Inside Sales Thrives through Local Chapters

Dear Inside Sales Professionals,

I am continually overwhelmed by the amazing efforts of our community of volunteers, known as the AA-ISP Chapter Presidents and Officers.  I was honored to attend and speak at a recent DC Chapter Meeting.  The event blew me away in terms of organization, networking opportunities, valuable content, and the professionalism of its leaders and attendees. DC and all of our Chapters carry the AA-ISP mission of Raising the Level of Professionalism & Performance to new heights. Thanks DC Leadership Team, Ivan Gomez, Sarah Fricke, Justin Brown, and Stefanie Mueller for a job well done!  Our association editor captured the events in the article below.

Bob Perkins

Inside Sales Thrives through Local Chapters

The Inside Sales community is thriving due to the tireless work done by hundreds of volunteers around the world.  The AA-ISP is proud of its 65+ chapters and the hundreds of volunteer presidents and officers who pour their heart out to help advance our profession.  Here is a short recollection of our recent chapter meeting in Washington, DC, and how that chapter is helping to advance Inside Sales in our nation’s capital:DC_web

The AA-ISP DC chapter met on October 15 to network, enjoy refreshments, and discuss the “perfect storm” of customers, people, and technology taking place in the Inside Sales community. Stephanie Mueller, Manager of Marketing and Digital Media for the DC chapter, and Justin Brown, Vice President of Membership Development, kicked off the meeting and introduced Ram Parimi. Parimi, Vice President of Sales at Social Tables, opened up his company’s large lobby to host the event.  Social Tables has close to 50 inside reps who sell an events and meeting SaaS offering into the hospitality industry.  After a brief welcome from Parimi, Sarah Fricke, Vice President of Chapter Advancement, spoke about the AA-ISP’s recent membership growth, the top three reasons she became an AA-ISP member – including on-the-job training from the AA-ISP’s Knowledge Center and Industry Experts – and ways to get involved. Fricke introduced Bob Perkins, Founder & Chairman of the AA-ISP, as the keynote speaker for the evening.

Perkins’ presentation focused on three converging and powerful fronts: customers, people, and technology.  He noted how customers have become “digital consumers” and how 88% prefer virtual to in-person interaction during their buying cycle…a trend which is helping fuel the tremendous growth of the Inside Sales profession.  Perkins also noted how the community has stepped up to the plate in terms of properly developing less experienced new hires, who are often fresh out of college in their first job.  He then discussed the role technology has played in the rapid growth of Inside Sales, explaining how technology has been supporting the further growth in quotas for Inside Sales teams. Many of these teams are now based on a discrete selling model where the inside owns a quota and doesn’t share it with the field.

The real power of this get-together, however, went far beyond Perkins’ short presentation:  it was in the hundreds of interactions between like-minded, passionate Inside Sales Professionals.  Here were some of the thoughts expressed by attendees:

During the networking and refreshment hour, Gary Milwit, Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development at Stone Street Capital, said that the DC chapter meetings allow him to “take out my hard-working team for a few drinks and dinner on a Thursday night…[and they] give us a sense that we are not the only people who face the problems we do.”  John Zepeda, National Sales Manager at Stone Street Capital, added that the meeting “allowed our sales management team to get together and have a dialogue with other sales leaders regarding common challenges we face and best practices to address them.”

Milwit went on to say the biggest takeaway from the meeting for him was that “in the past technologies were developed with a Field Sales bent and it just so happened that they could be used for Inside Sales. Now the opposite appears to be true.”

As Sarah Fricke pointed out at the beginning of the meeting, the Inside Sales industry only exists because the profession’s members have consistently stepped up and given back to the community. Fricke covered several ways to give back, like attending AA-ISP webinars, training sessions, conferences, and chapter meetings; becoming an AA-ISP mentor or Industry Expert and sharing your experience with the community; and volunteering for a local chapter or becoming an officer.

The evening ended with several giveaways or “door prizes” as the group of 50+ attendees continued networking and enjoying the leftover beer and appetizers.  If you are an AA-ISP member and have yet to attend a chapter meeting, you are missing out on an important learning and development opportunity.  To find a chapter near you, go to the Chapter Page of the AA-ISP website to learn more.

Contributed by Jon Perkins, AA-ISP Association Editor

Guest Blog Post: A Sales Transformation: from “Inside” to “Digital” Sales

Fellow Inside Sales Crusaders,

I am happy to share with you the following article written by Judy Buchholz, General Manager of IBM’s Global Digital Sales Organization.  Besides her role leading the 5,000+ person organization, Judy is a thought leader and evangelist for everything “Inside Sales”.  As a member of the AA-ISP’s Advisory Board, Judy has given tirelessly of her time and energy to help advance our great profession.  This article discusses her team’s transformation to the new era of Digital Sales while sharing some practical tips for leaders with teams of all sizes. Judy’s full presentation on this topic can be seen during her keynote address at the upcoming AA-ISP Inside Sales World conference in Dublin, IE on Wednesday, November 18th.

Bob Perkins

 A Sales Transformation: from “Inside” to “Digital” Sales
Blog post by Judy Buchholz, General Manager, IBM Digital Sales
Judy Buchholz

One question I get asked a lot is why and how did IBM transform our inside sales team to a “digital” sales team.  The quick answer to the “why” is our clients have driven the transformation as they have changed how they choose to engage.  We’ve all seen the statistic that 57% of the buying process is complete before a client talks to a sales representative.  This sea change means we not only need to equip our sales teams for this new system of engagement but also deepen their skills so they can provide the consultative expertise that clients can’t get on the web.

We know sellers who are digitally eminent are more effective – we actually quantified it in a study we conducted.  But entrenched ways of conducting business, especially when they still produce results, are tough to change.

Now for the “how.”  Our transformation is ongoing.  It is a journey.  We did not snap our fingers, change our name and suddenly become digital.  I’d like to share some advice as you transform your own sales team from “inside” to “digital.”

Buy in and advocacy from first line managers is crucial.  Is the management team on board and can they articulate why the transformation is imperative?  Do they recognize that integrating digital and social selling techniques is about changing attitudes and behaviors of sellers?

Promote, acknowledge and reward the right behaviors.  Our Dublin Sales Center set up a competition across the different country teams – the “Digital World Cup.”  The event, promoted by homegrown posters and videos, encouraged teams to submit their best practices.  Prizes were awarded and individuals were recognized for their innovative use of digital and social to reach clients.  Gamification and competition help drive behaviors – but focus on results!

Provide tools and training.  It’s not a matter of “if you build it, they will come.”  We can provide teams with LinkedIn Premium licenses, personal rep web pages, Skype, video whiteboards, online meeting software, etc.  But without an investment in training – preferably face-to-face with skilled and recognized digitally eminent sellers and marketers — traction will be limited.  And never underestimate the power of informal peer-to-peer knowledge sharing at your sales centers from early adopter social selling “champions.”

Lead by example.  As a leader – what does your LinkedIn profile look like?  Who are you following on Twitter?  Are you using your own tools?  Are you taking advantage of new collaborative tools like wikis?  Are you using blogs and video to communicate to your teams?

Keep your eye on attitude change, not inventing new KPIs.  Sellers are goal driven.  You set a goal of 500 LinkedIn connections, they will get there.  You set a goal of 2 video chats a week, they will do it.  But often these metrics lead to gaming the system and ticking the box.   Focus on best practices and results.

Our journey continues.  But we now have hundreds of examples of using new ways of engaging clients producing new relationships and new opportunities.  This is the future.

About the blogger: Judy Buchholz is General Manager of IBM Digital Sales, a global sales organization with 5,000 sellers and support, located in several dozen sales centers around the world. She is based in Armonk, New York, and travels extensively to stay connected with her teams around the world.

Cut the Training BS… Let’s Get Serious

It’s no surprise that training and development made the AA-ISP’s top three most pressing challenges facing Inside Sales leaders in our annual Top Challenges Research…four years in a row!

Take a look at the explosive growth in Inside Sales, sales development, and other related roles and it’s easy to see why we have a huge challenge in how to best develop reps.  And to make matters even tougher, many of today’s new hires are fresh out of college or have little sales experience.

Here are five tips to get you thinking about Inside Sales development in a different way.  These tips might be just a little different and perhaps even more controversial than what you thought you would read…so, I hope you enjoy!

Step 1: Pay for Great

You’ve heard the saying “success breeds success”.  You could also say that a great team breeds great players.  Having high performers on your team is one of the best ways to establish a culture of success! As I consult with hundreds of Inside Sales leaders, I often tell them not to be cheap with their payroll and incentives.  Akin to the Yankees, they know how critical paying for great players is to the longevity and success of their franchise!

When it comes to base salaries, commission plans, and other incentives such as spiffs and awards, DON’T BE CHEAP!  What does pay have to do with development?  Everything.  Compensation below market means you will attract mediocre talent, which in turn does nothing to raise the overall bar of professionalism and performance on a team…and you don’t want newer reps modeling mediocrity, do you?

Step 2: Train Them Up in the Way They Should Go

We leaders of Inside Sales should adhere to an old proverb which admonishes parents to provide the correct training early on to ensure success later in life.  This holds so true for Inside Sales reps, especially those early in their career. Training needs to be highly specific for the role of Inside Sales, steering new reps down a straight and narrow path of proper research, prospecting, social media, virtual communication, and other key skills required of today’s highly professional reps. A generic sales training 101 course won’t cut it anymore!

There are some GREAT training firms today who specialize in Inside Sales.  Take a look at the AA-ISP Service Provider Directory to view firms such as VorsightBP, FRONTLINE Selling, Factor 8, and many more who really understand the nuances of training Inside Sales reps. Finally, give your reps the recognition they deserve!  Consider capping off whatever training you do with a stamp of approval by the AA-ISP. The Association administers our profession’s only Inside Sales rep accreditation: the CISP® (Certified Inside Sales Professional).

Step 3: No Leader Left Behind

A huge mistake many organizations make is they invest in frontline sales training while forgetting about the managers.  The leaders are one of your most valuable resources.  Show me a high-performing Inside Sales organization and I’ll bet their leader is a big reason for it!
If they are that important, be sure to focus on their development.  Take a look at our profession’s ONLY accreditation for leaders: the AISM® (Accredited Inside Sales Manager) focuses on developing areas highly specific to those who lead Inside Sales.

Step 4: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

By their very nature, Inside Sales reps are stuck inside their cubes or offices.  They see, hear, touch, and smell only those on the same team.  Although having guest trainers, reading books, and providing hands-on coaching is great, there is no substitute for interacting with other like-minded peers outside of the office.  I suggest getting reps out of their cubes for at least one day a year.  Take them to another Inside Sales organization and let them interact with and benchmark other reps.  Register them for a sales conference, such as the AA-ISP Frontline Series, so they have the opportunity to learn fresh ideas from other experts while providing them with valuable camaraderie with other like-minded reps.  Getting them outside of their four walls provides an invaluable time of refreshment and renewal as well.  The thinking that “we can’t afford to take them off the phones for a day” is shortsighted and may actually cost you more in the long run.

Step 5: They Need Miles

Years ago, I heard a VP of sales say to one of their senior reps,  “you got miles.”  They were alluding to the fact that the rep had been in the role for so many years and had tons (or “miles”) of experience behind them.  Experience that made them successful year in and year out. Simply stated, you can’t fully develop a person in a six-month onboarding program.  Nothing is a substitute for time on the job learning, making mistakes, failing, and winning.  It takes patience and many “miles” of experience!

5 Things Inside Sales Reps May Never Hear From Their Sales Manager

A good leader has convictions, beliefs and values that guide them with decision making and leading others.  These are the things the make the good leaders good.  However, for a variety of reason, they may choose not to articulate their thoughts directly to those who they lead.  Here are some things that many great leaders think, but may not directly share with their team.  Reps should take these statements and do a gut check against their own actions and attitudes.

“I really want you to push against the status quo”.  Great leaders don’t want a bunch of “yes men”, they want reps that take risk, try new things, and push back a little on doing things just because they have always been done that way.  These leaders know that high performing reps are always learning a better way to do something or a new way to increase sales.  They value individuals who might buck the system just enough to improve performance.

“You may be our #1 producer on the team, but I’ll fire you in a second for having a negative attitude”.  Great leaders understand that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.  They know that it takes an entire motivated team to achieve sales goals, not just one superstar.  A good leader will diligently protect a team from being pulled down for any reason.  He or she knows how critical it is to have positive attitudes when it comes to achieving success as a whole.

“I want you to fail”.  Great leaders know that the best way to learning and improving is failure.  They expect and want reps to fail at some things in order to foster their development.  They may interpret lack of failure as a sign that goals and other assigned tasks or objectives may not be stretching a rep enough.

“I know who is giving their best… or if you are just punching the clock”.  Great leaders know how critical it is to build a culture of highly engaged and motivated reps.  When reps truly love what they do, results will come naturally.  These leaders notice everything, every move, and every action of their reps.  They know when reps habitually come in late, whether they take long lunches, and how they spend their time during the day.  They can see determination and passion and they know who is really giving their very best and who isn’t.

“Shut up and listen!”.  Great sales managers know how critical it is for reps to talk less and listen more.  They hate it when reps show up and throw up with a prospect or client.  When your boss suggest you try asking more question, they are really saying to themselves “shut the heck up!”.

AA-ISP Continues its Support for Women in Sales Leadership

Have you ever heard a sexist joke in the workplace and let it go unchallenged? Then you might be part of the problem, according to at least one audience member at the AA-ISP Frontline Conference held on June 10th in Denver. The AA-ISP is an international association dedicated to the advancement of the Inside Sales profession. “Given the huge growth of Inside Sales, we face a shortage of qualified mid-to-senior-level leaders. We are in need of more leaders preparing to take on this challenge, especially women,” said Bob Perkins, AA-ISP Founder and Chairman.

The person who drew attention to workplace sexism spoke at a break-out panel on women in leadership hosted by Trish Bertuzzi, CEO and Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group. The panel also featured Sandy Anderson, Managing Principal at Illuminate Sales Potential; Bridget Gleason, Vice President of Sales at Yesware; and Kyle Porter, CEO and Founder at SalesLoft.

It was obvious from the start that the topic of women in leadership resonated with all attendees. The panelists fielded questions from the audience on differences between men and women, women in leadership positions, and unconscious biases in hiring.  An audience member began the conversation by remarking that the differences between men and women may have more to do with socialization than biology. She then posed a question to the panel: what can we do to ensure that women are not socialized into different careers based solely on their sex? Bertuzzi responded that sales has traditionally been a male-dominated career, while marketing has traditionally been a female-dominated one. This is partly because colleges have not offered sales majors until relatively recently. However, more colleges are beginning to do so, and should continue to do so in order for women to more easily break into sales. Bertuzzi also argued that women can use some of their differences with men to their advantage. One such difference is that women tend to be more empathetic than men, a trait which is enormously useful in sales when attempting to connect with a prospect.

One difference that works to women’s disadvantage, according to Anderson, is that men are typically better at asking for things. Bertuzzi concurred, saying that a man will apply for a job if he has 70% of the required skills listed, while women will only apply if they have 100%. When IBM CEO Ginni Rometty was offered the job, she asked her husband, “Can I do this?” He responded, “No man would ask that,” prior to her taking the job.

Pushing themselves to set their sights as high as men do is one focus of many women’s networking groups, which one audience member encouraged other women to get involved with. Gleason agreed that women’s groups are important, but added that women should not just isolate themselves to these groups. It’s equally important for women to be part of groups where they have been traditionally underrepresented, like vice president forums.

Women are underrepresented in leadership roles in general, another audience member commented. She went on to so say that one thing she looks for when applying for a job is whether there are women in leadership roles at the company in question, since she is better able to grow professionally under other women. The presence of women in leadership roles is also proof that other women have the opportunity to advance to those positions in the future.

The lack of women in leadership roles is partly attributable to unconscious biases in the hiring process, since company leaders (mostly men) tend to hire in their own image, argued Gleason. Porter agreed. He said that in order to reduce the influence of these biases at SalesLoft, they established core attributes required of job applicants – like being positive, supportive, and self-starting – before they started hiring. Because they hired people based on these attributes and not simply in their own image, three-fifths of SalesLoft’s divisions are currently run by women.

The latest research by the AA-ISP indicates finding good leaders is a top challenge.  While the AA-ISP will continue to support women in leadership roles through its conference series, mentor program, and other opportunities, more companies should take after SalesLoft’s example. Only then can we begin to ensure that women are fully represented in sales leadership positions.

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