The Inside Sales Organizational Index

Dear Leaders,

My last letter to you discussed the certification of leaders.  Today I’m talking to you about assessing and certifying organizations.ISOI - Logo (2)

How cool is it to see just how far Inside Sales has come over the last 5-10 years?  We now have our own set of certifications!  What that means is there are now standards for our profession…standards on selling skills and practices, leadership strategies, and now with the ISOI™, an index which assesses organizations against a long list of best practices and operational requirements.

The ISOI™ is our profession’s first organizational certification  designed to help meet the growing demands of today’s Inside Sales operations.  Earning an ISOI™ certification is no walk in the park.  It is based on the highest standards of the AA-ISP and covers 12 areas from sales culture, to leadership support, to rep and manager competence, to compensation, to hiring practices – just to name a few.  And it doesn’t matter if you are a team of five or 5,000, the ISOI™ can help you  take your organization to the highest levels of execution. The entire process of earning your ISOI™ certification will help your organization be viewed both internally and externally as an employer of choice who strives for excellence.

If you are an AA-ISP member, you know our motto quite well…to “take Inside Sales to the next level of professionalism and performance”.  With the ISOI™, we have completed the full circle of standards for certifying reps, leaders, and now organizations.

Thank you for your part in taking our profession to the next level!

To learn more and inquire about the ISOI™ 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!



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!



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 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 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!

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