This week at the first @DemandCon conference which featured sales and marketing best practices, an impressive number of presenters discussed B2B buying cycle attributes and techniques to reach enterprise buyers. (Full disclosure – I was one of the speakers). One company that presented was Coupa, a growing SaaS company based in Silicon Valley. One of my passions is really understanding how different sales leaders and teams operate in the face of today’s challenging customer buying process (see this related post), so it was terrific that the recent head of sales and current marketing leader presented together on the role of as non-quota bearing inside sales representatives (ISRs) or teleprospectors. Here are four topics that were highlights:
- Centralized Structure: although there was little debate between the two leaders on this, it was clear that there were advantages (training as one unit more junior members, farm league to an eventual sales career) to having a centralized structure of ISRs versus decentralized role. I violently agree with this point – the risk in decentralizing the role is one of effectiveness, particularly if the representative is more junior and inexperienced which could lead to unintended distractions in the field and poor training. The only exception to this would be regional calling (ie EMEA might have its own call center depending on company size)
- Cold call vs. non cold calling – if one knows there is more revenue closing from inbound leads than outbound cold calling, is there a need to continue to cold call? The head of sales felt the skillset and need to cold call was definitely needed. Now this could be in the face of not enough inbound leads to keep the ISRs busy, but sounded more like a need to develop the skillset from her view. My own experience mirrors this head of sales where a compromise has value to the company overall – the cold call skillset is definitely needed if the person migrates over into the company in a selling capacity. However, there is a significant time investment and discipline needed to cold call which should be part of a CSO/CMO agreement.
- Phone time: Getting others in the organization to spend time on the phone as an inside sales representative– getting in the shoes of the inside sales representative. I am 100% supportive of this approach, there is nothing but upside here for others in the organization to learn what the message is or how it feels to hit constant rejection.
- Experimenting with packaging offers (ie targeted, relevant content) – using freemiums/trials to generate leads and test what pricing or approaches are most effective. This also had a direct impact on inbound leads (ie freemium posted on the website which generated interest.) The team was able to A/B test on effective offers and promotions which is a highly effective way to iterate.
The inside sales organization in this case was initially built around a business case to the board of directors; it sounded as if there was more value from controlling the message and brand at point of impact to the market moreso an economic case to convince the board to make the investment. It sounded like the economics of having this function did not sway the board; that said, in similar SaaS models, I do believe the economics for a small, qualifying inside sales organization more than pays for itself and may be more of the model we see going forward as more selling efforts and content is pushed to the web. Enterprise buyers are more comfortable than ever in buying SaaS based products over the web and phone.
What have you found effective for your inside sales role?