Three Techniques to Make Your Sales Training More Effective


According to, over 48% of inside sales companies surveyed reported that they missed their monthly revenues goals more times in a 12-month cycle than they reached them. Other sales indicators like time on the phone, closing ratios, percentage to monthly goal, etc, pipeline accuracy inevitably suffered as well as sales teams struggled to make quota and reach revenue.

In addition to missing revenue numbers, many other companies indicate that the level of training, core selling skills, and overall selling talent of their sales team could be improved as well. When asked how many companies have a defined sales process in place and a specific training program to reinforce and teach those best practices, our experience tells us that less than 35% of companies have taken the time to define and implement these processes.

While you would expect an under trained sales team to lead to under performance, what is rarely considered is the toll this takes on other factors that contribute to sales decline. Getting rejected daily and repeatedly missing sales lead to a lack of confidence which in turn leads to call reluctance. Getting beaten up for missing quotas leads to poor attitudes and these attitudes spread rapidly throughout a sales organization creating an environment that becomes toxic and self perpetuating.

Is Sales Training Enough?

All companies have some form of sales training, even if it just consists of new reps shadowing senior reps for a few days before they “hit the phones.” While sales training can be graded from inefficient to very effective, there are some important points you should consider when designing your own sales training:

1) Make your overall training not only specific to your product or service, but break your training down to the various parts of your sales cycle and teach best practices for each part. For example, if your first call is simply to set an appointment or send information to a prospect, what are the five benchmarks your reps need to cover for you to consider this a qualified lead?

Having this kind of clarity all the way through your sales cycle will help not only your reps but will help your manager coach them all the way through the sale.

2) Give your reps specific, scripted responses to the sales situations they run into every day. This is the best way to empower your reps and it helps them successfully navigate the sale from beginning (getting through the gatekeeper) through to the end (getting the deal in the door).

An example would be to script out and teach them how to overcome the smokescreen objection of, “I have to show this to my boss” objection. Most sales reps don’t know how to deal with this objection so their usual response is something along the lines of, “OK, when should I get back with you?”

This simply leads to non-qualified leads that clog up pipelines.

A specific, scripted approach to this objection will teach your reps to isolate this objection to see if it’s a smokescreen or a real objection. Have them use something like this: “I understand and I think you should speak to _________. Just out of curiosity, if they say to do whatever you think is best, where are you leaning in regards to using this?”

Again, giving your reps specific tools to navigate through the sale is what is going to help them become successful.

3) Make sales training a daily event. To learn a new skill of any kind you need to reinforce it daily. We recommend running a brief sales meeting every morning to reinforce the skills and techniques that your top 20% are using successfully. Playing recordings, role playing, passing out updated scripts are all things that will help your team improve on a daily, weekly basis.

Specific Sales Solutions

In alignment with the suggestions above, here are three specific sales solutions that you can adapt and implement to immediately make your inside sales team more effective. These are proven skills that will help your team navigate past some of the common objections, brush offs and situations they encounter on a daily basis. You can use these techniques as sales meeting topics and have your team help to customize them to fit their selling situations.

Qualifying Techniques

#1 – Question the Red Flags

One of the best ways to determine who actually does make it into your sales pipeline is to make sure you avoid one of the biggest mistakes 80% of salespeople make when qualifying. And that is to overlook or not react to obvious Red Flags prospects give during the initial qualifying call.

In their haste or desperation to “generate a lead” or to “fill their pipeline,” many sales reps will hope that any possible objection they hear on the front end will miraculously go away once the prospect sees their information or product or service, etc.

But you all know from experience — it never does.

In fact, the rule for calling back leads is that:

Leads Never Get Better!

What appears to be an objection or deal killer on the front end, always is.

A sales rep told me about a prospect who wasn’t calling him back, and who (once he did reach him) told him that he was leaving the company. He wrote to me and said, “I guess intuitively I knew he wasn’t the right guy to make the decision anyway.”

And I’ll bet he intuitively knew this because he heard (but didn’t question) the Red Flags the prospect raised during the qualification call.

You can’t ignore these Red Flags! Do what the Top 20% do: As soon as you hear something that triggers your intuition or that gives you that sick feeling in your gut, stop and ask the tough qualifying questions!

Here are some examples you can begin using today:

If someone says that they usually buy from ________, but would like to see your information, ask:

“Why would you switch vendors?” Or

“How many other companies have you looked at in the last six months?”

And then: “And how many did you go with?”

If someone says that they will pass your information on to ________, say:

“Thanks. So that I make sure I’m not wasting her time it’s best that I speak with her for just a few minutes. Can you please tell her that (your name) is holding please?” (If you’re then told they are not available, make sure and get their direct line or that person’s extension and keep calling until she picks up.

If someone says that they’d be glad to look it over, ask:

“Great, after you do, and if you think that it can help you (or your business, etc.), what would the next steps be?”

And so on.

#2 Teach your reps how to avoid getting brushed off

So many times prospects aren’t really interested, but they either don’t know how or won’t come out and tell us. Instead they will say things like, “Go ahead and send me the (information, brochure, demo) and I’ll take a look.” Or, “Put that quote in writing and send it to me.”

When a top closer hears this, his/her first thought is, “I don’t have the time to do that, and I especially don’t have the time to follow up with an unqualified lead.” Here’s how they handle it and how your reps should, too:

Put off #1: “Go ahead and send me your information.”

Your response: “I’d be happy to, and if you like what you see is this something you would move on in the next couple of weeks?”


“Before I do, I want to make sure you’d be ready to act on it if you like it. Let me ask you…(qualifying questions on budget, decision-making process, etc should be asked next)”


“Sure, and after you review it, how soon would you make a decision on it?”


“And what would you need to see to say yes to it?”

Put off No. 2: “Put that quote in writing and send it to me.”

Your response: “I’d be happy to, and from what we’ve just discussed, does it sound like you’d go with it?”


“Absolutely. How does this compare with the other quotes you’ve received so far?”


“Great. Based on the quote/price I just gave you does this sound like it fits within your budget?”

Closing Technique

#3 Five Ways to Stop Talking Past the Close

Have you ever caught your reps doing this? They deliver a great presentation, think that your prospect is with them, but then they just keep on pitching.

Or, they get an objection, answer it, but then again, they just keep pitching — or worse — they go to the next rebuttal and start reading that pitch.

Talking past the close is much more common than repeatedly asking for the sale (which is what they should be doing). And why is that? It’s because it’s scary to ask for the deal and be told no. It’s much easier to keep pitching, “Maybe they’ll just cave and finally hear something they want and buy.”

Sound familiar? It should. That’s how 80% of your sales reps are pitching. They are ad-libbing, talking past the close, and even introducing new objections. What a mess!

Here are five ways to stop talking past the close, so your reps can spend more time closing, and earning the income the Top 20% do:

1) Record yourself. Before you can stop talking past the close, you first must begin hearing and catching yourself doing it. One day of recording your reps and you’ll become immediately aware of when and how they do it.

2) Use a script. One of the best parts of a well-crafted script is that it ends with your reps asking for the deal! Listen to their recordings and then craft a good response to the common objections they are getting. Then, make sure they adhere to the script.

3) Ask for the deal five times. If you give your reps a close quota of asking for the deal at least five times, then they are going to be much quicker in asking for it.

Have them keep track of this on a piece of paper using stick figures. If 20 minutes has gone by and they don’t have any marks on the paper, then you know your team is in trouble!

4) Welcome getting a no. So many sales reps are afraid of no’s, but you don’t have to be. With most sales you’ve made, you’ve probably heard some no’s along the way, so reframe the way your team thinks about them and realize the truth — each no gets you closer to a yes. So welcome getting a no. It usually means you’re that much closer to getting the sale.

5) Shut up and listen. Teach your team to be quiet after they ask for the sale. Use your mute button or cover the mouthpiece and count to five – 1/1000, 2/2000, etc. By forcing your reps to remain silent for five seconds after asking for the sale, they’ll actually have something to concentrate on rather than fear.


If your sales team is in the 50% of teams that aren’t making their monthly sales quotas regularly, then daily, specific sales training is your fastest way of changing that. There are other factors as well, including having a Defined Sales Process, an organized sales training program that reinforces your best practices, etc. But using and reinforcing the three techniques above will bring you and your team immediate results.

The 4 Secrets of Leadership

Can you name the one or two best sales managers, or business owners you ever worked for? If so, how did they make you feel? What qualities or traits did they have in common, or which ones do you most try to emulate in your own company?

I work with a lot of business owners and managers, and I can tell you that the most successful ones all have at least four core characters in common. Many of them possess other qualities as well, but these four “Secrets” as I call them are always at the center of their power and charisma.

As you read through them, ask yourself which ones you currently have, which ones you’d like to strengthen, or which ones you can develop. Once you master them all, you will be able to lead any team and any company to greatness.

Here they are:

#1: Unbounded Optimism. Ask any great leader to describe the future, and they will always tell you it’s a wonderful place. Leaders are extremely goal oriented, have clearly identified what it is they want and what they are willing to sacrifice to get there, and they radiate an optimistic glow because they already live there in their mind’s eye.

Because people want to feel good about themselves and their futures, they naturally gravitate to winners. People want to work for and, in fact, work harder for people who are optimistic. Plus, optimism is contagious. A great leader can often turn an organization full of negativity around, and the excitement they inspire can result in greater morale and greater results.

If you’re in a position of authority, ask yourself if you’d want others to catch your attitude. If not, then focus on ways to become optimistic – you’ll be a much more effective leader when you are.

#2: Rock Solid Confidence. Great leaders are convinced they can do anything they set their minds to. I love a saying of Napoleon Bonaparte’s : “The improbable we’ll do at once. The impossible will take a little longer.” A leader’s attitude is: Whatever the challenge, we’ll find a way to overcome it.

Confident also leaders create confident followers, and a company, family, or team with an “I Can” attitude is unstoppable. The confidence of a great leader always inspires the best performance of his/her employees, and their team’s success just adds to and confirms the leader’s confidence.

#3: Integrity. In a recent survey about what qualities employees wanted from the managers and business owners they worked for, integrity was the most desired trait people picked. Integrity, including honesty, fairness and consistency of attitude and action, are traits that build confidence in a leader and that build loyalty in the people who report to them.

Leaders with integrity genuinely care about the company they are building or the job they are doing, and this helps everybody feel as if their work has meaning and makes a difference in people’s lives. Most people spend a third of their lives at their jobs, and while we go to work for a pay check it’s the intrinsic satisfaction someone gets from their work that allows them to feel fulfilled. Leaders with a high degree of integrity help foster this feeling by setting the example.

#4: Decisiveness: All great leaders are decisive and committed to the actions they take. This doesn’t mean they act capriciously, on the contrary, they fully weigh out and think through their options, but the key characteristic is that they aren’t afraid to make a decision and implement a plan of action.

Most employees tell many tales of bosses who are afraid of making a decision, or who frequently go back on them, and this habit of hesitation undermines their authority and the confidence of everyone in the organization. Leaders, on the other hand, may not always make the right decision, but they can be counted on to make a well thought out one, and then to take action on it. If facts change or results warrant it, they are flexible enough to reevaluate and make another decision.

If you’re in a leadership role, don’t shy away from decisions. Evaluate the data at the time and the relative need of making a decision and then choose the best course of action and commit. Making a decision – even if it’s the wrong decision – is better than making no decision at all.

If you are in a position of authority and wish to become an effective leader, then find ways of developing or strengthening these four characteristics in yourself. Remember, everyone is counting on you for guidance, and it is your ability to lead that will determine the ultimate result in your team or company.

5 Elements of a "Best In Class" Inside Sales Team

Recently I was asked by a client what a best in class inside sales organization looks like. This got me thinking about all the companies I’ve worked with, and after a while I picked a client company in Canada that I believe is practicing the 5 crucial elements that define it as “Best in Class.” Before we get into these elements, here is what they do and how we started working together.

A little over a year ago, I met the C.O.O of a young company in Canada that sells HR Solutions over the phone to businesses across Canada. This company was already doing well and had been designated one of the fastest growing companies in 2010. They had a team of about 35 inside sales reps and in each of their first two years they had broken new sales records. When we met over the phone, the C.O.O. told me that they had accomplished this without any official sales structure or training and he was anxious to see what kind of growth he could accomplish by implementing proper systems and sales processes.

After an initial evaluation, we identified several key areas that we could improve and after working together for several months, we implemented the following 5 elements that would ensure his company’s continued growth and their “Best in Class” status. Here they are:

Number One: The first thing we worked on was defining his sales process. As is the case in most sales rooms, of the 35 sales reps prospecting and closing accounts, there were about 35 different ways this was being done. It took some reps 2 calls to close a deal, while other reps needed to make 4, 5 and even as many as 8 calls to close deals.

In addition, while interviewing the reps I found that there were vastly different opinions on what was needed to close a sale. Some felt that extensive emails and information was important for gaining trust and closing the sale, while others used a demo of the website to sell a prospect. Still others relied on referrals from others within the prospect company, while others couldn’t tell me what the deciding factor was. They said they just sent out information to whomever appeared to be the decision maker and then hoped for the best.

So the first thing we needed to do was to look at how the top 20% of their sales reps were prospecting and closing sales and then standardize those successful techniques into a best practice structure. We started by indentifying the bench marks in each step and then used these to define the most effective sales process. I call this building the DSP (for Defined Sales Process), and once we had that in place, we could then develop a scripted sales approach that their entire team could use to be more effective.

Number Two: Once we had the DSP constructed, we then needed to take these best practice steps and benchmarks and turn them into a useable, repeatable scripted playbook. In other words, we took each step of their best practice sales process – starting with dealing with the gatekeeper, to identifying he decision maker, building rapport, qualifying, etc. – and we scripted, word for word, each part of the sales process out.

Taking the time to comprehensively script out each part of the sales process – including best practice voice mails, emails and complete objection handling – allowed them to equip each sales rep with the most effective way of handling the sales situations they were in 80 to 90% of their day. By developing and subsequently practicing a uniform and proven sales approach, the reps were able to qualify better prospects which allowed them to close more deals in a shorter period of time.

Number Three: Once a Defined Sales Process and a scripted playbook were in place, the company was now able to better empower their front line managers and supervisors because now they had a uniform way mentoring and coaching their sales reps. Prior to this process, when the reps were adlibbing and unstructured, the style of management was reactive and inefficient. Without a standard to grade, coach and evaluate by, the managers made inconsistent progress and were generally ineffective.

This all changed, however, once both sales reps and managers were following a proven, objective sales process and scripted sales approach. During this process we developed actual script grading adherence forms so managers could regularly grade adherence to the best practice sales approach. In addition, script grading also allowed the managers to target problem areas for each rep and design very specific development plans for improvement. Because each step of the process was defined and objective, evaluating and changing performance and measuring and tracking progress of these changes was now possible.

Number Four: Once these processes were in place, the company saw the need and benefit in rearranging personnel and redefining job descriptions to better manage and train their growing sales team. Some of these changes included reducing the sales quotas of their team leads/supervisors so they could spend more time in helping their reps improve their sales skills and close deals, and in tasking their sales director with more involvement in hiring and recruiting talent. In addition, they promoted one of their human resource members into a full time sales training position – something they had never had before.

A crucial change was the creation of a qualify control person whose sole job it was to listen to and grade recordings of the sales team. Because an important component in this process was to record and grade rep’s adherence to the new sales playbook (and so analyze their sales skills and measure their improvement), it immediately became apparent that listening to 35 sales rep’s calls was a full time job. The innovative change this company made was recognizing this need and creating a position to fill it. Having a full time quality control person allowed the front line managers to spend more time on the floor working with reps and it also provided the ‘real time’ feedback on how each rep performed during the actual sale and how they were tracking in terms of improvement.

Number Five: Motivating a sales team is an important component of sustained and improved sales performance, and in this area the company deviated from the daily cash bonus and spiff model of short term motivation and instead took a longer term approach. Recognizing the need to grow the sales team and the benefit of offering its employees a more sustained career model, the company created a career advancement program that rewarded long term sales performance by promoting sales reps into different levels of responsibility and increased pay.

The company created new team lead positions, new supervisory positions and even new customer reorder departments that created new growth opportunities for performing reps. Each of these new positions became linked to bi-annual performance goals and replaced the short term bonus plans previously in place. The result was a more engaged and motivated sales force who’s focus was more on the long term goals of the company rather than the short term goals of daily production.

While a lot changed in this company’s sales structure, focus and execution, the amazing thing was they were able to make these changes in a four to six month time frame. The results in terms increased sales production were exceptional. Not only did they grow sales by over 34% in their existing department of new business, but they were able to expand their current accounts business by penetrating deeper and cross selling departments and products.

The bottom line is that when this company took the time to improve and implement these 5 elements, they were able to leverage their existing sales personnel and create a scalable model for across the board sales improvement. And that is what I call a “Best in Class” sales company.

Experienced Sales Reps – Should You Hire Them?

Who would you rather hire for your inside sales team – an experienced inside sales rep with experience selling different products or services across several companies, or someone new to sales, say a college graduate, or how about a waiter or bar tender or someone one else new to sales? The proper answer here, of course, is it depends on the individual circumstance. But as we’ll see, if the proper systems are in place, it’s usually a wiser choice to go with someone new to sales. Let’s find out why.

While conventional wisdom would lean towards hiring someone with specific inside sales experience, what common experience tells us is that that choice is rarely a guarantee of good performance. In fact, after hiring or being involved in the hiring of thousands of experienced inside sales reps, I can tell you from personal experience that it is very rare to hire an experienced sales rep who turns into someone truly exceptional. It’s more common to find mediocre sales reps who continue to produce down to their level of past production. There are many reasons for this.

To start with, most sales reps have never received the kind of sales training that leads to consistently good results. Sales training, and its constant reinforcement, is an area that is either under developed or an effective extension of product training. After initial orientation and training, most inside sales reps are left to either figure it out on their own, or to sink or swim. This leads to a lot of sales reps who develop poor sales skills that they repeat over and over again as they ad lib their way through their jobs. It’s these very same unsuccessful reps that are looking for work when they answer your job posting.

This has been my experience, and I’m not alone. In fact, in their book, “How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer” by Greenberg, Weinstein and Sweeney, the authors compared results from hundreds of thousands of assessments that were conducted over several decades with actual sales performance measurements and found:

55 percent of the people earning their living in sales should be doing something else.
Another 20 to 25 percent (of salespeople) have what it takes to sell, but they should be selling something else.

They concluded that based on these statistics, the practice of hiring experienced sales candidates will produce an unsatisfactory result as much as 80 percent of the time! That may seem a pretty dire pronouncement, but it once again rings true in my experience and, I’m willing to bet, in the experience of many of you reading this article as well.

Now before you throw your hands up in the air and decide to abandon your sales efforts completely, the good news is that there is a solution. The solution is to invest the time, money and effort in defining your sales process, developing a solid training program that teaches the best practices of your sales process, and then to give your front line managers the tools to manage your rep’s adherence to these defined sales processes. You can see a video of me describing this process on my website.

Once you build these processes, you will be in the unique position of being able to hire and successfully on board new talent into your sales team. The great thing about hiring someone new to sales is that they are a blank slate without any poor sales skills and habits. Rather than trying to undo years of poor performance and attitude, you can spend your time actually training someone the right way from the beginning. After that, your time can be spent reinforcing and measuring adherence to your best practices. The major benefit here is that you can shorten the time it takes to evaluate whether or not the person you’ve just hired has the ability and desire to succeed in your sales environment.

Another benefit of using this method is that since you are hiring people who are new to sales, you can now recruit from almost anywhere. Rather than being handcuffed to running the same old ads and attracting the same old suspects, suddenly you will be free to find and recruit new talent anywhere you go. When I was actively managing and growing a financial service team, I would carry my business cards with me everywhere and would constantly be on the lookout for people who were bright and had winning personalities. I’d chat up people working in department stores, waiters, bar tenders, and anywhere else I found engaging and motivated people. In fact, some of my top producers where found in this way.

Now, let’s get back to the question at the beginning of this article. Is it better to hire an experienced inside sales rep or someone new to sales? Again, it depends on the circumstance because you obviously don’t want to hire someone new who doesn’t have the temperament or desire, and you don’t want to not hire an experienced sales rep who might do well in your environment. The way to be successful with both of these hires is to have a solid training program and follow up mentoring and measuring system to evaluate them. Only in this way will you be able to successfully hire and develop the right candidate.

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, 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.

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

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.

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:

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 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!