TALKING SALES 166: "Sales Challenge 7 - Effective inside sales"

John Smibert

"Salespeople should never pick up the phone and build pipeline" - A 'Talking Sales' discussion with John Smibert

How effective is your inside sales organisation? What percentage of the time are your inside salespeople actually selling?

John BedwanyJohn Bedwany told me that in his experience many inside salespeople are are only selling less than 25% of their time.

He believes these organisations have set up "an additional cost of coverage that doesn't yield" via their inside sales function.

According to John, most organisations if they separate the functions will need less inside sales people, will provide more value to the marketplace, and develop stronger relationships.

In this interview he explains why this is important and touches on how to do it.

The sales productivity strategies discussed here should be of value to CEO's COO's, CSO's and sales leaders.


John Bedwany is the CEO of The Database Dept.  He is a thought leader and a disruptive thinker who helps his clients achieve extraordinary productivity in sales and marketing.


John S.: Hello, I'm with John Bedwany again - welcome back, John!

John B.: Hi, John!

John S.: Hey John, we're going to talk about your challenge number seven in the B2B sales world, and that is how to get effective inside sales organisations.

John B.: Correct.

John S.: Can you give a definition of inside sales?

John B.: Sure. So people on their phones with a quota, selling a product or selling solutions.

John S.: Okay. What are the sort of issues you see in traditional inside sales?

John B.: Well, there's a couple of key issues, and it goes back to the point I've been making along the series. Anyone on quota should not be building their own pipeline, so I think that's the first thing we've got to fix.

John S.: You mean any face-to-face salesperson out there.

John B.: Or via the telephone.

John S.: Or via the telephone.

John B.: If you're on quota, they're trying to sell something, they're going through a sales cycle, so while they're not selling they're building pipeline, which means they're not selling, and while they're selling they're not building pipeline; either way it's not working, so we have to fix that. The second thing is with inside sales it's transactional, so people want to be sold to immediately. You can't have transactional solution selling.

John S.: And by definition, inside sales has been very much about let's take all the smaller, transactional type activity away from the real, large business-to-business sales guy so that he or she can become more productive, and then the inside salespeople sell those products. But you're really saying let's use inside sales in a different way to get more efficiency.

John B.: Absolutely. Again, let's look at the mathematics. If you have 10 inside sales people... and again, the research shows that 25% of their time they're selling, half their time they're building their own pipeline, quarter of their time doing admin, so you've actually got 2.5 sellers. So, why would you want to invest 10, when you get 2.5 performance? My suggestion is you've got to build a relationship with these people until they're ready to buy, then pass them over to the inside sales teams. You supersize your inside sales organisation, and you've got relationships with people that want to buy from you.

Inside Sales 02John S.: Okay. I'm really concerned about the lack of productivity that a lot of people have achieved with inside sales, and they think they're going to solve a lot of the external face-to-face selling issues they've got and so on and lift their productivity. In a lot of cases I've seen, that hasn't happened at all.

John B.: It's an additional cost of coverage that doesn't yield. That's the truth of it all, okay? So, again, I go back to the point that the experience that the people have that they're talking to is generally disruptive. Here's the typical example. You've got 1,000 companies you need to call, go and find out who the contacts are, start calling them, there's five different things you want to talk to them about... There's no structure, John.

John S.: Very tactical, yes.

John B.: There's no structure. And they are blitz days. "We need some pipeline, let's get 1,000 calls going to get the 50 leads." There's no structure. And at the end of the time look at the damage it does. 950 people said no.

John S.: In a B2C environment or maybe even a small-level B2B environment maybe that makes sense, because there's only one decision maker and you're going to hit them hard... even then it'd be nice to have start building relationships in a B2C environment.

John B.: So what's right with this picture? You've got a method of building relationships with these people that educate them until they're ready to buy, so when they're ready to buy they say, "I want to buy from you," and then we pass them over to the inside sales guys, who are subject matter experts that will then find the last mile with these particular buyers, and then close the sale. You need less inside sales people, you're providing more value to the marketplace, and everything's kept in a database that you guys own, which are relationships with the market.

Inside Sales 06 700x400John S.: So really it's exactly the same model you're dealing with your external sales guys with the inside sales guys.

John B.: Exactly.

John S.: Let's not waste their time and effort doing things that are not productive from a selling point of view, and let's help build a scenario for them so that they can then go in and actually win the business.

John B.: Exactly. Salespeople should never pick up the phone and find their own pipeline.

John S.: That's a big statement, never. You're saying never.

John B.: Correct.

John S.: Okay. Whether they're inside salespeople or external salespeople.

John B.: Correct. When was the last time a doctor called you, John, and said, "Hello, it's Dr John here - next time you're sick, come and see me!"

John S.: [laughs] The old doctor analogy.

John B.: Well, this is what the market wants, they're wanting to talk to subject matter experts that are not on quota.

John S.: Okay, alright. I think that's a very, very good message. A lot of strategic thinking needs to be put in to make this effective, and I know you've put a lot of thought into that. I'm going to have more interviews with you and we'll learn more about that.

John B.: Thanks, John!

John S.: Thanks, John!


More discussions with John Bedwany:



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Want to touch base? If you have questions please feel free to contact me - email: john.smibert(at), Phone: +61 404857893 or Skype: john.smibert

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