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!



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!

Making 2014 The Year of Training & Development



Dear Sales Leaders,

We have a problem.  For the last two years running, Inside Sales Leaders selected Training & Development as their single biggest challenge.  It wasn’t recruiting and hiring, although that was #2. It wasn’t selling the value of inside sales. It wasn’t compensation.  It wasn’t lead quality. And it wasn’t the list of 10 other challenges they could have chosen.

The root cause to this challenge can be traced back to The Law of Supply and Demand.

  • DEMAND = HIGH: Inside Sales jobs are growing rapidly.  We know that nearly 700,000 positions will be added between 2013 and 2020 in the US alone.
  • SUPPLY = LOW: We also know that the skills and competencies required for today’s professional inside sales person continues to increase rapidly. The supply pool of qualified candidates is not growing fast enough to fill the jobs being created.  Most recent college grads are just not capable of this level of competency without  lots of training and hands-on experience.   Yet, in many markets, hiring managers have little choice but to hire less experienced candidates.

As you can see, the formula above puts a huge strain on leaders of inside sales organizations to provide a more comprehensive and sustained training approach which attempts to bring employees skills up to where they need to be… and all in a much faster time frame.

Yes, we have a problem.

If this problem is not actively addressed soon, we run the risk of falling backwards as a profession.  The skeptics who have always said inside sales is not as experienced and well trained as field sales, might just be heard.  Although I don’t believe there is a single, simple answer, there are some suggestions I would have ON this challenge

1)      ON 2014: Let’s start by making 2014 The Year of Training and Development.  By just making this commitment, you will have taken a big step in focusing on the challenge and finding new ways to address it.

2)      ON NEW TRAINING PROVIDERS: Research external training sources.  As this need has arisen due to the rapid growth of inside sales, so has the quality and focus of training providers.  There are some outstanding firms out there today who really get it and who have focused their practice on today’s virtual selling skills and competencies.  I would urge all leaders to visit the AA-ISP Service Provider Directory at www.aa-isp.org to look over the many training firms who specialize in inside sales.  Then select one and get going!

3)      ON ACCREDITATION: Would you ever let your daughter or son get behind the wheel of a car without some focused learning, practice, and the passing of a State Driver’s Road Test?  Of course not.  Likewise, our profession has its own training and certification process called the CISP® (Certified Inside Sales Professional), which is administered by the AA-ISP.  Although the CISP® is not the single silver bullet to solve all training challenges, it is certainly a great foundation, especially for professionals earlier in their career. And much like a road test, passing a “live” role play is required to earn the CISP® designation… I guess you could name that a “caller’s license”.   See http://www.aa-isp.org/CISP.php for more details.

4)      ON THE JOB: Although there are some outstanding training firms out there who leaders should consider, a couple days in the classroom isn’t the silver bullet either.  The great ideas that can be learned in the classroom need to be reinforced through on-the-job training and coaching.  Leaders should commit in 2014 to a certain percentage of the time being spent mentoring and coaching their staff.  You might want to even consider adding a dedicated “coach” to your staff depending on the size and make up of your team.

5)      ON-GOING: Learning is not a 1 time event.  Top professionals such as Tiger Woods heads to the practice range almost every day to keep getting better.  So why shouldn’t sales professionals have the same routine? Make daily, weekly and monthly training and learning opportunities a regular event with your team. Mix it up. Have some fun! Allow reps to run best practices round tables. Listen to calls as a team to learn new ideas. Share new ideas.  But most importantly…keep learning!

I hope this letter will give you some ideas, or at the least, get you motivated to improve your own training and development program.  With your help, Training & Development will be replaced as the #1 challenge facing Inside Sales Leaders in 2015… let’s make it so!

What Executives Look for in Senior Inside Sales Leaders

Bob Speaking in San Francisco

AA-ISP Founder Bob Perkins – Top Trends In The Evolution of Inside Sales

The AA-ISP Frontline Conference last week in San Francisco was a BLAST!  Many of the attendees commented that they felt like it was a family reunion.  There was a real thirst for knowledge.  One of the trends I shared with the group was around the fact that we are facing a severe shortage of senior leadership candidates.  As Inside Sales organizations grow each year, so does the need for Senior Director, VP and SVP leaders. As I ended my comments in the general session I gazed out into the room hoping that some of the attendees would be capable of being promoted to be tomorrow’s future senior leaders.

Here is a brief list of what is needed in Inside Sales senior leadership.  These attributes were drawn upon from the comments and feedback of several executive level leaders of large global sales forces including both Inside and Outside Sales.

  • Alignment w/ their own Values – Executives are looking for VP level inside sales leaders whose values align with their own.
  • Solid Performance Record & Experience – Senior leaders of inside sales need to have demonstrated a solid track record of delivering outstanding revenue results for the teams they have managed. They need to have experience and command of a long list of areas including comp design, sales model design,  executive communication skills, coaching and mentoring, just to name a few.
  • Work Ethic / Responsiveness – Today’s top execs expect that the leaders below them will have a strong work ethic and very fast response rates.
  • Passion – Your passion for leading inside sale people is key to advancing your career… and it will either show or not in your overall demeanor.
  • Coach & Development Mindset – The top challenge facing leaders today as revealed in an extensive AA_ISP Research Study in 2013 was training and development.  This area you should know well.
  • Executive Presence – You need to have succinct and powerful communication skills as you will often interact with other senior level leaders.  Executives prefer short and sweet communication and presentations.  Be able to design and show one page executive summary’s vs a myriad of dashboards and spreadsheets for example.
  • Respected by Subordinates & Peers – Its very simple… to advance to the next level, you will need the respect of those around you.
  • Tactical & Strategic Balance – Inside Sales by its nature is very tactical.  The advanced leader will be able to offer both tactical and strategic advice.

Let’s all take the steps necessary in our leadership development to prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities!

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