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!

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