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.

Inside Sales Studio Logo

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.


Wanted: Women to Take on Inside Sales Leadership Roles

Dear Inside Sales ambassadors,

As Inside Sales teams grow at explosive rates, so do the leadership roles and job openings that support them.  A recent AA-ISP study indicated that finding qualified talent was a key challenge as was developing tomorrow’s leaders.  On top of this huge challenge, the association sees an imbalance of the percentage of male to female leaders.  The CEB just reported their research that only 19% of sales leadership (department head to GM level) are held by women. Last year, LinkedIn’s research indicated a similar 20% of VP level sales jobs were held by women.

Well known sales author and speaker, Jill Konrath, states “A career in sales plays to a women’s natural strengths of connection, collaboration, and preparation” If this is the case, why don’t we see more women in sales leadership roles?

Representation by women in business starts to fall somewhere between mid-level manager to executive ranks. The opposite is true for their male counterparts. (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2011 Job Patterns for Minorities and Women in Private Industry). Some of the reasons are widely being bantered about these days – here is some of what Women Sales Pros President Lori Richardson reports:
Woman Sales Pros

  1. The pipeline is not big enough – there are not enough women in the system – already in roles serving as a farm team for the next sales leaders.
  2. Unintentional discrimination – often a CEO looking for his next VP Sales will look for someone with characteristics like him if he came through the sales ranks. VP Sales often do this when hiring or promoting team leaders and frontline sales managers.
  3. Strong potential candidates, both male and female, need to be sponsored, not just mentored – it is not enough to offer advice and support to an up-and-comer, it often takes sponsorship by an executive to help pave their path and speak up on their behalf. This does not happen enough for women in the sales organization, or if it does, it is usually a mentorship by a lower-than-executive level person in their company.
  4. Women themselves need to stretch out of their comfort zone – learn what is needed for them to shine and succeed. Step up and go for that seat at the table.

With leadership at its core, the AA-ISP believes in the importance of such attributes as caring, empathetic, decisiveness, a good listener  and highly collaborative… skills which many women possess.

It’s time we take this challenge seriously!  As the industry leader for a growing community of Inside Sales professionals, The AA-ISP is taking a stand in support of women in sales and sales leadership roles.  Here are some of the things we are doing:

  • MENTORSHIP – The AA-ISP has a mentorship program which is made available to all members. Women are encouraged to participate as both protégé’s and mentors.
  • DISCUSSION GROUPS – Most AA-ISP conferences now include a discussion group focused specifically on the advancement of women in sales. We work with local businesses and thought leaders in selecting women in leadership roles to sit on these panels.
  • SUPPORT FOR WOMEN SALES PROS- The AA-ISP has teamed up with Women Sales Pros, a community where women sales leaders, sales reps, and sales thought leaders are showcased – and we are working with them in the coming year to identify potential speakers, connect companies to candidates, and gain key research. You will probably see WSP at a sponsor table at many of our events in 2016 because we are committed to action.
  • WOMEN IN SALES AWARDS – The AA-ISP supports WIS Awards program which includes mentoring the winner of the annual Inside Sales professional award recipient.

The above areas are certainly a start, and we have a long way to go.  I am encouraging everyone within the Inside Sales community to consider the following:

  • MORE WOMEN PRESENTERS in your company and at events: Women who present provide an excellent opportunity to act as visible “role models” for other women.  AA-ISP conference sponsors are encouraged to consider selecting women to present their topic.  AA-ISP Chapter Presidents and Officers are similarly encouraged to search for women presenters for appropriate meeting topics.
  • DEVELOPING & PROMOTING: I would encourage current Inside Sales leaders, whether male or female, to support the advancement of women in sales at your current organization.
  • FEEL COMFORTABLE TO DISCUSS: Change can be tough, and change can be slow. By working together we can see progress sooner. Start by talking about it with any of us at AA-ISP.

We encourage a push for more women sales leaders not because we think you should, but because it makes business sense.  Overlooking top candidates who happen to be female can cost your company in a number of ways.  Xactly Insights discovered that women reach higher quota attainment than their male counterparts, and we know that companies who add women to their board of directors are 42% more profitable. Let’s work together and see some forward movement in 2016!

Bob Perkins

Inside Sales Thrives through Local Chapters

Dear Inside Sales Professionals,

I am continually overwhelmed by the amazing efforts of our community of volunteers, known as the AA-ISP Chapter Presidents and Officers.  I was honored to attend and speak at a recent DC Chapter Meeting.  The event blew me away in terms of organization, networking opportunities, valuable content, and the professionalism of its leaders and attendees. DC and all of our Chapters carry the AA-ISP mission of Raising the Level of Professionalism & Performance to new heights. Thanks DC Leadership Team, Ivan Gomez, Sarah Fricke, Justin Brown, and Stefanie Mueller for a job well done!  Our association editor captured the events in the article below.

Bob Perkins

Inside Sales Thrives through Local Chapters

The Inside Sales community is thriving due to the tireless work done by hundreds of volunteers around the world.  The AA-ISP is proud of its 65+ chapters and the hundreds of volunteer presidents and officers who pour their heart out to help advance our profession.  Here is a short recollection of our recent chapter meeting in Washington, DC, and how that chapter is helping to advance Inside Sales in our nation’s capital:DC_web

The AA-ISP DC chapter met on October 15 to network, enjoy refreshments, and discuss the “perfect storm” of customers, people, and technology taking place in the Inside Sales community. Stephanie Mueller, Manager of Marketing and Digital Media for the DC chapter, and Justin Brown, Vice President of Membership Development, kicked off the meeting and introduced Ram Parimi. Parimi, Vice President of Sales at Social Tables, opened up his company’s large lobby to host the event.  Social Tables has close to 50 inside reps who sell an events and meeting SaaS offering into the hospitality industry.  After a brief welcome from Parimi, Sarah Fricke, Vice President of Chapter Advancement, spoke about the AA-ISP’s recent membership growth, the top three reasons she became an AA-ISP member – including on-the-job training from the AA-ISP’s Knowledge Center and Industry Experts – and ways to get involved. Fricke introduced Bob Perkins, Founder & Chairman of the AA-ISP, as the keynote speaker for the evening.

Perkins’ presentation focused on three converging and powerful fronts: customers, people, and technology.  He noted how customers have become “digital consumers” and how 88% prefer virtual to in-person interaction during their buying cycle…a trend which is helping fuel the tremendous growth of the Inside Sales profession.  Perkins also noted how the community has stepped up to the plate in terms of properly developing less experienced new hires, who are often fresh out of college in their first job.  He then discussed the role technology has played in the rapid growth of Inside Sales, explaining how technology has been supporting the further growth in quotas for Inside Sales teams. Many of these teams are now based on a discrete selling model where the inside owns a quota and doesn’t share it with the field.

The real power of this get-together, however, went far beyond Perkins’ short presentation:  it was in the hundreds of interactions between like-minded, passionate Inside Sales Professionals.  Here were some of the thoughts expressed by attendees:

During the networking and refreshment hour, Gary Milwit, Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development at Stone Street Capital, said that the DC chapter meetings allow him to “take out my hard-working team for a few drinks and dinner on a Thursday night…[and they] give us a sense that we are not the only people who face the problems we do.”  John Zepeda, National Sales Manager at Stone Street Capital, added that the meeting “allowed our sales management team to get together and have a dialogue with other sales leaders regarding common challenges we face and best practices to address them.”

Milwit went on to say the biggest takeaway from the meeting for him was that “in the past technologies were developed with a Field Sales bent and it just so happened that they could be used for Inside Sales. Now the opposite appears to be true.”

As Sarah Fricke pointed out at the beginning of the meeting, the Inside Sales industry only exists because the profession’s members have consistently stepped up and given back to the community. Fricke covered several ways to give back, like attending AA-ISP webinars, training sessions, conferences, and chapter meetings; becoming an AA-ISP mentor or Industry Expert and sharing your experience with the community; and volunteering for a local chapter or becoming an officer.

The evening ended with several giveaways or “door prizes” as the group of 50+ attendees continued networking and enjoying the leftover beer and appetizers.  If you are an AA-ISP member and have yet to attend a chapter meeting, you are missing out on an important learning and development opportunity.  To find a chapter near you, go to the Chapter Page of the AA-ISP website to learn more.

Contributed by Jon Perkins, AA-ISP Association Editor

Guest Blog Post: A Sales Transformation: from “Inside” to “Digital” Sales

Fellow Inside Sales Crusaders,

I am happy to share with you the following article written by Judy Buchholz, General Manager of IBM’s Global Digital Sales Organization.  Besides her role leading the 5,000+ person organization, Judy is a thought leader and evangelist for everything “Inside Sales”.  As a member of the AA-ISP’s Advisory Board, Judy has given tirelessly of her time and energy to help advance our great profession.  This article discusses her team’s transformation to the new era of Digital Sales while sharing some practical tips for leaders with teams of all sizes. Judy’s full presentation on this topic can be seen during her keynote address at the upcoming AA-ISP Inside Sales World conference in Dublin, IE on Wednesday, November 18th.

Bob Perkins

 A Sales Transformation: from “Inside” to “Digital” Sales
Blog post by Judy Buchholz, General Manager, IBM Digital Sales
Judy Buchholz

One question I get asked a lot is why and how did IBM transform our inside sales team to a “digital” sales team.  The quick answer to the “why” is our clients have driven the transformation as they have changed how they choose to engage.  We’ve all seen the statistic that 57% of the buying process is complete before a client talks to a sales representative.  This sea change means we not only need to equip our sales teams for this new system of engagement but also deepen their skills so they can provide the consultative expertise that clients can’t get on the web.

We know sellers who are digitally eminent are more effective – we actually quantified it in a study we conducted.  But entrenched ways of conducting business, especially when they still produce results, are tough to change.

Now for the “how.”  Our transformation is ongoing.  It is a journey.  We did not snap our fingers, change our name and suddenly become digital.  I’d like to share some advice as you transform your own sales team from “inside” to “digital.”

Buy in and advocacy from first line managers is crucial.  Is the management team on board and can they articulate why the transformation is imperative?  Do they recognize that integrating digital and social selling techniques is about changing attitudes and behaviors of sellers?

Promote, acknowledge and reward the right behaviors.  Our Dublin Sales Center set up a competition across the different country teams – the “Digital World Cup.”  The event, promoted by homegrown posters and videos, encouraged teams to submit their best practices.  Prizes were awarded and individuals were recognized for their innovative use of digital and social to reach clients.  Gamification and competition help drive behaviors – but focus on results!

Provide tools and training.  It’s not a matter of “if you build it, they will come.”  We can provide teams with LinkedIn Premium licenses, personal rep web pages, Skype, video whiteboards, online meeting software, etc.  But without an investment in training – preferably face-to-face with skilled and recognized digitally eminent sellers and marketers — traction will be limited.  And never underestimate the power of informal peer-to-peer knowledge sharing at your sales centers from early adopter social selling “champions.”

Lead by example.  As a leader – what does your LinkedIn profile look like?  Who are you following on Twitter?  Are you using your own tools?  Are you taking advantage of new collaborative tools like wikis?  Are you using blogs and video to communicate to your teams?

Keep your eye on attitude change, not inventing new KPIs.  Sellers are goal driven.  You set a goal of 500 LinkedIn connections, they will get there.  You set a goal of 2 video chats a week, they will do it.  But often these metrics lead to gaming the system and ticking the box.   Focus on best practices and results.

Our journey continues.  But we now have hundreds of examples of using new ways of engaging clients producing new relationships and new opportunities.  This is the future.

About the blogger: Judy Buchholz is General Manager of IBM Digital Sales, a global sales organization with 5,000 sellers and support, located in several dozen sales centers around the world. She is based in Armonk, New York, and travels extensively to stay connected with her teams around the world.

Cut the Training BS… Let’s Get Serious

It’s no surprise that training and development made the AA-ISP’s top three most pressing challenges facing Inside Sales leaders in our annual Top Challenges Research…four years in a row!

Take a look at the explosive growth in Inside Sales, sales development, and other related roles and it’s easy to see why we have a huge challenge in how to best develop reps.  And to make matters even tougher, many of today’s new hires are fresh out of college or have little sales experience.

Here are five tips to get you thinking about Inside Sales development in a different way.  These tips might be just a little different and perhaps even more controversial than what you thought you would read…so, I hope you enjoy!

Step 1: Pay for Great

You’ve heard the saying “success breeds success”.  You could also say that a great team breeds great players.  Having high performers on your team is one of the best ways to establish a culture of success! As I consult with hundreds of Inside Sales leaders, I often tell them not to be cheap with their payroll and incentives.  Akin to the Yankees, they know how critical paying for great players is to the longevity and success of their franchise!

When it comes to base salaries, commission plans, and other incentives such as spiffs and awards, DON’T BE CHEAP!  What does pay have to do with development?  Everything.  Compensation below market means you will attract mediocre talent, which in turn does nothing to raise the overall bar of professionalism and performance on a team…and you don’t want newer reps modeling mediocrity, do you?

Step 2: Train Them Up in the Way They Should Go

We leaders of Inside Sales should adhere to an old proverb which admonishes parents to provide the correct training early on to ensure success later in life.  This holds so true for Inside Sales reps, especially those early in their career. Training needs to be highly specific for the role of Inside Sales, steering new reps down a straight and narrow path of proper research, prospecting, social media, virtual communication, and other key skills required of today’s highly professional reps. A generic sales training 101 course won’t cut it anymore!

There are some GREAT training firms today who specialize in Inside Sales.  Take a look at the AA-ISP Service Provider Directory to view firms such as VorsightBP, FRONTLINE Selling, Factor 8, and many more who really understand the nuances of training Inside Sales reps. Finally, give your reps the recognition they deserve!  Consider capping off whatever training you do with a stamp of approval by the AA-ISP. The Association administers our profession’s only Inside Sales rep accreditation: the CISP® (Certified Inside Sales Professional).

Step 3: No Leader Left Behind

A huge mistake many organizations make is they invest in frontline sales training while forgetting about the managers.  The leaders are one of your most valuable resources.  Show me a high-performing Inside Sales organization and I’ll bet their leader is a big reason for it!
If they are that important, be sure to focus on their development.  Take a look at our profession’s ONLY accreditation for leaders: the AISM® (Accredited Inside Sales Manager) focuses on developing areas highly specific to those who lead Inside Sales.

Step 4: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

By their very nature, Inside Sales reps are stuck inside their cubes or offices.  They see, hear, touch, and smell only those on the same team.  Although having guest trainers, reading books, and providing hands-on coaching is great, there is no substitute for interacting with other like-minded peers outside of the office.  I suggest getting reps out of their cubes for at least one day a year.  Take them to another Inside Sales organization and let them interact with and benchmark other reps.  Register them for a sales conference, such as the AA-ISP Frontline Series, so they have the opportunity to learn fresh ideas from other experts while providing them with valuable camaraderie with other like-minded reps.  Getting them outside of their four walls provides an invaluable time of refreshment and renewal as well.  The thinking that “we can’t afford to take them off the phones for a day” is shortsighted and may actually cost you more in the long run.

Step 5: They Need Miles

Years ago, I heard a VP of sales say to one of their senior reps,  “you got miles.”  They were alluding to the fact that the rep had been in the role for so many years and had tons (or “miles”) of experience behind them.  Experience that made them successful year in and year out. Simply stated, you can’t fully develop a person in a six-month onboarding program.  Nothing is a substitute for time on the job learning, making mistakes, failing, and winning.  It takes patience and many “miles” of experience!

5 Things Inside Sales Reps May Never Hear From Their Sales Manager

A good leader has convictions, beliefs and values that guide them with decision making and leading others.  These are the things the make the good leaders good.  However, for a variety of reason, they may choose not to articulate their thoughts directly to those who they lead.  Here are some things that many great leaders think, but may not directly share with their team.  Reps should take these statements and do a gut check against their own actions and attitudes.

“I really want you to push against the status quo”.  Great leaders don’t want a bunch of “yes men”, they want reps that take risk, try new things, and push back a little on doing things just because they have always been done that way.  These leaders know that high performing reps are always learning a better way to do something or a new way to increase sales.  They value individuals who might buck the system just enough to improve performance.

“You may be our #1 producer on the team, but I’ll fire you in a second for having a negative attitude”.  Great leaders understand that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.  They know that it takes an entire motivated team to achieve sales goals, not just one superstar.  A good leader will diligently protect a team from being pulled down for any reason.  He or she knows how critical it is to have positive attitudes when it comes to achieving success as a whole.

“I want you to fail”.  Great leaders know that the best way to learning and improving is failure.  They expect and want reps to fail at some things in order to foster their development.  They may interpret lack of failure as a sign that goals and other assigned tasks or objectives may not be stretching a rep enough.

“I know who is giving their best… or if you are just punching the clock”.  Great leaders know how critical it is to build a culture of highly engaged and motivated reps.  When reps truly love what they do, results will come naturally.  These leaders notice everything, every move, and every action of their reps.  They know when reps habitually come in late, whether they take long lunches, and how they spend their time during the day.  They can see determination and passion and they know who is really giving their very best and who isn’t.

“Shut up and listen!”.  Great sales managers know how critical it is for reps to talk less and listen more.  They hate it when reps show up and throw up with a prospect or client.  When your boss suggest you try asking more question, they are really saying to themselves “shut the heck up!”.

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.

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