Earlier this week I was lucky enough to listen in on a Focus.com roundtable billed Bigger, Better, Faster: Inside Sales in 2011. Moderated by Chris Snell who lead the panel through a range of topics around Inside Sales & Inside Sales Management. (The recording [MP3 file] has been made available, so you can give it a listen when you have some time.)
I thought it would be interesting to highlight three questions that the panel addressed:
- What did Inside Sales do right in 2010?
- Where did Inside Sales get tripped up in 2010?
- What can Inside Sales Managers do to reduce hire-to-production time in 2011?
What did IS do right in 2010?
Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group
One of most important things companies did last year was understand that generic doesn't work anymore. They've had major success taking Inside Sales roles down the path of specialization. Quite a number of organizations, regardless of size, have segmented Inside Sales roles based on very specific activities and objectives. For example, many have transitioned to hunter and farmer roles or separated lead generation & qualification from quota carrying responsibilities. 2010 was the year of specialization. It makes sense - and it's working.
Steve Richard of Vorsight
What Trish has to say about this is dead on. Leaders are dividing Inside Sales into increasingly specialized groups. This allows people who are good at prospecting to prospect and people who are good at sales process to sell. Additionally, we saw more Inside Sales teams moving from reporting to Marketing to reporting to Sales.
This helps to change the edict from "calling all the leads" and by focusing teams on the end goal of finding opportunities & driving revenue.
Peter Gracey of AG Salesworks
Sales teams and companies, on the whole, lost the "bunker" mentally that was the hallmark of late 2008 and 2009.
Over 2010, they stopped listening to the news about how they were all doomed to fail and began running their teams proactively again. The mindset really shifted to "Forget that. I'm going to pick my business up and move it forward."
Where did IS get tripped up in 2010?
Over 2010, we noticed a growing reliance (or over reliance) on Marketing. This was in large part due to the loud cries of "cold calling is dead." "Cold calling is dead" is a wonderful message to fall in love with if you don't like or aren't good at outbound prospecting.
The reality is that cold calling and Inside Sales Reps generating their own book of business is very much alive and well.
I saw a real mishandling of introducing Social Media as a selling tool to Sales people. Many Managers forced the use of Social Media for selling, down onto their teams. They gave much less thought to how it should be introduced, used and monitored. This not only ensured a negative experience for many Reps, but decreased the likelihood that they'd go back and try incorporating any sort of Social Media strategy into their own daily activity again.
I think the biggest thing that didn't work last year was that people put down the phone and picked up their keyboards. But guess what, we don't need pen pals we need prospects.
When you think about a sales process you have to segment interest development from moving a prospect through to closure. They are different jobs that require different tools. Lots of reps lost that understanding and revenue suffered because of it.
You can't use the keyboard for handling objections, competitive positioning or developing a deep understanding of your buyer's business and challenges. Those things require conversations - more on that here and here.
What can Inside Sales Managers do to reduce hire-to-production time in 2011?
I think people need to make big investments in their onboarding process. Last year at the AA-ISP Summit, I asked the room (200 or so Inside Sales managers) "Raise your hand if you think you have a good, not even great, on-boarding process." Maybe 25 people raised their hands.
We give new hires product training, maybe show them how to use the CRM, maybe stick them with another Rep to listen to calls - and then off they go. When in actuality how you really onboard a new Rep has nothing to do with your internal systems or even your solution - it has everything to do with helping them understand the market they are selling into and the buyers they are selling to.
I think investing in an onboarding process that educates on market & buyer dynamics, much more than internal and solution dynamics, is where companies can get the most bang for their buck.
Let's go super nerd here and talk about the way the brain learns. Assuming you've hired the right DNA for the right seat, now you need to train them on how and why your prospects buy. The brain learns by focusing on a topic, sleeping, then focusing on the topic again. Repeat this process over a period of time and the brain literally grows new neural connections - more on that here.
The problem is - companies tend to cram a lot of learning into a brief on-boarding process. New hires need to see what good looks like, they need to practice and have those memories reactivated, then they need to apply the new knowledge repeatedly in order to master it. Unfortunately most companies don't incorporate coaching on actual sales calls into their onboarding process - more on the results from this approach here.
Big investments in headcount pay off much more when you make little investments in coaching. Everything becomes so much easier when you work with people's natural tendencies and the way the brain actually learns. Doing drive by's just doesn't work.
An issue I've noticed is that companies invest significant time, significant money or a lot of both in recruiting and hiring key talent. Yet when the new hire actually comes on board, the hiring manager, the personal responsible for their eventual output, becomes a ghost. They may check in periodically, but they certainly aren't intimately involved in what happens during that ramp-up period.
As a hiring manager, you need to make the personal commitment that you are going to be involved with that new hire as much as possible for the initial stages of their training. That's the way to ensure that the great programs you've invested in will actually work - more on building better Reps here.
So what do you think? Where did Inside Sales get tripped up in 2010? What do you see looking out at 2011? Please share your thoughts.