A great inside sales representative can deliver many wins for a sales team. Here’s what you need to know about hunting, hiring, and developing the skills of a potential star seller.
In this article:
- About My Guest — Blake Johnston, CEO of The Outbound View
- What Is Inside Sales?
- What Are Agile Inside Sales Professionals?
- The Importance of Having Agile Inside Sales Reps
- How to Become Successful Agile Inside Sales Reps
- Qualities of an Agile Salesperson
- The Defining Trait of an Agile Inside Sales Representative
- Developing These Traits and Behaviors
- Incorporating It into the Hiring Process
- Failure in Developing Agile Traits
- 3 Habits That Can Help Inside Sales Representatives Develop These Skills and Behaviors
- Performance Indicators to Test Agility in Sales Reps
Success in Sales | Becoming an Agile Inside Sales Representative
Inside Sales Representative Definition: Salespeople who represent their company by selling goods to businesses and individuals remotely, either via phone or online. They don’t meet customers/clients in person and rely only on technology to reach out to prospects.
About My Guest—Blake Johnston, CEO of The Outbound View
Today, we’ll talk about what it means to be an agile inside sales representative and how to be one. This episode contains plenty of vital information sales managers can apply to help their team experiment and explore for growth.
To shed some light on the topic, we have Blake Johnston, CEO of Outbound View, with us. He shares his experiences with us as well as some teachings he has acquired over his years in business.
Outbound View is a sales and marketing consultancy firm that primarily focuses on outbound marketing strategies, appointment setting, inbound marketing strategies, and demand generation.
One example of how Outbound View showed qualities of being agile is when they decided to set appointments for their clients. Initially, they only wanted to help companies learn how to increase the demand for their goods and services.
Seeing as many clients were looking for this service, Blake Johnston and the company decided to offer it as well. Today, the firm helps companies in both setting appointments and increasing product demand.
What Is Inside Sales?
First of all, let’s do a brief introduction of what inside sales is.
Inside sales is the process of selling products and services through a remote location. This is unlike the traditional door-to-door salesman because the selling is done through other means.
Given the fact that inside sales adds a different aspect to salesmanship altogether, how does one define an agile inside sales professional?
What Are Agile Inside Sales Professionals?
Agile inside sales representatives are professionals who display distinct qualities that help them overcome certain challenges. Johnston has worked with hundreds of salespeople and knows sales managers are always looking for agile agents.
However, a lot of sales managers don’t really understand what it means to be agile or what qualities to look for. Once the agent does something to impress them, they usually believe these are agile individuals who can help them grow.
Sales managers should understand what it means for sales reps and teams to be truly agile.
For example, apart from good communication skills, try to gauge how well they can deliver customer service and maintain good client relationships.
Just because they can present themselves well doesn’t mean they have a knack for spotting opportunities and providing solutions.
Overall, look for signs of these qualities:
- Show a desire to learn
- Urge to take action
- An insatiable curiosity for things
People who display these qualities often have a growth mindset that can be very beneficial for the development of both the agent and the institution they work for.
The Importance of Having Agile Inside Sales Reps
Johnston describes inside sales reps as chief experimenters. Companies often assign them to run and test new campaigns.
It’s also quite rare and impractical for companies to run a marketing campaign without actually testing it first. There’s always room for improvement in the persona the team adopts, emails they send, and rates they offer, among others.
If the inside sales reps aren’t agile enough, the company will end up using the same ineffective campaign for multiple weeks.
This kind of inefficiency drains the company of its finances and energy resources. To progress, inside sales teams need to determine which ideas to kill and which ones to scale moving forward.
How to Become Successful Agile Inside Sales Reps
Inside sales teams should also think like marketers. This department comes up with a full campaign and action plan to reinforce the results.
Inside sales teams make hundreds of small decisions on a daily basis, so it is very beneficial for them to examine the results of whatever decisions they made.
Some questions you’d want to ask your inside sales reps include:
- Is your persona a good one to use?
- What message are you trying to send to the customers?
- Is your offer a mutually beneficial one all parties involved can be happy with?
Sales managers and veteran sales reps might not know the gravity of their decision since they’ve been making them for so long now. For new hires, a small mistake with one of these decisions can cost them their careers.
If you want your inside sales team to be more agile, incorporate these questions into their routine. Get them to make a habit of going through these before making decisions.
Qualities of an Agile Salesperson
Agility in sales often shows through specific qualities. As a sales manager, you should know how to scout for effective agile agents and mold them to bring out their true potential.
These are some qualities of an agile inside salesperson:
1. Has an Insatiable Curiosity
It’s often easy for sales managers to determine if an inside sales representative has a focus on learning and iterating. These people constantly:
- Make adjustments
- Ask questions
- Strive to gather as much information both within and outside their niche
Agile sales reps who have these qualities are often great at conversations. Rather than bombarding clients with useless information, they have a genuine desire to understand the other party’s situation, which helps break down the buying process.
2. Bites Toward Action
Inside salespeople need to know how to act on their own. Knowing when to take action is also a quality needed to be an agile inside sales rep.
For example, some sales reps wait half a day just for their manager to give the go signal on a decision. Instead of waiting for the signal, sales reps need to know when it’s better to use their best judgment.
As a manager, you should instruct your sales team to differentiate between situations that need confirmation and those that don’t. Otherwise, it could lead to wasted hours that could’ve been spent prospecting clients or even closing deals.
3. Recognizes Assumptions
Inside salespeople can have a lot of assumptions and superstitious beliefs. They may seem harmless, but over time, these assumptions can negatively affect a person’s career.
Agile inside salespeople recognize and acknowledge when they make wild, non-factual assumptions.
Afterward, they experiment on these assumptions to understand what works and what doesn’t.
For example, let’s say an inside sales representative doesn’t do calls on Monday. They don’t do it for any specific reason.
All they know is they’ve been avoiding Monday sales calls ever since they started being an inside sales rep.
If they’re meeting the quota, then their manager probably wouldn’t mind that, but what if they were to conduct a fact-based experiment on that assumption?
Not only could they exceed their quota, but they can also start doing more productive activities that actually lead to results.
RELATED: Why You Need Data Driven Hiring…NOW!
The Defining Trait of an Agile Inside Sales Representative
Out of the three qualities we mentioned, which one is the most important according to Johnston?
The answer: curiosity.
Johnston firmly believes that curious sales reps are naturally better at conversations. Their inborn knack for asking questions allows them to gather the information they need about their clients.
Plus, Johnston states that there are a lot of toxic salespeople who are too set in their ways. Instead of being stubborn about what they know, these sales reps should develop the habit of asking the right probing questions.
Developing These Traits and Behaviors
These skills are not something people are either born with or without. With the right guidance, your team can develop the traits they need to become agile inside sales reps.
What’s important is to follow the right processes that lead to development. For example, everybody talks about A/B testing, but very few actually push through with it.
A/B Testing Definition: It’s a two-sample hypothesis-testing method that compares the results of two different variants.
To create an agile inside sales team, you need to incorporate A/B Testing into your workflow. Rather than it being a seasonal occasion, make it a weekly habit to experiment on different strategies with your team.
For example, what Johnston does is he conducts a weekly client meeting that revolves purely around experiments. Afterward, they track the results of their experiments and log them in an excel sheet for future reference.
Remember that conducting experiments without properly analyzing the results afterward is useless. Experimenting is important, but meetings devoted to analyzing results are equally vital.
Tip: You can track your team’s progress in developing agile skills with the help of project tools. You can type in ‘experiment board’ on Google and it’ll show you a variety of possible apps you can use.
Johnston personally recommends using Excel. It’s simple, efficient, and a lot of salespeople are adept at using it.
Incorporating It into the Hiring Process
Johnston suggests that it’s vital for managers to look for agile inside salespeople during the interview process. As we discussed earlier, a lot of people already know that they want to get agile sales reps, but not many know how.
The key here is to ask the right questions as well. Just as sales reps need to probe clients, managers should probe candidates as well.
Some questions managers should try out include:
- What’s an example of a scenario where you didn’t have much information on a specific subject you need to tackle?
- How would you have solved a problem where you lacked data and information?
Then, you can limit the time they have to work on it. Let’s face it, agile inside sales reps don’t have all day to solve a problem, right?
Failure in Developing Agile Traits
Johnston says that a lot of times, the reps aren’t at fault. In fact, he blames leaders for the lack of agile inside salespeople in the industry.
Sales leaders often claim they want their inside sales reps to learn and grow through experiments, but do nothing to reinforce them. Managers and leaders should hold themselves accountable for the things they want their team to achieve.
This goes for advancements and updates, as well. Make sure to relay any new inside sales techniques your team needs to apply.
Otherwise, your inside sales reps could waste their time using ineffective and outdated methods that you taught them in the past.
3 Habits That Can Help Inside Sales Representatives Develop These Skills and Behaviors
1. Conduct Frequent Follow-Ups with Outbound and Inbound Leads
This particular habit is something that can help a sales rep develop their sense of action-taking.
Instead of waiting for your leads to reach out, a rep can develop agility by reaching out to them first. Follow-ups may not guarantee a sale, but at the very least, it lets you know how you stand with the customer.
2. Get to Know Your CRM
All internal and external sales professionals should try and get to know the Customer Relationship Management software or CRM they’re using.
Those who don’t use their CRM to the fullest might miss out on critical features that could significantly improve and optimize their sales process.
This is the reason why curiosity is an integral part of becoming an agile inside sales rep. By getting to know more of the CRM, a rep is giving themselves the chance to be curious and gain benefits from it.
3. Continue Working on Possible Customer Inquiries and Objections
Staying on top of possible questions or objections from prospects will help them get further in the sales cycle. Aside from that, it’s a way to be objective about one’s assumptions of their prospect’s responses.
By preparing for these objections beforehand, a prospect will be more reassured that a rep is capable. This will give them the impression that the rep knows what they’re talking about.
This can also help reps keep calm and composed since objections won’t catch them off-guard.
Performance Indicators to Test Agility in Sales Reps
1. Lead Response Rate
Agile inside sales reps are proactive. Thus, one performance indicator that leaders can use to check this is the lead response rate of their reps.
If an inside sales rep has become quicker in responding to leads, then it’s a sign of improvement in terms of proactiveness. An improvement in this area can help them have better conversations with prospects.
2. Call Duration
Measuring the average call duration of your inside sales team will help you determine which sales reps are taking too long or those on the other end of the spectrum and finish calls quickly. Then, find a link between their call duration and how it translates to their numbers.
If it’s too short, then reps might not be building rapport with the prospects, which might not encourage them to do business with you. However, if it’s too long and doesn’t lead anywhere, a rep might just be wasting their time and that of their prospect.
Overall, one common reason leaders are behind in hiring and developing agile inside sales reps is their lack of knowledge. Despite not experiencing them in the past, leaders should now use the technological advancements that provide data to their advantage.
Awareness that these models exist is not enough. You and your team need to experience and experiment with these first hand to determine which ones work and which ones don’t.
Did this episode help you understand what it means to be an agile inside sales representative? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2019, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.