Inside Sales Feed

Six Things You Need to Know about Millennial Sales Reps


Josiane feigon

Today’s guest post is by Josiane Feigon, president of TeleSmart Communications and author of Smart Selling on the Phone and Online. The insight in this blog post is taken from the “15 in 2015 Inside Sales Trend Report.”   



Millennials are taking over in the sales profession. In just five years, this generation will make up 46 percent of the entire US workforce. Here are six characteristics of Millennials that inside sales managers should know. 

1. They overshare.

Millennials value their community at work. That explains why the open-office phenomenon is so popular and why 88 percent of Millennials want their co-workers to be their friends. The flip side of this is oversharing. Too much or inappropriate information can destroy trust and a collaborative atmosphere. Don’t let oversharing tendencies run wild in your department. Establish the expectation that yours is a friendly office, not an overly social one. 

2. They value engagement with their parents.

Know that you might be competing with your Millennial sales rep’s parent for influence. Consider the following:

  • Baby boomers were often helicopter parents for Millennials.
  • Some high-profile employers have instituted “bring your parents to work” days.
  • I’ve talked with sales managers who have noticed Millennial reps regularly consulting with their parents about career moves.
  • I even have a few friends who regularly do their kids’ homework . . . in college!

As an inside sales manager, don’t play into the Millennials’ fear of failure by being an always-present authority figure ready to swoop in and tell them exactly how to get things done. Encourage a learning environment where their experience is valuable and their insight is welcomed. This will help as you push them to sell on their own. 

3. They can easily become confused about how they get paid.

According to Vorsight and The Bridge Group, three out of every 10 reps reported being unclear about their incentive compensation plan, which correlates to a 300 percent drop in employee engagement. Considering how motivation – or the lack thereof – is contagious on the sales floor, insides sales managers need to pay attention to this trend. Outline incentives clearly and make sure reps easily grasp the basics of how the incentive plan works.

4. They might blur the boundaries between employee and manager.

Pew Research revealed that, compared to previous generations, most Millennials have low trust in authority figures. The same study shows that Millennials prefer an environment that allows them to interact informally with peers and their bosses. A recent LinkedIn internal study also reported that one in three Millennials have texted their boss outside of work for non-work-related reasons, compared to only 10 percent of the boomer generation.

As a result, many Millennials find hierarchical relationships to be uncomfortable or foreign. Make sure you set the standard for what’s appropriate and what’s not. Be friendly, and be clear that you’re the boss.

5. They fear negative feedback.

I find that managers complain that they are constantly badgered by their team members to mentor more, coach more, acknowledge more, and reward more, but when they reach out unrehearsed and unplanned with some critiques, their reps panic. What’s the deal with these double standards? 

High-maintenance Millennials can be very fearful of rejection, fueling both 1) need for constant feedback and 2) a fear of rejection. In other words, they want to hear lots of encouraging things and few critical ones. This might be because helicopter parents prevented them from experiencing and bouncing back from failure.

Avoid this high-maintenance minefield by making sure you telegraph your feedback meetings way ahead of time and surround all criticism with positive messages. 

6. They can go quickly from little angels to little monsters.

“They interviewed so well, everyone liked them . . . and then after a few months, something happened.” I get this comment from sales managers a lot. Their young new hires seem to be starting out so well, then out comes their wrecking ball!

When high-maintenance Millennials experience something upsetting, such as a breakup or a lost deal, it can affect their work, possibly more so than with employees from other age brackets. With their “friends are co-workers” mentality, Millennials can have an impossible time focusing on work when they’re pouring out their feelings to their office neighbors.

These types of employees need to know that, when they’re at work, they must focus on work. If you’re calm, cool, and an honest – but tough – professional, the rest of the team will admire you for stepping in to reign in a bad influence without breathing fire and getting authoritarian.

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Three Practical Action Steps for Growing Inside Sales Teams

SP coverToday’s post is by Selling Power Editors. Subscribe now to Selling Power magazine to keep up with the latest trends, news, and best practices for B2B sales professionals.



What’s booming in technology sales right now? Inside sales teams.

A recent study, “Outside In: The Rise of the Inside Sales Team,” conducted by Reality Works Group and ZS Associates, found that 40 percent of large technology companies plan to increase their inside-sales head count by 2016. What will this mean for the sales profession? Here are three key points from the study that sales leaders can use as action steps for growing inside sales teams. 

1. Reduce high turnover rates.

Research revealed that the standard turnover rate for inside sales professionals in technology companies is 19 percent. Organizations should begin to think of the inside sales role as equally important as outside sales. Companies need to consider retention strategies, competency models, coaching, and career progression for inside sales, just as they do for their field sales teams.

2. Nail down policies for overtime pay.

A full 65 percent of organizations surveyed indicated that they classify inside-sales staff members as exempt and, while the Federal Labor Standards Act offers clear guidelines for classification of outside salespeople, the details for inside salespeople are not as clear cut.

Unfortunately, this vagueness has left some companies to find out the hard way that overtime laws don’t always apply to inside sales teams as they do to field salespeople. It is critical that sales leaders understand exemption laws and create transparent policies to ensure compliance with them. When you don’t know how to properly compensate the sales team, revenue suffers. As inside sellers gain more responsibility for generating profit and engaging clients and prospects, tying an inside salesperson’s quota and commission plan to an outside salesperson may no longer make sense. Organizations need to rethink their approaches to the drivers of sales force effectiveness, including motivating and rewarding their inside sales teams through sales-compensation programs.

3. Leverage the social skills of inside sellers.  

The Reality Works Group/ZS Associates study cites research, published by ZS in 2013, illustrating how IBM helped its salespeople leverage social channels to generate leads and manage account relationships. Early results included a 55 percent increase in Twitter followers and a significant increase in the number of high-quality inbound leads.

The lesson is clear: B2B buyers are increasingly becoming comfortable with collaborating, researching, and even completing the purchase cycle through online channels. That puts inside sellers in a powerful position to influence decision makers. With today’s tools, salespeople don’t need to leave their desks. They can usher prospects through the sales funnel virtually and create new clients.

As opportunities to reach, engage, and influence prospects increase, the number of touch points will increase, as well. Savvy sales leaders are enabling their inside sales teams with tools to engage clients and prospects via the channels that prospects prefer.

Want to learn more about the rise of inside sales teams? Download the full study, “Outside In: The Rise of the Inside Sales Team.”

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Sales Reps, Stop Waiting for Marketers to Fill Your Pipeline

Joanne BlackToday's post is by Joanne Black, America’s top referral sales expert. Visit NoMoreColdCalling for more articles, tips, and free resources. You can also find Joanne on Twitter: @ReferralSales.

If you depend on marketing to score your leads, you can forget about hitting your numbers.

Prospecting is not your marketing department’s job. It’s your job – and it’s your most important job.

You’re not entitled to sit back and wait for great leads to fill your sales pipeline, which has  become common practice in most sales organizations. Many salespeople complain that marketing isn’t providing enough leads and definitely not qualified leads. Following up on poor leads is a waste of your sales time, but that’s what happens when you let someone else do your job.

Marketing Is Great, But…

Don’t get me wrong. Our marketing teams provide invaluable support. They bring prospects to our Websites, nurture relationships, conduct research, create demographics, write case studies, and build social-media strategies. I have worked with and learned from some great marketers, and I have seen well-aligned sales and marketing teams do some great things together. But marketing should not be qualifying our leads. We are the only ones who should do that.

An Unexpected Point of View

Ken Krogue, founder of, advocates for striking a balance between warm calling and inbound marketing. While many B2B companies stand to benefit from an expanded inbound-marketing presence, it’s not enough to score those big-name accounts.

Krogue says that, although his company uses inbound marketing extensively, it doesn’t generate the large-scale leads he needs in order to sell to large clients such as the Fortune 500. “If you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all inbound leads that come in are small,” he explains. “To score deals with enterprise-class companies, we have to reach out and initiate conversations and then move to a Web-based type of nurturing.”

Quality Trumps Quantity

In most marketing departments, the focus is on lead volume when it should be on lead quality. They measure the success of inbound marketing by how many leads are generated, rather than on how many of those leads actually convert into new clients.

Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, suggests the following solution: “Start with a common definition between sales and marketing of a good lead. Then track lead performance through the pipeline to ensure your overall modeling on lead-opportunity-close is correct, but also to adjust resources and lead channel investments based on where the best conversions and lowest marketing cost per sale exists.”

Nurture marketing takes us only so far. It’s up to salespeople to nurture their own relationships, not just with marketing automation, but with a proactive, outbound, and disciplined sales-prospecting strategy.

How do leads that come from your marketing team compare with those you create through referrals and other business-development strategies? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Why Sellers Must Focus on Relationships, Not Their Networks

Joanne-square-250x250Today's blog post is by Joanne Black, America’s top referral sales expert. Visit for more articles, tips, and free resources. You can also find Joanne on Twitter: @ReferralSales.  



George thought he’d nailed the link between social selling and referrals, but as it turns out, he had merely bought into the popular misconception that social media would do his job for him.

George knew lots of people who surely knew lots of people. So he decided to use email and LinkedIn to ask his vast network for referrals, but no one responded. The problem was that George had forgotten about the social part of social selling.

Sales is social, but too many people forget that the quality of their relationships, not the quantity of their connections, really counts. You can collect LinkedIn connections like baseball cards and get nowhere, or you make the connections you already have stronger.

Yes, George knew a lot of people, but he hadn’t been in touch with many of them for a year or more. He had contacts, not relationships. Now he needed to reconnect on social media and schedule time to talk – to find out how their circumstances had changed and in what ways he might be able to help them.

“That’s a lot of work,” he said.

Of course it’s a lot of work, but it’s our job as salespeople. If bringing in new business was as simple as pushing a few buttons, we’d have to find new careers.

Stop Typing and Start Talking

Who doesn’t love a good shortcut? While there’s much to be said for efficiency, however, you can’t get caught taking shortcuts when it comes to conversations.

The art of conversation is your competitive advantage. Conversation is the key to problem solving and relationship building, which are at the core of social selling. It’s also become an increasingly unique skill set. The digital world, as great as it is, has left an entire generation of salespeople afraid to pick up the phone and have real conversations. Text messages with truncated words or 140-character Twitter posts do not facilitate the kind of meaningful, effective dialogue that increases sales conversions or gets you referrals.

People do business with people, not with robots or tweets or any other fancy technology. Social media is the place to start a conversation and begin a relationship, not to pitch your services or ask for referrals. That’s like walking up to someone and saying, “Hey, do me a favor,” without even asking how the other person is doing.

Show up online as you would in person. Just because you’re online doesn’t mean social etiquette is off the table.

Referral Selling IS Social Selling

There’s a direct correlation between your personal connections, ability to generate referral introductions, and sales success. Referral selling is the most personal, most social kind of selling you can do. When I refer you, my reputation’s on the line, so I need to be sure you’ll take care of my relationship as I would.

Social selling is a great way to expedite the first few important steps in prospecting: researching potential clients and identifying referral sources. Engage people on social media, then pick up the phone and take the conversation offline. Find out how your referral source knows the person you want to meet. Explain the business reason you want an introduction, and then ask how you can reciprocate.

It’s never too soon (or too late) to ask for referrals, help someone, contribute to a conversation, say thanks, or just catch up. Step out from behind the technology curtain and discover the real world. It’s waiting for you.

Sales Reps, Stop Being a "Demo Monkey"

"I hate being a demo monkey!"

Have you ever heard your sales reps say something like this?

It can be frustrating for reps to deliver hundreds of demos and end up with nothing to show for their time and energy. That's why DemoChimp is taking a new approach to helping salespeople turn their presentations into closed deals by making demos more engaging and personalized for each prospect.

"We intelligently personalize the experience," says DemoChimp CEO Garin Hess. "When the prospect goes through your demo, we dynamically stitch together different video elements to deliver an experience that fits their needs rather than going through a straight demo the prospects might not be interested in."

Watch the video above to see how you can start automating your demos and cut down on your demo frustration.

New Research Shows IT Decision Makers Rely on Inside Sellers

AnnekeSeleyToday's post is by Anneke Seley, coauthor of Sales 2.0 and founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, a digital/social and inside sales strategy and implementation consultancy. Contact her at


Recently, IBM released findings from a survey of nearly 1,000 information technology (IT) decision makers in 12 countries. The research illustrates some interesting trends that support IBM’s decision to ramp up its inside sales team. Here are some highlights: 

1. Inside sales is an increasingly standard way for clients to engage their vendors. More than 60 percent of clients cited an inside seller as their first point of contact. 

2. Clients routinely rely on inside sales reps to purchase higher-value products and services. While transactional, preconfigured offerings and renewals are still considered the sweet spot for inside sellers, they’re also handling sales for mobility services, network integration, backup and recovery, storage and server services, and public cloud products. 

3. Clients use social and digital communication tools to engage inside sellers. Younger IT decision makers (under the age of 35) are two times more likely than those over the age of 50 to use social platforms as a way to engage sellers. Also, overall usage of digital and social tools is double the worldwide average in faster-growing emerging markets, such as Brazil, India, and China.

4. The Web is being used with significant frequency to purchase IT products and services — at every step in the buying journey. In 2013, 56 percent of IT decision makers purchased products and services via the Web, up from 34 percent in 2011.

IBM inside sales, led by general manager Paula Summa, has been conducting this research since 2011 to understand how to serve customers most effectively in the digital and social age. Summa says that these findings clearly indicate the need to adjust to the rapidly changing ways clients are buying, as well as to the melding of the inside sales and digital channels.

As an industry consultant, I’ve seen that companies large and small are making investments in inside sales to align to the way customers buy today. Some are shifting personnel from field selling positions to sellers who use the phone, email, social media, and online technology to communicate with buyers. Others are launching divisions or entire businesses with inside sales teams, especially as customers purchase more over the Web. So it’s no surprise to me that IBM has made a big bet on inside sales. (Currently IBM has 43 global inside sales locations, including major centers in Toronto, Atlanta, and Dallas in North America, and Bogota, Beijing, Tokyo, and Dublin, opening this August.)

As more selling is conducted online and purchased as a service, inside sales will play a critical role.  

What trends are you seeing in inside sales? What do you think of IBM’s research? Share your thoughts in the comments section.