I will never forget my first inside sales consulting job.
It wasn’t supposed to be that type of service. We were hired to provide prospect lists for a small tech business.
However, after I followed up with the client I realized how much room for improvement there was in the sales department (2 co-founders selling besides doing everything else) I couldn’t leave it at that.
My first inside sales team was in an enterprise, with clearly defined and transparent structure, solid processes and established metrics. So I assumed this is how it’s done everywhere…
Oh, how naive was I.
Not only do startups and small businesses lack established structure, processes related to hiring, on-boarding and sales organization while tech stack is underused or not used at all… but even mid-size organizations with resources readily available also make the same mistakes.
Today, after working with various SMBs and fast-growing companies, I am going to reveal some proven steps for building the right kind of inside sales team that your business needs to take it to the next level.
Your company can become the next money making machine by following the process we have outlined.
1. Structure Your Organization For Success
When it comes to structuring a sales team, there is no one-size-fits-all model.
For companies that are just starting with the inside sales model, the most recommended sales team structure is known as the Assembly Line.
This structure drove the Industrial Revolution and Ford’s famous Model T was built thanks to it. It was named for its linear structure and specialized process that divides the sales process for an organization.
In the sales world, that means that each step of the line is a specific core role of your inside sales team.
This structure reduces the complexity associated with the sales cycle, makes sure there’s a focus and helps to scale your team. You should try to specialize roles as much as you can in order to prevent confusion and redundancies.
When you are just starting out with this process, you can use a tool like LucidChart.
It allows you to map out the sales team structure and helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. This can be especially helpful in times of change.
If you decide to create an inside sales team based on the Assembly Line, here are the core roles with their main responsibilities:
Sales Development Representative – This person is responsible for qualifying inbound and leads from outbound email campaigns.
Business Development Representative – Responsible for reaching new markets and building new partnerships, contacting and qualifying outbound(cold) leads.
Account Executive(s) – Responsible for closing qualified leads (SQLs).
Account Manager – The liaison between an agency and its clients.
Most companies organize sales activities using these roles and responsibilities, but it is not always the case. For example, some companies do not differentiate between SDRs and BDRs.
Your inside sales process should look something like this.
2. Align Marketing and Sales
One of the key factors for a successful sales team is effective marketing and sales synergy.
Especially when you are targeting other businesses and you are looking to implement Account-Based Revenue initiatives. After all, both teams share identical goals – driving revenue and increasing profits.
A good synergy should consist of four important parts:
- Revenue Understanding
- Shared Goals
Let’s expand on each one in detail.
The first and very important step is to educate your marketing team on all things related to sales.
Marketing needs to understand the sales world and their way of thinking along with the main activities. The marketing team needs to have a grasp of what the sales process is like, how sales define their pipeline and what are the exact roles of other sales team members.
Once marketers hear how the customers talk, their thought process and what is important to them, marketing can provide more value for sales with higher lead quality and an optimized sales toolkit.
Just like salespeople, marketers need to embrace revenue conversations. If your goal is a faster sales cycle and increased revenue, you need to align your marketing team with your sales team.
Here are some questions that marketers need to ask their sales team members:
- What does your current opportunity pipeline look like?
- What is your average deal size and how can we help you increase it?
- How long is the sales cycle?
- What are the stages before and after creating an opportunity?
- Why are opportunities not closing?
Schedule weekly 30-min meetings so sales can give important updates and provide answers to the marketing team’s questions.
The lines of communication between marketing and sales need to be open. Even if it’s just a 30 minutes weekly meeting.
You can review the activity for the week for both teams, update the sales team on what marketing is doing, and vice versa.
In addition to weekly meetings, both teams can meet for a monthly review and talk about future plans for improvement.
Marketing and sales should have shared goals and aligned compensation.
For example, both teams may have a goal of increasing conversions by improving their sales funnel. A marketing team could help sales by creating better landing pages with more targeted content.
3. Identify Key Metrics and Set the Right Goals
When you first start creating your inside sales team, you need to figure out the specific goals you want your team to achieve.
SDRs have a lot of data at their disposal. This makes analyzing it a little bit overwhelming.
Your team should narrow the focus and create dashboard templates that can be broken into activity, pipeline, and revenue categories.
The most important sales activity metrics should include:
- the call connects
- phone time
- leads generated
- opportunities logged
The most important pipeline metrics should include:
- the number of open opportunities
- lead to opportunity conversion rate
- average deal size
- total pipeline
- the quarterly/annual pipeline vs. gap
And lastly the revenue metrics can include things like:
- YTD revenue vs. goal
- win rate
- the quarterly/annual forecast to goal
4. Decide What Constitutes a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
Sales and marketing should work together to define what a sales qualified lead (SQL) means to them.
The first step is to brainstorm your ideal customer profile – their background, industry size, etc. Once this is done, you will be able to better capitalize on your buyer’s pain points and solution that you are going to offer.
Here’s a great template that can help you create your ideal B2B Buyer’s Persona.
Your company’s website needs to have proper material that can be consumed for each stage in the sales cycle. For unqualified leads, this means that they can continue to learn more about your company and the solutions you provide.
On the other hand, a sales qualified lead (SQL) has shown intent to buy and is ready to meet in person.
For example, this person maybe:
- Responded to your cold email and asked a question about a product
- Contacted you via a contact form
- Registered for a webinar
- Revisited certain pages on the site multiple times
- Opens your emails on a regular basis
Both sales and marketing teams need to eliminate the guesswork from this cycle by creating a lead scoring system that assigns value to each action. You can create a lead scoring system with marketing automation software.
Below you can see a good example of a lead scoring system;
When qualifying leads, many companies use the BANT system (Budget, Authority, Needs and Timeline) which was pioneered by IBM.
If you opt for the BANT system, here’s how you can qualify leads;
If your prospect likes your solution but doesn’t have the budget to buy, they are not a viable customer. It’s the job of an Inside SDR to find out whether a prospect can afford your solution, before passing it on to an AE.
Note: in many cases budget is not the real issue – the culprit of missed opportunities is not presenting enough value. If you can add real value, prospects will find the budget. However, don’t confuse budget with lack of resources.
Before closing, an average B2B deal will usually require consultation by several decision-makers. However, even for deals that require only one decision-maker, inside SDRs need to make sure they are speaking to the right person.
If the prospect has a need for your solution he should be assigned as a high-qualifying lead.
Some prospects are not ready to buy immediately. Before handing the prospect to an Account Executive (AE), an Inside SDR should discover what a prospect’s timeline is.
5. Decide How Many Opportunities You Need Per Account Executive
The whole point of having an SDR team is to keep your AEs busy by sending them a high number of opportunities.
You should consider how many opportunities each AE on your team should work on per week.
For example, if AEs conduct 5 demos per day in order to win 35% of their opportunities, you know how many demos AEs need to do in order to achieve growth.
You may find that you will need to hire new AEs in order to hit your overall numbers, in case your current AEs cannot handle the opportunities that are sent their way.
This entails another question – How many SDRs will you need?
Knowing how many meetings each AE needs in order to close deals will help you bring a decision about the number of SDRs you will need.
You can calculate how many calls your team makes per week, the average conversion rate for calls to meetings, and extrapolate from there to set activity goals.
The following formula is a good way to figure out the number of SDRs you must hire.
Total SQLs Needed ÷ Individual SDR Quota = Number of SDRs Required.
Divide the number of SQLs required by the quota you have set for the SDRs in order to determine how many SDRs are necessary.
Startups and companies that are just starting with the inside sales model should hire two inside SDRs first. Hiring in pairs allows you to compare the performance of each SDR. They can also be used for testing different methods and strategies.
6. Improve Your Hiring Process
Just like you are on the hunt for prospects who are an ideal fit for your product or service, you should look for the right representatives when hiring.
You need to identify salespeople who have the ideal skills and experience for your company.
Identify key competencies for each role and create attractive job descriptions that will attract attention. Consider adding salary information in job descriptions as that will filter out the salespeople you cannot currently afford.
But once all those applications start coming in, how do you select the right people?
Before you invite someone to an official interview, do a phone screening first.
Inside sales require great phone communication skills and this would be a good chance to test those skills.
If they make it through this pre-selection process, meet them in person.
David Mattson, a keynote speaker and sales leader, recommends the SEARCH method for evaluating candidates. SEARCH stands for:
- Skills that a candidate needs
- Experiences from their past roles
- Attitude towards work
- Results they have achieved so far in their career
- Cognitive skills in everyday situations
- Habits they need to have in order to excel at the position
Questions are another important aspect of the hiring process.
Here are a few specific sales questions you should ask job seekers:
- How do you handle sales objections?
- What is your least favourite part about sales?
- What motivates you?
- What do you think our company could do better?
- What’s the best way to establish a relationship with a prospect?
- What are your career aspirations?
7. Establish a Good Onboarding and Training Plan
If you want your business to grow, you need adequate sales training for new hires, but also the more experienced members who can expand on their current skills.
Many companies assign peer mentors to the new hires which guide them through the first two weeks in the company. A newbie should be paired with a more experienced person which makes the whole experience less nerve-wracking for new people.
Here are some effective strategies that you can use for having a consistent and great training plan:
1. Put Together a Resource Library
There is an unlimited amount of resources available on the best sales techniques.
Look for blogs that go into detail about tactics and strategies proven to be effective. It never hurts to learn from the best. Here are some phenomenal blogs to check out if you don’t already know any:
You could make a centralized hub of some great articles which can be easily accessed by your team members.
2. Embrace e-Learning Platforms
e-Learning platforms are becoming a go-to choice for many companies when it comes to educating their team. The biggest advantage is that your team members can educate themselves wherever they are. Training can be chosen separately for each individual team member which means they can move at their own pace and expand on skills they need.
Multi-day sales events are becoming a waste of money for companies as well. A study found that 50 percent of what is learned is forgotten within 5 weeks. That makes this method extremely ineffective.
3. Provide Detailed Feedback
Real learning happens in the workplace. Both new and existing team members need to hear the feedback from the more experienced salespeople. A constant flow of information coming into the team means that settling for the status quo will be less likely. Instead, your salespeople will look for ways to improve their performance and become more successful.
You can monitor calls your Inside Sales Representatives make and provide timely feedback. That way they can analyze their performance and see where they could do better.
Incorporate weekly or monthly feedback sessions or any other approach that works best for your company.
8. A Compensation Plan for SDRs
One of the most important action for any company is related to crafting a good compensation plan. You should strive to balance employee motivation, retention, and profitability.
A good rule of thumb when crafting a compensation plan is to start with a base and a maximum of two other variables.
Here are the most important variables you should consider:
- The Base your SDR will get regardless of work performance
and the maximum of two other variables:
- Meetings Scheduled
- Meeting Performed
- Qualified Meetings
- Pipeline Created
- Revenue Generated
A great way to figure out the salary base is by looking up for salary information on websites such as Glassdoor. Below you can see average salaries for Inside SDR role in major US Metropolitan Areas:
A compensation plan can also consist of some non-financial rewards. If you are not sure where to start, here are some fantastic employee reward ideas.
You should also consider commissions. Their purpose is to motivate salespeople to do better work, maintain high quality for your meetings, and retain high performers.
Commissions should vary according to your target market and company stage.
You don’t want your SDRs leaving the company for a 5k increase in base salary somewhere else.
If you want to retain your best people you need an amazing commission structure in place.
Most compensation plans for inside SDRs are comprised of a base and a bonus.
Here’s how you can structure a bonus for your inside SDRs:
Accepted Opportunities – This means that 65 percent of an inbound sales rep’s bonus should be derived from accepted opportunities.
Opportunity Revenue– 25 percent of the bonus should be tied to revenue that closes. This motivates inside SDRs to source high-quality opportunities.
SLAs– Finally, 10% of the bonus should be tied to hitting SLAs. These are the activities that are expected of inbound/outbound sales reps. They should be clearly defined in their compensation plans. For example, one of these activities can include following up with every inbound/outbound lead at least eight times and more.
9. Create the Right Culture
Your company culture is a reflection of your organization’s mission and what it stands for. If you can provide a pleasant work environment that your salespeople enjoy spending time in, it can help improve their sales performance.
According to a report by TruPath, nearly 64 percent of salespeople feel like they don’t have a strong work culture.
Now you see how the right company culture can make a difference when it comes to retaining employees.
In order to create the right company culture, work together to treat others with the same level of respect that you want to be treated with. Also, there always needs to be an element of caring about each other. You are all in it together.
Thriving company culture is also centered around the same vision for the company. Each person is aware of how their contribution is helping that vision become a reality.
If you are a new company that still didn’t decide on its core values here are three important questions you have to answer:
- Why do we exist?
- What are our values?
- What is our vision for the company?
Start with these and focus on your culture as early as you can!
10. Avoid Micromanagement
Micromanagement rarely works and more often than not, it just puts salespeople into high pressure make or break situation.
It’s true that some salespeople are not hitting their targets because they are not doing their job properly. However, many salespeople are trying their best. They might be struggling because they didn’t have the proper training or because of some personal circumstances.
You need to lead a team in a way that inspires and motivates them to achieve top results. Also, remember that not every person has the same approach to sales and to work like you. You may think that micromanagement is a good way to solve this issue but it is not. Remember, there is more than one way to sell effectively.
Sometimes failures are understandable. It is important to be sympathetic and determine the cause of a problem before you start micromanaging your team.
Nobody is perfect all the time.
11. Use Selling Tools
Inside sales representatives need tools in order to be successful at their jobs.
To help you choose the best one, we have compiled this list of essential tools.
Inside sales representatives spend most of their time on the phone and the internet – chatting with prospects and interacting with existing clients.
That’s why CRM software is crucial. It allows you to store all your customers’ and prospects’ information, track activities, and see the status of every lead.
CRM software can also save a significant amount of time that would otherwise be spent on data entry, writing emails, researching leads, etc.
Sales Engagement Tools
With an email software, you can see when a prospect clicks, reads or opens an email. That can give a powerful insight into your email campaigns and it can help you determine their success rate.
Lead Generation Software
Lead generation software helps you generate leads for your company. These are the tools that help you collect data on your prospects such as who visited your website or contact information page.
LeadFeeder is a great lead generation tool.
Besides CRM and other sales tools, there are some other productivity tools that can empower your inside sales representatives to do more.
12. Develop Effective Phone Scripts
For an Inside SDR, the first call is always the most challenging one. That is why having an effective inside sales call script can be a great first step in converting your conversations into revenue.
A good script should have three important elements:
- Positioning Statement
Let’s dive into each one:
Start the introduction by saying your name and company you work for. You should sound confident and avoid mumbling if you don’t want the call to end poorly.
Try to resist the urge of pitching too fast. This break also gives your prospect a short time to get used to the conversation.
A good way to catch your prospect’s attention is to try to connect with them on a personal level or show them that you are familiar with them and their company.
Here are some good starters:
- [Prospect name], I see you went to [university]. How did you like it?
- You’ve been at [company] for [X years]. How did you get started there?
A positioning statement should show your prospect that you understand their pain points and challenges they face on a regular basis.
Avoid talking about yourself, which is what most cold callers would do.
Listen actively and ask questions. Once you learn valuable information from your prospect you can start building your pitch.
13. Record Calls of Your Inside SDRs
Recording your sales calls can instill the skill of active listening among your team members.
Managers should review calls one-on-one with their reps and help them identify key opportunities to improve their conversation skills.
This will lead to better performances by your Inside SDRs.
Recording calls won’t only help with improving the performance of your Inside SDRs. It can also provide valuable information on your product’s features that maybe weren’t well documented. If that was the case, the team will face problems conveying the key message to their prospects.
Your company can set up a knowledge base that contains top-tier call recordings so that the entire team can use them as a learning resource. This is especially helpful for new team members.
Utilize a tagging system in your knowledge base so reps can quickly find what they are looking for.
If you’re ready to start building an effective inside sales team, we can help you make the future foundations of it.
Our team at Market Republic can dive deep into the infrastructure of your sales team, conduct a gap analysis, map the entire process and give practical recommendations.
Get in touch and let our experts create, manage, and scale the entire pre-sales process for you.