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.


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

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!


Standards for the Profession of Inside Sales

Dear Leaders,

My letters to you over the next several weeks will discuss professional accreditations and certifications.

When we think of professions with the highest standards, we think of those requiring a certification or an accreditation. We think of such roles as accounting (CPA), financial planning (CFP), nutrition/dietician (RD), project management (CPM), Interior Designers (AISD), Counseling (CSAC), and the list goes on.  It seems many of these certifications apply to those professions which are specific in nature, with a specific benefit to consumers or businesses.  Take for example the CFP – Certified Financial Planner.  Given the fact that a CFP is potentially handling hundreds of thousands of dollars of investments for people, someone decided they needed to be “qualified” or “certified” given the amount of money involved. AA-ISP_logo_tall_noWords_blue - Small

Yet, the profession of sales, with individuals responsible for generating hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in revenue, apparently doesn’t need any type of stamp of approval, or “certification” to say they are capable at their trade.  I find this rather odd in that there are certifications for “pet sitters”, but not for a sales person who has a $3M quota.  Odd indeed.

However, the AA-ISP has changed all that.  The growth of our industry, the demand upon our skills and competencies, the rising quotas, and the upward movement of our professionalism, has put clear demands on our own need for certifications.  Given the huge investment and reliance upon Inside Sales as a key and strategic revenue channel, it’s about time we got serious about the advancement of our profession!  The largest community of Inside Sales professionals now has established its own series of accreditations/certifications for frontline sales reps, their leaders, and organizations as a whole.

Administered by the AA-ISP, the following are now available to our great community of like-minded and passionate professionals:

CISP® – (The Certified Inside Sales Professional) – This is a comprehensive on-line development program which takes participants through 11 courses ranging from Business 101, to Prospecting, Presenting, Closing and Account Management to name just a few.  Students typically take a full semester to complete the course work.  The CISP® designation is awarded only after the person successfully completes a final exam consisting of a live sales role play.  The role play itself is demanding and requires a person to demonstrate the most critical skills around effective questioning, listening, objection handling, etc., etc.

AISM® – (The Accredited Inside Sales Manager) – There is no other program available which is this specific towards the development of Inside Sales leaders.  Courses such as Inside Sales Performance Management, Coaching for Inside Sales Leaders, Rewards and Recognition for Inside Sales Managers, and Designing Inside Sales Comp Plan have never been made available prior to the AISM®.  12 on-line course and practicum electives are available to fit all levels form entry to senior leadership.  A final Capstone Project is required allowing participants to pursue a project at their place of employment which was studied during their AISM® experience.  Much like a graduate degree, the final Capstone Presentation requires individuals to “sit through” an extensive oral exam and review of their work prior to earning their accreditation.

ISOI™ – (The Inside Sales Organizational Index) – As teams and Inside Sales organizations of all sizes have looked to improve their operation, there was a lack of centralized benchmarking, resources, and assessment tools to see exactly where they need the most improvement and how they stacked up against the best-in-class.  The ISOI™ is a comprehensive and in-depth assessment of 12 key areas of Inside Sales organizations.  Performed virtually and on-site by AA-ISP ADP’s (Authorized Delivery Partners), the IOSI™ results in an organizational index score.  Based on the score level, the organization can earn a level I or II ISOI™ Certification.  The final deliverable also includes a prioritized roadmap that the leaders can use for on-going improvement.

As you can see, the profession of Inside Sales has made great strides around improving itself as it takes hold of its future and destiny.

My next note we will dig a bit deeper into the CISP® and what it’s all about.

Thanks and good leading!


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!


Six Leadership traits that could change corporate America!


Dear Leaders, the subject of my letter to you today was formed this past Sunday as my wife and I attended Church in Apple Valley, MN.  It was our very last time after 15 years attending as we were moving to a nearby city the next week and the congregation was throwing a “going away” party for us.  Our Pastor, the Rev. Bill Gould, presented a topic titled Traits of True Wisdom from the book of James.  As he spoke and presented some key points, it resonated as a parallel to my own philosophy of leadership.  I feverishly took notes knowing it was something I had to share with my readers. I’d like to offer up these points in hopes of striking a chord in the hearts and minds of inside sales… and all leaders for that matter.  You may even come to explore a whole new meaning of the word wisdom.

Let’s get right to the point.  In a “what’s in it for me” world, I believe our business, political and social world is filled with lots of leaders who are occupied with and chasing fame, power and pleasure rather than seeking the good of those people who they manage.  They drive towards success, hitting a number, organizational growth, and their own advancement instead of making it better for a diverse group or organization.  Ego and self-centeredness drives a wedge between their own ambition and those of the people they lead.  This is seen so clearly in politics today as both sides of the aisle have to get their own way with little room for compromise and doing what’s in the best interest of the people they supposedly serve.  And if all leaders, this writer included, took an honest look in the mirror, they would find an all too often battle between self and serving others that presents itself each and every day.

I believe our World, America, Companies, Families and Inside Sales Teams, would be a bit better off if leaders would follow these six principles.

#1.  Leadership Wisdom is PURE – Simply put, the leader’s motives and actions must be pure and without hypocrisy or self-centeredness.  Their inner most thoughts and intentions must be for the betterment of the group they lead and serve.  Their values they espouse should be transparent and honest to the team.  The team will feel a sense of trust due to their leader’s honesty in intention and deed.  This does not mean that everyone on the team will always agree with the leader’s actions and decisions, yet it will form a trust which is the bedrock for a successful and high-performing inside sales organization. Self-Check time on this one!

#2.  Leadership Wisdom is PEACE LOVING – This type of wisdom for the inside sales leader seeks to sooth, unite and promote harmony and collaboration instead of causing alienation, contention, division and strife.  By nature, the strong inside sales leader has to justify their existence… they often end up battling with others even luring them into fights. They feel they have to prove their existence and will sometimes come to blows with those within their own organization.  Rather, the Peace Loving Leader takes the sting out of arguments instead of causing them.  They seek to find common ground and work as a team with other groups to find success.  Is this you?

#3. Leadership Wisdom is GENTLE – The word gentle here can be translated to mean forbearing, reasonable, and courteous.  In the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) this word was often used to describe kindness towards those that didn’t deserve it. How often as leaders do we exercise this trait? Aren’t we more often found calling out individuals for falling short of metrics and other goals?  Don’t we insist on our every legal right and our fair share as a profession that is still driving to climb the ladder and take its rightful place in the sales pecking order?  Leaders, consider your approach and make sure it’s often sprinkled with kind forbearance of others.

#4. Leadership Wisdom is SUBMISSIVE – Really?  You’d think the last thing a strong leader should be is submissive.  Yet, this trait to me is at the very cornerstone of a strong leader who has the respect and confidence of those the lead.  This word takes on a meaning of openness to reason, yielding to persuasion and willingness to consider others opinions.  It means that the leader knows they don’t have all the answers, and that they are open to learning.  The team knows their concerns will be heard and that the leader is not afraid to admit when they were wrong and open to change, even if it’s a change in direction from an earlier decision they made.  Submissive does NOT mean the leader is a “doormat” or that they do not hold firm to their own set of values and convictions…. As this too is the mark of a strong and well-respected leader. All leaders would do well to as ask themselves how well they do in this area.

#5. Leadership Wisdom is Full of MERCY and GOOD DEEDS – On the surface, the term Mercy may seem like having pity on someone or taking it easy on someone who did something wrong.  But in actuality it can be interpreted as compassion which takes specific, positive actions.  Mercy is the compassion, and Good Deeds is the action part. Inside sales leaders who manage a team should be careful not to accuse others.  Rather, they should be slow to anger having compassion on those they may have even brought trouble on themselves.   Where reps clearly have violated policy, missed goals, or done something wrong, the manager will naturally be upset and “angry”, yet they should not harbor these feelings for long. Instead, they should take the necessary action to correct the individual out of concern for them.   Team members view leaders who show Mercy as those who are fair, compassionate, yet just in how they deal with people and performance issues.

#6. Leadership Wisdom is IMPARTIAL – Impartiality means that the inside sales leader treats everyone the same.  They are consistent in how they approach and communicate with all employees and all level of individuals regardless of title.  They do not take one position with more senior staff, and a different one with those under their leadership.  It certainly does not show favoritism.  The leader who is IMPARTIAL may not always make the best decisions, but they will be highly respected for their consistency in treating all others.

I hope one or more of these traits resonated with you as they did me.  Often, the hardest things to do well as a leader are not necessarily the day-to-day reporting, performance reviews, coaching, training, etc.  Rather, they are the deeply ingrained attitudes, values and traits which we display and demonstrate in our thoughts and actions to those we serve.   I trust each leader will become just a little but more “Wise” by embracing the above traits!

Are You Really Leading by Example?

Keep Calm and Lead By Example

Dear Leaders,

My letter today focuses on an age old saying that most of us have heard, and some put into practice… “lead by example”.  I am sure the vast majority of us would agree with this statement and will often try to apply it when we can.  But what does “lead by example” really look like and why is it so important.  I will begin with sharing a story about my late brother, Maj. George Perkins, a graduate of West Point and leader of men.   Early in George’s military career, he was assigned a company of soldiers at a post in Germany.  Often, George would take his company on practice missions out in the field.  After an untimely death at the age of 33, some of his soldiers shared stories about him as a leader.  They went on to say that during field exercises, while other officers were being driven in jeeps by their drivers, George chose to jog out in front of the 1st jeep, using his hand-held 2 way radio to call out commands to the Sergeants and their troops.  This was “lead by example” in its purest form.  His troops had the highest respect, admiration for George and excelled in following his lead.

So why is “leading by example” so important for today’s inside sales leaders?  Here are some key reasons:

  • It shows in action that the team manager is willing to actually do the things she asks her subordinates to do.
  • It builds their own credibility so when the manager suggests a certain approach; they have proven it in action themselves.
  • It shows transparency and authenticity.
  • It demonstrates a certain level work ethic to the team.
  • It demonstrates a type of “servant leadership” which makes a statement that we are in this together and nothing is too below the manager.

The next question is how should an inside sales leader put this into action?  Here are 3 practical ideas, which I have done in the past.

  • MAKE SOME CALLS.  Yes, that’s right; participate occasionally in BLITZ’s or outbound calling.  This will help with all of the above areas.  To demonstrate the impact this can make, allow me to share another story.  My oldest son, Bryan, took a job at a large high-tech company where I was Director of a large Inside Sales team many years before.  He met a senior level colleague employed there for several years who asked him, “Are you the son of Bob Perkins?”  Bryan said… “I might be; it depends”.  All kidding aside, the colleague went on to say he clearly remembered the day, 12 years earlier, that I sat next to him during some call coaching and asked if I could make some calls for him to hear my example.  He said that I was the only manager at a director level he ever had that actually got on the phone and made calls. It made a huge impact on his ability to learn and improve.   If you haven’t done this ever, or in a while, it’s time to get back on the phones a bit!
  • PARTICIPATE ON A PROJECT.  You are probably thinking, of course… you are getting your hands dirty on plenty of projects.  But, the point here is to participate as an equal alongside an inside rep, and not as a manager or the project lead.  By doing this, you will actually be performing some of the same work as if you were a peer.  It demonstrates your willingness to put forth some of the same effort, and “get into the weeds” as those reporting to you.
  • WORK TOGETHER WITH THE FIELD.  Although this may not apply to every situation, where you have any type of team selling model, the inside sales manager should routinely meet with the inside rep and their field counterpart.  This sends a clear message that the manager is walking the walk” right with their rep in terms of discussing strategy, tactics, and what’s working and what’s not with the field.  He or She is just not leaving up to their rep to figure out.  If you are not in a team selling model, the same process can hold true for working with cross-functions such as marketing, product management, etc.

I hope this gives you some ideas and also provides a little motivation to join in with your team in some practical, “lead-by-example” ways.  I would love to hear some other ideas you have out there, so please feel free to add some comments!

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