How To Scale An Inside Sales Team The Right Way

On Oct 11, New Voice Media, Salesforce, and Factor 8 attack the systems, process, and people challenges of scaling an inside sales team. Inside Sales is out-pacing field sales by a 10-15x ratio these days, so scalability is a common challenge to inside sales leaders. Don’t miss the webinar. Register here.

My job is to talk about the people angle – although a good half of my people suggestions are process suggestions! Allow me to highlight a few common pitfalls and a few additional resources to help you.

Pitfall #1: When you have a massive growth number, it will live or die in Rep ramp time (time to quota / paying for self / goal, however you define it). You’ll be creating projections to hit a 1.5x 3x or even 5x number and you’ll be doing it with headcount. That means your success hinges on the ability for your headcount to:

  • Be hired on time
  • Be trained on time
  • Hit goal on time

Tip: Really dig into your new hire training program, and start six months before your first hiring wave. Watch for signs of a broken onboarding program and take steps eight ways to whip your program into shape (*need link, did this get published on our blog or just salespop? I also want to put the link in the attachments of the webinar, so please send it to me when you have it!). Tip: hire a sales-focuces training leader NOW. Most new hire training programs need a LOT of work, and the good ones can cut your ramp time in HALF.

Pitfall #2: We don’t change our hiring process. Even if you on-boarded an awesome team that is with you today, don’t be fooled that you don’t need a few tweaks before pressure-testing your process for scale. We usually see it break in two ways:

  • The pool isn’t as deep any longer. We have a hiring crisis in our industry folks. Many companies stole great talent when they were new on the scene, but now they’re competing for headcount like everyone else. So even if the number of candidates / posting are similar you may find the depth of talent more shallow.
  • The hiring process wasn’t built for volume and is probably too dependent on your managers (but the slew of new hires on the floor will need them more too!). At launch these managers had all kinds of time to hire. If you triple your model (then double it for the shallow talent pool), how many hours / day will they be in interviews? Ouch.

Tip: Pull hiring out of HR – even if you need to re-appropriate a sales headcount. You need someone doing passive recruiting on the front end, AND who can really handle a phone screen for sales thereby freeing up your managers’ time. Final benefit? You can tie their compensation to the RIGHT hires and align your goals instead of fighting recruiting’s goal of straight-up bodies. I’ve seen way too many new hire classes filled with “live bodies” by recruiting only to have to re-hire that wave a month later. Sales leaders, make no mistake that this is how your hiring goals are perceived in a culture of scale.

Also check your hiring process. It should look like your pipeline with your managers involved only toward the final stages. Oh, and let them hire their own team, OK? (Managers, you can send your cash directly to the Factor 8 HQ for that tip).

Pitfall #3: Develop your Managers now. I’m watching a friend’s floor triple in size right now. They’re crazy-successful and swimming in leads. They need headcount to maximize the revenue. What they’re missing is strong leadership, definitions of what good looks like, and consistency among the management team. And folks, it’s being held together with duct tape and rainbows right now. These managers are soo (say it like a teenage girl) green. Everyone runs different reports, we all manage to a different sales process, there are seven disparate call methodologies, no one can forecast because pipelines are atrocious, teams are mixed and matched constantly (because managers are leaving the chaos!) and no two are managed the same. I’d say they’re all marching to a different drummer, but no one remembered to hire the drummer.

Tip: Hire a drummer. He is a series of documented processes (management cadence, performance improvement, sales handoffs, sales process to name a few) and then TEACH your managers how to execute against them. You and I both know these guys were reps five minutes ago. They need training. They need help being better bosses (or you’ll quickly wind up back at #1 hiring even more bodies). Reps join companies and quit bosses right? New managers are going to FLAIL in a rapid-growth environment, and your reps will be confused, frustrated, and complain about a lack of development – the number one reason reps leave. Check out this video for management training you need.

So, register for the webinar. It’ll be live on October 11th at 12:00pm EST. If you can’t make the live presentation, that’s okay. You’ll get the replay if you’ve registered.

Why Rep Ramp Time Lights Me Up (VIDEO)

In the twenty years I’ve been at this, I’ve found one singular topic that lights me up the fastest:

Rep ramp time.

I wish I could tell you that every client and every event focuses here with me, but the truth is they don’t. I’m a bit of an island on this one, but I think that’s only because we’re not all exactly sure just how much slow ramp is costing us (or could be saving us) – more on that in a second.

According to the most recent research from my friend Trish and her team at The Bridge Group (full report here), the average ramp time for an Inside Sales rep is 4.4 months. Let’s be honest, Trish works with awesome tech companies, and they’ve been doing Inside Sales longer than anyone. If you’re a distribution company, an outsourcer, big box retail, or manufacturing, chances are you average 6 months until Reps start paying for themselves (or “six months ramp”). If your training department is less than 5 years old and/or reports up through HR instead of sales, chances are you’re north of 9 months.

When you are spending 2-3 times the rep’s annual salary to onboard him, every extra week it takes to get him to start paying that back is a big deal. Especially when 1/3 to 1/2 of them will be gone within the year. So which costs more…attrition or ramp? Well this blog is about rep ramp time, so I hope you guessed it. Man I bet you were surprised. But wait till you hear how much more!

We modeled it for a little company called Microsoft.

They were hot about the cost of attrition with some outsourcers, so we ran a model comparing the cost of their industry-average attrition vs. best in class, and then compared that against their industry-average onboarding vs. best-in-class. It’s basically a magic wand question – If you could fix either, which saves you more?

Cutting the ramp time saved nearly DOUBLE than cutting attrition

(BONUS ALERT: help reps make money faster, you’re also going to impact attrition).

The money is in the green seat. The what? The cost of having your customers worked by a rep ramping. The same book or leads worked by a tenured rep produces double or triple that of a green rep. Multiple that by the six months that your rep is green. Ouch. NOW assume that 20-50% of your floor is “green” due to attrition, and we’re talking big dollars.

I don’t know your numbers (email me if you want to plug them into our model). But I’m betting big money that cutting your ramp time in half would be like adding an extra sales team to your numbers.

So, how do we do it? GET TO IT LB, right?

Well, I often like to blame your training team, but ramp time is a function of a lot of different groups: Are you recruiting the right candidates? Is your hiring process designed to identify the attributes that align with your most successful reps? Does your new hire training provide practical experience that mirrors what reps will see when they hit the floor?

Here’s one trick that I think is CRUCIAL to cutting ramp time: Use Call Recordings! But not the way you think. They don’t even have to be those green Reps’ calls; any calls will do. When used right, recorded calls simulate experience. Months and months of it! It’s the reason all Factor 8 sales training uses call recordings and live floor time: simulate real experience.

(Here’s the secret sauce folks)

Simulated experience is crucial because the key isn’t really about WHAT skill to apply. . . it’s about WHEN to apply it.

This is what takes so darn long to collect and thereby ramp.

So infuse it as often as possible using the Pause Game. Check out the video on how to do this:

(I think I filmed this one in my front courtyard, so enjoy the stupid plane overhead that just wouldn’t land!)

Personally, I’m a fan of hands on engagement from Sales leaders here. Have your Supervisors grab a bunch of recorded calls and pull your new hires into a room for a few rounds of The Pause Game. Then sign them up to do it every day during new hire training.

The more real life situations you can expose new reps to, the faster they can build up their bank of experiences. That experience bank is what will get them ramped and producing faster.
Man this was a long one. I’ll work on that. I hope this is helpful!

ACTION suggestions:

  • Forward this to your lead Manager / Supervisor and tell them to make it happen
  • Forward this to your New Hire Training Manager and tell them to make it happen
  • Ask both of them to invite you to the first one.
  • Email me if you want to plug in your own numbers or learn more ways to reduce your ramp

Here’s to you (and your ramp),
LB

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His stet corpora nostrum in, eu vel soleat ancillae assueverit, eos at everti inermis. Cu assueverit ullamcorper nec. Cu admodum sententiae vis, pri delenit placerat iudicabit id. Duo ne liber primis, eu vel meis idque. Eum quis homero perfecto at, no vel quot probo. Mundi congue ei vel, ne vitae admodum noluisse ius, aeterno quaestio argumentum ut vel.

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His stet corpora nostrum in


eu vel soleat ancillae assueverit, eos at everti inermis. Cu assueverit ullamcorper nec. Cu admodum sententiae vis, pri delenit placerat iudicabit id. Duo ne liber primis, eu vel meis idque. Eum quis homero perfecto at, no vel quot probo. Mundi congue ei vel, ne vitae admodum noluisse ius, aeterno quaestio argumentum ut vel.His stet corpora nostrum in, eu vel soleat ancillae assueverit, eos at everti inermis. Cu assueverit ullamcorper nec. Cu admodum sententiae vis, pri delenit placerat iudicabit id.

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