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.

New Project: Inside Sales Studio

Dear Leaders,

It’s been a few months since I last wrote to you, and I hope you have all been well!  My extended leave from writing allowed me to focus on an exciting new video communications project called Inside Sales Studio.  The AA-ISP officially launched Inside Sales Studio on January 27th, and the response from our community has been amazing.  The “channel” as we call it, provides an easy-to-view platform covering a wide range topics related to Inside Sales. Since we firmly believe that sales learning is a life-long process, we created the Inside Sales Studio to provide our community with digestible content that can be used in everyday sales and personal development situations.

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Here are the goals for Inside Sales Studio:

  • EDUCATION: Providing our community with on-going, relevant, tip oriented, and easy to view videos on a wide variety of topics related to improving as a sales rep or leader.
  • COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION: Interview slots are open to members of the community who have experience and expertise in an area which can provide valuable learning to reps and leaders.  Please contact the AA-ISP for more information.
  • COMMUNICATION: With all of our other communication methods, Inside Sales Studio is always accessible on your terms.  Select and view whatever topics that interest you, and at a convenient time and place that works for you.

Here is a summary of the programs that are being broadcasted out to the entire Inside Sales community.

  • MONDAY MORNING SALES MINUTE – This brief, 2-minute video, is designed for anyone involved in selling or leading sales teams. Monday Morning Sales Minute goes live early Monday morning so it’s available before the work day gets underway. The idea actually came from Mike Pierce (an AA-ISP speaker, Chapter Officer, and amazing person) when he and I were filming a sales tip right here in our studio in Gold Canyon, AZ.  Mike thought that leaders could actually take the tip into their “Monday sales meetings” as a way to keep reps trained and learning new ideas.

TIP:  BE SURE TO REGISTER HERE to receive all new episodes of Monday Morning Sales Minute and other studio episodes directly to your inbox.

  • EXPERT INTERVIEW SERIES – These one-on-one or small group interviews will be on specific topics and challenges facing Inside Sales professionals and leaders. Our first interview series will run for about 4-6 weeks and will be on the topic of “Women in Sales and Leadership”.  Guests will include prominent women leaders including Lori Richardson, Amy Appleyard, Megan Dahlen and Sharon Frame, just to name a few.  The first interview with Staples VP of Sales, Amy Appleyard, is now available by going to the AA-ISP Inside Sales Studio home page.
  • SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS & EPISODES – From time to time we will produce short videos announcing special events and happenings within the AA-ISP community. These and all other videos can be accessed by REGISTERING HERE to receive updates as the programs are produced.

We look forward to hearing your feedback on Inside Sales Studio and all of the episodes that will be produced in 2016.  Please drop me a note with feedback and suggestions as we look to make this a valuable resource for our members and broader sales community.

 

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!

Bob

Who’s training who?

Dear Leaders,

My note to you today picks up on last month’s letter around developing tomorrow’s leaders.  As I spoke about, a sneak preview of the yet released 2015 AA-ISP Top Challenges Research lists training & development the #1 issue for leaders and the #2 challenge for frontline reps.

My point today is simple; we need to TRAIN MANAGERS FIRST, instead of 2nd.  That’s right… so often we see an organization roll out a training program to the sales floor leaving the managers behind… or it might include them as a participant in the same training as the reps.

4 reasons it’s critical to train your manager first:

  1. Set the development tone. What this means is a manager’s skills, competencies, and attributes are front and center, and highly visible to the entire team.  For example, if a manager doesn’t understand the importance of using “open ended” questions during the sales process, it will be difficult for them to transfer this skill to the team.
  2. Establishing a learning environment. At the end of the day, it’s a rep’s manager who holds ultimate responsibility for the development of their team.  Now, they may use trainers or other resources to actually do the training, but the successful development of a team and the learning environment they create, must come from the leaders themselves.  Thus it only makes sense to train managers first so they understand all of the nuances and requirements of leading
  3. Equip the Coach. An effective leader needs to be an effective coach.  Would you expect a brand new coach who had one year of experience as a high-school assistant take on an NFL position?  Of course not.  The same holds true with sales leadership.  You need to make absolutely sure you are developing your managers first so they have the skills required to be the effective coach that the team needs.
  4. Lead by Example. Managers who are invested in training set an important example to their followers that training is a life-long process.  It also tells others that they would not “ask others to do that which they do themselves”.

I hope you found my letter helpful.  Please share your tips and ideas around this important topic by leaving a comment below.

For a deeper dive into this critical issue, please attend the upcoming AA-ISP Executive Briefing this Thursday on the topic of developing tomorrow’s leaders!

I’ll write you again in a few weeks!

Bob

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

 

QBR’s

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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!

A Movement Today – An Advancing Profession Tomorrow

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Dear Leaders,

My letter to you this week has to do with the future health of our great profession and community of  Inside Sales professionals, practitioners and providers. No one can definitively say where Inside Sales will evolve to in the next 10, 20 or 100 years… were not even sure the name will remain the same.  Yet, what we do know is that our profession has evolved and will continue to evolve. As a profession, we are enjoying the fruits of our labor with unprecedented corporate adoption, job growth, career promotions, healthy compensation levels, and an exploding ecosystem and movement around a group of like-minded professionals known affectionately as the AA-ISP (or double A – ISP) community.

Our mission at the AA-ISP is simple… to “advance the professionalism and performance” of the ever growing community of Inside Sales.  The fact that we have seen active membership grow from a couple hundred 5 years ago to approaching our Fall Membership Drive of 10,000 is a testament to this grass roots movement of coming together to grow, learn, network, and share.  Not only are we seeing this unprecedented growth in the US, but countries all over the world are coming together through a network of local volunteer chapters to help support the mission to advance Inside Sales.

So how do we as leaders build on this movement in an effort insure that our great profession continues to advance?  How do we address the many challenges we face such as the archaic FLSA labor law which categorizes Inside Sales as an hourly, non-exempt position?

Here are 3 things you can do starting right now:

  • JOIN THE MOVEMENT! – This is a no brainer. If you are not an AA-ISP member, you need to be!  The community is growing and we are seeing some amazing things happen through the sharing of ideas, and the friendship and support that each member or team shares with others.  Spend the ridiculously modest $25 (or $145 for a professional membership).  Membership helps fund and support the many programs for members such as the Mentor Program, 50+ Chapters in the US and Internationally, Webinars, Training Sessions, and Professional Accreditation’s.  If you’re a leader, show your team that professional affiliations make a difference and sign them up at the Professional level for rates of $60 or much less depending on the group size.  Numbers matter!  As the AA-ISP community grows so does our voice and ability to shape the future of our profession!
  • GET INVOLVED! – Once you’re an active member, there are numerous ways to get involved in support of our great profession. Attend a Chapter meeting, view a webinar, write and submit a best practice to the AA-ISP Knowledge Center, speak at a conference, become a mentor, join the “Women of Inside Sales” group, etc., etc.  There is a little something for everyone, but it’s up to you to take the first step!
  • SUPPORT ACCREDITATION! Why is it that so many other professions like accounting, financial planning, teaching, healthcare, etc., have their own formal accreditation’s like the CPA and CFP? Partly it’s because they have been around for many years and have invested in the education and advancement of their profession.  After several years in development, accreditation for both frontline sales reps and leaders now exists for Inside Sales.  The AA-ISP administers our profession’s CISP® (Certified Inside Sales Professional) for sales reps and the AISM™ (Accredited Inside Sales Manager) for leaders.  Much like the CPA, there will come a time in the future that any hiring company who is looking for highly competent reps will make the CISP® a requirement.  Supporting the CISP® and AISM™ makes a statement that you and your organization supports the professionalism and on-going learning and development of individuals within our great profession and your own organization!

It’s an exciting time for our profession.  There is a movement afoot! Our community continues to grow.  I hope you choose to be an active participant as we are all stewards of the great profession that we serve!

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