Success in most businesses is built around sales, typically including either an inside or outside sales force -- or a combination of both.
Inside sales typically include communicating with customers remotely, whether via telephone, email or any of the many other remote sales tools. Outside sales are executed in person, usually outside the company's office.
Since I've never built a business that required an inside sales force, I've enlisted the help of Mark Roberge, chief revenue officer at HubSpot, a Cambridge, Mass.-based inbound marketing software company that has rewritten the rules on inside sales.
Over a period of six years, Roberge increased HubSpot revenue more than 6,000 percent and expanded the team from one to 450 employees in multiple countries -- so yes, he knows what he’s doing, and HubSpot, which recently closed 2013 with over $77 million in revenue, has become wildly successful as a result.
Upon talking with Roberge, it was immediately apparent how organized his processes at HubSpot had been. There are four very defined tenets that he has built the inside marketing team around and he rattled them off like he’d done it a million times before -- which I’d be willing to bet is pretty close to accurate.
It was clear that the following attributes aren’t just talking points, but considered doctrine at HubSpot. I’m confident that you could ask any inside sales rep about them and receive a nearly identical, yet equally fluid response.
1. Invest your time in social influence, not cold calling. This is a thought that would typically go against that of an outside sales force. After all, it is a numbers game and the more attempts you have the more likely you are to have a sale -- or at least that’s the thought.
But the reality is consumers don’t consume like they used to and, according to Roberge, “buyers are less receptive to interruptive marketing.”
Not sure how to become a social influencer? Not to worry.
“Rather than cold call 20 hours per week, try investing a few of those hours in social media where your target prospects are conversing," Roberge says. "Read the same blogs, follow the same people on Twitter, join the same LinkedIn Groups and actively comment, re-tweet and participate. Make your comments smart and add value. These efforts will get you noticed by your target buyers better than cold calls and will position you as a trusted advisor in the industry.”
2. Always be helping, not closing. Whether you believe it or not, the days of the "Glengarry Glenn Ross" sales approach are over.
“You can’t just pick a list of targeted customers to call with your elevator pitch,” Roberge says. “That doesn’t work anymore because consumers are too educated and rarely appreciate or respond positively to a hard close.”
The reality is that you must become an absolute expert in your given space so that you can answer any question or adapt to changing circumstances, while taking the approach that you are there to provide the potential consumer with the help they require so they can make the best decision for them -- which isn’t always the best decision for you.
3. Crave and experiment with technology. We are constantly bombarded with new technologies that are built to cure pain points and overcome inefficiencies.
Roberge attests that you must “absolutely crave new technologies in order to constantly streamline your business,” as it’s these technologies that can play a huge role in the innovation required to “make your selling more efficient, whether that's the Signals product, social-media management tools, data modeling, etc.”
4. Become a data nerd. Part of the benefit of the constant pursuit of new technologies is that they often provide us with new ways to analyze or look at data.
“There are amazing benefits that come from understanding the data that developed through both technology and sales channels,” Roberge says.
If you want to create a team that excels at inside sales, they must absolutely love digging through the numbers to understand where they’re at, and as a result, where they can improve.
I can attest that the attributes Roberge has laid out are also very applicable to an outside sales force. It often comes down to clearly defining the culture that you’re trying to build, then hiring the right people to fit into the culture.
It is important to note, however, that as you begin building your sales team -- whether inside or out -- that they shouldn’t want to be social influencers, always want to help or love new technology and data because you told them to, they should love it because it’s built into their DNA.