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The 10 Most Common Mistakes Made By Inside Sales Teams

More and more B2B-focused organizations are leveraging inside sales team to support their sales and marketing objectives.  Some of these teams have proven very effective qualifying inbound generated leads; generating leads via cold calling; scheduling appointments for their field sales team; and even owning the entire sales process to close lower ticket sales.

However, many have struggled to get the impact they originally projected when they made the decision to launch an inside sales team.  This performance gap is often caused by one or more of these common mistakes:

1. Inside sales training is viewed as a training ground for field sales.  Let’s face it, the role of an inside sales person whose focus is to engage executive decision-makers in a telephone dialog to generate and qualify leads is very different than the role of a salesperson whose focus is to manage a long sales process and close business. They require very different skill sets.  The success of a field salesperson can’t typically be predicted by their ability to prospect.  Nor does the life of an inside salesperson prepare a person for the challenges that accompany managing a pipeline and closing deals.  

2. Focus on looking for sales experience in recruiting process.  The reasons this is a mistake are similar to those listed above.  Sales experience doesn’t equal prospecting success.  Field sales and inside sales require different skill sets.  Since many organizations don’t offer training to improve prospecting skills, you run the risk of recycling bad habits that your new team members bring with them from their previous employers.      

3. Training is scaled back version of field sales training.  Many organizations provide little or no training for their inside sales teams.  There’s usually a heavy emphasis on product training and very little focus on the skill sets that can actually impact their performance – i.e., getting past the gatekeeper; asking open-end qualifying questions; listening skills; overcoming objections, etc.     

4. Rely on head of Sales or Marketing to provide coaching.  Sustaining consistent performance improvement over time requires consistent oversight and coaching.  Vice Presidents of Sales or Marketing usually don’t have the time to adequately manage and coach an inside sales team. Time needs to be set aside to do KPI reporting; data analytics; side-by-side call monitoring; remote call monitoring; tape review sessions; feedback sessions; role playing; team brainstorming; goal setting; and performance reviews.   

5. Job Creep.  Organizations may start out with the best intentions of devoting inside sales resources to very specific sales and marketing objectives like qualifying inbound generated leads and scheduling appointments for the field.  Overtime, however, they start to assign other tasks to the team.  These are usually tasks that no one else in the organization has the time or desire to complete.  Organizations would be best served to hire a clerical person to perform these various administrative tasks instead of watering down the efforts of the inside sales team and causing them to lose their focus.

6. Aligning inside sales reps with field sales reps.  As alluded to above, tightly focused goals and objectives are critical to the success of an inside sales team.  Many organizations lose this focus when they team up an inside rep with a rep in the field.  The field rep will often start to dictate different tasks and direction to the inside rep.  Before you know it, you have a team of inside sales reps each pulling a different direction as they try to please the desire of their field rep instead of meeting the overall strategic objectives of the organization.

7. Don’t track performance KPIs.  Tracing performance goals like number of leads generated or appointment set is important, but it doesn’t give the entire picture of inside sales performance.  It’s also important to track key performance indicators like number of dials; completed calls; decision-maker dialogs; disconnects; and “no interests”.  It’s these metrics that will give a manager insight into why an inside rep might be struggling to meet their goals and provide coaching guidance to improve results.   

8. CRM isn’t set-up to track prospecting progress.  It makes sense that the inside sales team work in the same CRM as the field sales reps, but many CRM applications aren’t designed to capture the workflows and performance metrics of an inside sales team.

9. Building performance/business impact models on flawed data.  Goal setting is important.  Goal setting based on flawed expectations is foolish.  Many organizations try to extrapolate long-term inside sales performance from anecdotal estimates derived from the 1990’s performance metrics of their previous employer; input from their brother-in-law; or the results of last month’s 2-hour cold call blitz.     

10. No data management strategy.  Often the results of your inside sales team is dictated by who they are targeting.  Unfortunately, the decision of who is being targeted is often left up to the individual inside sales reps.  They are given the freedom to skip around the database and “cherry pick” who they want to call.  Usually this means that a third of the data gets called multiple times; a third get called just once; and another third doesn’t get called at all.

If you’re planning to launch an inside sales team, you will be well-served to avoid these common mistakes.  If you have an inside team already, but would like to improve performance, then take a step back and review your current operation.  Are you making one or more of these mistakes?


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