Take Notice: AA-ISP Defines Inside Sales

Today I had the pleasure of addressing the audience at the SalesLoft RainMaker 2016 Conference held in Atlanta, Georgia. The RainMaker conference brings together sales development teams focusing on bringing a newfound knowledge base around the rising Sales Development Cloud. 

With the help of SalesLoft the AA-ISP has provided complimentary professional level memberships to all RainMaker attendees in an effort to bring together the community of Inside Sales. Below you will find an explaination and the new defintion of the word Inside Sales. The AA-ISP welcomes all titles and roles under this newly defined umbrella to join our community and together we will continue to raise the bar of professionalism and performance in our field.

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There have been many attempts to define Inside Sales, yet individuals and organizations of all sizes still ask us at the AA-ISP to narrow it down to something that could be listed in Webster’s Dictionary.  The fact remains that any definition we create will undoubtedly change over time.  As buyer preferences and technologies have evolved, so has Inside Sales.  Once called “Telesales”, today’s Inside Sales is light years ahead of a rep with a phone. Those of you who were there in the 80s will recall that Inside Sales was around well before the internet, e-mail and cell phones.  The one common thread behind this evolution is the fact that Inside Sales is “sales done virtually”.

As a respected resource on Inside Sales, the following will help to better understand the AA-ISP’s view on the term Inside Sales.

  • AA-ISP DEFINITION OF INSIDE SALES: Inside Sales is a generic, umbrella term which is widely used to describe a variety of roles, functions, and sales models, providing that these roles include a part or all of the sales cycle. The process should also be mainly virtual.
  • ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:
    • Some companies and teams use Inside Sales as a title which describes a very specific role (such as an outbound, quota-carrying sales rep)
    • Other companies may use it to describe a multifunctional, multi-role organization (ie: inbound, outbound, business development, etc.)
    • The AA-ISP considers Sales or Business Development a very key and important part under the Inside Sales umbrella. SDR’s and BDR’s make up a large percentage of the overall Inside Sales definition.
    • The AA-ISP considers some inbound roles to be under the Inside Sales umbrella. (ie: where an inbound rep is actively selling or moving a sale along in part of the sales cycle)
    • Although most Inside Sales reps carry a quota, they don’t necessarily have to in order to be considered Inside Sales for certain roles and models.
    • Many, but not all, organizations have moved from the use of “Telesales” to Inside Sales for a title.
    • Some are using terms such as Digital Sales, Virtual Sales, or just plain Sales or Account Management as an overall title.

As Inside Sales continues to evolve, we will certainly see new titles, roles, models and terms emerge.  However, the term Inside Sales itself will continue to be widely used and accepted as a general description for sales done virtually.

Expect to hear more on this topic at the upcoming 2016 AA-ISP Leadership Summit on April 20th & 21st in Chicago.

Thanks to all… we’d love to hear your comments.

Bob on Stage

There have been many attempts to define Inside Sales, yet individuals and organizations of all sizes still ask us at the AA-ISP to narrow it down to something that could be listed in Webster’s Dictionary.  The fact remains that any definition we create will undoubtedly change over time.  As buyer preferences and technologies have evolved, so has Inside Sales.  Once called “Telesales”, today’s Inside Sales is light years ahead of a rep with a phone. Those of you who were there in the 80s will recall that Inside Sales was around well before the internet, e-mail and cell phones.  The one common thread behind this evolution is the fact that Inside Sales is “sales done virtually”.

As a respected resource on Inside Sales, the following will help to better understand the AA-ISP’s view on the term Inside Sales.

  • AA-ISP DEFINITION OF INSIDE SALES: Inside Sales is a generic, umbrella term which is widely used to describe a variety of roles, functions, and sales models, providing that these roles include execution of a part of, or all of the sales cycle. The sales process is also done virtually most of the time.
  • ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:
    • Some companies and teams use Inside Sales as a title which describes a very specific role (such as an outbound, quota-carrying sales rep)
    • Other companies may use it to describe a multifunctional, multi-role organization (ie: inbound, outbound, business development, etc.)
    • The AA-ISP considers Sales or Business Development a very key and important part under the Inside Sales umbrella.
    • The AA-ISP considers some inbound roles to be under the Inside Sales umbrella. (ie: where an inbound rep is actively selling or moving a sale along in part of the sales cycle)
    • Although most Inside Sales reps carry a quota, they don’t necessarily have to be considered Inside Sales for certain roles and models.
    • Many, but not all, organizations have moved from the use of “Telesales” to Inside Sales for a title.
    • Some are using terms such as Digital Sales, Virtual Sales, or just plain Sales or Account Management as an overall title.

As Inside Sales continues to evolve, we will certainly see new titles, roles, models and terms emerge.  However, the term Inside Sales itself will continue to be widely used and accepted as a general description for sales done virtually.

Expect to hear more on this topic at the upcoming 2016 AA-ISP Leadership Summit on April 20th & 21st in Chicago.

Thanks to all… we’d love to hear your comments.

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!

Bob

Five Reasons Why Every Inside Sales Leader Should Attend the AA-ISP Summit

Dear Leaders, my note to you this week has to do with attending the AA-ISP Leadership Summit. If you have anything to do with Inside Sales Leadership, this is a MUST ATTEND event. LS15-LogoTall

Here’s why:

  1. IT’S FAMILY: Time and time again we hear feedback that going to the Summit each year is like a family reunion.  People give hugs to new friends that haven’t seen each other all year.  This is a testament to the very fabric of the association and our community.  People genuinely care about others. They toss aside all personal differences and simply enjoy being around like-minded, passionate professionals.  Attendees all share a commonality of devoting their careers to inside sales.  Who wouldn’t want to attend and be around friends who share such a common bond and kinship?
  2. IT PROVIDES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: The reason we have never hosted a Summit in Las Vegas is because our members thrive on learning and getting better… and they are serious about it.  They could care less about all the entertainment you might see at other conferences.  Look inside the main room or any breakout session and you will see a room filled with hundreds of pens taking notes.  If you want to learn, this is the place to be!
  3. IT SUPPORTS SHARING OF IDEAS: In addition to great learning, you will find great sharing of ideas at each AA-ISP conference.  Our members are passionate about trying new things and learning from others.  You will hear ideas that never occurred to you.  And the best part about it is you can go back to your team and try them out.
  4. IT SHOWCASES THE LATEST TECHNOLOGIES: The 2015 AA-ISP Top Challenges research had Tools & Technologies in the top four!  The Summit’s Service Provider Technology Expo contains over 50 exhibits, many of whom are launching new and exciting tools that are perfectly designed for a virtual sales rep.  Take a test drive on some of the new apps and find out for yourself how they can help you and your team be more productive.
  5. ADVANCE YOUR CAREER: Those who attend each Leadership Summit are an elite group… they are the best of the best.   They know the importance of interacting with other great leaders and developing friendships and even mentorships.  They are the ones to more often advance their career.  They are the true thought leaders within our growing community.

Come join us on April 21-22 in Chicago.  Come and experience over 700 like-minded inside sales leaders like yourself.  Claim “I’m In” and join the movement…  of helping to take inside sales to yet the next level of professionalism and performance!

LEADERS TAKE NOTICE!

MentorDear leaders, my message to you this week is about developing others.

It’s a serious message that needs our attention.

Last year at the April Leadership Summit, I announced that 2014 was “The Year of Training & Development”.  I did this as our annual research indicated that developing individuals was a top challenge.  Our 2015 research is almost completed and I will offer a sneak preview.  Leaders rated training and development their number one challenge and frontline reps ranked it their second challenge…talk about a correlated issue between reps and leaders – wow!

This brief note will focus on developing tomorrow’s leaders.  Let me start by saying we have a huge gap between job openings and qualified candidates to fill them at the mid to senior levels.  I am bombarded with recruiter calls each month looking for candidates.  Recently, a company was forced to actually lower the level of an inside sales leadership opening from SVP to VP because they could not find any candidates after searching for 9 months!  And the problem is only getting worse as our profession sees unprecedented growth at all levels.  To further make my point, a Fortune 50 firm contacted me recently asking for referrals to fill a position at an executive level heading up inside sales which reports directly to the COO…yep, Fortune 50!

I urge all leaders reading this note to minimally consider the following best practices:

  • Draft a strategic plan to develop individuals to either assume management roles or to move from Manager to Director to VP.
  • Get all of your potentials into the AA-ISP Mentor Program. It’s a great way for less experienced managers to interact with more senior level leaders.
  • Consider leadership training. There are some high-quality programs available from frontline management to more senior leadership development through some top universities.
  • Enroll in the AISM™ Leadership Accreditation Program and get your management team enrolled! Administered by the AA-ISP, there is no other program like it available to our profession.  It covers progressive, inside sales-specific leadership courses and practicums such as Performance Management, Rewards & Recognition, Compensation Plan Design, Selling the Value of Inside Sales, to name just a few.

Finally, be sure to attend the next AA-ISP Executive Briefing:  Developing the Next Generation of Inside Sales Leaders, on Thursday March 26th, at 2:00 PM EST. The briefing will cover research, findings, and discussion surrounding the challenges facing our profession. Topics include The Leadership Gap, Training and Development best practices, AISM™ Accreditation, and a Q&A session with presenters.

Visit the AA-ISP events calendar to register today!

Please share your thoughts and comments on this important topic!

Until next time, good leading!

Bob

 

Leadership Efforts Going Into 2015…

StartDear Leaders,

My letter to you this month has to do with your own leadership efforts and focus areas going into 2015.

During 2014 I had the wonderful opportunity to attend and observe numerous inside sales conferences, several chapter meetings (including the launch of Dublin), benchmarking visits of diverse inside sales teams, “The Largest Gathering of Inside Sales Leaders in the World” – The AA-ISP Leadership Summit, and countless conversations with prominent authors, speakers and leaders.  Having observed, listened and gleaned numerous tips and ideas around raising the performance and professionalism of inside sales leaders, below are three areas to consider for 2015.  My next blog will focus on three more, so stay tuned!

  • LEADERS NEED TO DEVELOP THEIR CAREERS IN 2015 FOR THE NEXT LEVEL OPPORTUNITY:  Make no mistake about it, there is a huge gap in the number of sr. level job openings and the availability of experienced inside sales leaders to fill them.  Given my role and exposure within the inside sales community, I am getting calls almost every week from recruiters looking to fill mid to very sr. level roles.  Some of the comp packages are extremely high and continue to increase… law of supply and demand!    If you’re a frontline manager to mid-level director, NOW is the time to continue to advance your career.  Build your network, benchmark other teams, soak in all the development opportunities out there, attend AA-ISP events, and even consider obtaining your AISM (Accredited Inside Sales Manager).
  • DISCRETE MODEL vs TEAMED MODEL?: Although the “Teamed” selling model continues to be the most popularly deployed across companies of all sizes and industries, the “Discrete” model is gaining momentum.  Many mid to larger enterprise organizations may deploy a few different models for their inside sales teams as there is a clear shift towards “un-coupling” inside from the field in certain situations.  The key driver behind this move has to do with how PROSPECTS and CUSTOMERS prefer to engage with sales people.  By now it’s no secret that decision makers want to connect “digitally” and virtually”… in fact they have been doing this for years… it’s just some sr. sales leaders that don’t want to accept it!  This shift in buying behavior makes it clear that face to face resources aren’t necessarily needed to transact business.  Thus, the “Discrete” model where an inside based rep carries the quota while carrying the ball across the goal-line makes perfect sense.  AA-ISP Research indicates this new model is on the rise… and it doesn’t surprise me at all!  Consider piloting a “Discrete” model in 2015 and then let us know how it goes!
  • YESTERDAY’S METRICS DON’T CORRELATE TO TODAY’S RESULTS:  It’s high time we realize that the quantity metrics around dials (prevalent in past years as KPI’s) don’t translate to today’s selling models.  During my own benchmarking I have found time and time again that the top producers aren’t necessarily the highest in call quantity.  Do the test yourself and let me know what you find.  This does not mean that the effort to reach prospects is dead… far from it.  It simply means that prospects are communicating more via alternate means such as e-mail, social and inbound, and prefer interacting initially that way.  Additionally, when and how you call, the use of direct lines, auto-dialing, and the advent of local presence allows for greater connections thus yielding less need for quantity metrics altogether.

I hope this gives you some food for thought as you plan for an outstanding year in 2015!

Until next time, good selling and good leading!

Defining Today’s Inside Selling Models

Dear Leaders,

Senior leadership attendees at the AA-ISP Executive Retreat in Pinehurst, NC this past October had a discussion around the naming of various selling models specific to outbound sales. Today’s blog post is the white paper which came as a result of Retreat attendees’ suggestion that the association author one.  Although some of these models may be called by different names or titles, the AA-ISP Advisory Board unanimously agreed on the definitions provided here.

White Paper

Inside Sales Models White Paper

Sales Model Definitions Specific To Outbound Inside Sales

The AA-ISP is an international association dedicated exclusively to advancing the profession of Inside Sales. As a centralized and trusted resource the AA-ISP through its members and affiliates publishes research which is widely accepted by the inside selling community.
Most inside sales deployments will fit into one of the following three main models listed in this article.

Please note the following:

Roles and Compensation: There is a variety of roles and compensation structures deployed within each of these three models. It is not the intention of this publication to capture all variety of roles/comp in each model, rather to establish the key model descriptions at a higher, strategic level.
Blend of Models: Some organizations may opt to “blend” one or more of the following models into one role. Additionally, many organizations deploy more than one of the following models within their overall sales structure.
Channel/Distribution: Many organizations primary or secondary sales channel includes selling through distributors, resellers, VAR’s, etc. We have chosen not to call the Channel/Distributor a model but rather a role type. The Channel/Distribution role will therefore fit into one of the models below.
Business Development: This publication is specific to the role of Outbound Inside Sales and their common sales models. The growing role of Business Development which may fit organizationally under the “Inside Sales” umbrella is described in the glossary section below. The role of Business development is not a type of “model” in and of itself.

TEAM SELLING – This model includes an inside sales rep who is “teamed” or “partnered” with one or more traditional field-based reps. The inside based rep is typically chartered to help assist and/or supplement the field rep(s) with the goal of quota attainment. The role of the inside based rep may include one or more of the following: Prospecting, setting appointments, ongoing client/account management, customer support, assisting in certain aspects of the sales cycle, selling on their own to a specified market, company demographic, and/or product type and supporting the field rep, etc. Inside reps in a teamed model may travel on occasion to visit their field counterparts. Compensation plans vary, but it is typical to include measurement and incentive against achieving the aggregate quota of their teamed field rep(s). In some cases, the teamed inside rep will carry their own quota which is a subset of the field. The term “overlay” is often used to describe the fact that the inside rep carries a quota and is paid commission on all or part of the same quota(s) that their field counterpart(s) carry.

DISCRETE – The discrete model is simply where the inside rep has full quota and selling responsibility without any teaming or partnering with a field rep. The discrete model is deployed in a variety of ways. An example of this would be where a company has segmented its customer types such that the field reps own and sell to the larger enterprises, and the inside owns and sells to the small-medium space. Another example would be where the field reps has responsibility over the larger, more complex products and solutions and the inside rep handles the smaller, more transactional products. Yet another example is seen in many smaller to medium size SaaS companies which deploy only inside sales as their primary sales channel. Compensation plans are typically a percentage of sales or profits much like one would see in a field comp plan.

HYBRID – Relative to inside sales models, the term Hybrid is used to describe a mix between typical “inside based” virtual work and occasional to moderate travel for face to face meetings. Note here that the vast majority of Hybrid inside sales deployments would fall under a Discrete model, meaning they own the quota and selling without any field partnering. However, although not common, it would be possible for a company to deploy a Hybrid rep within a Team Selling model. This would simply mean there is a sharing of quota, but the inside rep has budget to travel as needed for face to face meetings. Many companies use the Hybrid approach to keep sales costs down (typically less travel costs and lower pay range as compared to field reps) while allowing inside based reps the ability to travel if needed to help close a deal or improve relationships with clients or prospects. The Hybrid rep gains all the benefits of a traditional inside-based role, with the added plus of being able to use face to face when required. Typical compensation structures for the Hybrid rep would fall under Discrete or Teamed above.

RELATED ROLE GLOSSARY
The actual roles within one of the above three models will vary depending on the goals and needs of the organization.  Listed below are some common roles and titles used.

OUTBOUND ROLES

Business Development Rep & Lead Development Rep – Typically calls on unqualified, warm and a wide variety of lead types with the goal of nurturing an opportunity, developing an opportunity, and/or scheduling a rep meeting or setting an appointment for a field or inside sales rep.
Account Manager – Typically assigned to a set of accounts or territory and is goaled on meeting a quota through new sales, repeat or renewal sales, up-selling and cross-selling. May provide some ongoing customer support.  “Farmer” is often used to describe this role.
Client Relationship Rep – Similar to Account Manager but often deployed on larger key accounts to act as “quarterback” within a Teamed model. May use field resources such as Sales Exec or Sales Engineer to assist as needed.
Account Executive/Sales Executive – Typically chartered with closing net new business to new customers and/or additional new business to an established set of accounts. “Hunter” is often used to describe this role. Is often deployed in a Discrete model but may also be in a Teamed model.
Renewal Rep / Retention Rep – Chartered with developing strong relationships with current customers for repeat and/or renewal sales. A common example is where an inside rep is deployed to renew service contract agreements on installed software.
Channel Rep/Channel Manager – A role where the inside rep “sells through” and/or supports a set of channel partners or distributors. May have some contact with the end-user, but typically sells to and through partners, distributors, and re-sellers.
Sales Engineer – Inside Based Sales Engineers are often utilized to support the technical needs of inside sales reps. Their role may include doing joint calls with customers who have more complex technical needs or where the solution requires more technical support, or configuration and proposal support.

INBOUND ROLES

Inbound Rep – The typical inbound rep answers incoming calls, may provide “live chat” and may also respond to incoming e-mails. Some roles include “selling” or closing sales, while others will provide support or pass leads off to inside or field sales for closure.
Customer Service Rep – Or “Client Success” Rep, typically provides customer service, technical support, or order processing via an inbound call.

 

Until next time, Good Selling!

Bob

QBR’s

review

 

Dear Leaders,

My letter to you today is a practical one and covers the topic of establishing a QBR (Quarterly Business Review) process for your inside sales teams.  Once considered something that only field reps would do each quarter, QBR’s have slowly been gaining popularity for inside sales as well.  QBR’s can be defined as individual sales rep reviews of the results, forecast, and future activity planning for each rep and their respective territories. Here are some simple tips to getting the most out of an established QBR practice for inside sales.

  • CONSISTENCY: Establish a cadence of once each quarter and keep to that schedule.  Typically, it makes sense to schedule this in the beginning of each quarter when there may be a bit less stress than at quarter-end.
  • ATTENDEES: This is a great opportunity to invite in field sales management, executives, marketing, HR, and any other cross-function who could add value and appreciate the chance to hear the results and plans of each inside rep.  It’s can also serve as a great venue to show the value of inside sales and their level of professionalism, while education those who don’t really know what inside sales does.
  • FORMAT: As a general rule, I like to allow 1 hour or even 90 minutes for a thorough review.  Typically, the rep takes the lead and reviews several areas via a PowerPoint.  Management and invited guests can both ask questions and even offer suggestions on the stated results, goals and planned activities.
  • TEMPLATE/AGENDA: Most QBR’s cover the following areas:
    1. YTD RESULTS – This is a look backwards at sales results from the past quarter and also YTD.
    2. FORECAST – This is where the rep shows their anticipated forecast for the next quarter and remainder of the year. Often times this may be backed up by a list of forecasted deals in the pipeline.  Discussion is often around these deals and what is needed to close them.
    3. GOALS & PLANNED ACTIVITY – These areas allow the rep to establish some next quarter goals and to show the specific activity that will help them to achieve these goals. NOTE here that reps should put their goals into the “SMART” format. (Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Results Oriented, and Time Bound).  So instead of saying “I will increase my close rate” which is a bit vague, state it as “Increase my close rate from 25% to 30% within the first 30 days of the quarter”.
    4. ISSUES/CHALLENGES – Here is where the rep can list any areas that presents them with challenges.  Attendees can discuss and offer ideas on overcoming them.
    5. RECOMMENDATIONS – Inside Sales Reps can make recommendations or even ask for certain things.  An example of this might be where a rep asks for additional product training or perhaps funding to attend a specific trade event.
  • KEEP IT FUN & EDUCATIONAL: Over the years some QBR’s have turned into a session where managers “turn up the heat” and put reps under a microscope to show others that they are pushing their team to stretch and not miss hitting their numbers.  This type of demeanor is better suited for private one-on-one meetings where managers can discuss specific performance issues.  Rather, use QBR’s to help reps identify areas that need attention, to offer assistance as appropriate, and to learn from the collective experiences of all the other attendees.

I highly recommend making QBR’s standard practice for most inside selling models.  QBR’s are a great way to keep the pulse on the team, to drill deep into pipeline activity and forecasts, to learn new ideas and activities from others, to showcase the team, and to hold the reps accountable for managing their own territory and business.

Until next time… good selling and good leading!

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