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.

International Inside Sales is on the Rise!

Call it what you want, “Inside Sales”, “virtual sales”, “digital sales”, or just plain “sales”… the Inside Sales movement, which was galvanized as a community by the AA-ISP just 7 years ago, is on the rise globally.

On a recent AA-ISP webinar, international consulting expert, Anneke Seley, noted the various ways countries outside of the US are choosing to deploy this powerful resource: “Many multinational companies are electing to reinvest in and grow their overseas locations to support the buying engagement preferences across regions such as Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim”.  Another webinar panelist, Erik Hammar, AA-ISP VP of International, went on to state “The acceptance of virtual selling practices from a cultural standpoint is certainly on the rise across the entire globe.  Hubs such as Dublin have seen a huge influx in sales reps who move there to fill jobs created by such global giants as SAP & IBM”. The IDA (Irish Development Agency) has taken a keen interest in multinational companies of all sizes who are looking to expand their European Inside Sales operations by considering employee growth in such ideal locations as Ireland, UK, and Spain.

The global surge in Inside Sales is not just in Europe.  “Sales leaders from every country and region want to tap into some of the selling and leadership best practices, training, and supporting technologies that have been so prevalent in the last few years in the U.S.”, stated AA-ISP’s Founder & Chairman, Bob Perkins.  Perkins went on to discuss how the association has increased its focus and resources on its international support to meet this growing need.  Take–for example–that in the past year alone, over 10 local chapters were added to such countries as India, Australia, Romania, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, and Spain.  Romanian Chapter President, Vasile Stoica, is an experienced sales leader who saw a need in Romania for training and development.  He contacted the AA-ISP to see how they could help support his country’s need around virtual selling tips and best practices. After hearing about the Chapter program and member benefits such as the webinar series, Vasile decided he wanted to start a local Chapter in his hometown of Bucharest.  “I am excited to build a strong Chapter here in Romania which provides support to this growing profession of Inside Sales”, declared Stoica.

The AA-ISP continues to look outside of the US for the next big surge in Inside Sales adoption and job creation. In addition to a recently launched International Webinar Series, the AA-ISP will host its first international leadership conference, Inside Sales World, in Dublin on November 18th, 2015.

For more information on how you can get involved in the association or in a Chapter near you, visit www.aa-isp.org.

The Inside Sales Organizational Index

Dear Leaders,

My last letter to you discussed the certification of leaders.  Today I’m talking to you about assessing and certifying organizations.ISOI - Logo (2)

How cool is it to see just how far Inside Sales has come over the last 5-10 years?  We now have our own set of certifications!  What that means is there are now standards for our profession…standards on selling skills and practices, leadership strategies, and now with the ISOI™, an index which assesses organizations against a long list of best practices and operational requirements.

The ISOI™ is our profession’s first organizational certification  designed to help meet the growing demands of today’s Inside Sales operations.  Earning an ISOI™ certification is no walk in the park.  It is based on the highest standards of the AA-ISP and covers 12 areas from sales culture, to leadership support, to rep and manager competence, to compensation, to hiring practices – just to name a few.  And it doesn’t matter if you are a team of five or 5,000, the ISOI™ can help you  take your organization to the highest levels of execution. The entire process of earning your ISOI™ certification will help your organization be viewed both internally and externally as an employer of choice who strives for excellence.

If you are an AA-ISP member, you know our motto quite well…to “take Inside Sales to the next level of professionalism and performance”.  With the ISOI™, we have completed the full circle of standards for certifying reps, leaders, and now organizations.

Thank you for your part in taking our profession to the next level!

To learn more and inquire about the ISOI™ click here.

Until next time, good leading.


The Accredited Inside Sales Manager

Dear Leaders,

My last letter to you discussed the Certified Inside Sales Professional (CISP® ) certification.  Today I’m talking to you as the Inside Sales leader. AISM_LogoTM

The most insightful thing I’ve heard recently about sales training had to do with who gets trained first.  Most organizations are quick to roll out sales training to the reps, but they forget the leaders.  Oh, a manager might sit in on the training and get some additional content on how to coach to it, but they themselves get very little about all  the skills and duties of the demanding role of an Inside Sales leader.  Today more than ever, we have a shortage of qualified Inside Sales managers to assume the ever-growing role of leader.  The skills and experiences required of Inside Sales leaders continue to rise as they have for sales reps.

The AISM® was designed specifically for Inside Sales leaders.  You could call it an MBA on Inside Sales leadership!  It covers topics that cannot be found anywhere in the world in terms of training.  As an example, one of the requirements of today’s Inside Sales leader is to “sell the value” of Inside Sales to senior executives.  Well, the AISM® has an actual course designed solely around selling the value of Inside Sales across an organization.  Other unique offerings include courses on compensation plan design and motivating Inside Sales teams.  Leaders are allowed to select from a long list of electives, which range from basic courses on managing performance to practicums which require leaders to implement a project at their workplace.   Completion of a final CAPSTONE project is required of each candidate to demonstrate actionable changes they have implemented based on what they have learned during their AISM® study.

Although earning your AISM® credential won’t guarantee you’ll be a great leader, it shows a personal dedication and commitment to advancing your career as a leader of people. It recognizes the fact that you are serious about your development while maintaining the highest standard of excellence as a professional.

Without strong and effective leadership, an Inside Sales team will never reach its full potential.

To learn more about the AISM® click here.

Until next time, good leading!


The Certified Inside Sales Professional

Dear Leaders,

My last letter to you discussed the new Standards for Inside Sales.  The AA-ISP is proud to administer these three certifications: the CISP®, AISM®, and ISOI™.  My next three letters will drill into a bit more detail on each one. CISP_Logo

The CISP® was designed out of necessity and feedback from our members.  In their feedback, Inside Sales leaders reported struggling to manage inconsistent behaviors and outcomes in their reps.  In one cube, a rep might have been great at prospecting but lacked presentation skills. Yet in the next cube, the rep was weak at prospecting.  Feedback also indicated that while there was some good sales training available, there was not a comprehensive curriculum designed specifically for advancing the profession of Inside Sales. Furthermore, due to the rapid growth of Inside Sales, leaders reported that the bar for skills continued to rise as well.  Finally, there was nothing available that actually tested reps on their ability to effectively use all the skills required.  Lack of teaching, testing, and certification would be akin to allowing a 16-year-old to jump into the driver’s seat of a car and head out on the highway without any driving practice, and without passing a final road test to ensure their proficiency behind the wheel.

The CISP® was designed to provide a set of standard skills and competencies, a rigorous learning platform to teach and practice using them, and a final exam as proof that the rep is competent at using them in a true-to-life situation.

11 online courses cover all the skills required in today’s highly professional Inside Sales organizations.  From pre-call research to prospecting, presenting, and closing, the content is designed for new and experienced reps alike.

A live sales scenario is set up for the final exam where the rep must effectively use what they learned in order to earn their certification.

Once a rep gains their CISP® certification, the learning doesn’t stop there.  CSE (Continuing Sales Education) credits are required to make sure the rep maintains a mentality of lifelong learning.  These credits can take the form of reading a book, watching a webinar, attending an in-house training, etc.

Much like the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certification, I believe that someday all sales reps will need to have a type of certification in order to sell.  After all, it’s sales and revenue that makes everything else happen.  Without an order, companies large or small don’t exist.  Not too many other professions you can say that about!

If you’re a leader of Inside Sales, strongly consider getting your team certified!

Learn more about the CISP® here.

Until next time, good leading!


Standards for the Profession of Inside Sales

Dear Leaders,

My letters to you over the next several weeks will discuss professional accreditations and certifications.

When we think of professions with the highest standards, we think of those requiring a certification or an accreditation. We think of such roles as accounting (CPA), financial planning (CFP), nutrition/dietician (RD), project management (CPM), Interior Designers (AISD), Counseling (CSAC), and the list goes on.  It seems many of these certifications apply to those professions which are specific in nature, with a specific benefit to consumers or businesses.  Take for example the CFP – Certified Financial Planner.  Given the fact that a CFP is potentially handling hundreds of thousands of dollars of investments for people, someone decided they needed to be “qualified” or “certified” given the amount of money involved. AA-ISP_logo_tall_noWords_blue - Small

Yet, the profession of sales, with individuals responsible for generating hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in revenue, apparently doesn’t need any type of stamp of approval, or “certification” to say they are capable at their trade.  I find this rather odd in that there are certifications for “pet sitters”, but not for a sales person who has a $3M quota.  Odd indeed.

However, the AA-ISP has changed all that.  The growth of our industry, the demand upon our skills and competencies, the rising quotas, and the upward movement of our professionalism, has put clear demands on our own need for certifications.  Given the huge investment and reliance upon Inside Sales as a key and strategic revenue channel, it’s about time we got serious about the advancement of our profession!  The largest community of Inside Sales professionals now has established its own series of accreditations/certifications for frontline sales reps, their leaders, and organizations as a whole.

Administered by the AA-ISP, the following are now available to our great community of like-minded and passionate professionals:

CISP® – (The Certified Inside Sales Professional) – This is a comprehensive on-line development program which takes participants through 11 courses ranging from Business 101, to Prospecting, Presenting, Closing and Account Management to name just a few.  Students typically take a full semester to complete the course work.  The CISP® designation is awarded only after the person successfully completes a final exam consisting of a live sales role play.  The role play itself is demanding and requires a person to demonstrate the most critical skills around effective questioning, listening, objection handling, etc., etc.

AISM® – (The Accredited Inside Sales Manager) – There is no other program available which is this specific towards the development of Inside Sales leaders.  Courses such as Inside Sales Performance Management, Coaching for Inside Sales Leaders, Rewards and Recognition for Inside Sales Managers, and Designing Inside Sales Comp Plan have never been made available prior to the AISM®.  12 on-line course and practicum electives are available to fit all levels form entry to senior leadership.  A final Capstone Project is required allowing participants to pursue a project at their place of employment which was studied during their AISM® experience.  Much like a graduate degree, the final Capstone Presentation requires individuals to “sit through” an extensive oral exam and review of their work prior to earning their accreditation.

ISOI™ – (The Inside Sales Organizational Index) – As teams and Inside Sales organizations of all sizes have looked to improve their operation, there was a lack of centralized benchmarking, resources, and assessment tools to see exactly where they need the most improvement and how they stacked up against the best-in-class.  The ISOI™ is a comprehensive and in-depth assessment of 12 key areas of Inside Sales organizations.  Performed virtually and on-site by AA-ISP ADP’s (Authorized Delivery Partners), the IOSI™ results in an organizational index score.  Based on the score level, the organization can earn a level I or II ISOI™ Certification.  The final deliverable also includes a prioritized roadmap that the leaders can use for on-going improvement.

As you can see, the profession of Inside Sales has made great strides around improving itself as it takes hold of its future and destiny.

My next note we will dig a bit deeper into the CISP® and what it’s all about.

Thanks and good leading!


Be a Leader of Character & Heart

Dear Leaders,

My letter to you this week is a personal reflection on the World’s Largest Gathering of Inside Sales Leaders… The AA-ISP Leadership Summit which took place in Chicago this past week.   The conference brought together 700 Inside Sales leaders to learn, network and share.  Although the topics covered, the relevant content, the audience participation, and the technology expo were all outstanding, the real story had to do with the heart within the community.

A live tweet during the conference said it all… “what an inspiring event, run with so much heart”.

My opening comments took time to frame this incredible movement and the heart and values which binds us together.  Values such as volunteerism, caring for others, open mindedness, and the belief that  the whole is greater than any single individual.  Its these values that point to the heartbeat behind the community.  It’s the very reason we have grown and benefited from each other’s participation.  You see, all  of the beneficial tips and best practices, although very helpful, won’t get us there alone.  It’s the value system which binds us together that will.  It’s the common bond of brothers and sisters in our profession that adhere to the fact that people are our most important resource! These values will insure the health of our profession for generations to come!

As I closed my comments early on Tuesday morning I challenged attendees on yet another value.  A value which is often over-looked.  A consultant once said that “… the best Fortune 500 companies teach ethics, but West Point teaches Character…” I went on to read excerpts from the book, The West Point Way of Leadership, and how Character is a foundational value.  Leaders with Character always do the right thing for benefit of the team… while nobody is looking. I challenged everyone in attendance to adopt this value as we continue to improve and evolve as a profession and community.


If you would like to experience this true “heart” of our growing community, get involved in the association. Make it out to Denver for our Frontline conference in June.  Frontline conferences differ somewhat from the Leadership Summit in that they are geared for Inside Sales reps and their managers. Although they are one day vs. the Summit’s three, they come with a huge helping of “heart”.

We hope to see our members at an IS2015 frontline event or Executive Retreat sometime between now and the next Summit in April 2016!

Until next time, good leading.  And remember, Inside Sales has Heart!


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