With 2020 in the rearview mirror, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief — and look at one of the big winners for the year: Inside sales.
With its possibilities for selling virtually and potential for cutting overhead, inside sales was a clear winner and a prospective leader for 2021 and beyond. But organizations can’t simply turn their sales over to the inside sales teams and kick back; they need good, raw material, teamwork, leadership and tools.
1. Select Reps For Depth & Breadth Of Personality
While it’s not always possible to hire proven talent, you can look for the raw material with the traits to become a high-octane producer. You need people who are:
- Committed to the company, have compassion for the customer and are interested in the team’s success;
- Curious to understand the industry, competition and how your product or service fits in the mix;
- Focused yet adaptable;
- Full of heart and enthusiastic about new ideas, especially in technology;
- Self-motivated and goal-oriented; and
- Respectful of leadership with the potential to become leaders.
2. Cover All The Bases
Organizations shouldn’t hire cookie-cutter clones of their top producer — they need diversity. Teams should include a rich mix of personalities, personal styles and skills that complement one another. One team may specialize in long sales cycles, another might excel at up-selling and cross-selling while a third might focus on ferreting out new business.
3. Work As A Team
Competition can be healthy, but sales reps must be willing and able to work with others. Emphasize the power of collaboration among and across teams to win new business and best serve customers’ and prospects’ needs. Build teams that are compatible, personable and complementary.
To accomplish this, organizations can hold team-building activities such as:
- Traditional events, such as retreats, family fun days and gatherings outside of work; or
- Remote gatherings, which includes virtual parties and Zoom events, such as casual Friday or celebrating a birthday.
For virtual events, organizations should provide the technology beyond email for communication or sponsor online gaming activities to build collaboration.
4. Tap Strong Leaders
It takes strong leadership to manage, self-motivated, driven reps. Leaders must have a vision and the ability to follow through to make it a reality while leading by example — they don’t just tell people what to do; they roll up their sleeves and lend a hand.
Strong leaders are:
- Able to analyze metrics but also trust their gut;
- Ready to mentor, build morale and consult on a business strategy all in the same day; and
5. Motivate People To Achieve
While motivation goes hand-in-hand with leadership, it’s important to single out talent, success and hard work. Leaders need to listen to their employees, encourage idea sharing, respect everyone and act for the best of the team, organization, company and customer. If leaders do that consistently, fairly and honestly, they will be respected, and morale will remain high.
An excellent leader motivates, too, by being observant and acknowledging good work and extraordinary effort. Public acknowledgment of a job well done goes a long way. Spontaneous and unexpected rewards work miracles, even if it’s just a $10 gift card to Amazon.
6. Embrace Technology
In this virtual sales and remote working environment, technology is critical for communication, collaboration and creating a connection with the prospective customer. Inside sales reps need technology beyond the basics of customer relationship management and email. Look for tools that:
- Create a virtual sales environment through video, webinars and remote demos;
- Automate sales reps’ mundane activities, such as “click to dial” and virtual conferencing intelligence;
- Enhance sales reps’ abilities with predictive tools for lead scoring, upselling, cross-selling and sales prospecting;
- Leverage LinkedIn Sales Navigator to increase engagement and networking abilities; and
- Turbocharge teams with sales engagement tools.
7. Performance Measurement
Performance data and insights are critical. Is the team on track to meet sales targets? Are there any potential weaknesses in a rep or team that might become a problem? Are sales strategies working?
For answers, you need to establish key performance indicators (KPIs). Think of these as leading indicators for sales and performance metrics for reps, which measure:
- Conversion rates for everything from leads-to-prospect to opportunity-to-customer rates;
- Deals in the pipeline; and
- Call activity for reps, including measurements for the number of conversations, scheduled follow-ups and closed deals.
Sales organizations run on numbers, and knowing those numbers shorten sales cycles, reduce the costs and efforts associated with customer acquisition and increase customer lifetime value.
8. Invest In Training
Training is important, but traditional training is a drain on reps’ time that takes them away from selling. What’s worse, retention rates from it are abysmal. Within 24 hours, people retain only about 30% of what they learned. So, what are the options in 2021?
- Provide a robust and in-depth onboarding process;
- Mentor reps to help them to overcome weaknesses and build on strengths; and
- Invest in real-time training that monitors and measures reps with artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide actionable insights, reminders, sales data and automation as needed.
Your future is inside sales, but success depends on building the most innovative, collaborative and agile teams possible. Give them the leadership they need and the motivation they want, and equip them with the best tech tools and training that money can buy.
Sabrina Ferraioli is the Co-founder and VP Global Sales of 3D2B. After relocating to Europe from the U.S., Sabrina became Account Director at TECHMAR, where she drove EMEA business development strategies for clients such as HP, Oracle and Olivetti. Today, as VP of Global Sales for 3D2B, she manages the multi-national sales organization, implementing new business strategies to acquire and retain customers.