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3 Tips for Building an Inside Sales Team

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Inside sales is growing fast. In fact, according to InsideSales.com, inside sales programs are growing 300% faster than outside sales programs, which might be why many believe inside sales reps are “the future of sales programs.” 

Inside sales is also one of the toughest jobs out there. Expectations are high for shorter onboarding and ramp times while overly aggressive sales goals and shifting priorities can prevent reps from crushing their numbers. On the flip side, for managers, it can be even more challenging to turn an often junior-level team into a group of efficient, effective sales pros who are responsible for delivering a magical mix of quality leads at scale.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or reimaging your strategy, it’s not impossible to build a winning inside sales team. Here are three things managers can do today to ensure their inside sales program succeeds.

1. Set the right expectations.

Whether you’re just starting to think about creating an inside sales team or you have one already established, it’s important to set expectations. Those expectations can run the gamut — from the number of calls expected each day to what is considered success by management and team stakeholders. Some of the most important KPIs to establish include:

  • Activity metrics: How many calls, emails, chats, and/or conversations should be logged each day?

  • Productivity metrics: How much time should reps spend on each activity?

  • Lead generation metrics: What is the expected volume of qualified leads added to the pipeline? 

Keep in mind that no matter how prescriptive you are with your metrics, both sales rep and sales leadership teams need to know how to interpret and evaluate the impact. Remember, communicating expectations to inside sales reps is very different than reporting on their success to sales leadership.

As Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group, writes, “A good sales development team adds value from day one. It is up to [managers] to understand the value of the conversations they’re having, to quantify that pre-pipeline value, and to communicate it across [the] organization. What did they cost? And what did they yield? These are important questions. But they are not the end-all for fledgling groups. Sales development is an investment, not a cost center. Embrace that fact, and you are well on your way to setting realistic expectations.”

2. Keep training and career development at the forefront.

An inside sales team is often comprised of reps starting their sales careers, and they’re hungry to move onward and upward. In a very short time frame, it’s imperative to get them onboarded and equipped to make an impact right away. Managers need to make development and training a singular priority, and it should include product and sales education, simulations, call shadowing, and stand-and-deliver presentations. However, it can’t stop there once the reps are ready to start hitting the phones.

“On an ongoing basis, our managers spend several hours a week listening in on [rep] calls and coaching them live,” says Jonathan Hunt, SVP, Commercial Business Unit at Salesforce. “Product marketing runs monthly training sessions to ensure our reps are knowledgeable across all of our products. Teams also meet once a week to review how everything looks from a broader perspective. What are their numbers? What does the funnel look like? What are we doing to focus on career progression? Are we giving them the learning they need? You simply can’t leave this type of check-in to a few times a quarter.”

According to a panel discussion with industry leaders led by the Sales Readiness Group, motivation, spaced learning, customization, reinforcement, and measurement are five of the best practices for sales training. At the same time, the knowledge and skills gained from training aren’t limited only to the inside sales role — they are truly an opportunity for career development. They will carry reps through their future roles and benefit the organization along the way.

“Inside sales is a great way to learn to crawl and walk before you run,” Hunt says. “Working on the team provides reps with key skills: prospecting, objection handling, and learning the importance of a rigorous and disciplined sales process. And, ultimately, it also benefits the business as reps continue to move forward in new sales roles with this education in hand.”

3. Reps need more than a phone.

Dialing is the cornerstone of inside sales — the faster the better. But a successful rep needs more than just a phone and a mandate of the number of calls to make. 

Wendy Weiss, Author and Sales Trainer — and the “Queen of Cold Calling” — acknowledges that “while the telephone is still the primary tool used in cold calling, there are many ways to reach out to prospects.” 

With a seemingly endless list of technologies and tools at a rep’s disposal, it’s important to use a combination of them in order to generate more qualified appointments and opportunities. 

Weiss says, “That means using social media in conjunction with your phone calling. People don’t answer their phones the way they used to, which has become a bigger and bigger challenge. That’s why it’s also vitally important to use voicemail and email. It is also important to research and gain insights into your market and prospects to make your introductions, voicemails, emails, and conversations better. So, it’s bad news and good news. It’s harder to reach people, but there are many more ways to reach them.”

However, leaving it up to your reps to figure out which tools will work for them could backfire. Single-use trials of technologies promising to automate workflows and make prioritization decisions can lead to siloed work habits, duplication of work, and ultimately, bad data. When setting expectations of an inside sales team, managers need to be more prescriptive about the tools and techniques their teams can — and should — use to structure their day and meet their goals. 

“A few years ago, we brought in concepts like ‘speed to lead’ for the SDRs and started measuring how quickly they were making phone calls,” Hunt writes in “What Salesforce Has Learned About Sales Development.” “However, we weren't giving them the productivity tools to actually capitalize on their knowledge. We were telling BDRs that they needed to put five calls on every prospect before they moved onto the next one, yet they didn’t have the software and the reminders to manage the 5,000 contacts at the 500 companies that they were calling.”

“Tracking was close to nonexistent as well,” he continues. “That’s when we turned to technology solutions to solve these problems: tracking and increasing calls by having embedded telephony with automatic logging, streamlining the daily process in a single workspace, and making sure everything is reportable.”

Equipped with training and technology, inside sales teams can more effectively work to deliver on the expectations and metrics set by their managers. But none of this happens overnight. Getting the most from an inside sales team requires aligning to Weiss’ philosophy that “Nobody cares what you do or what you sell. They care about how you are going to help solve their problems.” 

Inside sales teams are on the front lines of delivering against customer expectations, so ensuring the team is set up for success from day one is critical in developing customer relationships and driving long-term value.

Inside Sales teams are on the front lines of delivering against customer expectations, so ensuring the team is set up for success from day one is critical in developing customer relationships and driving long-term value.”

Quotable
Read the latest 'State of Inside Sales' report to learn about developing trends and best practices for Inside Sales.

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