Penoyer Communications has helped over 400 inside sales organizations accelerate their success. I have trained thousands of salespeople and generated millions in additional revenue for our clients.
Here, in brief, are 30 things I have learned.
1. The most important decision. The most powerful way you can improve the results of your inside sales team hinges on one critical decision: your decision to provide regular sales training and coaching
Coaching and training produce the best results when done weekly, even if only for a 30- to 40-minute session.
2. Motivate your inside sales reps to learn. When sales reps are motivated, the training sticks, gets used and delivers results.
Changing selling behaviors, like changing any habit, is dependent on the time and repetition only a motivated salesperson will give.
3. Empower your team. The second most important thing you can do is focus your sales training and coaching on the sales process.
Don’t hope your group succeeds, empower them to.
Running weekly coaching and training sessions with inside teams generates a remarkable increase in results.
Years of working with inside sales groups revealed that most failed to adequately empower their people to succeed.
4. Documented sales process. A carefully thought out and documented sales process is the most powerful tool for empowering salespeople.
A well-documented sales process will improve the consistency of your sales messages.
It pays to develop such a sales process document, which serves as a receptacle for your best-selling practices, critical sales verbiage, unique selling propositions, approach for handling specific competitors, and other critical sales arguments.
5. Top and mid management input. I’ve evaluated hundreds of groups only to learn that the wisdom of mid and senior sales management rarely rolls down to the salespeople.
It can be enormously profitable to construct a system where the best known selling practices are deliberately transferred to your salespeople.
6. What to teach? Which sales methods should you use? Do the methods match the organizations sales process? Are their known industry or company best practice’s inside sales reps can benefit from?
You’ll get the best results when your sales training revolves around the sales process rather than around specific selling techniques.
The best way to determine what salespeople need to know is through the sales process itself.
7. Understanding the why. Years of experience reveal that many salespeople don’t know why they are doing what they do in the sales process.
Most salespeople flub techniques because they don’t completely understand why the technique is used and how it works best.
Don’t just teach techniques, teach why. Their gut level understanding will come through in their presentation as confidence and finesse.
8. Give salespeople something that works. One of the best ways to motivate salespeople is to give them something that works, something that helps them sell better or easier.
It need not be sophisticated, a simple technique that works well will do the trick.
The benefits are remarkable: they get more sales; they’ll become more open to other ideas; they’ll try what you tell them, their motivation will skyrocket.
9. How to teach? You won’t find any method that produces better or faster results than instruction through live calls.
Role-playing, exercises, and techniques based instruction all pale in comparison to what you can achieve through group analysis of live (recorded) calls.
Hearing and experiencing live call examples as the basis for understanding strategy and tactics has the most impact on students. They tend to remember live examples, so the training is meaningful and ‘sticks’.
I call this “tactical training.”
10. Study and learning technology. Adhering to the principles of study technology has proven a profitable practice.
Two Learning Tech Keys
a. Clearly define all sales terms and be certain all participants understand those definitions. Confusion, caused by misunderstanding terms, has been scientifically proven to inhibit the student’s ability to execute.
b. Effective learning is dependent on “MASS” – the presence of what you are studying. Using live call analysis brings “real” selling into your training. It’s like the difference between teaching a farmer to use a tractor using pictures instead of learning on the actual machine.
11. Tactical Sales Training. Training focused on present time strategic and tactical errors provides contextual learning. Training is more effective as students don’t have to convert classroom theory to workplace application.
And it generates the fastest results.
These easily correctable weaknesses in your sales process and presentation won’t be found until the larger problems are identified and corrected.
One of our clients discovered a two-word phrase in their cold call presentation that was causing prospects to disengage.
But we failed to detect it – or identify its negative impact – until we eliminated the more basic errors.
Removing the phrase resulted in a double-digit increase in results.
12. A word about scripts. Scripts have great value in the correct and effective delivery of a sales process.
I have numerous clients achieve significant revenue increases from a simple overhaul of their message.
I recently revamped a script that produced a 97 percent increase in the closing ratio of appointment calls to CFOs!
The most common problem with scripts is they aren’t completed in enough depth, and they are produced in “written” rather than “spoken” English making them awkward, uncomfortable (for the caller and the recipient of the call) and all but useless to salespeople.
What works selling on the phone
Sadly, this subject virtually ignored by sales trainers, books, and courses on telephone selling.
Communication breaks are the most common error I’ve observed. These breaks occurs when the cycle of communication is not properly completed.
Repeated breaks act very much like static on a radio station, causing the prospect to change the station (disengage).
14. Voice. How inside sales reps use their voice to communicate is often more important that what they say.
Buying always starts as an emotional decision, and voice is the transmitter of emotion in telephone selling.
15. Attitude. The projection of energy, enthusiasm, and passion on the phone increases sales results. Attitude directly affects voice.
And just as a smile begets a smile, a positive seller is likely to get a positive response.
Sellers should note the words of marketing genius David Ogilvy:
you can only interest them in it.”
16. Prospect’s voice.It pays for salespeople to know how to key into and use the clues in the prospects voice.
The prospect’s voice always delivers important clues. The seller trained to listen can use those clues to their advantage, every time. Rarely will prospects hide their attitude.
17. What she didn’t say. Prospects frequently refrain from sharing information.
Research proves more questions equal more success.
It is critical for inside sales reps to know how to listen to what is not said. Even common answers to simple questions often hold a wealth of opportunity for the astute seller who recognizes what information was withheld.
18. The right subject. The primary subject of a sales conversation should be the results of buying, not what you’ll do if they buy.
Shockingly, 90% of the salespeople conversation’s that salespeople have with prospects are about what they and their company will do if the client buys, not the benefits the prospect will realize.
Salespeople became far more effective when they stop talking in features, advantages and actions, but instead focus on the results the client seeks for his investment.
19. Unique selling proposition. Salespeople are more successful when they employ quality unique selling propositions (USP).
Most sales and marketing organizations don’t fully understand the concept of the USP. And most salespeople offer platitudes instead.
I believe the USP may be the most misunderstood concept in sales and marketing. Most sales organizations would profit from the development of good USPs.
20. Get your benefits straight. I have seen salespeople struggle over and over again – and lose opportunity – because they don’t clearly understand the concept of and convey “real” benefits.
It’s profitable to teach salespeople the correct definition and use of the term “benefit.”
“A benefit is a feature or advantage of the product or service the prospect has requested.”
It is the request for something that makes it a benefit, not what it does. Most salespeople get this wrong.
21. Correctly frame your offer. Most salespeople frame their offers (value) poorly and in the same words, phrases, and platitudes as the competition.
Additionally, those offers rarely focus on the prospects’ desired results.
To separate yourself from the competition, your offer must be unique.
What works in managing inside sales
Sales management typically believes that experienced reps know how to cold call, but reality rarely supports that assumption.
Don’t assume, observe.
23. Never assume they’re doing it right. Most inside sales managers are surprised to learn what their salespeople are doing in their calls. In fact, managers are frequently astounded to discover their salespeople aren’t selling.
It pays to regularly observe live calls. Without direct observation, you can’t know what your salespeople are actually doing or what your prospects and customers are saying.
24. Productivity goldmine. Salespeople rarely do all they could. There are numerous reasons but the two most important are that, one, they don’t think about it, and two; they don’t know how to improve this area.
You’ll find great profit in looking at productivity improvements you can employ with your team. Improving productivity can deliver a double digit increase in results without teaching a single sales technique.
Productivity improvements are the easiest to make and potentially provide double digit improvements in results without any additional selling skills.
25. Hire motivation. The most valuable trait a potential salesperson brings to a job is motivation – it will often trump skill and experience.
If a salesperson has a specific motivation to take your sales job over others, they are highly likely to succeed. Look for candidates who have a personal reason to take the job (they believe it’s a perfect fit or they’ve loved and have used the product or service themselves).
26. Make hiring easier. When you build a “selling system” that works, you will be less dependent on individual skill and current abilities of your new and current team members.
It is way easier for a sales rep to learn and execute a well-documented and proven sales process than it is to figure out how to sell the product herself.
Your “selling system” will raise the competence of everyone in the organization.
What works with CRMs
Make usability a key decision factor in choosing a CRM and you’ll have much greater success with its implementation and use.
CRM Selection Steps
1. Start with a detailed plan for using the CRM.
2. List the daily tasks salespeople will execute.
3. Then have each of your vendors demonstrate (in real time) exactly how their CRM handles each of the tasks your salespeople perform on a daily basis (Usability).
Comparing CRMs usability allows you to see how it fits into your sales process. Ease of use is a proven factor in getting sales reps to use the CRM.
Assuming your sales process is sound; don’t change it to suit the CRM. Instead, find the CRM that best supports your process and makes the salespeople more productive.
28. Using a CRM. There are three critical tasks salespeople need to get right when using a CRM.
One. Copy and paste the content of all correspondence to the notepad. Having the flow of communication is valuable in following up and in writing the next message and for knowing exactly what the prospect said.
Two. Have the minimum number of fields possible for sales reps to fill out. Add too many fields, and most won’t get filled in.
Three. Clearly document what data belongs in each field so sales reps can fill it out correctly. Create a document with precise field definitions each rep can refer to.
Four. When they make notes about the conversation have them include information about the prospect’s attitude and personality.
For example, knowing the prospect was “cold” in the previous conversation is valuable to constructing an approach.
Doing these four things improves the quality of your CRM data and your ability to sell.
What works for proposals
The best proposal is the one the prospect wants. Ask the prospect what they’d like to see in the proposal and which format they’d prefer.
Then give it to them. After all, it’s their proposal.
30. Proposal headline. Don’t call your proposal “Blah Blah Proposal for CXY Company,” rather title it using the main benefit the prospect seeks, “Raising the Revenues of the Subscription Group.”
If the prospect is getting multiple proposals, this is a great way to differentiate yours from all others.
Is this all I know?
These findings apply to most categories of products and inside sales models. But not all.
Penoyer Communications has developed a separate and specialized body of knowledge on what makes for success in telephone selling and specifically on what sales management can do to drive that success.
But this special information is revealed only to the clients of Penoyer Communications.
To learn more, send your questions hrer here or call me to set up a private meeting to discuss your specific sales objectives.
PS: I have put this article up as an experiment. I would love to hear from you as to its value. Please send me a note.