Building a Successful Inside Sales Team
Building a successful inside sales team goes beyond just who to hire. Companies looking to get their sales team off the ground have to consider factors such as structure, budget, training, tools, and more.
In this post, we’ll discuss how to build a successful sales team, from the planning stages, who to hire and how to hire, through training and setting your sales team up for consistent success.
Why Inside Sales?An inside sales team will help your company become a well-oiled sales machine. Using the power of modern outreach tools from phone calls to video meetings, inside sales team members work independently and cohesively to make sales. Inside sales teams continue to grow in popularity as technology develops. Many computer-savvy B2B buyers have become self-sufficient in researching purchase decisions—and also expect a more digital buying experience.
Before you start hiring: inside sales team planning
Map your sales team structure
Before you start the hiring process, map out your ideal sales team structure. Remember, this is a team. Automated tools cannot replace real sales team members.
Beyond having strong sales leadership, there will be other types of roles you will need to fit into your inside sales team structure to optimize success.
When creating your team map, you can think of the different inside sales team roles by remembering the “Triple S”: Sales, Sales Support, and Success.
- Sales: These are your sales representatives. Their job is to build relationships with prospects and ultimately make sales.
- Sales Support: These are your sales development representatives (SDRs). They help qualify leads, target new accounts, and follow up with leads in order to schedule sales meetings — so that the sales representatives can spend their time truly selling to qualified leads.
- Success: This is your customer success department, who works with your existing customers to ensure success and grow relationships. Keeping great relationships with current customers will only aid in growing business in the future.
It’s important to remember that the above must be different, separate roles. This helps each of your employees stay focused and be more productive.
Keep reading to learn more about inside sales team roles and what key traits to look for when hiring.
Consider your budget
Always keep your budget in mind when mapping your ideal team. How many employees you’ll end up hiring for each type of role will depend on what kind of product you sell, the size of your current company, and the amount of your budget allotted for hiring.
This is especially top-of-mind when hiring SDRs: an in-demand role which can be difficult to retain. You may want to consider the option of an outsourced team of SDRs versus building and managing that fraction of your inside sales team internally.
On annual cost comparison alone, let’s look at the differences between an outsourced SDR team versus an internally built one:
Outsourcing this portion of your inside sales team gives you the benefit of a team of qualified reps that you or your sales manager don’t have to hire and manage on your own.
This service comes at a predictable recurring cost — and gives you all the benefits of a team with the expert human touch, thus avoiding the pitfalls of sales automation software.
Hiring for a successful inside sales team
The most important part of building a successful inside sales team is finding the right people. Robert Clark from the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA ISP) emphasizes the importance of “People Development.” This is a balance of superb hiring practices and investing in your employees, optimizing your business’ financial value and making it a gratifying place to work. Plus, cultivating the latter can significantly aid the former.
When hiring for a successful inside sales team, think about two things: Who to hire and how to hire.
Who to hire for your inside sales team
There are a few roles common to inside sales teams of any size:
- The sales manager
- The sales representative
- The sales development representative
These roles are often supported by marketing and customer service roles. Depending on your business structure, these may be considered part of the inside sales team, or may be their own individual teams. Regardless, those roles are key for supporting the sales-driven core team. For now, let’s look deeper into those sales roles:
The sales manager/director
This role acts as the “brain” of the team, taking input from all the different parts of the sales “body” and using it to make decisions, lead, and help the team thrive.
Traits to look for:
- Strong leadership and coaching skills
- High emotional intelligence and great listening skills
- Gifted when it comes to attention to detail
- Expert at researching, forecasting, and strategizing
The sales representative
These are the deal-closers. They work together as a team and individually to build relationships with potential customers and sell your product or service.
Traits to look for:
- Friendly and personable, while still assertive and firm
- Optimistic and ambitious
- Disciplined and goal-oriented
- Knows how to use all types of resources (from the help of other team members to sales technology) to their advantage
The sales development representative
These are the prospectors. They make the first steps, which can later turn into giant leaps for your business. They prospect leads and set appointments so that sales reps can focus on selling to the most qualified leads.
Traits to look for:
- Creativity and adaptability
- Possesses a healthy sense of competitiveness
- Amazing articulation skills
- Coachability and potential for growth
How to hire for your inside sales team
During the hiring process, it may seem tempting to gravitate towards candidates with full resumes, long lists of skills and qualifications, and impressive business contacts.
While all these things are important, when it comes to making the final hiring decision, personality is just as important as experience.
Harvard Business Review says it best: “In sales, hire for personality, then train for skills.”
Define and build profiles for each of your prospective sales roles, based on a combination of standard desirable traits combined with traits of your business (its size, budget, and pre-existing internal culture, for example). Then, write job descriptions and listings based on those profiles.
Hone a streamlined hiring process — and never stop improving upon it. In any business scenario, it’s important for processes to be clear and firm, so everyone is on the same page, but also stay adaptable.
As you continue to hire, utilize your existing team members and other members of your company. Engaging your existing sale reps, other managers, and even company executives can be beneficial in determining a candidate’s best fit, as well as improving the hiring process overall as your company grows.
Finally, you should always be recruiting no matter what stage your business is in. Never close yourself off to a candidate who may be perfect for your team.
Continuous recruitment is one of EBQ’s main tools for hiring and maintaining a superstar team. As we discussed earlier, the SDR role is one of the best candidates for outsourcing. This lets you reap the benefits of an experienced team supporting your sales reps, while feeling far less pressure on your wallet and clock.
Building a successful inside sales team: The building blocks
As you start hiring and your team begins to grow, helping them thrive is the final key to building a successful inside sales team.
Set realistic goals and expectations
An open flow of communication regarding expectations for each team member will keep everyone on track, in sync, and moving toward increasingly exceptional performance.
Identify key metrics, such as:
- Outbound call count
- Leads and contacts generated
- Connection and conversion rates
- Closing rates and deals won
- Customer metrics such as average deal size, cost of customer acquisition, and more
SDRs have several quantitative metrics to track — and we’ve published a post breaking them down in detail. Read SDR Metrics That Will Make Your Team Successful to learn more.
Keep your eye on these metrics at all times. This not only promotes accountability and performance, but watching for trends in metrics from individuals and across the board can help significantly with setting healthy goals.
If a couple months go by and certain goals are consistently being missed, it could be employees’ performance — but it could also mean that goal was too aggressive and it’s time to rethink it.
Build a great onboarding experience
Onboarding and training new inside sales team members is an important area of concentration. Don’t underestimate the importance of a quality new hire onboarding experience to the quality of your team’s future.
It’s worth investing in your new hires’ onboarding, but a positive return on this investment may take time. In the timeline of hiring for the long term, this time may seem inconsequential. But for the high-turnover SDR role, time is of the essence—it takes about 3 months to ramp a new SDR from new hire to full productivity.
Considering the fact that SDRs tend to stay at the same company for a short amount of time, opting for an outsourced SDR team can save you a lot of time getting this type of new hire up to speed.
When you do onboard new hires internally, have a solid onboarding plan established that will help your new inside sales team members become experts in your product—without totally overwhelming them with information. Find a healthy balance between studying training materials and learning through experience.
Always Be Training
If you want your team to Always Be Closing, you have to Always Be Training.
Don’t just train brand new employees. Keep everyone trained, coached, and on the same page at all times.
Just like a champion sports team, your champion sales team needs consistent coaching to reach their full potential and to grow both as a group and individually. The development of an inside sales team’s talent is essential for their career success, and the success of your business.
The Society for Human Resource Management describes coaching this way:
“Coaching is frequently used to assist individuals as they prepare for or move into new assignments, improve work habits, adapt to a changing environment or overcome specific obstacles.”
Your business and your team will always be changing and growing, which is why it’s important to foster that growth rather than avoid it.
As with hiring processes, document your training processes and learn from the past to improve upon them in the future. Consistent training among both new and existing employees will ensure team synchronicity and productivity.
Give your team the tools they need to succeed
Integrating different sales tools into your team’s day-to-day can help them be more productive, keep track of work, and even help find leads.
There are many useful sales tools your inside sales team can use to their advantage. These include tools, such as:
- Customer relationship management and analytic tools like Salesforce
- Lead/prospect capturing tools
- Business intelligence tools for prospecting (read our handy guide to the Top 8 Sales Prospecting Tools)
- Webinar tools such as GoToWebinar and WebEx
Building a successful inside sales team is building the backbone of your business. With the right team behind you, you can grow your business and your profits exponentially.
Your inside sales team is on the front lines of sales and customer expectations, so set them up for success from day one. By making and nurturing the right hires and giving them the tools they need to thrive, your business will thrive, too.