Doug Wendt is a co-founder and senior partner with Wendt Partners.
If there was ever any doubt about the essential role of inside sales in business growth and profitability, several months of unprecedented reliance on contactless meeting and transaction modalities has shown B2B business owners exactly how critical inside sales is —and exactly how powerful a well-developed inside sales playbook can be in fueling success. A high-performing inside sales strategy requires assembling the right team and equipping them with the technology and tools to implement the techniques involved with lead generation and new business acquisition. However, no inside sales playbook is complete without a strategy in place for training your team.
In this last installment in our inside sales series, we’ll be focusing on the elements that make up a strong inside sales training program. Whether you handle training in-house or bring in a third party, the following points will help ensure that the training is effective in providing your inside sales team with the knowledge and skills they need to represent your brand and successfully sell your products and services.
Know your sales style and goals
Success can look different from business to business. As a B2B business owner, the foundation for your inside sales training program is your sales philosophy. Here are some questions to help map out that philosophy so that it can serve as a guidepost for your training:
- Why are you offering the products or services you offer? What’s your story? What impact do you hope to have?
- How and to whom do you want to sell your products or services? Is your approach one that focuses on attaining a high volume of sales, or one that focuses on higher-end sales?
- What does success look like to you? Are you looking to make inroads into a new market? To bolster your share in an existing market? To increase upselling and cross-selling?
Your sales style and goals are, in essence, an extension of your values and mission, and thus key for establishing brand consistency and building trust. Once you are clear on this philosophy, you can make it a priority for everyone on your inside sales team to understand it and gear their efforts in support of it.
Understand and clearly communicate metrics
Knowing and communicating your sales philosophy is foundational to establishing your inside sales training program, but it’s not enough. Your team needs to know what metrics you’ll be utilizing to evaluate their performance, both in terms of which tasks and achievements are being measured, and what quotas they are expected to meet.
Many B2B business owners will establish KPI’s for their inside sales team that include metrics for productivity (time efficiency per task), lead generation (number of leads generated and qualified), and activity (number of interactions with prospects via email, chat, phone, etc.). Which metrics you focus on and the methods you employ to track them will depend on your business model and sales philosophy, but however you design your performance evaluation tools, be sure that your expectations are clear and that you are transparent in your tracking and evaluation process.
Make sure it’s inside sales training
This seems a simple enough concept, but all too often inside sales teams are shortchanged by new hire or ongoing training programs that focus on the broader topic of sales in general. The processes, techniques, technology, and methodologies of inside sales are unique, and need to be specifically and explicitly addressed if your team is to achieve any real level of success.
For example, a more generalized sales training may not go into methods for re-connecting with a call, or how to leave a voice message that has a better chance of being returned, but skills like these are a vital part of your inside sales team’s repertoire.
Incorporate hands-on training
To keep your inside sales team engaged — and to increase the likelihood of retention and capacity for transferring learned skills to real-life performance – design your training program with a mix of short informational modules interspersed with hands-on practice.
Generally speaking, long trainings that rely primarily on lecture are minimally effective in communicating content and facilitating implementation. Short bursts of content, sometimes called micro-learning, can be accomplished before learners lose interest and attention. When these are alternated with activities that simulate real-life application, like role play, your team will have a much better chance at not only remembering the content but internalizing the skills being taught.
Make training an ongoing commitment
No training, however comprehensive or effective, is a one and done activity. Design your training program to be inclusive not just of baseline or new hire training, but of consistent ongoing training that revisits previously addressed topics on a deeper level and introduces new techniques or skills as appropriate.
Ongoing training can and should utilize a variety of formats, from call reviews and role play to regular team meetings where a targeted method is presented and practiced.
Emphasize knowledge and critical thinking over scripts
It’s tempting to want to provide your inside sales team with a collection of scripts to ensure that your message is being communicated in a consistent way from call to call. However, if your team is overly reliant on scripts, they are limited to what they have memorized or are reading. Additionally, there is no way that any business owner can anticipate and make a script for every possible question, objection, or opportunity.
On the other hand, if your inside sales team possesses a deep knowledge of your product or service and is operating from the sales philosophy that you have clearly communicated, they have what they need to think critically in any situation, representing you in an authentic way that is more likely to engage and convert prospects.
A well-trained inside sales team is an increasingly vital part of any B2B business development strategy. A business growth strategist with the ability to see and articulate your unique business model can help you formulate a training program that positions your inside sales team for optimal success in generating, qualifying, and converting leads.
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