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My Take on Inside Sales, and Where it’s Going

A few months ago I was introduced to a young, but rapidly-growing group, the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals. I was impressed. They are dedicated exclusively to advancing the profession of Inside Sales.

If you are involved in inside sales, and I’m assuming you are using the phone in some way in sales since you are reading this, I urge you to check them out and join. http://www.AA-ISP.org.

I also attended their second annual Leadership Summit in May. I was invited to be added at the last minute as a speaker, but because I didn’t get involved with the group until right before the conference, I declined, wanting to simply observe and evaluate what was being said by speakers and attendees before I fully committed to getting involved. My report is that, again, I was impressed, and will be promoting the association, as well as speaking at their events in the future.

What I had heard at the conference confirmed much of what I have been writing about and teaching myself, but it did also open my eyes wider in a few areas.

I’ve assembled some thoughts and musings about where I feel inside sales is headed, and points about the environment in which we sell today.

Information tools are abundant.
I have for years preached and insisted that sales pros do their research and be informed about their prospects, companies, and industries before calling. That is the foundation for Smart Calling .

Today there are a host of companies that help you to obtain, consolidate, sort, and interpret the sheer amount of data that is available. If you are not using any of them, you are handicapped. To see some of the best ones available, see Josiane Feigon’s free ebook, Smart Inside Sales 2.0 Tools  http://www.smartinsidesales20.com/

Buyers lives and habits have changed.
I’m often asked what is the biggest change I’ve seen in inside sales over the years. Without a doubt it’s how buyers–and everyone for that matter–conduct their lives as it relates to their technology, how they communicate, the real demands on their time, and outlets for wasting time.

People are busier. And less productive. How many times in the past couple of hours have you touched your cell phone, checked email, accessed a "social network," or been online for anything?

And really now, how much of that was absolutely necessary and productive? See. Point made.

The relevance and challenge for us is that this is what we are competing with and trying to sell into, attempting to cut through the noise and clutter to grab the buyer’s attention. (Get Jill Konrath’s book, SNAP Selling for a great, in-depth guide on how to sell to these crazy-busy buyers. http://www.SnapSelling.com )

We must adapt or fail.
I have been a horrible predictor of new trends. I didn’t think "car phones" would ever catch on…no one needed to be that accessible, I felt.

And when the first drive-through window was installed in an Omaha-area McDonalds 35 years ago, I thought that was stupid, it wasn’t a bank.

Fast forward to the past couple of years:I skeptically viewed most social networking as just more ways to waste time. While that’s still true for the majority of people with most of the online sites, the hard fact is, more and more of our customers are using Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Studies show that cell phones are used more for purposes other than talking. People are spending less time at their desk, but still "in touch" through email and voice mail.

I resisted adopting most of this stuff, but I realized that I am not my customer. We need to sell to our buyers the way they want to be sold to, or at least utilize the communication methodologies they are plugged into, or access wirelessly.

And of course WebEx, GoToMeeting, and other online conferencing tools have changed the inside sales function for the better.

Some things remain the same and always will.
What hasn’t changed, and I’m pretty certain that it never will, is that people still buy based on value.

Particularly in today’s economy and environment.

Everything I have taught over the years is just as true today. We need to understand our buyers’ problems, pains, wants and desires, and then match the results of our offerings, and communicate that message in a persuasive way. Bottom line, when you remove all the technology and slice through the cloud of clutter, it still involves people talking to people. You must not let anything minimize this important point.

Technology should help you TALK to people, not prevent you from doing it.

Where we are going:
More smart companies and individuals are realizing every day that while being face-to-face with someone is the most effective way to communicate, it is also the most costly, and in most cases, not necessary in order to sell.

Twenty-seven years ago I started a business that bet heavily on the success of inside sales as a viable way to do business. At least I was right about THAT one. It is even more true today.

Inside sales has evolved from–in most cases–yeas ago, an afterthought, where companies would stick their "telemarketing" people in a corner and treat them like second-class citizens, to what is more and more becoming a company’s only method of selling, and treating that department with the respect it deserves and the resources it needs.

This is the best time ever to be involved in the sales profession, particularly if you’d rather not leave your office or home very much in order to do it.

At the AA-ISP conference I was honored to be named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Inside Sales Professionals. That’s a testament to great pros like you who have used my material over the years to gain results. I look forward to your continued success, and that of the profession.

 

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