Friday, 14 October 2016

Getting started with Inside sales

This is a post about my experience running an Inside sales operation in the somewhat choppy waters of India’s B2B market. Why I classify India as a “Choppy” market is due to the challenges faced on each aspect of a B2B sale, to name a few 

Low product awareness when it comes to new offerings in the market, amongst businesses
Low technology adoption rate amongst businesses
Extremely price conscious customers
Need for a face to face meeting, especially relevant for Inside sales teams
Limited channels of communication with B2B customers

So, how do you go about building an Inside sales organization?

Step 1 - Do you have any Inside sales process? Is it documented?

While we started out at Ozonetel with a sketchy idea on what should a rep do, we kept making trials & errors in the process. Finally, we have come up with an initial list of dos/donts and a process has been set-in place to standardize these efforts.

For a business in very initial stages, it might be difficult to identify the steps of this process and there might be a tendency to skip the entire exercise itself. This is a BIG mistake. Inside sales is a process driven operation – right from training, to pitching, to tracking, to closing, to customer success. And this process has to be uniformly implemented across the team for an optimized effort.

This is particularly true if you are in the SaaS business, as the LTV of a customer is directly impacted by a consistent effort & a documented process.

A sub-step needing mention here is the extensive usage of a CRM integrated with telephony. We use a sugar based CRM linked with our own product (Cloud agent Lite) to effectively track & monitor all customer interactions.

So now, you can set SLAs linked with opportunities, Hear what your reps speak, monitor all customer interactions in one place – Calls, SMSes, Emails, Social media.

Step 2 - Are you tracking the right metrics?
This is something we adopted late into our operations. Since we are in the SaaS business, tracking key metrics – LTV, CAC, MRR, Churn – are essential to be on track & to monitor progress.

While in the initial days, it could be a simple excel effort, there are readymade tools like Chartmogul which ease the tracking. Ideally, these metrics should be an output of your Billing software, for accuracy. 

We have elaborated further on this at -

Step 3 - How are you hiring & training your sales reps?
Before going out to hire someone, do you have the key competencies identified, that can help you select the right candidate. A candidate might be good in Sales – Achieving quotas, Good communications skills, Result oriented, but does he/she fit into your Inside sales setup? A process driven approach deeply linked with CRM adherence is a must for success along-with the patience to be persistent but not intrusive. There’s a ton of content on how to follow-up, on sites like (Hubspot – follow-up mail best practices), Sales hacker etc. Due to the lack of a physical meeting opportunity, the need to be professional & competent is higher now. Your prospective hire should have showcased some of these qualities to be eligible for joining you.

Training process too needs to be documented and a time set out for it every week or month. Training is not a onetime effort & needs to be continuously revisited.

Step 4 - Create the right sales pitch
How much ever we might train reps on processes, products, key offerings, competition comparison – it is imperative to have a Sales pitch in place. Depending on the product one is pitching, this can be clearly crafted or built on context.

In Ozonetel’s case, while Cloud agent Lite could work on a clear sales pitch, Cloud agent would need a more consultative approach. Eitherways, there are certain points which need to be communicated.

To classify, broadly

Small sales cycle (7-10 days) + > Average customer awareness – Have a clear pitch on what your product can do, highlighting the top 3 benefits which fit into customer needs. 

Longer sales cycle (>1 month) – This kind of a product would entail a product demo, detailed commercial discussion and multi-level approvals for closure. The sales rep needs to have a repertoire of efforts to be made at each stage. 

A typical Conversation flow would be 
Intro discussion – Understand clearly what the customer needs. Here the pitch has to be around – Building trust for your brand + Key features which the customer is looking for + Identifying key pain areas in setup
Product demo – Identify 3 key areas to focus on. Do NOT showcase the entire product and confuse the customer.
1st commercial discussion – Prepare a quote in line with what similar customers pay by – Vertical, Size of company, Professional management, growth plans, need for your product. Do NOT send a high quote assuming that customer will anyway bargain. Be reasonable, but FIRM.
2nd/3rd discussion – If the customer gets in a higher authority to negotiate, so should you. You could involve your tech. team also in these discussions.
Step 5 - How are you motivating & pushing your team to achieve more?
We have only taken baby steps here. Team meetings built around knowledge sharing & company updates – other than just reviews – is one such activity done to encourage the reps to learn from each other & other resources. 
One big step in pushing your team is to lead from the front.
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