“The Greatest Career on Earth”

I am proud to launch “LETTERS TO LEADERS”, a bi-weekly blog dedicated to the advancement of the profession of inside sales.  Although future blogs will cover a wide range of tips and topics relevant to inside sales leaders, I’d like to get us started in this inaugural edition by sharing my personal journey in inside sales and how I came to the conclusion that it very well may be greatest career in the world!

After a brief stint in teaching followed by several years carrying a bag in the field and managing sales people, I accepted a position as an in inside sales manager at Unisys.  Little did I know then that I would eventually fall in love with inside sales and everything that it stood for… and all that it would become.  As the youngest child in a family with two older brothers, I could immediately relate to the fact that telesales, as we called it back in 1993, was at the bottom of the food chain.  Thus began my journey to help a fledgling profession gain its rightful place and prove its value, worth and power.  I learned so much at Unisys where over the course of five years we evolved from a small and humble inside channel selling consumable printer supplies to a global powerhouse responsible for over $150M in sales of computers, software, huge storage systems and complex enterprise networking.  The year I left in 1999, a record deal was transacted by an inside sales rep without any field involvement for $1.3M.  The notion of selling large ticket, complex, and solution oriented deals took hold and I never looked back.  Leaving  Unisys in 1999, I was Blessed with the opportunity to continue my learning while helping build and improve inside organizations at SGI (Silicon Graphics), United Health Group, and today as VP of Inside Sales at Merrill Corporation in St Paul, MN.

Although we have not yet arrived as a profession, we are well on our way.  Today, inside sales is growing 3 times as fast as traditional field sales. Our great profession has helped create and refine modern day prospecting.  We have proven that complex, big ticket sales can very much be handled and sold remotely.  We were the early adopters of Social Media, well before it was cool. We have been leading the way in so many areas. We have changed the face of sales…and we are just getting started!

In an effort to make a very long story short, I’d like to share with you three bite-size leadership values specific to inside sales that I learned and developed through years of trial and error and successes and failures.  These are the things which I believe in; the things which allowed me to help shape lives; to create a community and association for like-minded professionals dedicated to advancing our profession, and in a small way, to pave the way for what I believe to be The Greatest Career on Earth.  I trust they will help inspire you to take your own career, and those of your people, to the next level.

  • PEOPLE NOT PROCESS.  People, not process, is an organization’s most valuable resource. Of course having solid processes, procedures, and playbooks is important if you want to run a highly professional and consistent inside sales organization.  However, a belief that the “process” itself is the main ingredient to success can cause leaders to foster a culture which places too much emphasis on managing to the metrics and numbers instead of the people.  Evidence of this type of culture is low morale, lack of trust in leadership, micro-management, lack of open communication and little engagement and empowerment of frontline reps.  Managers are wrapped up in over-analyzing the numbers vs motivating the people.  Remember this: it’s a person who develops relationships, proposes solutions, persuades prospects and wins deals… not a process.
  • LEADERS LEAD – MANGERS MANAGE. Today’s inside sales organizations want and need true leadership.  Leaders create and promote a vision, they empower and include frontline reps in the planning process, they encourage and motivate, they have high expectations and standards and they hold individuals accountable for success.  Leaders place the health and success of the team as a whole way above individuals and their own career.  1st line supervisors or managers are leaders too and they are responsible for “leading” people just as much as the Director or VP. Managing the day to day sales and operations is important and is every leader’s responsibility, but its leadership that ultimately will take a team to the next level of professionalism and performance.
  • SELL THE VALUE.   As far as we have come as a profession, its critical that leaders continue to  sell the real value of inside sales high and wide at their place of work.  Skeptics still exist, other sales channels will challenge, and some will even be jealous and defensive towards the capability and results of high performing inside sales.  Leaders have the responsibility to assure cross-functional departments and senior leaders up to the C-level see an accurate picture of numbers, stats and results.  Don’t just publish reports and dashboards.  Invite internal sr. leaders to your QBR’s, your campaign launches, team meetings, and other occasions where they can view your professionals in action.  Finally, be sure the results you share tie into the larger picture and goals of the company and that they are based on corporate reporting standards.

I hope to hear from the growing community of inside sales professionals on your own top leadership values and career journey.  What has been your own guiding force in helping you advance your team and our great profession of inside sales… The Greatest Career on Earth!         

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