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!



Daily Sales Minute from Dreamforce – Day 3!

Dear Leaders,

Back at Dreamforce for Day 3. Great tips and trends from Trish Bertuzzi and Jill Konrath.

‘Til next time!


Daily Sales Minute from Dreamforce – Day 2!

Dear Leaders,

Another great day at Dreamforce where I was able to pick up some great tips from Social Selling evangelists Jill Rowley and Koka Sexton.  The video below offers up some excellent take-aways you can put to use with your teams right away.

Good (Social) Selling!


It’s not your father’s sale anymore…

Dear Leaders,

My letter to you this week has to do with a major paradigm shift in how buyers buy, and sellers sell.  This trend is certainly not new as it has been evolving for years.  However, I believe that inside sales has crossed into a Digital Selling World and there is no looking back.  Where is your organization on this new revolution?

Let’s explore 3 key trends.  My normal short blog will be a little longer this time, so please get a large cup of coffee ready as you sit down to read this :).

#1 – Sales have become Digital

There is no mistake about it…today’s buyers require immediately accessible information and sales interactions on their own terms.  They want the option of a comprehensive and valuable sales engagement without the need for face-to-face interaction. Research indicates 60% of the buying cycle has been completed digitally by decision-makers before they reach out virtually or even in-person to a sales rep.  It also indicates that more and more complex, big ticket sales are completed through a virtual sales exchange. The days of the face-to-face “dog & pony show” are long gone.  Hear what a Sr. VP at IBM has to say about the digital sales phenomenon.

“The digital revolution is changing the way buying decisions are made and commerce is transacted. What individuals are experiencing as consumers is changing what they expect from IBM as an enterprise client. They want us to know them and understand their preferences, and get value from our expertise in new ways and on their own terms…In other words, digital is central – not secondary.”

Bruno Di Leo

Bruno Di Leo, Senior Vice President, IBM Sales & Distribution

Simply put, in many if not most cases, decision-makers prefer engaging virtually when making purchasing decisions. Whether it’s research on the web, a demonstration through screen sharing and/or video, or the use of social, busy buyers want information quick and easy…in the comfort of their office or via their smart phone as they commute.

#2 – Virtual becomes a Primary Sales Channel

In the late 80s and 90s and through the early 2000s, inside sales was deployed predominately in a team model supporting the field sales force.  Today senior sales leaders know what inside sales knew many years ago.  The digital and virtual way of doing business has arrived and is here to stay.  In fact, traditional field salespeople have adopted some of the very same strategies and tactics that inside salespeople have been using for years. This is because buyers are demanding it.  Extensive AA-ISP research in 2013 and 2014 indicated a significant shift from inside sales simply supporting field reps, to carrying a discrete quota and responsibility over a set of accounts. From 2010 to 2014, companies moving inside sales from a teamed support role into a “discrete” quota-carrying model rose from 32% to over 50%.  It is forecasted that this “discrete” model will overtake the time-tested “team selling” model in the next few years.  Research by ZS Associates and Reality Works in the fall of 2014 indicated that 40% of large companies (greater than $1B in annual revenue) in the technology space are specifically shifting headcount from the field to inside sales.  Simply stated, virtual sales is alive and thriving.  Face-to-face is on the decline.  In fact, Inside Sales now has a global association dedicated to advancing their profession in addition to a formal accreditation for both inside sales reps and leaders.

#3 – The Next Technology Boom

Those who earn a living selling virtually know only too well how technology has improved their sales results.  SaaS companies have been launched in recent years to cater specifically to this digital/virtual sales revolution. These cloud-based service providers and their software applications help put an already efficient virtual process on “selling steroids”.  The potential for inside sales to produce revenue continues to grow, due in part to the advent of these tools and technologies. The 2014 study by ZS Associates and Reality Works Group indicates that the mean inside sales quota responsibility is $2.1M for large enterprise companies and just over $1M for SMB…clearly up from only a few years ago.

There are literally hundreds of apps designed specifically to aid virtual selling.  Take ConnectAndSell for example which helps inside-based lead generation specialists connect live to as many as 10-12 decision-makers each hour, as compared to the normal industry standard of 1-2.  InsideSales.com helps virtual reps make 3-5 times the number of dials, connections, and e-mails as compared to traditional methods. Numerous screen sharing companies such as ClearSlide and Glance are on the rise, enabling reps to connect with prospects instantly with the option of pushing out live video, enhancing their digital engagement. Velocify, transforms the traditional CRM into a lead management and sales development engine which improves lead conversion rates.  Firms such as ToutApp give reps real-time feedback on who read their e-mails and when they were read. Noble Systems provides inbound and outbound enterprises with a comprehensive list of services and apps to help improve the overall digital customer experience. Their voice analytics tool automatically recognizes words and speech patterns, helping uncover ripe sales opportunities.   Data analytics has also found its home in this digital selling world. Companies such as InsightSquared, Valgen, OppSource and others provide tools to help organizations harness their data and sell more.  Hoopla, Bunchball and others provide real-time gamification as a way to keep money- and status-motivated players always on the hunt and always engaged.  Rep development has changed too!  Firms such as VorsightBP, FRONTLINE Selling and Factor8 are providing once unavailable deep tactical training on the how-to’s around the new set of virtual selling standards such as enhanced pre-call research, e-mail, social, remote presentations, and more.  As mentioned earlier, the AA-ISP administers the profession’s only online training and accreditation for both front-line virtual reps (the CISP®), and those who lead them (the AISM).  The AISM (Accredited Inside Sales Manager) is the only accreditation program focused solely on inside sales leadership development.  And the list helping virtual/digital sales goes on and on.

It’s not your father’s sale anymore…how buyers buy has changed. The digital sales revolution will continue to adapt to meet the requirements of today’s virtually connected decision-makers.

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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