Saturday, May 15, 2010

Inside Sales Leader vs Manager

The difference between a Leader of Inside Sales and a Manager of Inside Sales is dramatic. I would guess that most companies don't even bother making the distinction because to them it's just semantics. There are numerous companies looking for inside sales managers and a small handful looking for inside sales leaders.

When is the last time you saw an open job posting on the internet that said, "We are looking for an experienced Leader of Inside Sales." This simple change of one word comes with a dramatic shift in expectations and requirements. With the help from a really cool article from FutureVisions we are all one step closer to knowing whether we are managers or leaders. Which are you? Which type of person does your organization need?

Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing. The difference may be summarized as activities of vision and judgment — effectiveness —versus activities of mastering routines — efficiency. The points below indicates key words that further make the distinction between the two functions:

· The manager administers; the leader innovates.

· The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

· The manager maintains; the leader develops.

· The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.

· The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

· The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

· The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

· The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

· The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his or her eye on the horizon.

· The manager imitates; the leader originates.

· The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

· The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.

· The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

Personally I would say that I am a very good manager (60%) that demonstrates a lot of leadership (40%) qualities. I have a lot of work to do and have lots of room for improvement. The more experience that I gain, coupled with great success and great failure, will allow me to get to where I want to be.....100% leader.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Inside Sales Barometer of Success

A good barometer of success for an inside sales leader is the level of sharing of best practices across your team. I have to admit, my current team could be doing a much better job at this. It is my job as their leader to make certain they are constantly sharing what works and what doesn't work. It's imperative that they not only share with prospects/clients, but also with each other.

When I think of best practices I think of two things: First is the act of doing a best practice and second is the act of sharing a best practice. Good inside sales people share best practices with their prospects/clients all the time. They ask prospects/clients how they are getting value from their solution, so that they can share the successful ideas of others with others. Make certain one of the "others"..... is the team they are working on.

Sharing ideas with co-workers and seeing them benefit from your ideas gives people a sense of purpose. Sense of purpose is one of the main intrinsic motivators I wrote about in an earlier post. It's time that I start heavily promoting the art of sharing.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Importance of Aligning Inside Sales with Account Management

Inside sales teams and marketing teams are joined at the hip these days and rightfully so. But what about inside sales and account management teams? If we think about client life cycle management, as it relates to sales, it's essentially a trifecta of marketing, sales and account management teams. The term "Smarketing" has gained a lot of traction these days, but it is unfortunately ignoring the account management side of the business. It's time we include the third variable in our equation of client success....account management.

In a lot of companies the relationship between sales and account management is very Hatfield vs. McCoy. It's a very he said she said type of affair. Account Managers think the sales folks are only concerned with making the sale and are not focused on the long-term success of the client. Sales folks believe they are selling to their strengths and at the same time not trying to expose their warts. It's their job to sell the relationship and account management's job to maintain the relationship. This type of mindset is counter-intuitive to running a successful business.

Without superior account management, sales would not get any of their great client referral leads. Without sales, account management wouldn't exist. We need each other, so let's take a giant step at getting on the same team. Here are 6 ideas I have for getting the two teams working as one.

1. Build a client life cycle management doc that lives in your CRM of choice. The document begins with sales and fully describes all of the needs, goals and aspirations of the client. It should include all of the people involved in the decision making process. Once the sale is made it should transition to the account management team. Ideally it is version controlled, so that you can see the changes made by each side.

2. Agree on a cancellation policy up front. For example, if a new client wants to cancel within the first 30 days, which team is going to take the hit? Should the account manager be held to the renewal target of an account that they realistically never had a chance to renew?

3. Agree on a upgrade policy. For example if a client wants to add more products or services within the first 30 days, which team is going to get the credit? If sales is going to be held to cancels within the first 30 days, shouldn't they also be rewarded for upgrades within the first 30 days?

4. Have bi-weekly meetings between the two teams to talk about what is working and what needs to be improved upon.

5. Agree on a escalation policy. For example, if a client is very upset and saying they were mis-sold during the sales cycle, who does the account manager turn to? Do they go straight to the sales rep who sold the deal, their direct boss, or to the boss of the individual sales rep?

6. Have joint team outings.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

The Biggest Myth of Inside Sales

If I pay my inside sales team more money they will be more motivated. Wrong! The only thing that motivates sales people is making more money. Wrong again! This old school train of thought has left the station. Enter the new school train of intrinsic motivation. Chooooooooo...choooooo.....all aboard.

I have written a lot about how much the workforce has changed and how important it is for us leaders to change with it. We must run our organizations differently if we want to compete for the best and the brightest employees. One major area of change is motivation. I have met and spoke with lots of frustrated leaders, who are having a hard time motivating their inside sales teams. I would often tell them that you need to find out what motivates them as individuals, not as a team. The reason for their frustration was because they were focusing on extrinsic motivators and not intrinsic motivators.

There is a difference between what people say motivates them and what actually motivates them to produce better results. In fact, if you asked your sales team what motivates them, they will most likely say money. The more money I can make, the more motivated I will be. This math does not add up. If it did, then all of your sales team would be at 120% of their sales quota because all comp plans have huge multipliers over 100% quota attainment.

So if it's not a juicier carrot, then what could it possibly be? A bigger stick? What motivates my team to produce better results? If your a fan of science and like to make decisions based off of facts then listen to Dan Pink. Dan Pink does a great job talking about the science of motivation.

The intrinsic value of an employee is the combination of their tangible and intangible factors. Just because one of your reps is at 120% of plan doesn't mean they are happy and just because one of your reps is at 50% of plan doesn't mean they should be fired. Both employees need help. Find out what intrinsic motivators make each of them tic and you will have earned your salary as a leader. Yes this means you may have to use a little more of your right brain (the creative side), but that's the trend.

So congratulations to all those "right brain" thinkers out there. You are the soup de jour. Or maybe it's more appropriate to say the soup de le vingt et unieme siecle. That's broken Google search French for soup of the 21st century.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Push vs Pull Inside Sales Management Styles

There is a reason why so many companies are talking about push vs. pull approaches to marketing and's what buyers are asking for. If this is what buyers are asking for......and let's face it, buyers "keep the lights on"....... then shouldn't the people who lead our companies have the same approach to management? The same people who we are marketing our products and services to, are interviewing for positions at our companies. Times are changing and so should our management styles.

The push vs. pull groundswell of change stretches far beyond just sales and marketing departments. It's a shift in the overall mindset of the Web 2.0 workforce. All departments within an organization need to rethink their general approach to management. I like to think of myself as a "pull" manager. One who understands that each member of my team may need to be managed differently. I'm not a believer in "pushing" out blanketed one size fits all ideas and tactics. Buyers are asking to be treated as individuals and so are the people we are managing.

Inside Sales folks' personalities are becoming more and more resistant to "pushing" management styles. Give your team control, treat each individual with respect, find out what motivates them as individuals and watch the "pulling" begin. The key is to gain respect from your team. Provide value to them as a leader, not as a manager. By doing this, they will engage with you and embrace all of the ideas, skill sets and tactics that got you hired in the first place.

Just like pull marketing, this approach to management takes time. Results do not happen overnight like your push marketing campaign, but I'm willing to bet that the long term results will blanket the petty short term results of the prior. I'm a big fan of organic lead generation and I want to lead my team of inside sales folks with the same mentality.

p.s. I'm pulling for the Packers on Monday night football

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

SaaS Inside Sales Managers & Directors-Tip For Idea Success

If you're in a SaaS Inside Sales position of leadership and want to get one of your ideas off the ground and eventually used by the entire team, then instead of rolling things out to the entire team in the beginning, try starting off with your most passionate individuals on the team. Look at it as Beta testing your ideas prior to GA (general availability).

If Web 2.0 has taught us anything, it has taught us that a few passionate individuals can spark an enormous following. Try applying this the next time you have a great idea for your inside sales team. If you start with this select few and it fails, then odds are your idea wasn't that great after all. But if it does work, then watch how viral it becomes with the rest of the team.

The days of blindly marketing your company's products and services are gone, so why would marketing ideas be any different? I look at it as a win win. A bad idea will surface much quicker and a great idea will spread even faster. The key to this being successful is to figure out early who on your team would be most passionate about the idea.

Every single team member has a "passion button". It's up to you as a leader to find out whose button maps closest with your idea. Buttons may vary from individual to individual, but at the end of the day they all wear the same shirt.....making money!

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Solving The Mystery of ROI With SaaS Solutions

In tough economic times, you better be able to prove hard ROI with your solution. Fuzzy or soft ROI is not an option. Your chances of making it into year 2 and beyond becomes slim to none, especially if budgets are tight. We all know that your cost of sale per seat becomes lower and lower the longer you retain your client, so if you wanna turn their purchase into an investment it is imperative that you baseline in the beginning, establish goals with your clients and constantly be tracking against their goals. Here are some simple steps to ensure your success...

Step #1 Baselining
Baselining is the process of knowing exactly where things stand today. If your a SaaS company selling a solution designed to increase the number of leads for a company, then find out how many leads the company is generating per month today. Also baseline how much this is currently costing the company and how much revenue they are currently generating from the leads. Document the baseline numbers. It amazes me how many companies don't document baselines. This simple step eliminates so much guess work moving forward.

Step #2 Goals
Establishing goals is nothing more than asking the customer, "Where would you like to be 3-12 months from now". If they are coming to you for more leads, then a goal would be something like, "I want to increase my monthly leads from 100 a month to 400 leads a month." Don't forget to document the goals!

Step #3 Offer up best practices advise to ensure success
Every SFA/CRM tool has the ability to track a lead source or campaign source. Make certain your clients are aware of this feature. Using it allows you to track not only leads, but also opportunities and closed revenue associated with the leads. There is no guess work, if done properly. Document the advise you passed along!

Step #4 Track success with your client
You need to check-in frequently with your client to make certain you are tracking against your products claims and the clients goals. 100% transparency is the goal here. As long as you are tracking towards their goal, then the chances of them renewing their contract are much greater. Document your clients success!

By documenting everything you essentially get both sides to put the proverbial "skin in the game". At the end of the 12 month contract you were either a cost or an investment. If you were an investment, congratulations on the renewal. If you were a cost, better hope their business is booming otherwise your about to lose a customer.

By doing these 4 steps you will minimize the following annoying and ever so common scenario. Which by the way rubs my rhubarb as a sales manager!

Kevin thanks for calling. Our CFO is cutting budgets across the company right now and we don't know if we will be renewing our contract with XYZ Corporation. We need to look at the ROI with all of our software purchases. I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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