If you have an inside sales organization that handles pre-sales activities, one of the biggest threats to your team’s productivity is un-connected calling. Reaching prospects on the phone requires that reps identify their call list, check their notes before dialing, dial, reach voicemail, then finally leave a message or hang up to try again later. And after all of this, they’ll want to record their effort so their completed activities list is full at the end of the day.
You can see the waste in this scenario. It’s possible that your sales reps could get lucky and reach each prospect on the first try. But even once a connection is made, time is spent talking to prospects. That’s a good thing of course — if your sales reps are prepared with talking points, qualification questions, needs analysis questions, and objection-handling responses.
Then, after a call comes the follow-up. What was promised to the prospect? What is the next action item? When is it to take place? What occurred during the call? It’s not good to connect with a prospect and then fail with the follow-up.
The sales cycle itself is challenging enough without the added difficulty of scheduling and tracking all the activities that makes up an inside salesperson’s day. Fortunately, there are tools to help inside sales reps plan, prioritize, make, record, and follow up on calls.
ConnectAndSell says it is the world’s first guaranteed live conversation technology that delivers on-demand conversations or you don’t pay. What does that mean? It offers the capability for your own inside sales staff to speak with the exact people they need to reach.
They guarantee five live connects per hour or you pay nothing. Their technology allows them to dial off your list and when they reach a person on that list they do a sub-second turnover of the call to your rep. The prospect never talks with ConnectAndSell’s staff. Instead, the call goes directly to your sales rep without any noticeable click or indication that a call is being transferred.
ConnectAndSell delivers sales prospects to you live so that your sales reps can focus on selling — the very thing we mean when we talk about protecting the 215 days of productivity in a salesperson’s year. In the end, it should accelerate the process of connecting to new or existing prospects that your team is working to close.
The system uses a combination of patented switching technology and virtual sales agents so that when they connect to a prospect, the prospect believes that your sales rep has made the call.
They charge $275 per hr and offer volume discounts. That may seem expensive, and for some it might not be worth such an investment. However, if your organization relies heavily on outbound calling, it could be the very thing that shoots productivity through the roof.
InsideSales.com is lead management and phone dialer software. It is integrated with Salesforce.com CRM but it can run without it as well. It has its own on-demand lead management CRM with built-in PowerDialer. The InsideSales.com Power Dialer is designed to load a list of leads or contacts to call one at a time. The rep will hear the phone ring as the system calls each number. InsideSales.com claims its PowerDialer is far more powerful than Click-to-Dial or manually dialing because the entire call is optimized with ‘power tools’ that automate mundane tasks.
The company cites a study conducted by MIT on its behalf. The study found, “Combining a hosted CRM lead management system with outbound dialers and inbound call routing opens up all kinds of new ways to increase productivity at a price-point that removes all barriers for any size company.”
In reality, I don’t think they needed a study to know that automating both outbound and inbound calling and tying it to a CRM system would save a lot of time and lead to increased productivity.
ShadeTree offers a guided selling system which it refers to as “thoughtful conversations.” For conversations with prospects to be effective, sales reps have to prepare for calls, engage effectively and record the results. ShadeTree aims to help with all three of these.
- Prepare for a call: Define the purpose of the call, research the prospect and plan the content.
- Engage effectively: In order to engage effectively sales reps need to know how to map their product benefits to the prospect’s business and what to leave in a voicemail if they don’t reach the prospect.
- Record results: And finally, to record call results sale reps need an easy and quick system for keeping track of notes, outcomes and next steps.
The benchmark measurement of inside sales effectiveness has traditionally been the number-of-dials per rep. That of course, is the easiest metric to measure. But it’s not the most important metric. It doesn’t capture the amount of effort required to make a call nor does it measure the “effectiveness” of each call.
If the number-of-dials per rep doesn’t give a true measure of success, what else is needed? According to ShadeTree it’s:
- The actual number of conversations taking place
- The number of qualified leads produced
- Learning what makes a lead rate as a qualified lead (i.e. decision maker, budget, timeframe, key MBO)
- Knowing which campaigns yielded the highest numbers of qualified leads
- Discovering which personas/roles generate the most closed opportunities
They won’t allow us to disclose their pricing so you’ll need to engage with one of their sales reps to learn more.
I’m mentioning ConnectNote here because I think it’s a useful application for inside sales. ConnectNote is basically video email. Any sales rep with a webcam can quickly record a video message and send it off to a prospect. Along with the video message, the rep can display a document such as a proposal, or sales literature.
It’s particularly useful to inside sales because it allows the rep to turn a sterile medium (e-mail) into a much more personal tool. Rarely are inside reps able to meet with prospects in person. When a prospect has never seen or met the sales rep, the rep is just a voice at the other end of a phone – hardly a personal connection. Once a prospect has “met” a sales rep, in this case to hear and see the rep via video, that rep becomes more humanized. It’s easy to be dismissive on the phone with a somewhat anonymous sales rep. It’s not so easy once the sales rep is seen as a real human being.
I envision inside sales reps sending a ConnectNote to thank prospects for their time on the phone and perhaps attach follow-up information. Or take it one step further and walk the prospect through the attached information using ConnectNotes’ built-in pointer and highlighter. You can synch your video to the attached document. It’s almost like being there in person.
ConnectNotes can be forwarded as well – just like any other email. No longer must you depend on the prospect delivering your pitch to his or her boss as effectively as you would have. Their boss will see you stating your case via the ConnectNote. You will know how many times your ConnectNote was viewed and forwarded by way of the online dash-board. ConnectNote records this information in the background. ConnectNote is an on-line subscription based service which costs $25/mo/user. Recipients do not need to subscribe.
Nancy Nardin founded Smart Selling Tools after a prestigious career in high-tech and IT market research sales. She is considered the leading expert on sales productivity tools.