By Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are not familiar with Josiane Feigon, you should be, and if her predictions come to be you will be soon enough. As you’ll read below, she boldly predicts that by 2015 inside sales will overtake field sales, as that unfolds, she will be in greater demand. Josiane heads up TeleSmart Communications, and is leading practice and thought leader in the area of inside sales and management. A recognized consulting, she has designed and delivered coaching, and training solutions for world class companies such as companies, including Cisco, Autodesk, Citrix Systems, Adobe, and others. She is also the author of two books on inside sales, Smart Selling on the Phone and Online: Inside Sales That Gets Results, and her most recent, and a complement to the first book: Smart Sales Manager: The Ultimate Playbook for Building and Running a High-Performance Inside Sales Team.
It was this book that was the focus of a recent conversation I had with Josiane, below are exerpts of that conversation.
TS: You say that inside sales is going to overtake field sales by 2015. How can that be? And how does that affect how companies sell?
JF: Today’s inside sales organizations are growing rapidly – for every 15 inside salespeople being hired, only one field person is being hired. The traditional sales organization structure is changing to meet the needs of today’s elusive and busy customer who is mobile, connected, independent, and wants everything NOW. Inside sales can build more – and often better – relationships virtually in much less time than it used to take face-to-face. TS: In your book, you start out by saying customers these days are “mad as hell.” What are they mad about? What is going on with them these days that’s affecting their buying decisions?
JF: Customers have become incredibly intelligent and assertive- they are putting their foot down and saying “they are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” They are tired of outdated sales techniques, hundreds of powerpoint slides to make a point, being stalked and chased by desperate salespeople. They are also very independent AKA “elusive” and like to self-educate.
TS: Many of today’s inside sales managers were promoted out of the cubicle into management. How is managing in today’s digital world different than when they were selling?
JF: Most of today’s managers were once individual contributors. Many of them manage with the old, brutal sales blueprint of success: aggressively chasing down customers and holding them in a headlock while they present and coerce them into buying. They keep doing it today, even though it no longer works, on the theory that it has to work sometime! But managing a high-performing inside sales team in the dynamics Sales 2.0 ecosystem is completely different. This new world is digital, diverse, and connected. Customers do their own research, and talent expects works to be F-U-N.
TS: How do organizations identify great inside sales managers? What are the primary attributes successful managers need?
JF: I believe a good manager must first be a good coach and in my book, I outline Ten Qualities of a Compassionate Coach
- Be a good listener. Use the same active listening skills that make you a good salesperson. Give the rep your full attention, and listen without interrupting. Be empathetic and compassionate, and don’t get defensive.
- Be observant. You can learn so much about your team members just by paying attention to the way they present themselves, the objects they choose to have around them, the friends they hang out with, whether they speak up during meetings, how they listen when you talk, how they interact with others . . . the list goes on and on….
- Be patient. Some people are quick studies, but not everyone. Behaviors can change; everyone has his or her own unique rhythm. Give them time to develop.
- Be supportive. Make sure that even the least skilled know that you believe they have what it takes to improve and get ahead. Some team members may just be waiting for permission to be seen as the top dog on the team. Treat them as if they deserve to be in that spotlight.
- Be flexible. Change can be effected in a number of ways. If one approach fails, try something else. Be creative. Keep an open mind, and become sensitive to differences and different ways of doing things.
- Be interested and aware. Take time to get to know the salesperson you are coaching. What do they like? How do they live? This will give you insight into what motivates them.
- Be perceptive. When your intuition kicks in—and it will! —trust it.
- Be energetic. A good coach has energy that is contagious and persuasive. Model the kind of positive energy you want to see.
- Be focused. As a coach you must detach yourself from your own pressures and focus on the person you are coaching.
- Be trustworthy. Above all, coaching must take place in an atmosphere of safety and trust. Your team must trust that you are working in their best interests. Your team members are your potential superheroes. Treat them with respect and confidence.
TS: Some people think cold calling is dead. But in your book, you introduce the concept of potent prospecting. Can you explain what that is?
JF: New tools have eliminated the cold call and redefined prospecting: The days of robo-dialing and making cold calls without any information are gone – there’s no excuse for it. Potent prospecting works more holistically. It brings together the rest of the Sales 2.0 ecosystem – the customer, the talent, and the tools – and a working alignment with marketing. Prospecting efforts are strategic and sophisticated: they’re all about the best practices of engagement, collaboration, education, application, and social activity.
TS: Why do so many inside sales managers insist on tracking dials & talk time as a primary metric of productivity? Is that lazy management, or just lack of knowing where else to look?
JF: Metrics are definitely overdue for a metrics makeover because many metrics are outdated stereotypes of how to measure success. Managers must also redefine what productivity means so instead of saying “it’s awfully quiet out there, no one’s on the phone” they need to listen for the virtual, the digital and the social conversations and measure the new sounds of silence.
TS: What are two takeaways from the book for finding and hiring new sales talent?
JF: Every inside sales organization is unique. That’s because they each have different go-to-marketing strategies based on their individual provide/service, price points, sales cycle, direct/indirect purchase channels, target audience, sales locations, and talents. These are living, breathing micro businesses that are constantly in flux. But they all have one thing in common: the never-ending quest for good talent. Managers must develop an “always-be-recruiting” strategy that includes a referral network, and strong screening and interviewing techniques that help qualify and identify inside sales superheroes. Managers must also structure their inside sales organizations with the right roles and match them with people who fit those job functions. This is the first step in defining a “multicareer” ecosystem that attracts ambitious talent on a career trajectory.
That was just a bit of a great conversation. You can find more at TeleSmart Communications, and you get both books at Amazon, they make a good set.
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