Should you dump your inside sales team?

don't dump your inside sales teamI have worked for two major corporations that eliminated their inside sales teams. Both corporations thought they were “saving money” by dismantling the inside sales teams and transferring the duties to the outside sales reps. Both corporations also believed there was too much overlap between the inside and outside sales departments, so they wanted to eliminate duplicative efforts. The thought was that the outside sales team could handle simple duties like renewing customers and selling smaller products or services, along with the rest of their responsibilities.

However, in both cases, the corporations realized a major mistake was made and they later reinstated a new inside sales team. In fact, one corporation did an about-face within a matter of 4 months. However, since most of the inside sales reps were no longer working at either company, both corporations had to start from scratch by hiring and retraining  a whole new group of inside salespeople.

What happened?

In the first case, the corporation saw a major drop in the sales of durable medical equipment parts. Since outside sales reps earned most of their commission selling large equipment and services, they didn’t waste their time selling smaller items.

In the second case, the corporation received push back from both their outside reps and customers. The outside reps complained they didn’t have time to follow-up on renewals, and frankly, they weren’t earning a lot of commission on renewals to make it worthwhile. Customers began complaining they weren’t given the same level of excellent service they received in the past from their inside sales reps. With renewals starting to drop, a new inside sales team was quickly assembled and they began the long process of retaining customers.

What can we learn from these two cases?

1). Focus. Selling is about focus. If your sales team is selling too many products and services, something is bound to fall through the cracks. Sales people are commission driven. They are going to focus their time and energies on products and services that will generate the most commission. That’s common sense. For example, if given a choice between generating a new sale for a $5,000 product vs. a $50.00 product, which one would a smart sales person focus on? You got it – the $5,000 product. So an outside sales rep isn’t going to bother chasing after a small order when there are bigger fish in the sea to catch.

2). Time. Sales people have only so much time in the day to sell. So smart sales people realize they must set priorities and stick with them. Time management is critical. Larger orders will always be a sales person’s first priority.

3). Small products add up. While renewing customers or selling small products may not be very sexy, the orders do add up. A $700 subscription may be chump change for some. But when you start dealing with thousands of subscriptions with that price point, you are looking at some serious money. Not to mention the opportunity to cross or up sell once a subscription or small product is purchased.

4). Eyes and ears. The inside sales department serves as the eyes and ears for the outside sales reps. Outside sales reps can’t be everywhere at once. They have too much of a geographic territory to cover. But inside sales reps can cover a lot more territory quicker and easier. They can provide intelligence that outside sales reps can’t always get. Examples – a competitor is making a major play on a large account, or an account is threatening to cancel. By acting as an early warning system, inside sales reps can alert outside sales reps of potential threats to their sales.  This collaborative effort is a win-win not only for both sales teams but for their employer too. It ensures more sales.

5). The larger picture. What many companies don’t understand is this – inside sales departments don’t exist just to sell.  Inside sales departments are your last line of defense. If the marketing department fails, if the billing department fails, if top management fails, if the outside sales reps fail, if the production department fails, it is the inside sales department that will come to the rescue and turn things around.  Thus, the inside sales department serves as the checks and balances to the rest of the departments.  Inside sales teams are more motivated to solve problems because they are earning commission.

Inside sales people are also serving on the front lines. They “get it” if customers are upset and complain. They act quickly to resolve issues before they erupt like wildfire throughout the market. Inside sales reps know so well the power of social media these days. All it takes is a lot of negative reviews on Yelp, Google Reviews, industry discussion boards and blogs before its game over, and sales begin to slide.

While some companies may have a love and hate relationship with their inside sales departments, it’s time to start sharing the love. Don’t dump your inside sales team.

How to Write and Send Emails, Part 3

Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, sales trainer and coach, and author of Power Sales Writing, argues that when writing an email, you must move the focus away from you to how you will help you client.

Here is a video of an interview she gave –

Bill Caskey, from Caskey One, argues that in many cases we are in a desperate and anxious state of mind when writing emails. We need to avoid that and outlines an example of how to structure your email.

Here is his video –

How to write and send emails, Part 2

Marc Wayshak, a sales strategist, outlines his methods below for writing emails. He recommends that you keep your emails short, personalized, engaging and casual.

Below is his video –

Liz Wendling, Sales Training and Business Coach, argues that you only have 2 to 3 seconds to capture someone’s attention in your email. She recommends using eye-catching subjects, brief body and a call to action.

Here is her video –

 

How to write and send emails, Part 1

Sending and receiving emails is a fact of life in sales. If you are working in an inside sales position, you may end up spending half your time writing and responding to emails instead of making and receiving phone calls.

Before emails, some inside sales departments were almost like the boiler rooms depicted in movies where sales people would pound the phones daily, making call after call. In most cases, those days are now gone. Many clients and prospects may prefer corresponding with you by email because it saves them time, or they just don’t like talking to sales people.

sending emails in salesYou have to trust your gut when considering whether to contact your clients by email or phone. If you find that your client prefers being contacted by email, then go with that route. If he would rather talk to you over the phone, then make the call. But do what your client prefers doing, and in most cases you will be on this best side.

Some old fashion managers feel that sending emails is a waste of time, or a cop-out for shy sales people who don’t have the courage to making cold calls. I once knew someone who worked in a sales department where her manager ordered the entire sales team to stop sending out emails. They were instructed to only make outbound phone calls. He felt that making more sales calls would help increase sales. It didn’t. Within a couple of weeks, sales people were allowed to send emails again.

In he next couple of posts, I’m going to show you some YouTube videos on tips on how to write emails. In my last post on the topic, I will offer you my suggestions.

Here are some basic tips for sending and writing emails:

1). Keep your emails concise and to the point. From a sales point of view, the purpose of emails is to quickly attract your clients’ attention, get an appointment, answer any questions or concerns, and move the sales process forward. You are writing an email, not a novel.

2). Select an interesting topic for the subject line. Something eye-catching that doesn’t scream “please delete me.” For example, after meeting a prospect at a trade show, don’t mention your product or the conference name in the subject line. Why? Because your prospect is going to be bombarded with emails from other vendors. Instead, say “Great Meeting You!” in the subject line. Or, if you discussed a specific problem with your client, rather than mention your company’s name or product in the subject line, focus on the problem he is trying to resolve like “Question re: tax research” or “Still need office equipment?”

3). Use spelcheck spellcheck. Nothing says loser faster than misspelled words in an email.

4). Use a good signature format underneath your email text. Some sales people like to use short signature identification these days, like their name, title, company name and that’s it. I prefer using a long and detailed signature format that includes your name, title, company name, full address, phone number, fax number, link to your website and your email address. Why? Because it gives you more credibility in the eyes of your clients. This is especially true when you are dealing with new prospects. The more information you provide upfront about yourself, the more comfortable you make a prospect feel about you. In their eyes, you have nothing to hide and may be a trustworthy sales person to deal with. As the old saying goes, trust is the building block for building good long-term relationships.

5). Avoid trite or cliché openings. Forget saying “I hope this email finds you well.” or “I hope you are doing well,” or “I hope you had a good weekend.”  Just get right to the point and state the business of your email. Clients are busy.

6). Don’t copy everyone and their mother. No one wants to have their inbox cluttered with a lot of copied email that doesn’t apply to them, or has minimal interest or value to them. Target your emails specifically to the people you are dealing with. They will be glad you did.

7). Use hyperlink. Using hyperlinks saves space and looks nicer when sending an email. Instead of copying and pasting an entire URL of one of your company’s products and dropping it in the text, just hyperlink it in your email. It looks more professional.

8). Focus on the client, not yourself. As I mentioned earlier, clients don’t care about you – they care about their problems. Don’t ramble on about all the great benefits of your product. Instead, target your email specifically to the client’s needs and concerns.

9). Skip the jargon. While you may think you are impressing the client with your business or industry jargon, he may not always understand what you are saying. However, as a rule of thumb, if a client uses jargon in his emails to you, mimic him and use the same jargon back to him. This way the client will feel that he is communicating with a peer or expert and not just another sales person. (However, just make sure you know what the jargon actually means so that you don’t embarrass yourself).

10). Have a goal in mind. What is the purpose of sending your email? Is it to begin a conversation with a new prospect? Are you trying to restart the sales process because you haven’t heard back from your client in months? Do you want him to trial your service? Do you want him to watch a demo?

11). Try to offer value. When it came to writing emails, we had an old saying at one of my previous jobs –“would you pay a dollar for your email?” Meaning, you should try to offer real value in your correspondence. That value could include sending a white paper, case study or interesting article that would apply to your client’s needs and industry. But whatever you do, please don’t write “I’m just checking in” – because you might as well write “I want to waste your time because I have nothing better to do right now.” Clients are busy. If you have nothing of value to offer clients, don’t waste their time.

The purpose of using email is to move the selling process along. Use it wisely, and you will be successful.

photo credit: kristiewells via photopin cc

 

How to get past the gatekeeper, Part 4

getting past the gatekeeperIn parts 1 through 3 of this post, I shared with you videos from experts on how to get past the gatekeeper.

What are some of the key takeaways that we have learned?

1). No tricks. Don’ waste your time trying to trick the gatekeeper. Most gatekeepers are receptionist and secretaries who know all the games played by sales people. By using tricks, you are only hurting your credibility and could undermine your chances of reaching the decision maker. For example, I once had a sales person who called me and wanted to speak with the CEO. When I inquired why he wanted to speak with the CEO, he replied that he “just sent him an email” and needed to speak with him. Well, sending an email to the CEO doesn’t give you an automatic pass to speak to anyone. I told him that and the salesperson hung up on me.

So forget trying to be clever. And even if you are clever and get through, what have you really accomplished? All you are going to do is make the decision maker angry at you, which means you end up losing the sale before you even had a fighting chance to win.

Tricks are for trick ponies. Just be yourself.

2). Don’t sound like a sales person. One of the biggest mistakes sales people make is they sound like sales people when they call. They are overly polite, sound desperate, and just downright needy. Instead of sounding like that, take a more business tone when you call. Sound like the decision maker is expecting your call and knows who you are. For example, I once worked for a small publishing company where the senior Ad salesperson would always call and sound professional and direct. You usually got through.

3). Make the gatekeeper your ally. Rather than try to “get past” the gatekeeper, make her (and it’s usually a woman) your ally. Let her know that you have a solution that you think her employer will need, and ask for the best way to reach the decision maker. I’ve tried this method, and sometimes they will either let you through, or encourage you to email the decision maker, or recommend someone else to call at the company. On a side note, when it comes to reaching the decision maker, I always start at the top and work my way down to the bottom. It’s usually faster and easier that way rather than playing guessing games on who to call. Sometimes decision makers will tell you upfront they are not the right people to contact; instead, they will recommend someone else to call in their company.

4). Be patient. Gatekeepers are busy. You’re not the only salesperson trying to reach the decision maker. Contrary to popular belief, a gatekeepers only job isn’t fielding calls from sales people. She is usually busy doing a lot of administrative work, and managing her boss’s time so that she can keep her job. I’ve actually had gatekeepers tell me how polite I was when dealing with them. Gatekeepers are human beings – treat them with respect.

The gatekeeper can be your ally or enemy. Make her your ally and you will have a better chance of generating more sales.

Intelligent Content Conference next week!

The Intelligent Content Conference will be held next week from March 23 through March 25th at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in San Francisco.

From the website “Simply put, ‘intelligent content’ is content which is not limited to one purpose, technology or output. Intelligent content is discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable. It’s content that helps you and your customers get the job done. It’s content that works for you and it’s limited only by your imagination.”

Speakers include –

Robert Rose
Yoon Chung
Noz Urbina
Michael Margolis
Scott Abel

Below is a video from last year’s conference of Kevin Spacey giving the Closing Keynote Highlights –