Inside Sales – Key Skills (Part 2)

By David Szen on Sep 2, 2014

My last post discussed how inside sales continues to experience a roller coaster of acceptance within organizations and highlighted some common challenges that organizations face with inside sales teams. This post takes the topic a step further and examines what organizations can do to increase the effectiveness of a company’s inside sales efforts.

Making inside sales a part of the sales plan requires a strong stomach, the right people, the right environment, and a strategic plan that borrows from success. Companies that have a sophisticated approach to inside sales have a few key things in common:

There is clarity on which accounts are assigned to inside sales.

These companies know exactly what accounts will be targeted. Whether the accounts are small or large, the instance of overlap or confusion is very low. Sales reps have the green light either through named accounts, sales volumes, or number of locations/geography. The sellers come to work focused and treat their lists as their own business. This has a direct impact upon client retention and lowered rates of sales rep turnover.

There is role clarity for inside sales reps.
Success is marked by deciding that the inside sales team will either prospect, upsell, maintain, cross-sell, initiate contact, create leads, or reactivate. Some or all of these functions can define the role. The key is clarity. When sellers show up and do exactly what they are supposed to do, they can flourish.

The number of accounts owned or desired realistically determines staffing.
Making the investment in people is required. Sophisticated companies know that in order to succeed in roughly an 8-hour workday, reps must manage a reasonable number of clients/prospects.

Compensation is well thought-out and provides a platform for success.
A sophisticated approach considers many elements and works towards common goals of retention, growth, and managing the cost of sales. The whole picture can vary widely and may consider the following: location of the company, base compensation, variable comp, typical candidate profile (head of household, age, education level, experience, etc.), growth opportunities, and bonuses. The compensation in well-developed companies matches the desired behaviors, as well. Specifically, comp may vary for new business vs. existing client business. Simply, people know how to make money!

Seasoned leaders run the inside sales efforts.
Great companies put leaders in charge who have managed large inside sales efforts and understand the nuances. Depending upon the company and the culture, it may take a much different style of leadership to get the desired results. These are special leaders who know how to manage the right numbers, behaviors, goals, programs, and margins to make it all work.

Tools are in place and talent development is paramount.
All the technology is in place to measure and manage the business properly. A seasoned leader would not even consider the role if the right tools were not in place. The required skills/competencies are not a mystery, and the training program is designed to fully develop people quickly so they can succeed in the role. Performance can be measured and monitored, and sellers know that the company takes their success seriously.

The business model depends upon inside sales to succeed.
Smart companies know that inside sales is not an experiment. They use inside sales to provide revenue and margin to the business. Most companies will have multiple channels of sales in play, as well, but inside sales is expected to pull their weight and is incented the right way at all levels – leadership and sales.

Our goal is to help companies who decide to make inside sales core to their sales efforts succeed faster. Hopefully, you realize that, without question, inside sales is different in many ways from other sales efforts and will not trip on some of the common challenges discussed when entering the world of inside sales.

Topics: inside sales

David Szen

Written by David Szen

David Szen is a master facilitator and leadership development expert. As a Principal Consultant at Symmetrics Group, David has designed and delivered custom sales and leadership content for countless clients. He is most comfortable in front of groups or in keynote settings where his high-energy delivery style connects with people and brings content to life. David’s specialties include sales training design, leadership development, coaching performance management, workshop facilitation and strategic account planning. He recently co-authored the book The Multigenerational Sales Team with Symmetrics Group's founder Warren Shiver.

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