The Easiest Way to Evaluate Your Inside Sales Reps

Do you know the name, Phil Emery? He is the G.M. of the Chicago Bears and his rise to this prized position – there have only been five G.M.’s in Bears history – is one of the fastest in all of the NFL. Emery started out as the strength and conditioning coach at the Naval Academy, and only 14 years later, he is running one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. How’d he do it?

Much of Phil’s success comes from his seemingly uncanny ability to judge talent and to be spot on in his evaluations. According to the NFL 2012 Edition of Sports Illustrated, when asked how he does it, he says that “almost everything you need to know about a player can be culled from tape. When it comes to receivers, for instance, he believes that you can glean something from how hard a player runs, whether he takes plays off, whether he’s a willing blocker, whether he’s competitive for the ball, etc.”

I believe that Phil’s right, and I believe that almost everything you need to know about an inside sales rep can be culled from listening to a tape recording of their calls. When cold calling, for instance, does the rep handle the gatekeeper’s blow offs well and get through to the decision maker? When they get the DM on the phone, are they able to build relevant rapport and earn the right to present their value statement? Do they ask questions and actually listen to the DM? Do they properly qualify or do they just want to send emails and follow up (to unqualified leads)?

The same is true when listening to recordings of rep’s closing attempts. How well do they open their calls? Do they earn the right to enter into a conversation with the prospect or do they ask closed ended questions that allow the prospect to put them off? Do they engage the prospect and allow them to ask questions or do they simply pitch at them? Do they try to handle objections or are they easily put off?

As a business owner or sales manager, everything you need to know about your sales reps is on the recording of their last call. Everything you’ll need to do to help them succeed or evaluate if they are progressing once you give them the proper training is there on tape. If you’re not recording or listening to these recordings, then you are missing the most important tool you have available to you. Just imagine an NFL team that didn’t watch and use game tape!

Here are three suggestions to help you get the most out of the recordings you may have of your reps (and if you don’t have any, then make it your priority to begin recording them ASAP!).

#1) Listen to all of your reps and grade them A – F on both their qualifying calls and their closing calls. An easy and objective way to grade them is to grade their adherence to your scripts. Ask yourself, “Are they using the tools you’ve provided them or aren’t they?”

After you’ve graded them, ask yourself two things: One: What can you do to turn your B reps into A reps, and Two: How quickly can you replace your D and F reps?

#2: Learn from your top producing reps. Listen for how they best handle the objections and stalls that the rest of your team struggles with and script out what they say. Then give these scripts to your other team members. If you want all your reps to sound and produce like top closers, then get them to say and do what your top producers are already doing! Then grade their adherence to these new scripts (see #1).

#3: Use your better recordings in your sales meetings to help teach and reinforce the best ways of qualifying and closing sales in your company. Again, just like in the NFL film rooms, players learn by watching themselves and others do what works. It’s the same in inside sales. By constantly playing good recordings for your team members, they, too, will begin to get better.

So what’s the easiest way to evaluate (and train and improve) your inside sales reps? Just ask Phil Emery. He’ll tell you, “it’s all on tape…”

Why Daily Bonuses, Spiffs and Contests Don’t Work

IntroductionAfter you’ve chosen the best compensation plan for your inside sales team – either straight salary or commission or a combination of the two – the next step is to determine how best to keep them motivated and focused on making their daily and monthly revenue goals. Many business owners and managers choose daily spiff programs or contests to develop or keep sales momentum going, but how effective are these initiatives?

The Pros and Cons of Daily Spiffs
Providing daily bonuses or “spiff” programs, or other weekly or monthly contests, have long been a part of the inside selling environment. Most sales reps and managers have experience with handing out or receiving cash for the first deal on the board or for the achievement of a daily sales goal, or of handing out or receiving lunch vouchers or even DVD players for month end “top dog” status. The reason these daily bonuses are still around is because they work on some level.

There is no denying that sales reps will work harder if there is a special bonus attached to the work they are already doing anyway. As long as the bonus is truly reachable by all the sales staff, a percentage of the team will temporarily try harder to earn the additional spiff. The key words here though are percentage and temporarily. Again, although many managers can attest to the increase in effort and sometime production, in the end the consensus is that after a while the spiff programs lose effectiveness.

Some of the inherent problems with spiffs and contests are a perception by some of the sales team that no matter how hard they try, the better reps will still dominate and win the awards. There is a lot of truth to this as top reps are often in the position to win with better pipelines, higher quality leads and better selling and prospecting techniques. Because of this, half the sales team tends to check out and ignore the contests and can even become de-motivated by them.

A more practical problem with daily spiff programs, however, is that they tend to become more expensive as last month’s $500 dollar overall bonus often needs to get bigger to get the same result. Sales reps get jaded easily and the top reps are quick to voice their disappointment at the same low bonus paid out for all the extra work they feel they have to do. “Is that all you’ve got?” is their often tacit reaction to next month’s bonus. So up goes the investment on management’s side, yet as the investment goes up the effort and results often go in a different direction.

At the end of year, many business owners and managers look back at all the additional money they paid out in daily spiffs, bonuses and contests and come to the same conclusion – the investment wasn’t worth the bottom line result. According to CSOinsights.com, 48% of inside sales teams still fail to reach their monthly production goals despite the contests and bonuses offered. Fortunately, there is a better way.

A Better Way to Compensate and Motivate
A better model for driving and compensating production begins by focusing on and rewarding overall production itself. Rather than focusing on short term effort or the achievement of daily or weekly goals, companies always benefit more by focusing on monthly and quarterly production numbers and getting their sales reps to think more in alignment with the company’s goals. Here’s a case in point:

Recently we consulted with a company selling healthcare products over the phone. The sales team consisted of a seasoned group of about twelve reps, and we added three new reps during a 90 day period. There were many issues to be addressed, but coming up with a new compensation plan was at the top of the list. This company had relied on the daily spiff and bonus program for years and overall the team was spoiled, unmotivated and ultimately unproductive. To get them motivated again, we made two primary changes.

The first was to discontinue all daily spiffs and cash bonuses and replace them with a controlled monthly bonus program that was based on goal attainment. In other words, if you didn’t hit your monthly revenue goal, you didn’t qualify for any of three new month end bonuses. The immediate result and benefit of this new program was to take the rep’s focus off the daily, “What’s in it for me?” attitude and instead refocus them on the company’s goal of overall monthly revenue attainment.

Aligning the rep’s focus with the company’s focus changed everything. First, the reps were no longer focused on a series of short term goals, but rather, were now focused on one month at a time. This had the immediate benefit of keeping them motivated during the entire month. Secondly, by not rewarding them for achievement of incidental benchmarks, (daily production, first deal in, etc) reps had to work harder and stay focused longer to achieve the one goal that mattered – their overall monthly production.

As reps remained more alert to their overall production goal, managing them became easier as well. Rather than deal with the daily bonus programs and the attitudes that came with them, the front line managers were now able to focus on the one thing that mattered – monthly revenue goal attainment. Once the focus on bottom line numbers was renewed, managers could get back to the basics of sales management. This meant less time babysitting attitudes and more time driving pipelines and sales. With management and reps more evenly aligned, production steadily rose.

And, of course, with the elimination of daily cash bonuses and spiffs, the company also saved money.

The second change was to give the sales reps an internal advancement plan based on their production and goal attainment. In taking a page from larger, often public companies, what we find is that people are more motivated when there is an opportunity for growth within their own company. Employees will work harder, stay longer and experience more job satisfaction – and be more productive employees – if they feel their work and efforts are appreciated and rewarded.

Because this company wanted to scale their sales team and grow market share, it was easy to develop an internal management advancement program. What they did was develop a program whereby if a sales rep hit their numbers for 6 consecutive months, they became eligible to become a team leader. A team leader in this company would manage up to four reps and would receive a small direct compensation based on production and other factors. In addition to this, a team leader who hit their team numbers for 10 consecutive months became eligible to be a unit manager, thus managing a larger team. Additional compensation would be available. Once this level was attained, further advancement was possible as a sales manager, sales director, etc.

One important point is worth noting here – just because the advancement plan was there didn’t automatically mean that all who attained their production levels were automatically moved into positions of team leads or managers. It was all based on company need and availability of positions. As the company grew and production progressed though, eligible candidates were promoted.

The result of having the management advancement plan was a measureable change in attitude and effort from every member of the sales team. Top producers took their jobs more seriously and became more active team players. As team leads assumed roles of responsibility for groups of sales reps, more peer pressure was applied and the sales group grew more cohesive as a whole. Managing required less effort and hiring and on boarding of new reps became more of a focus and the sales team was able to grow and scale at a much more predictable pace.

Conclusion
While daily bonuses and spiffs remain an important part of compensating and driving production with many companies, their long term effectiveness don’t always justify their expense or their continued use. There is a better way. Think about the attitude and attention of your current inside sales team and ask yourself: Are they more in it for themselves or are they truly invested in your company’s goals and long term growth? If you find that their attention and focus is not aligned with yours, then you should consider making some of the changes we’ve outlined here.

But please be aware that both of these changes involve detailed planning and forethought. The elimination of the daily bonus and spiff program has to be handled carefully and the design and roll out of the monthly bonus program must ensure it will motivate all members of the team. Obviously the development and roll out of the management advancement plan involves many elements including skill development, identification of duties and responsibilities and compensation structure. Never make these kinds of changes without careful consideration of the ramifications and long term consequences, and always design them with your long term grow goals in mind.

Advice To My Peers
One thing I’ve learned in my own business is that getting help from someone outside my direct industry has been invaluable in saving me both time and money, and in helping me implement changes more successfully. During the development and implantation of any new project, there is often a large amount of time and effort required, and I’ve always been happier when I’ve enlisted the help of an experienced consultant, contractor or vendor to help me handle the initial work load of a new project.

Another reason to leverage outside help is to access the new perspective they bring from outside your industry. Also, if changes involve getting buy in from others within your company, it’s much easier for them to accept them if they come at the suggestion of an outside, unbiased professional. The new perspectives, ideas and experience they bring to you and your team really help promote out of the box thinking and lead to solutions you may never have come up with on your own.

In regards to making any changes to sales procedures or policies, make sure that the people working on the project have a sales background and preferably experience selling your product or service. This experience will be especially useful in the roll out of the project. Sales reps are always thinking, “What’s in it for me,” and if you approach them with this in mind, you’ll be more likely to get their buy in. Remember to show them how this and any other new plan benefits them.

I wish you success in designing and rolling out a new bonus plan. I know that once you take the focus off short term goals and put it on the overall production and growth of your company, you and your team will be aligned and in a position to achieving the vision you have.

3 Keys to Transforming Your Sales Culture

Introduction
At some point in a company’s development, it becomes a priority to focus on and to change the existing sales culture. This need to change can be driven by many factors including slumping or declining sales numbers, or a change in focus from a customer service oriented sales team taking inbound leads to a more direct selling model where outbound calling becomes a priority, or a change in direction like a focus on growing new accounts. Sometimes a total transformation is in order whereby a whole new sales methodology is required and selling systems, processes and other key sales drivers are developed and implemented.

Regardless of the change, and in spite of the work necessary, one common challenge remains consistent – getting buy in from your existing sales team to adopt and implement the skills, processes and procedures needed to make the change successful.

The Problem is With People, Not Processes
Changing processes and procedures is relatively straight forward; changing attitudes and actions of experienced sales reps isn’t. Those of you who have been involved in managing or directing a sales team know first-hand the resistance of reps to change the way they sell. Even when current sales skills are ineffective, sales reps are reluctant to try something different. Many sales reps resist a scripted or process oriented approach preferring to ad-lib their way through their sales presentation, arguing they would sound canned if they did otherwise.

In addition, many experienced sales reps have been through enough “sales culture changes” and know that if they just wait long enough for the new changes to blow over, that the current senior management team will eventually lose steam and give up, and things will go back to normal. Sales reps have an uncanny ability to survive and have outwitted and endured many other initiatives and have eventually been left alone to scrape out a living.

Getting your sales team to buy into your new sales initiatives, and developing key drivers for coaching, reinforcing, and measuring the implementation of these initiatives is what determines how successful your new sales culture becomes.

Re-engineering a New Sales Platform
Often after a proper assessment of current sales operations has been completed, it becomes clear that a complete redesign and re-engineering of the sales platform is necessary. This complete sales transformation has three primary stages. The first stage is to define the sales process (what we call the DSP), including identifying the benchmarks and best practices that facilitate the successful navigation through each step in your sales process. This best practice methodology becomes the blueprint that each of the following stages follow and reinforce.

The second stage is to turn your DSP into your company sales training program and to develop your sales playbook from it. What is important at this stage is to understand and take what your top performers are intuitively doing and saying to close sales, and turn these successful practices into your sales playbook. This playbook consists of proven scripts, qualifying guidelines, closing presentations and rebuttals that teach your reps, step by step, what it takes to successfully qualify and close deals in your environment.

The third stage of the new sales platform is to develop key drivers that allow you and your managers to coach, teach and measure adherence to your sales playbook. This includes teaching managers how to monitor live calls, critique and grade call recordings, and other methods of being more active during a sales rep’s call. Changing this focus to active management gets sales managers out from behind their desks and gets them involved in and more responsible for the sales rep’s success.

Developing a new set of sales metrics which measure activities that actually drive sales is crucial at this point. While most companies measure things like number of calls, time on the phone, closing percentage to goal etc, these are not ‘active’ metrics because they are “backward looking” and describe what happened after the sales attempt. Your new key metrics will measure activities that take place during the sales cycle like adherence to your best practice scripts, number of qualifiers asked and answered on the first call, commitments and action steps at the end of calls, etc.

During this process of re-engineering your sales platform, there are three key areas that play an important role in ultimately changing and getting the buy in of your sales team.

The 3 Keys to a Successful Culture Change
As we noted earlier, getting your existing sales team to buy in to your new sales platform is not only crucial to its success, but it’s also one of the biggest challenges to changing your sales operations. There are three keys to ensuring your team buys in to the change, but careful and thoughtful implementation of these strategies is what is needed to give you the best chance of achieving not only buy in but in sustaining the momentum and growth of early successes.

Key One: Have a Clear Strategy for rolling out your initiative.
Although it seems straight forward to suggest having a planned rollout strategy for such a big undertaking as re-engineering and implementing a new sales platform, you might be surprised by the lack of planning and cohesion with which many new programs are developed and introduced. This lack of a clear strategy not only sabotages many good intentioned and needed changes, but often introduces more problems than it attempts to solve. The first key then to giving your new sales initiative a fighting chance is to carefully plan out each step in its development and implementation.

The best place to start is in the beginning and, more specifically, to find ways of enlisting the support, feedback and ideas of the very sales people who will be asked to implement it. There is a very fine line to walk here and the key is to solicit input from your sales reps in terms of having them identify the sales situations they need help in most, but not being overwhelmed by nor allowing them to take over the project from the beginning. I’ll clarify this during the second key.

The point is that for sales reps to buy in to any change, they need to feel a part of its design, and, more importantly, see how they can benefit from it. Again, you’d be surprised by how many companies develop a sweeping new sales platform in the safety and comfort of the senior management think tank and then hand it down and mandate it to the reps. It’s no wonder reps think their best strategy is to hide out and outlast the new program. And they are right – without their buy in it will go away.

The next stage to consider is the development of the sales playbook. While scripting out best practices and word for word rebuttals, introductions, closes, etc., will undoubtedly be the fundamental key to the success of your new sales initiative, once again the careful timing of its introduction and the enlistment of your rep’s input and revisions is crucial to its acceptance and implementation. The key here is to resist the temptation of passing the new scripts out before they have been thoroughly tested.

As you develop your sales playbook, you will undoubtedly be caught up in the belief that these improved scripts and sales procedures can have an immediate positive effect on sales right now! And they can. But handing out these scripts too early has undermined many a positive change and has negatively affected the buy in and adoption by the sales team. The key is to have your managers or top reps test, refine, and retest the scripts until they are ready to be used (read tested and refined even further) by the rest of the reps.

The last key to successful rollout of your new sales platform is to be clear what your goals and benchmarks are during the initial rollout – usually the first 90 to 120 days. The mistake many companies make is in expecting total buy in and adoption by the reps of the sales playbook. Instead it is more realistic and useful to measure and reward adherence to the gradual usage and adoption of parts of the playbook starting with the first call. Bringing reps along slowly, reinforcing each success as they come and rewarding initial adherence is the better way to go.

Key Two: Get Key Buy In and Champions Involved Early.
By developing the clear rollout strategy for each stage of the new sales platform, we are able to identify target areas that help us enlist our champions early on. The first group involved is obviously the front line managers and the formula we use to get their buy in is the same as the one we use for the reps – enlisting their feedback and input on the key areas of change we’ve already identified and are committed to changing (see the three stages mentioned earlier).

The key is that we involve our managers early and solicit their input throughout the entire process. This is especially true with the beginning stage of defining our sales process and they can be particularly helpful here if they were at some point a top producer in your company and are familiar with the best practices of your sales cycle. In addition, involving them in the development and practical use of your scripts is crucial for their continued investment in this process.

Enlisting your top producers and turning them into champions is also key as you might imagine. The easiest way to do this is to carefully listen to and incorporate their best practices into both the DSP development and the sales playbook. Your top producers are intimately familiar with the best practices of closing your particular sale and enlisting their participation and capturing the practices they intuitively use goes a long way in getting buy in from the rest of the team. It will also ensure that your top reps don’t turn on the process and undermine its implementation down the road.

In the same way, enlisting the rest of the sales team’s input is important as well. Sales reps all want to know one thing – “What’s in it for me?” If you can help them resolve the problem areas they run into – the objections they have trouble overcoming, the blow offs they can’t get past, etc. – you will more easily win them over. The way to do this is to have them submit the objections and stalls that regularly frustrate them and provide them with effective rebuttals in your sales playbook.

Other champions include support staff and others who will be involved in compiling and updating the new metrics and design of the sales dashboards and reports. By identifying these key people in advance and having target areas for their involvement, you can ensure the steady development and implementation of your new sales platform.

Key Three: During Implementation Focus on Progressive Success.
Nothing will alienate your sales team more than expecting total adoption and adherence to your new sales playbook and platform during the early stages of its introduction. While this seems obvious, management and ownership – after investing the time, energy and money – are often in a hurry to get the team to buy in. Don’t worry, they will, but it takes time and a plan.

The first key is to coach, measure and reward the adoption of each part of the new sales process one step at a time. Have your managers focus on the opening of your first call for the first week, and then move on to building rapport, qualifying and getting commitment. After your team is scoring high – using a script grading adherence form – on the first call, turn your attention to the closing call and build momentum, and buy in, one step at a time.

Next, focus on the reps that are bought in the most and emphasize their successes in team meetings. Record them using the scripts successfully; highlight their script grading adherence percentages, and reward them for their closed sales. Sales reps carefully watch what the others do and once they learn from their peers that the new playbook and techniques work, they will follow suit. Ultimately, the best way to get your more senior or stubborn reps onboard is give attention to and reward those other, often newer, reps who are doing it your new way and succeeding. Sooner rather than later, the other reps will want the same results and attention.

Measuring adherence to your new playbook, and reinforcing progressive success is what will get sustained and eventual buy in from your entire sales team.

Conclusion
Often times, the successful implementation of a new sales platform and the transformation of a sales culture depend on the senior management’s ability to carefully rollout new initiatives in alignment with a clear strategy and a controlled set of key drivers. Having and following a defined process allows a company to sometimes outwait and outwit the sales team’s natural resistance to change and provides the environment where the new platform truly can transform the culture.

How to Manage Your Sales Manager

If you’re a business owner, then I know you place a lot of responsibility on your inside sales manager. In many companies, managers are not only responsible for finding, hiring and developing successful reps, but they are also responsible for training these new reps and for the continued training of existing sales reps as well. Sales managers are also directly responsible for the achievement of reaching quota each month, quarter and YTD. In addition, managers are often responsible for reporting on daily, weekly and monthly progress, with motivating the sales team and with proper management of lead resources, sales pipelines, and many other reporting processes. When you add up all the duties and responsibilities of your sales manager, it can seem overwhelming and begs the question of you as the owner – how do you manage your manager?

The answer to that question for most owners is they manage their manager and the sales department through a series of sales metrics sometimes called sales dashboards (there are many other names for this, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about). These dashboards have a variety of metrics and statistics on them including lead conversion percentages, closing percentages per rep and for the team, pipeline numbers and percentages, time on the phone, number of calls, etc. These metrics are important for predicting revenue and directing activity and lead distribution and for measuring the trend of sales for the month and quarter, but they don’t do what you have hired your manager to do – drive sales.

All the metrics listed above have one fatal flaw when it comes to driving sales – they are snap shot of what has happened in the past. They are a rearview mirror look at what your team has done up to this point, and as such, they are ineffective for driving or improving current sales. This is a hard point for many business owners to accept, because experience tells them that if the team just works harder, makes more calls and contacts, then deals and revenues increase. The problem with this is that increased activity (say 10% more calls) doesn’t result in 10% more business. Again, these metrics, while important, aren’t what drive sales.

And that brings us to the point of this article. What drives sales isn’t the activity around the sales (the metrics listed above), but rather it’s the activity that takes place during the sale that determines results. It’s what your reps are saying during the prospecting call, during the call backs, and how they handle the objections and stalls that occur during the close. It’s what your reps say and how they handle the smokescreens and put offs on the third and fourth calls that determine how much business they write. And when it comes to measuring these crucial activities, most sales managers and business owners don’t have a system or a process to do this, and so they don’t have the means of truly impacting and consistently improving their sales results.

The good news is there are a series of steps and processes you can use to do this, and it’s the way that successful business owners effectively manage their sales managers. To start with, your sales manager must get more involved on the sales floor and more involved in listening in during the prospecting and closing calls. Your manager must be able to step in and affect the sale while it’s in progress. There are a variety of ways for them to do but these exceed the limited scope of this article. I will list a resource you can turn to for more information on this later. The important tool for you as the owner, though, is a script grading adherence form.

If you’re not already using a script grading adherence form, then this should be your first priority to develop. In a nutshell, a script grading adherence form breaks down each part of your sales approach or script, and assigns a numerical grade to each section. For example, your reps are graded on how effectively they get past the gatekeeper, greet and build rapport with the decision maker, handle initial objections, qualify prospects, create commitments at the end of calls, etc. The total grade will be 100, and it’s your manager’s job to grade live calls or recorded calls to see how well each rep is adhering to your best practices and solid inside selling skills and techniques. This is the only metric that truly measures what matters most: how skilled your reps are at navigating their way through your sale.

Think about your Top 20% closers for a moment. Wouldn’t you agree that they almost intuitively know how to qualify and close prospects more effectively? Aren’t their leads almost always more qualified, their close rates higher and their closing cycles shorter? Don’t they seem to handle brush offs and objections more effectively? Aren’t they more confident and empowered? Now compare them to the rest of your team. Isn’t it true that the other 80% struggle in all of the areas above? Again, the metrics that make up most company’s dashboards don’t affect your rep’s ability to get better in these crucial areas. They simply measure past results. Only measuring and grading what your reps do during the sale has the ability to drive sales.

The best way for you as a business owner to manage your sales manager is to make sure they monitor, grade and coach their reps through the sales cycle and offer specific, effective sales skills and techniques for their reps to improve. And the best way for you to manage this is to add a section to your dashboard called “script grading adherence percentages.” Remember, until you know how your sales team is performing during the sale, you won’t be able to effectively change the other metrics that measure their performance after the sale.

If you’d like more information on exactly how to do this, and would like a complete guide to teach your managers how to manage and coach your reps more effectively through the sale, then visit this link and scroll down to option number two: http://mrinsidesales.com/ManagementTraining/details.htm

If you invest the time and energy in this, then you’ll like how the metrics on your dashboard look soon!

Why Most Inside Sales Reps Fail – and What to Do About It

If you’re in charge of hiring, training and developing inside sales reps, then what you’re about to read may shock you a little bit, but it will also resonate with you and explain why many of the reps you hire ultimately fail.

In their book, “How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer” by Herb Greenberg, Harold Weinstein and Patrick Sweeney, they compared results from hundreds of thousands of assessments that were conducted over several decades with actual sales performance measurements and concluded:

#1) 55 percent of the people earning their living in sales should be doing something else, and

#2) Another 20 to 25 percent (of salespeople) have what it takes to sell, but they should be selling something else.

Before you dismiss these results as far-fetched, think about your own inside sales team. If you’re like most companies, you probably have the 80/20 rule where 80% of your sales and revenue are made by your top 20% producers. What that means is that the other 80% of your reps struggle to make quota (or rarely do), and I’ll bet that over the course of a year or two, half of these reps have either quit, been fired, or you wish they would move on.

I’ve worked with hundreds of companies that have inside sales teams, and I can attest to the accuracy of the stats above. Every time I begin working with a new company, I assess the skill level, aptitude, desire and ability of each member of the team. What I find is that up to half of the reps employed shouldn’t have been hired to begin with (or shouldn’t still be working at the company), and most important thing we can do is to replace them with better qualified candidates.

If you’re with me so far, then let me make a couple of caveats before you start thinking about replacing half your sales team…

First, in order to give each member of your existing team the full chance to succeed, you have to make sure that you have invested the proper time and energy in identifying and defining your sales process (I call it a DSP – Defined Sales Process). Next you need to design a sales training program – complete with specific scripts – that teach the best practices of your sales process and then properly train your existing team on them. And finally, you need to teach your managers how to coach and train your reps to adhere to those scripts and best practices. Assuming you take the time to do this first (I usually get companies through this process in anywhere from 45 to 90 days), then you are ready to begin recruiting and hiring more qualified candidates.

So, how do you begin to look for and eventually identify the other 45 percent of people who are actually cut out for the career of sales? Here are 3 important guidelines to follow:

1) Slow hiring, fast firing. If I were to ask you what activity college football coaches spend up to 70% of their time, what would you say? Watching game film? Coaching their players? Preparing game plans? The answer is none of those. College coaches spend up to 70% of their time recruiting talent to play on their team. Does that surprise you? If you hire sales reps like most companies do, then it probably did.

Most companies hire sales reps the wrong way. They hire reps quickly, and they hold on to underperforming reps far too long. The first guideline you want to follow is to do just the opposite. The best thing you can do is always be recruiting and have a constant flow of talent to evaluate and hire. Your goal should be to hire slowly – after a structured and careful evaluation process – and then to be ready to let reps go who have not shown the improvement or performance that you’ve identified in advance is necessary (you’ll refer back to your DSP to arrive at this).

The key here is that if you have a steady flow of talent and candidates to choose from (and in this market, there are many people available), then you’ll be much less likely to make quick and ill advised hiring decisions. Plus, you’ll be less likely to hold on to underperformers who are likely to never make it in your selling environment.

2) Be more willing to consider and to hire candidates who either don’t have your particular sales experience, or don’t have any sales experience at all. If we go back to the results earlier in this article – that 55 percent of people in sales should be doing something else, and another 20 to 25 percent should be selling something else – then it means that the common practice of hiring experienced sales candidates will produce an unsatisfactory result as much as 80 percent of the time!

A much more effective way of hiring successful sales reps is to start with raw and motivated candidates and then train them properly right from the beginning. Teaching new candidates the right skills and techniques is a lot easier than first getting an experienced sales rep to unlearn all their bad habits first. Of course, you must have a solid sales training program that teaches effective sales skills and the best practices of your particular sale (these best practices will also come after you’ve defined your sales process – DSP).

You can still interview and even hire experience sales reps, but just bare this in mind: The biggest predictor of future success in sales is what the rep has done in the past. What a rep is used to producing and earning defines their comfort zone and in fact defines every aspect of their financial life. In life – and in sales especially – we all tend to live up to or down to what we are used to. If you want to know what an experienced sales rep might produce at your company, then just find out how much they earned at their previous company. Divide this number by their commission, and you’ll have a very accurate idea of what you can expect they’ll produce.

Then ask yourself if that’s enough. If it isn’t, then take a chance on someone new to the profession of sales and instill in them a new comfort zone based on success at your company.

3) Regardless of whether you hire an experience sales rep or someone new to the profession, what you absolutely must do is make sure your managers are measuring the right indicators of sales success and progress. You would be surprised by how many companies measure and rely on metrics that don’t drive sales. I’m talking about things like number of calls, time on the phone, etc. Now don’t get me wrong – these are important metrics and they definitely play a role in the success or failure of your inside sales team. But they don’t drive sales. Let me explain the difference.

While it’s obviously important that your reps are making the most amount of calls and contacts with decision makers as possible, this alone will not drive sales. You see, if your reps are not qualifying prospects properly, or if they are not handling objections or brush offs well enough to win sales, then if they simply make more calls, this won’t result in a lot more sales. In fact, it will just waste more of their time, more of your resources and result in more frustration in your sales department.

The only thing that drives more sales is effective conversations that move the sale forward with qualified prospects. Each contact with a qualified prospect must have benchmarks that are achieved and agreements must be made at every point of the sales cycle for that prospect to ultimately result in a sale. Coaching and measuring the successful navigation of these benchmarks is what drives sales. This is the crucial difference begin measuring quantity (make more calls) versus qualify (measuring what happens during those calls).

Once you understand and can apply that difference in your sales environment, and once you can teach this to your reps, then and only then will you begin building a more successful sales team and company. Until then, you are likely to keep repeating the kind of performance you’ve had over the last few years – regardless of how many new reps you hire.

To recap these successful hiring guidelines, start with the philosophy of slow hiring and fast firing. Always be on the lookout for new candidates, and turn each employee into a mini recruiting machine. Offer hiring bonuses, referral bonuses, and other incentives to get your whole company looking for qualified and talented candidates that you can add to your sales team.

Next, expand your search of talent. Don’t just run ads in the sales section of the paper or online source, but expand to college recruiting boards, acting blogs (actors often make great inside sales reps!) and other websites. Be open to bring on someone fresh to the profession of sales and teach them the right skills from the beginning.

And finally, make sure you measure (and reward) the actions that drive sales. Remember, it’s how your sales reps handle the brush offs and smokescreens and stalls that determine how successful (and empowered) they are more than how much time they spend on the phone. It’s always “who” is in the pipeline that is more important than “how many.”

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be on your way to building a highly successful inside sales team.

What the NFL Can Teach You about Your Inside Sales Team

Every so often, a person comes along who changes their field of study in a major way. Louis Pasteur changed the world of medicine with his introduction of the germ theory. Thomas Edison changed our world through the use of electricity. Albert Einstein changed modern physics. Steve Jobs changed the world of computing. And Paul Brown changed NFL football and turned it into the game it is today.

Before Paul Brown, the game of football resembled more of a rugby match with a tangle of big men grappling around a line of scrimmage. As the game evolved, especially with the introduction of the forward pass, the game began to get not only more interesting, but also bewilderingly complex as well. It would take a gifted visionary, with extraordinary drive and talent, to develop and exploit the possibilities of this evolving and exciting sport.

If some of you are thinking, “But what does this have to do with inside sales, Mike?” then I’ll tell you. I’ve been using the same techniques to build Multi-Million Dollar Inside Sales Teams as Paul Brown used to build championship football teams, and they work. What I’m going to do now is use some quotes from the book, “The Best Game Ever” by Mark Bowden. Mark explains some of Paul’s techniques, and, after each, I’ll show you how they apply to building your inside team as well.

First of all, Paul’s techniques were highly successful. His high school record of coaching was 80-8-2, with 7 of those losses coming in the early years. After serving in WWII, he was hired to coach Ohio State and won a national title. He then coached the Cleveland Browns of the AAFC (American Athletic Football Conference) a new pro league. The league was in existence for four years and Browns won the championship all four times!

The Cleveland Browns were so good, they out drew the Cleveland Rams of the NFL, who fled to Los Angeles. The Browns then joined the NFL, and everyone said they were from a minor league but then the Browns won the NFL title in The First Year!! They then played in the Championship Game (Super Bowl) the next 5 straight years, winning two more times.

So here’s how Paul Brown did it according to “The Best Game Ever”:

“Brown did it not just with masterful strategy, but with a ruthlessly efficient system of assessing and acquiring talent, and a level of organization and discipline entirely new to the game. He stunned his players by regimenting every aspect of their lives. They were given playbooks with descriptions and diagrams of every play, and after studying them in classrooms, were forced to spend hours at night copying them out by hand in their own notebooks, which were collected and graded.

“Some players learned by hearing it,” explained Charley Winner, who worked as a scout for Cleveland during those years and later helped implement Brown’s system in Baltimore. “Other players learn by watching you draw it up on a blackboard. Other players learn by seeing it, so we show them the film. Others learn by walking through it on the practice field. Others learn by drawing it out themselves by hand. We covered all the learning methods, so when we were through, by God, they knew it.”

And here’s how we translate this system into building an inside sales team: We start by identifying and scripting out a “Defined Sales Process” for your company. This includes in depth descriptions and diagrams of every selling situation your reps encounter in your sale.

Then we script out the best practice responses to these selling situations so your reps are completely prepared to succeed in them every time they are on the phone with a prospect or client. Next, we train your reps on these best practices by classroom training, recording calls, role playing and even recording the scripts on an MP3 Player and providing them to your reps to listen to over and over so we cover all the learning methods. And, by God, they will all know what to do.

Next comes the coaching, developing and evaluation of your talent. Here is what Weeb Ewbank brought over to the Baltimore Colts. Who’s Weeb? Weeb was one of Brown’s assistants who was hired away by the Baltimore Colts. Weed was a faithful disciple of the Paul Brown / Cleveland system, which he had helped run for five years. Oh, and some of you might know him as the head coach of the New York Jets – yes, the Namath, Super Bowl Champion Jets.

More from, “The Best Game Ever”:

“Weeb arrived in Baltimore with a bang. He boldly promised an NFL championship in just five seasons. Putting the Cleveland grading system in place, he began assessing players on a scale numbered zero through five. Zero meant a missed assignment. If you knew what to do and didn’t do it, that was a one. If you got a lot of ones, that meant you knew what to do, you just weren’t good enough to do it.

If you got a two, it meant you knew what to do and you did an average job. Three meant you knew what to do and did it well. Once in a while a player would do something truly remarkable and earn a four. Fives were exceedingly rare. Players would earn a five maybe once or twice in a season. Those who scored zeroes and ones were soon pursuing other lines of work, and in time Weeb weeded out players who scored a lot of twos.”

Don’t you just love that grading system?? The way we apply this to building your inside sales team is that we build a “Script Grading Adherence Form,” that your managers use to measure and grade how well your reps are doing what it takes to be successful. This is one of the most important parts of the entire process, and it’s often completely lacking with most companies. By being able to access talent and find out who has what it takes – and who should be pursuing different lines of work – you are able to very quickly build a highly successful inside sales team.

How successful? Many of the teams I work with see improvements of over 34% in just 90 days… What would that kind improvement mean to you and your company in just the next ninety days?

If you’d like to know more about how you can get these kinds of result, then Click Here to read more about my inside sales management training program. If you’d like to read more about “The Best Game Ever,” then visit amazon.com and get the book. It’s a great read, and I’m sure you’ll find a lot more similarities to your company and your sales team. Enjoy!

5 Mistakes to Avoid when Building an Inside Sales Team

According to CSOinsights.com less than half of inside sales teams make their revenue goals each month.  If you’re a business owner or sales manager of an inside sales team, then I’ll bet you can relate.  So what differentiates the half that makes their numbers from the half that doesn’t?

Obviously there are many factors and each company is different, but there are 5 common mistakes I regularly encounter whenever I work with companies who are struggling to consistently make their revenue goals.  If you can avoid these mistakes from the beginning – or correct them now – you can immediately begin to get better results, and that means you can begin to make your revenue numbers. 

Here are the 5 mistakes to avoid when building or developing your inside sales team: 

1)      Not having a clearly defined sales process (DSP). Nearly every struggling sales team I work with lacks a clear definition of what defines a successful sales cycle.  While they may know they have to cold call or prospect to generate a lead and then call that lead back and close the sale, what is missing are the exact benchmarks (best practices) of what defines each step.  Without this clarity, it’s difficult to teach your reps how to consistently close sales (which is why they don’t half the time). 

Not having these benchmarks – and so not being able to identify, verify and teach each step successfully – leads to many of the problems inside sales teams have.  If you haven’t taken the time to identify your DSP, then this is job #1 for you.  

2)      Not having a training program that teaches your sales reps exactly how to succeed in the selling situations they encounter day in and day out.  Think for a moment about your Top 20% sales reps.  Isn’t it true that they seem to intuitively know what to say and what to do to close sales faster and more efficiently than the other 80% of your team? 

Many sales teams I work with may have a structured training program in place (and I say ‘may have’ because some don’t) but most of them don’t have a sales training program that teaches their sales reps exactly what to say and what to do in every selling situation to be successful (think scripts here).  In other works, the best practices of their DSP are not the focus of their sales training, and this is why their teams struggle to win sales.  

Job #2 for you is to script out your best practices and make sure every member of your team has the core selling skills needed to succeed in the selling situations they face every day. 

3)       Measuring the wrong metrics of your sales team.  While most managers and business owners can tell me how many calls their reps are making, how many opportunities they are getting, what their close rates are, etc., what they can’t tell me is what really matters: What their reps are saying during their calls.  Don’t get me wrong, those other metrics are important to know and track, but they do not drive sales!  How your reps are qualifying their prospects, how they handle objections and what they are doing and saying to move a sale forward is what drives sales.  And that leads me to number four: 

4)      Not recording calls. This is perhaps the most important thing a sales manager can do – record all sales calls and listen to both sides of the conversation.  Knowing exactly what is happening during a call is the only way to know what’s wrong and to know how to fix it.  This is the first thing I ask for from a company who hires me to help them.  If you are not recording your calls, then you need to start today. Trust me, you’ll learn more in an hour of listening to calls than you will in a year of trying to figure it out without doing this. 

5)      Not hiring the right sales reps to begin with.  Not everyone is cut out for inside sales, and that includes reps with inside sales experience. You absolutely have to have criteria in place that will help you identify who is likely to succeed in your sales environment.  That includes profiling your top producers, but it also includes assessing the level of sales skills your hiring candidates have.  

Also, one of the biggest determinates of future sales performance is past sales performance.  That’s why it’s often a better choice to hire reps without experience and put them into a structured program (see items one through four above) and training these new reps to succeed in your environment.  Also, get in the habit of slow hiring and fast firing – most companies do exactly the opposite! 

By avoiding the five mistakes above, you can save hundreds of hours of frustration and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales and unnecessary expenses.

How to Handle Underperforming Sales Reps

Every sales team has them: sales reps who consistently miss their quota, don’t appear motivated, or, when you try to help them, do better for a while and then drop back down into underperformance.  As a manager or business owner, it’s frustrating trying to get these underperforming reps to do better.  And as a sales rep, it’s also frustrating not making quota and being under the gun all the time.  What can you do about it?  Read on, I’ve got some suggestions for you.

To start with, I’d like to share a somewhat shocking study with you.  In their book, “How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer,” Herb Greenberg, Harold Weinstein and Patrick Sweeney compared results from hundreds of thousands of assessments that were conducted over several decades with actual sales performance measurements and concluded:

1)      55 percent of the people earning their living in sales should be doing something else,

2)      Another 20 to 25 percent (of salespeople) have what it takes to sell, but they should be selling something else.

I don’t know about you, but when I read those statistics I almost fell off my chair.  As I thought about it, though, I began to compare those results with my actual experience.  I work with a lot of companies and a lot of sales teams, and as I’ve written over and over again, almost all sales teams have the 80/20 rule going on: the Top 20% of the producers are usually generating about 80% of the revenue and income, while the bottom 80% are struggling to make quota.

And isn’t that true in your sales organization as well?  If you’re like many inside sales teams, you’re constantly trying to get your underperformers to produce more, but how much real success do you have?  Again, sad to say, many bottom 80% producers simply don’t improve that much and that’s why most companies are constantly hiring and replacing reps.  When you look at it that way, the numbers from the conclusion above begin to make sense…

OK, so what’s the solution?  I mean, you can’t just fire 55% of your sales team.  The good news is that there are steps you can go through to train and raise performance, and once you go through these steps you’ll know who can become a productive member of your sales team and you’ll have the structure in place to onboard new reps more quickly and efficiently.  Here they are:

1)      The first thing you need to do is to give every member of your sales team the specific tools and training they need to be successful.  Many companies I work with, including the sales managers themselves, just don’t have specific, effective sales skills, techniques, scripts to give to their sales reps.  As a result, while their Top 20% seem to intuitively know what to do, the rest of the team struggle because no one is training them how to be successful in their sales environment.

The solution is to take the time to develop a “Defined Sales Process” by identifying what steps 80% of your successful sales go through and defining the best practices at every step of this sales cycle.  Once you have defined your best practice sales process, you need to:

2)      Script out the best practice techniques and turn these into your company’s training program.  In other words, you need to give each of your reps the exact tools and techniques and scripts they need to successfully navigate every step of your sales cycle. Next, train and reinforce these skills with every member of your team.

You see, before you can properly evaluate who can make it and who can’t, you have to give them the training on your best practices first.  Only then will you be in a position to know who has the talent, motivation and work ethic to succeed in your sales environment.

3)      Once you’ve defined your sales process, turned it into your company training program and actually trained your reps on it, it’s now time to objectively evaluate each member of your team to see if they have what it takes.  I use the word objectively here because it’s now up to you to record your reps, create a “sales process or script” grading form to measure adherence to your best practices.  At this point your reps either are or they aren’t doing what you know it takes to succeed.

The good news once again is that after about 90 days of measuring, coaching and managing reps to adhere to your new best practice sales process, you’ll have a very clear idea of who is going to make it and who isn’t.  At this point you can begin replacing those reps who clearly won’t.

4)      Now that you have your DSP in place, a solid training program that teaches the most successful best practice techniques, you will be in position to hire and quickly train and evaluate your new sales reps.  With this kind of a proven system in place, you’ll get a lot more production out of your new reps much faster, and you’ll have a very clear idea of who isn’t going to make it much sooner as well.  This will make you more money and save you money and frustration at the same time.

There is obviously a lot that goes into building this kind of structure, but it’s well worth the time and effort.  In fact, according to CSOInsights.com, sales teams that have and follow a “Defined Sales Process” average more than 33% in production and revenue than sales teams that don’t. 33% – now that’s significant!  Just ask yourself how much that would mean to you and your company’s bottom line.

There are many ways to go about creating a defined sales process and training program and one of the best ways is to break down what your Top 20% are doing.  They obviously have figured out the best way to do it, so why not copy and adapt what they are doing and saying?

If you’d like to know of more ways, simply visit the link below.  Regardless of how you go about it, making this your number one priority is essential to evaluating and dealing with your underperforming reps.  It’s also the way you’re going to build and grow a multi-million dollar producing sales team.

Mike Brooks, Mr. Inside Sales, if the Best Selling author of “The Real Secrets of the Top 20%” and “The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts.”  Voted one of the most Influential Inside Sales Professionals two years in a row by The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, he is recognized as a leader in the industry.  Mike’s core selling skills webinars and onsite sales training programs are packed with proven skills and techniques that make an immediate impact on your bottom line

Mike also works as an executive coach with business owners and sales managers, and does complete phone script development.  To learn more about how Mike can help you and your team succeed, visit: www.MrInsideSales.com/managementtraining.htm

Are You Managing the Right Activities that Drive Sales?

If you’re in inside sales management, then you know all about metrics.  In fact, whenever I consult with new clients the owners and managers automatically begin showing me their call monitoring reports.  They show me metrics on how many calls a rep is making, how much average time each rep spends on the phone, what their conversion rate is, and on and on.

When they ask me what I think, I tell them I think they’re measuring the wrong things.  Now don’t get me wrong – those things are important and they should be monitored.  The problem though is that those metrics are not what drive sales.

You see, it isn’t the activity around the sale that’s important (and that everyone measures), but rather, it’s the activity during the sale that matters.

In other words, as a manager you need to know exactly what and how your reps are responding and dealing with their prospects and clients while the sale is going on.

There are two times to monitor and coach this:

1)      You can either monitor your reps while they’re actually on the phone with a prospect or client, or:

2)      You can record the call and spend time reviewing and coaching your rep as you go over their performance.

Both of these methods will give you the most important information of all: Are your reps using the best practice approaches to successfully handle the sales situations they run into 80% of the time when trying to sell your product or service?

You see, if your reps either don’t know how to best handle these sales situations, or if they simply aren’t using effective techniques and skills, or worse, if they just don’t have the talent or willingness to consistently use proven best practices, then it doesn’t matter how much time they spend on calls, or how many calls they make or how many leads they get out.

Again, it’s how they perform during a sales call that matters most.  And your number one goal as a manager is to know how each of your reps perform while in the sale, and then to teach them the most effective, best practice techniques to win more sales.

Once you’ve given your team the skills and techniques to succeed in your selling environment, and you’ve trained them thoroughly on them, then managing simply becomes a job of coaching adherence to these best practices (see numbers one and two above).

Again, it isn’t the activity around the sale that’s important, but rather, it’s the activity during the sale that matters.

The Biggest Mistake Sales Managers Make

If I were to ask you what the most important thing a sales manager can do to drive business, what would your answer be?  Hire the right reps to begin with?  Properly train them? Keep them motivated?  Help them close deals?  I’m sure you thought of these and many others, but I wonder if you thought about the one activity I’m going to share with you today.

That activity is to monitor and ensure adherence to best practice selling techniques.  You see, in  a nutshell, a sales manager’s job is to give his/her team the most effective core selling skills or best practice techniques, and then monitor to make sure their team is using them on each and every call.

It’s like a professional sports coach.  What do they do?  They design the best plays and then coach each athlete to use the best techniques and skill sets on every play.  That’s why they study and break down game film so much.

It’s the same with recording calls.  As sales managers your most important job is listening to (monitoring) your sales reps during the sales process to make sure they are using the most effective skills.  The bottom line is that if they aren’t making their numbers, it’s almost always because they are delivering poor presentations to unqualified leads.  And that is a direct result of not using best practice core selling skills.

So…the biggest mistake sales managers make is monitoring and measuring the results (the revenue numbers) rather than the sales process itself (the actual skills used to drive those results).

If you want to improve the sales performance of your sales team, then you need to stay focused on and monitor what is driving those results – what your reps are saying and doing during their qualifying and closing presentations. 

And here’s how you do that:

Start scoring adherence to your scripts (or outlines or presentations, etc.).  Break down each script into sections and assign a number value to them that add up to 100.  Then listen to the recordings of your reps and score their adherence to following the script.  Anything under a 90% adherence and you’ve got work to do. 

Bottom line – by staying focused on the most important part of the sale – adherence to best practices – you?ll avoid the biggest mistake most sales managers make, and in turn you’ll become one of the few managers whose team actually make their revenue numbers. 

How great would that be?

If you found this article helpful, then you’ll love Mike’s NEW book of phone scripts, "The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts."  Buy now and get over $500 worth of free bonuses from top sales trainers like Tom Hopkins, SalesDog, Stan Billue and many others by taking advantage of this Special Offer: http://mrinsidesales.com/booklaunch.htm  Find out why Brian Tracy calls this the best book on inside sales available today!

Do you have an underperforming inside sales team?  Talk to Mike to see how he can help you and your team reach your revenue goals.  To learn more about Mike, visit his website: http://www.MrInsideSales.com