Effective Management is Key to Inside Sales Results

Do you ever suspect that your approach to inside sales management isn’t producing up to its potential?

Inside sales managers need to know where to look to make the best impact on results. We recently shared eight factors for sales managers to increase the inside sales pipeline. Since then, readers asked for more insight into the key factors that help a company improve results. So here is a new in-depth look at four places to target management focus to grow your pipeline.

1) Active Management: Inside Sales Management Needs to Provide Specific Skills and Time to Manage Effectively

Management must offer the skill and availability to guide inside sales, in all its complexity. Inside sales teams traditionally perform two functions within an organization. One consists of generating high quality leads for the salesforce. The other takes care of managing and closing deals in a given territory or account.

Managing each role requires a specific skillset. The manager tasked with the lead-generation function must provide daily oversight. Results depend on this person’s ability to work with the voluminous nature of data involved in generating high quality leads.

The manager responsible for meeting a revenue quota must be adept at managing to the number. However, the person also needs to have time to interact with the inside sales representatives one-on-one.

Often, an organization can improve performance by stepping back to make a targeted assessment. Look at inside sales productivity relative to the time and the skillset that the management team is providing to the inside sales force.

2) Compensation: Make Incentives Relevant to Functions that Individuals Perform

Compensation motivates behavior. However, the desired behavior of your inside sales representatives will be different, depending on their roles.

If an inside sales representative’s function is to generate high quality leads, compensation needs to add incentives to improve the quantity and quality of leads, according to the way your organization measures them. Make the tie between performance metrics and compensation clearly understood. Your metrics may include revenue achievement in the supporting territory, and MBO’s such as SFA usage. Your goal is to design a component of compensation that works as a lead generation incentive.

Alternatively, the primary function of your inside sales representative may be to achieve a sales quota. In this case, check how well your compensation, such as commission, clearly rewards success in reaching sales quota.

3) Training: Specialized Training for Specific Roles and Activities is Necessary

New hire training should cover your company, your business culture, and the responsibilities related to the specific functions the new employee is to perform. It should also clearly define the individual’s job functions and the relevant metrics that your company uses to pay incentives and compensation.

In addition to general training, you will want to include specialized training to enable new hires to quickly perform their best in their specific roles.

It is not safe to assume that a given representative will perform equally well in either inbound or outbound prospecting (here’s more on the different skill sets for outbound vs inbound sales). Training for new hires tasked with outbound prospecting should focus on outbound prospecting, phone and email techniques, for example. An inside sales representative responsible for a quota should receive negotiation skills training.

4) Inclusion: Integrate Inside Sales Into Your Organization

Sometimes what stops a sales team from performing comes down to isolation of the sales function from other parts of the company. Sales success is highly dependent on a well-rounded understanding of the buyer. Inside sales may need wider exposure to other interactions you are already having with your customers. Are there activities that your company handles in a closed loop? This might be efficient, but opening these activities might better inform sales and allow representatives to produce better results for the company.

Your company may have workflows such as kickoffs, sales conferences and regular sales calls that typically happen for field sales only. Consider ways to involve inside sales representatives some of these activities. For example, include inside sales representatives in meetings with prospects and customers where appropriate. A field representative might bring an inside sales representative to meet a prospect that the inside sales representative identified as a qualified lead. This is invaluable to help inside sales representatives sharpen their skills and improve in delivering the type of lead your field sales teams are looking for.

Making Adjustments

Managing inside sales functions is very different from managing a field organization or a marketing team.

Here we have looked at solutions that come from focusing on four factors that impact management effectiveness: time spent interacting with the sales force, compensation incentives, the ability to give new hires specialized training, and access to new information about prospects from other areas of the company.

By looking at these factors, managers can make more productive adjustments, allowing inside sales representatives to increase your sales pipeline.