Have you ever tried to get assistance from an Inside Sales Specialist for one of the SaaS product you had interest in? Working with many SaaS vendors and interacting with their inside sales teams I sometimes get the feeling as if I was talking to a machine rather than an intelligent human being. You can clearly notice that every sales REP has got a predefined script that is part of the “production line.” This is actually the “human touch” that companies are implementing comparing with other vendors who implement automatic processes for “no-touch-sale” concept. This is the concept where the vendor keeps track of the upcoming potential customers, initiating a discussion with them through series of auto-responses and pre-defined processes based on existing patterns, helping them to finalize the purchase with zero touch from the sales REP.
Meanwhile, the essence of SaaS as a business model is offering an outstanding product for a relatively low subscription cost. It substantially depends on larger quantity of clients paying a relatively low amount of money each. Numerous client accounts require large team of sales representatives to handle the sales processes properly. At the same time, due to the low average deal size the company must maintain such labor force at low and monitored cost. Thus, we often get an “automated” experience also from a sales REP.
Can an automated approach really substitute the personalized human reaction to the client’s questions and inquiries? To give a proper point of view to this dilemma, let’s review some numbers. According to Forbes Magazine (March 2013), the hiring and demand for the inside sales and lead generation representatives grew up 54% between 2009 and 2011. A study for American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) released in February, 2013 stated that “there are an estimated 2.81 million inside sales people at present, but there will be 2.92 million reps by the end of 2013, a 3.9% growth rate” (Dave Elkington, InsideSales.com).We see that the demand for inside sales REPs is constantly growing, also, as the vendors would obviously prefer having highly qualified personnel as members of their sales teams, the companies are trying to do their best in finding the “perfect” sales REPs and are most eager to hire experienced people (2-3 years ) yet still in the beginning of their career, giving preference to those who worked in a similar vertical.
So, the big question is, how to “force” your inside sales team to make a personalized approach to every customer and not make them feel as if they were talking to a human robot?
While we ask this question let’s keep in mind that our team does not always include the experienced personnel we were hoping to recruit (i.e. the best sales REPs our direct competitor had, with 2-3 years’ experience without high base salary expectations). The truth is every worker coming to your company needs to receive a proper training, even if he or she is a “shark”/ “hunter” with irresistible charisma. A proper training is critical and enables to create a common base of knowledge to all your inside sales team weather you got an experienced one or a newbie. To simplify the process, here are some essential topics to keep in mind while building a successful ramp-up program for your inside sales team.
- Comprehensive industry and company overview – It’s an essential step for your team to have a clear perspective of the business your company is playing in.Provide them an objective overview of who are your main competitors in the field, what’s their market share and where is your company positioned. , Also, your sales REPs should go along with the overall policy of the company, knowing its history, vision & goals, structure, and successes & challenges.
- Your Product is the KING – Train your sales REPs to provide an unforgettable, captivating product demo. Teach them how to conduct the flow according to their specific customer pain points.
- Virtual Communication skills coaching – inside sales REPs are required to create an engagement with a potential customer using phone, chat, emails, web meetings without meeting them in person. It requires skills of listening, questioning, articulating the company messages and small talk in a different medium comparing with face-to-face meetings. Clear, coherent and sensible conversation flow is much more critical as people are less patient listening over the phone rather than during an in-person meeting.
- Create synergy between Sales & Marketing teams – Great marketing campaigns generate better leads for inside sales team, Ensure that your sales are in line with your marketing activities to complete the funnel loop.
- Sales & Marketing tools – Don’t forget to take care of the technical and logistics aspect. This is where automation comes in handy. Make sure your sales team has all the necessary hardware and software tools to make their job comfortable and easy. Integrate and synchronize your systems so your sales REPs would have all the information they need. Don’t be cheap with licenses, quality headphones, reliable internet connection etc.
- Build personalized working plan – Define each worker’s area of responsibilities and targets. Create internal divisions within the team if necessary (e.g. lead generation, sales consultant, account manager etc.)
- Keep couching – Remember to never stop coaching &training your team in order to keep a high level of enthusiasm on an ongoing basis.
It is obvious that the SaaS as a business model requires adaptation of automated processes. However, workflow automation doesn’t mean that the human touch points in the chain should work as robots. Your employees should have all the technology they need to conduct their work, but when it comes to selling, a human mind should come in action. This could be your competitive advantage that will keep your business different from the others; have a professionally, motivated, and well trained individuals in your inside sales team.