The way most inside sales floors operate is akin to adding oil to a flame. There is a product that sells, and to sell more of it requires more cold calls and emails, resulting in 150 or 200 calls per day requirements.
For some companies, this model makes perfect sense. A highly repeatable, easily predictable inside sales process is perfect for products or services with smaller price points and where the buying process is less complex. If the company can succeed purely through volume of the number of products sold, then the volume of touchpoints by inside sales should correlate.
The problem I have seen too many times is when this model is applied to products or services with a higher price point, more complex sales cycles, and the need for high-level decision makers on the buying side to sign off. So, essentially any enterprise-level B2B product.
What I have learned that, in situations where senior executives are responsible for solving huge, complex problems at their companies while also being peppered with countless sales calls from vendors, the most effective sales models are ones that prioritize training inside sales to be thoughtful and intelligent, taking the requisite time to learn everything about the potential buyer and the problems their company faces before the first touch. In short, the situation demands that inside teams are trained as if they are enterprise-level reps.
With this in mind, at Seismic we particularly focus on the following three skills:
The best enterprise reps close by being prepared. Before every meeting, they know the political workings of the target company, their organizational structures, where employees came from and what they are looking for in their careers, what the trends are within the industry that may be causing shakeups, and which of their competitors are on the rise. This is all in the pursuit of finding the best buyer within the organization and fully understanding the problems you can help solve.
Imagine if your inside team also prepared in such fashion. Imagine if they kept up with the industry shakeups and understood the internal machinations of a company before they picked up a phone for a cold call or sent that first email.
Considering only 23% of executive buyers say they encounter salespeople they consider to be knowledgeable of their business and industry, it’s fairly easy to see why the resulting initial conversations would be more productive than usual. It’s also easy to see why the first impression that company has of yours would be more positive, making it easier for the enterprise team to do its job when such opportunities are secured.
There is a fine line enterprise reps need to straddle when it comes to composing emails to the people with whom they’ve developed relationships at their accounts. They need to be able to stay personal and convey that that they understand the buyers’ needs, while also making every email productive in guiding the buyer through the sales cycle. Every email requires clarity, conciseness, and a connection.
Developing these skills are also key to any inside sales rep who wants to secure that first demo. Establishing a connection with a person they have never met before -- and doing so in only a few sentences -- is perhaps the most important trait for ensuring that their email is seen by people with purchasing power often receive at large companies.
One inside sales rep who has mastered the art of email composition is worth more than a dozen reps blasting off boilerplate emails.
Inside sales training often deemphasizes the role that intelligence plays in differentiating the great reps from mediocre ones. By focusing on pure volume in terms of calls and emails and forcing reps to stick to scripts, the actual thinking aspect of the job is purposefully mitigated.
At the same time, any sales leader knows how important it is to have extremely intelligent people on their enterprise team. They need to be able to predict the questions and objections from buyers before they are asked. They need to be able to improvise answers to questions that come out of the blue, and be creative in customizing responses based on the particular atmosphere of a meeting, who is in the room, and how close they are to signing a deal.
This disconnect between what is expected of inside sales teams in terms of actually using their cognitive ability and that of the enterprise team poses problems when trying to find out which inside reps on may be able to make the leap up. But that’s not the only problem with making critical thinking a low priority for inside reps. Scripts are great, yes, but essential parts of the job such as giving demos or creating initial pitchbooks require more creativity to be most effective.
The best initial conversations are the ones that bolster or improve upon a script based on how the discussion is progressing, which requires critical thinking.
Training your inside team to think like enterprise reps will yield better prospects and an accelerated sales cycle. But, what we’ve seen with this model is a second and equally important benefit: We are able to promote from within at a startlingly consistent rate.
By learning the inside and outs of our customers and their problems, our inside sales reps have gone on to success at the enterprise level, but they’ve also transitioned into important roles in customer success, sales engineering, and account-based marketing. They get the results for the company, and in turn, they get the opportunity to define for themselves where they will succeed next. They become satisfied employees who love coming to work every day and making a difference.
As a leader, you can’t ask for a better situation than that.
Ed Calnan is the president of Seismic Software, a leading end-to-end sales enablement solution. Calnan brings 20 years of sales leadership experience from ADP, Thomson Financial, S&P Capital IQ, Document Sciences, and EMC. He holds a B.A, in political science from St. Michael’s College.
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