The interview process by definition is an imperfect process.  You spend relatively very little time together and then get married.  Many inside sales teams are made of low-cost resources and so the interview process is even shorter.  For an inside sales candidate, there’s nothing worse than being a week into the job and then saying “man, I wish I would have asked a lot more questions during the interview process!”  Of course, for the hiring manager, making a mis-hire is very costly.  Over the last 10 years I’ve interviewed hundreds of inside salespeople and I’m stunned at how poor the questions are that candidates ask.  Here’s a list of 17 questions you should be asking when you’re going for that next inside sales job:

  1. If I get the job, what will earn me a "gold star" one year from now?
  2. How am I measured as an inside sales rep?
  3. What other inside sales team pose the greatest threat to this company and why?
  4. What’s your Lead Gen/Demand Gen process?
  5. Tell me what your company does around sales enablement?
  6. What’s one thing that’s key to your inside sales team success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?
  7. What is your vision for the inside sales team?  (this is a good question to ask EACH interviewer to see if they’re all on the same page) 
  8. In order to retain high quality talent, what do you guys do to keep it fun for the inside sales team?
  9. What do you love best about the culture of the inside sales team here?
  10. What characteristics does the ideal inside salesperson possess here and what is the strategy to attract that talent?
  11. What challenges am I likely to face?
  12. How does your company utilize scripts or outlines if at all?
  13. What’s the inside sales process here look like?
  14. Tell me about the coaching your inside sales reps receive on a regular basis
  15. What are the most common complaint inside salespeople make about your company culture?
  16. What inside sales metrics (forward looking and resulting) are going to be most important to you?
  17. How good of a fit do you think I am for this inside sales role?

If you ask these questions, you’ll not only impress the interviewer with your thoughtfulness (most candidates are NOT asking these questions) but you’ll have a better idea if you want to be an inside salesperson for their company….or not.

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under new managementCongratulations!  You’ve earned the title of Sales Manager.  Way to go!  So….now what?  If you’re anything like the typical manager, you didn’t get any sales management training prior to getting the promotion.  In fact, you were probably one of the top sales reps and your CEO tapped you on the shoulder to lead a team because of that fact (big mistake by the way).  You’re not prepared.  What do you do now?  Often times I get asked, “What are the three most important strategic tips you’d give newly hired managers to help them succeed within their first 90 days?”  Well…..here you go!

  1. Begin to work to understand what “Servant Leadership” is.  Most newly hired managers were most recently in an individual contributor role.  They think mostly of themselves and their needs and their goals.  The servant leader thinks mostly of their reps.  To quote Robert K Greenleaf, “[The Servant Leader makes] sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”  If you can become a servant leader, your reps will trust you and respect you which in turn will help you attract MORE high quality reps, which will allow you to hit YOUR goals.
  2. Start from the result you want and work backwards.  Stephen Covey writes in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.”  As you create a new team or take over an existing team, think about what you’ll want to accomplish.  What kind of reps do you want to hire?  What metrics improvements do you need to effect?  What problems do you need to solve?  Then work backwards with your solutions, strategies and tactics?  To often, new managers get immediately caught up in the day to day minutiae of being a new manager and forget to raise their head up and ask “what’s the goal?  what’s the target?”  If new managers will begin with the end in mind, this will help them focus and prioritize their activities.
  3. Learn to admit when you screwed up.  This is hard for new managers. Get over it. Managers need to realize that the buck stops with them.  If something their rep did wasn’t correct, and the manager didn’t communicate clearly about the policy or procedure, it’s on the manager.  Take responsibility and fix it.  If you screwed up a commission plan rollout, admit it and fix it. That honesty and admitting you’re wrong will pay dividends with your reps later down the line.  When things get really tough, your reps will KNOW you have their back and will do the right thing if you’ve made a mistake.

 

Kevin Gaither is a recognized Inside Sales Expert and hands-on Senior Sales Executive with an 20+ year track record of growing early-stage and multi-million dollar businesses. Proven success in attracting, retaining and leading top-performing sales teams focused on accelerating revenue growth.

Scorched earth?  Ever heard that phrase?  The one sure fire way to kill your chances of ImageEVER winning any business with a prospect is to react negatively and immaturely to prospect rejection.  Any top salesperson knows that you need to think about “Nos” as “Not now.”  And with that in mind, you look to the future.  You look for additional ways to get into the business.  You look for ways that you can become a trusted adviser so that SOMEDAY WHEN things change (not if things change), you’ll be thought of as the go-to person for your product or services.  S. Anthony Iannarino calls this becoming a Level Four Value Creator.  This is where you want to be.  I just received an email from a friend of mine that perfectly demonstrates what NOT to do when faced with rejection from a prospect.  I’ve removed the names to protect the innocent and this email comes from a salesperson at a large, leading provider of software and information services for tax, accounting and audit professionals.  Here’s the email chain:

From: Billy Bob Salesperson
Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:09 AM
To: Prospect 
Cc: Partner 1; Partner 2
Subject: RE: Billy Bob @ Vendor Follow up

 

What a waste of time following up with your firm.  A whole year of follow up and still can’t get a decent conversation or meeting. 

 

From: Prospect
Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:01 AM
Subject: RE: Billy Bob @ Vendor Follow up

Hi Billy Bob,

Thank you for checking in to see where we stand with replacing ATB.

We’re using Quick Trial Balance and it seems to be just fine for us.  I don’t think we need to investigate using Engagement at this time.

Warm regards,

Prospect Name

This guy is donezo!  Out.  I don’t care how great the product is, he’s never getting in to this firm ever….even IF things change.  So, what do you think?  What should have the salesperson done differently?

What is Inside Sales?

July 8, 2013

What would an Inside Sales Expert site be without a definition of Inside Sales right? What is Inside Sales?  I get this question quite a bit and while it seems second nature to me, I bears defining for all others.

Inside Sales is selling a B2B or B2C product or service in a remote or virtual fashion. This isn’t just selling over the phone any more. This can be also be selling through web demonstrations (GotoMeeting, WebEx, Join.me, etc.), or email or through Social Media.  Usually this is coupled with a High Velocity or Transactional sales model but not always.

Inside Sales can also encompass PARTS of the sales process.  It can include:

  • Lead Qualification (Inbound Marketing generated leads)

  • Lead Generation (Outbound Prospected leads)

  • Closing (the qualified lead is passed to this person to book the sale)

  • Account Management or Customer Success Management (very popular in SaaS sales models where all post sales activities like servicing, retention and upselling is handled by a separate person.

What do YOU think Inside Sales means?

What are your organization’s biggest sales challenges?

Get answers to your toughest questions from the top minds in sales at the Inside Sales Virtual Summit on June 20. This exciting online trade show features 62 sales experts, including 11 well-known authors.

It’s like getting an MBA in Sales Leadership in a single day.

Here is a sampling of the topics that will be covered:

  • Create Predictable, Scalable Sales Revenue
  • Best Practices of Sales Analytics
  • Building a Social Selling Culture
  • The Path to a Killer Marketing Strategy
  • Sales Training Negligence: Avoiding a False Sense of Security

Guy Kawasaki, Jeffrey Gitomer and executives from Accenture, ADP and salesforce.com are among the presenters in an All-Star lineup that makes up a Who’s Who in Sales Leadership.

It’s shaping up to be the biggest online event of the year for the sales industry. And you can attend all of the value-packed sessions at no cost.

Find out more and register online at http://www.insidesales.com/summit/register-speaker?a=ivs311

Whether you’d like to figure out how to generate more qualified leads, how to inspire and motivate your team, or how to use data more effectively, you’ll find answers from the top minds in sales at the Inside Sales Virtual Summit.

Every year for the past 4 years I get excited to go to the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals Leadership Summit. This year it’s being held in Chicago and I’ll be holding a Birds of a Feather Roundtable Session on “Hiring Great Inside Salespeople” at 7am on Wednesday.

As many of you know, this is a topic that I’m PASSIONATE about. I don’t care what great technology you have or how great your product is, if you put the wrong butt into the seat, you’ve still got problems.

The author of the book Never Hire A Bad Salesperson Again, Dr. Chris Croner, has graciously donated 20 books to contribute to this session (thanks Chris!).  So here’s the deal…

The first 20 people to join me at my roundtable session will get a FREE copy of his book.  So make sure you get your buffet breakfast and SKEE-DADDLE on over to my table to get your book and learn how to hire some killer inside salespeople!

 

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They say that “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I NEEDED a White Russian last night but we didn’t have any cream or half and half on hand and I don’t like putting 2% milk in my White Russians.  We happened to have a few canisters of Whipped Cream on hand (don’t ask) and with that, a new drink is born….The Whipped Russian!

There are several recipes out there that use Heavy Whipping Cream in their White Russians but the Whipped Cream out of a canister coupled with shaking it gives the drink a much fluffier texture.  It was right on the money.

No more talking, here is the recipe:

Pour

1 1/2 parts coffee liquor (e.g. Kahlua),

1 1/2 parts Vodka

into a shaker

put a handful of ice into the shaker

spray what looks like 1 cup of whipped cream into the shaker (just eyeball it)

Cover and shake until shaker gets frosty then pour into Old Fashioned Glass (with no ice) and enjoy!

Drinker’s Note:  The classic White Russian is NEVER shaken and only slightly stirred if at all.  

I know what you’re thinking “Are you out of your friggin’ mind?  Weekly performance reviews?  I hate doing performance reviews Annually, Semi-Annually or Quarterly and you’re suggesting doing them WEEKLY?  No way.”  I hate Annual reviews too and that’s WHY I do weekly performance reviews.  I actually call them “Coaching Sessions.”  Here are three reasons and benefits you get by conducting weekly performance reviews.

1.  You’ll gain TRUST with your reps

For me, it’s better to be trusted than to be liked by my reps.  And by having these weekly coaching sessions devoted to THEM, I develop their trust by listening to them, showing them empathy and giving them mentorship.  This is especially helpful if you’re managing any Gen Y.  They LOVE these short sessions because you’re helping to guide their careers.  There’s a great HBR article that gets more into detail on this called Three Leadership Traits that Never Go Out of Style.  You can’t develop any of these traits if you’re not talking with your reps on a regular basis.

2.  You’re be able to calibrate EXPECTATIONS regularly

IMHO, I think that most managers do a horrible job of setting crystal clear expectations and then letting their salespeople know how they’re performing AGAINST those expectations.  So if you DIDN’T do a good job of setting proper expectations when a rep started for you, you can take one of your weekly coaching sessions to set expectations around a whole host of topics (goals, performance, cross-functional communication, etc.).  People that work for you WANT to know where they stand and they don’t want to know once a year.  These sessions are GREAT when you have a top-performing rep and you get to tell them EACH WEEK that they’re doing great and WHY you think they’re doing great (the “why” is key of course).  They’re also effective when you’re dealing with a rep who is not doing well.  Ever seen a rep be surprised when you’ve had to let him or her go for not performing well?  These blind spots are uncovered during the weekly coaching sessions by letting them know that they’re not meeting your expectations and you can develop a plan to help them meet/exceed your expectations moving forward.

3.  You’re able to COVER YOUR BUTT with HR

Do you have a rep who is posing a problem?  Not hitting goals?  Harassing other employees?  Demonstrating actions that are not in concert with your corporate culture and policies?  Making lewd comments?  Wearing inappropriate clothing?  You MUST keep a running notepad for your weekly coaching sessions to write down the content of the conversations you’re having.  Did you give them clear directives?  What was it?  Did you address a particular topic?  What was it?  How did the rep respond to the discussion?  In today’s litigious society, having several documented conversations in your notebook will make it easier for HR to help you take action where needed and reduce your OWN liability as a manager.

3.5   Annual reviews are EASIER

Guess what?  I hate writing up annual reviews too.  But if you have 50 of them during the year and write down the content of those short 30 minute sessions, you’ll have TONS of information that will help you support and substantiate most of the sections of the annual reviews.  Here’s a tip, write your notes during the coaching session in an email fashion with a subject line that would read something like “RE: K.C. Jones:  Weekly Coaching Session 111512” and then send it to yourself and save it in their folder in your email.  Then you can simply CUT and PASTE content from any of the 50 weekly coaching session emails into the annual reviews.

So do it today, book a weekly recurring Coaching Session on your calendar for each of your reps.  Trust me from experience that if you spend the short amount of time each week with each of your reps, you’ll do wonders to improve the trust the rep has for you, calibrate expectations, cover your butt and make it easier to write that huge, dreaded annual review.  And in the end, this will result in overall improved performance for your team. 

Kevin Gaither (@kevinsgaither) is a hands-on Senior Sales Executive with an 18+ year track record of growing early-stage and multi-million dollar businesses. Proven success in attracting, retaining and leading top-performing teams focused on accelerating revenue growth.  Recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in Inside Sales by AA-ISP in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

A friend of mine was is on a job search and sent me over his resume for review along with this statement.

“If you think it’s good, please pass on to anyone who’s looking for marketing/product people.
Thank you”

My response?  The resume is fine. Your "anyone who’s" below needs work.  I know somebody hiring marketing people in Guam, want an intro?  Didn’t think so.

Anyone who is way too general.  I know your tendency is to think that you should cast as wide of a net as possible….not true.  In fact the opposite is true.  The more narrow you get, the more likely somebody can HELP you.  Here’s what you do instead.

Write your mission down. What are you looking for?  Where can these companies be located?  What stage are they?  What role are you interested in?  Who do you need to be talking to?

Try this:

“My mission is to find a fun, fast growing pre-IPO company in LA, where I can build, fix or grow a sales team as a VP or Director of Sales or a Sales Consultant (contractor part time).  Know a CEO or sales leader at a company like this that you think I can help?”

Nobody can help you with "anyone who" it’s too broad. Be specific and you’ll get what you want.

jobs1984

Questions for Steve Jobs

I remember being a kid in 3rd grade in the Bay Area and hearing about Apple Computers.  I also remember how Apple was so “school-friendly” and sure enough, many Apple computers ended up in schools.  Now many of my peers are devout Apple users.  Now THAT’S a long-term strategy.  Steve Jobs, what a visionary.  

His death touched me in a way I didn’t expect.  I was truly saddened by his death.  I had a hard time understanding why until this morning when I read this article in the International Business Times: 

“In the last few days of his own life, Steve Jobs had just one desire — that his family and children understand why he wasn’t always there for them all his life.”

For the past several months, I’ve read many tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates with quotes and videos and commencement speeches showing us how great Steve Jobs was.  The man was a genius business man and I could only hope to possess 1% of his business acumen.   

But through is death, I have many more questions than answers.  Some of my questions are:

  • Would Steve Jobs rather have been known as a great Father and Husband?
  • If Steve Jobs could change one thing about his life, what would it be?
  • Were the riches and business pursuits worth the family sacrifices?
  • Would Steve Jobs trade a biographer (so his kids would know him) for one more “Daddy-Daughter Night” or one more “Father-Son Bowling Event?”
  • Can you be extremely financially successful AND have a robust family life? (and I don’t mean financially successful FIRST and THEN the robust family life)
  • Is a healthy work-life balance a complete and utter myth?
  • If I died tomorrow, how would I be remembered?
  • What’s the measuring stick of being a good Father/Husband/Family Man?

What are your thoughts?  What questions would YOU ask Steve Jobs?