I recently had the pleasure of doing a podcast with the team at OpenView Venture Partners on "pitfalls to avoid when building an inside sales team." It was a great conversation with Brian Zimmerman, Managing Director at OpenView, led by Devon Warwick (@devwarwick).
(Note: You can read through a transcript of the conversation, you can listen to the podcast, or you can view a brief slideshare presentation of the highlights below.)
Inside Sales is Strategic
Devon Warwick: What are some of the primary pitfalls to avoid when building an inside sales team?
Trish Bertuzzi: I think one of the primary pitfalls is when people view the building of this team as tactical as opposed to strategic. We all know inside sales is an umbrella term. There are many ways you can implement and it's not just as easy as: I'm going to hire some kids out of college, I'm going to give them a list, I'm going to give them a phone and they're going to pound that phone and revenue is going to shoot out the other end of that effort. That's absolutely not how it is nowadays. Things have changed. Inside sales is much more strategic, and it really needs to be approached that way.
Brian Zimmerman: I agree completely with what Trish is saying. In our portfolio companies, it feels tactical early, and when you're looking at building a scalable model where inside sales fits in that model, it needs to be part of the overall go-to-market strategy and the strategy as it exists.
Don't Just Hire a Manager - Hire the Right Manager
Trish: It's really critical that before you implement your model you really step back and look for someone to lead this organization that has the kind of experience that's unique for where you are, who your buyer is, where you are in the technology adoption life cycle and what your go-to-market strategy looks like. You really have to be careful that you don't assume that because someone has had the title in the past that they will be a great fit.
Brian: If you're looking for a high level of experience you really can't afford to hire a manager that has basically managed a process that was already in place or an organization that was already in place. You need to find a profile of someone who has developed a process around your buyers and around your market.
Piloting is a Positive
Devon: Is there a specific time period in which you should be testing and refining your strategy? Or is it different for every company?
Trish: Many of our clients actually test while still in the beta phase. So before they assign revenue quotas or even build out their distribution strategy, they'll engage with us to do a market validation program where we'll go out, become their inside sales team and gather some baseline metrics. This is also true if they are introducing a new product or going after a new market.
Brian: My thoughts are, at this time when you're building these inside sales teams or sales teams in general, you need to focus on the leading indicators to success, and what I mean by that are those actions that are necessary to be successful. An organization that puts out an unrealistic quota in terms of revenue, it's going to fail. People are going to be miserable. So if you actually focus on figuring out the number of calls someone should be making, the number of converted opportunities, the number of conversations, the number of appointments, whatever the metrics that lead to revenue and you'll get closer to success. Another thing is just that early on you never set an annual objective. You need to really work in quarterly vacuums and then hopefully get to a monthly type of compensation as well. That will be successful because you can adjust, and I would always suggest aim low before you aim high. It's easier to increase over time than to set an unrealistic objective that you're not going to hit at all.
We hope found this post interesting. Our next post will focus on the hiring aspects of building Inside Sales and pitfalls to avoid there. Stay tuned.....