewed as more important. It’s how the end results are achieved.
DoubleDutch adheres to the “sibling rivalry theory,” in which competition between siblings (such as tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams) and the external environment, drive higher levels of performance. Each month, they pair reps up with someone new, and tie their compensation to it.
ADP uses TVs to broadcast performance activities and recognize achievements. “Everyone likes it. Salespeople by nature are competitive, and it creates a fun environment. During our pilot, we measured certain KPIs and we saw good lift from it,” shared Liz Gelb-O’Connor, VP of Inside Sales Strategy and Innovation at ADP.
In addition to optimization, metrics, and culture, effective inside sales leaders love what they do everyday.
I’ll be at Dreamforce and hope to see you there. Register for one of my sessions – it would be great to meet up.