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How we see top inside sales teams rethinking their strategies

5 min readMarch 4, 2019

At Revenue.io, we spend a lot of time with inside sales, sales development, and business development teams. Our product is core to their success, so we invest in these teams by listening to their problems, needs, and goals, and then maximizing their benefit from our solution.

We keep a close watch on the trends across these teams, all of whom are top performers, because their success is our success, and if we can learn from them, we will collectively be better off.

Sometimes, these cutting edge trends are interesting to those who are not yet Revenue.io customers. Forgive the shameless self-promotion, but after implementing a powerful, game-changing tool like Revenue.io, your priorities change, and the world looks a lot different (in a good way).

For Revenue.io customers, common sales pitfalls that once dominated their time and attention aren’t even on the radar any more. The Salesforce CRM investment is maximized, because data quality is pristine. Rep productivity is faster and smoother than ever. The marketing team is content because inbound calls are properly attributed to campaigns. The list goes on.

Naturally, when game-changing things like these are introduced, management focus shifts from the typical, time-wasting discussions like “did you log your activity this week?” or recapping where time is spent to other, more meaningful priorities.

When these priorities realign, top performing sales teams rethink these three strategic areas: sales efficiency, skill improvement, and performance indicators.

The meaning of efficiency in sales is changing for top sales teams

If you believe talking about sales efficiency is cliché, your definition of efficiency is too narrow.

Conventional wisdom thinks of sales efficiency in a straight line. If a team is underperforming, the quick solution is automation of manual tasks as a cure-all. This idea suggests that if sales reps should spend less time on pointless tasks, and more time with customers, they will be more successful. In other words, they view sales efficiency like driving a car. When sliding in to the driver’s seat, they only think about the destination – no maintenance, no CRM logging, no hiccups.

Get in to the driver’s seat – drive to destination.
Get on the phone with a customer – drive to close the deal.

This is true, but it is also an incomplete analogy. Removing barriers to time with customers matters, but it leaves out crucial steps, and won’t realize the full potential that can come with focusing on related areas such as selling skill. A recent Harvard Business Review whitepaper best explains why:

“Unfortunately, simply increasing the amount of time your underperforming sellers spend with customers is unlikely to help much, and might actually hurt. Imagine a bad salesperson who has tried to sell you something; now imagine spending twice as much time with them.”

In other words, the “get-more-time-with-customers” type of efficiency matters, but only for great salespeople. All too often, sales platforms enable underperforming sales teams to call more leads and spend more time with customers, and the real problem of selling skills goes unaddressed.

“It’s just math” they say. They are trying to bludgeon their way to revenue, and it’s the harder way.

In many cases we win business from other sales platforms primarily for this reason – other players focus far too much on making customer contact more efficient and place zero emphasis on sales team skill improvement – they leave that to the managers.

A great sales platform helps you forget about the traditional interpretation of efficiency and instead expand your horizons – how can you sell efficiently, how can you coach efficiently, and how can you scale revenue efficiently. A great sales platform should open up the doors to sales team skill improvement, not just turn up the dial on the call velocity.

Perspective on sales efficiency should be broader: How do you increase time with customers and how do you develop great sales reps. In our experience, tackling customer contact efficiency is only the first step.

Top sales teams are becoming more intentional about sales coaching

Rather than viewing inside sales reps or SDRs as disposable, today’s top teams invest in their people with contextual sales coaching. When transformative platforms change the definition of efficiency, teams stop worrying about swapping out sales reps to find the right person, and start focusing on skill improvement with an intentional coaching strategy.

Sales coaching is an intentional, “interactive process to help salespeople improve and increase their performance…through one-on-one sessions with individual reps.

Sales coaching is not a trivial task – InsightSquared has an excellent list of 13 reasons why it can fail, which notably includes common pitfalls like scheduling sessions but not following through, time management, and inconsistent standards.

All of these can be resolved when you have a platform that is natively built for effective & consistent coaching. The context of real sales moments as source material for coaching is critical for its effectiveness. While the basic include listening in on recorded or live sales calls,
Revenue.io customers take this to the next level by allowing our ConversationAI product to surface those coaching moments without lifting a finger. This makes the sales manager/coach more productive: they can spend less effort researching coaching areas (or putting it off altogether) and more time expanding their sales team’s skillset.

Related reading: best practices for sales coaching

To really do sales coaching, intentional structure is needed to support it. A set amount of 1:1 and team meetings, augmented by some classroom training sessions need to be scheduled out on a weekly and monthly basis.

The team needs to expect and anticipate these as a regular part of their roles. As the team begins to recognize improvements that they make, the effort will contribute to a culture of learning, and set the expectations with the team that improving and developing skills is something the company takes very seriously.

The top performers are using more data than ever before

A recent study found that 50% of high performing sales teams had closely monitored, strictly enforced processes, and were far more likely to hold a laggard rep accountable after 1 quarter than underperforming sales teams, which would take 9 quarters on average to implement accountability measures. In high performing cultures, implementing accountability measures is a process set by clear metrics, where members are judged by whether they reach agreed upon performance milestones.

Common metrics include daily outbound call count, call to conversation ratio, and appointments set or sales closed, depending on team structure.

The modern sales team is finding more ways to measure their team’s effectiveness. For example, teams using ConversationAI monitor talk percentage in calls. If a salesperson is talking more than a customer, (say, 65% of the conversation) they know to it is time to coach on empathetic selling. If they consistently notice competitor mentions later in the buying cycle, they know their teams are having pricing conversations too late. Smart inside sales teams are finding smarter performance metrics resulting in more sales.

As inside sales strategies evolve, a theme is emerging: customer engagement improves when it becomes more human.

That means technology should make conversations great. Tools should help leaders build armies of empathetic sellers. Customers should feel that they were heard after hanging up the phone.

It is the teams that recognize the value of human connections that will succeed.