6 Takeaways from AA-ISP Inside Sales Leadership Summit

The AA-ISP Inside Sales Leadership Summit is in its seventh year, bringing together over one thousand individuals dedicated to the inside sales profession.  The two and a half day event is chock full of sessions dedicated to this growing field. There are so many options that it’s impossible to attend them all. Here are some of my takeaways:

Inside Sales is White Hot

Growth is still in the double digits, salaries are booming, and there were many teams at the Summit with goals to add 10, 20 or 40 reps THIS YEAR. That means competition for talent is fierce and the need to grow more leadership is urgent. With so much need, schools are starting to add sales curriculum. Companies need to think outside the box as far as skillsets when hiring. Which brings me to #2.

Coaching is the Big Differentiator

Training and Development is the Number One challenge for Inside Sales teams according to AA-ISP. Numerous sessions pointed out that Coaching is a key driver for success.  Good coaching on top of a solid training program improves results by 88%. On average, top performing teams provide  2 – 3 hours of coaching rep per week.

Step up the Recruiting Efforts

It’s a talent war out there. Recruiting and Hiring is a Top 3 challenge according to AA-ISP. With Inside Sales growing so fast, companies need to WORK to attract talent.  And it’s not just about money, it’s having a career track, creating specialized roles, and making sure your company culture is interesting and appealing to experienced talent and graduates alike. Make sure your recruiting efforts make the job look meaningful and offers a career path. Don’t start with asking them how many calls they made at their last job!  This is about storytelling. These days, sales development is a serious revenue contributing role with a lot of visibility and growth potential. Start with a phone screen when you start the hiring process. Show off the company to your candidates and include peers in the interview sessions. Make sure your hiring managers can convey your culture.

I Hear Pigs Flying

Ok, so that’s a reference to the “Oink” in Oinkodomeo. This impresses me a lot: inside sales and marketing are starting to get along well, aligning around ABS, or Account Based Selling which was a big theme.  ABS is a more focused approach that requires a much tighter alignment with marketing.  ABS teams have marketing embedded with SDRs (IBM’s Digital Sales team), or reporting to marketing (ServiceNow) and holding weekly and daily strategy and planning sessions.

Cadences go Beyond Phone and Email 

There was much discussion about being creative about the number and variety of ways you reach out to prospects.  Social was frequently mentioned as being an essential new part of the mix.  We also went old-school with hand written notes sent via snail mail coming up at least twice as effective “touches”.  And I have to make a note here that while we talked “social” it was pretty clear that while most reps use LinkedIn, I met many who were very timid or reluctant to try Twitter. Read about using Twitter in B2B Sales here.

Automation is BIG!!!!!

Inside Sales is all about scale and efficiency, though we were reminded several times to be careful not to automate the human out of selling.  Studies show that companies are investing heavily in sales automation tools (beyond just CRM) and that analytics is starting to come into play as well.  If you are still just using your CRM for communications, activity tracking and reporting, check out some of the excellent solutions that schedule and automated the steps in the cadence, and the new advanced dialers that mean your team won’t sound like a lot of robots. And when it comes to reporting, we are talking about some seriously advanced predictive intelligence to pinpoint potential prospects or what deals are most likely to close.  It’s all about the new sales stack.

If you didn’t make it to Chicago, do check out your local AA-ISP chapter. With more than 70 around the globe, I guarantee there is one near you.  Our local San Diego chapter is meeting May 10th – sign up and join our LinkedIn group to learn more and network with your local inside sales peers.