One of my favorite methods of discovery here at Sales Benchmark Index is the DILODay In the Life Of, where we shadow sales reps to find out how they conduct sales calls and engage with customers.  However on this particular DILO, with an Inside Sales Rep responsible for up and cross-selling current customers, we hadn’t made a sales dial since the day began.  It was 10:00 AM, and Blake, the Regional Sales Associate, was busy responding to prior day emails and voicemails about the software his customers were using.  Blake would get on the line, speak with the customers about their current issue, and help them navigate the complex software.  Most calls ended with a sincere “Thank You”, and one even said “Everytime I call, you always help me out.  I really appreciate it”.  Although this wasn’t Blake’s core job responsibility, he took pride in helping his customers use their recently purchased product.

 

direct channel sales

(Sales Support: “I Solve Problems”)

 

“How many phone calls do you make in a day, Blake?” I asked.

 

“About 20-30”.  The number seemed high.

 

“I mean, how many customers do you proactively call, about a sales opportunity?”

 

“Oh that.  I guess about 4-5 a day.”

 

“What are you doing the rest of the time?”

 

“I’m helping these guys use their software.  I can’t sell to them unless they are happy with our product.”

 

While Blake’s initiative and alignment with customer satisfaction should be commended, there was a fundamental problem.  Blake was a Sales Rep, with On Target Earnings (Base and Variable) at $100,000, but he was performing the role of customer support, typically a $30k-$50k job.  

 

The problem with Blake is not unique.  Many sales organizations, in their quest for customer satisfaction, place this responsibility on the inside sales team.  It’s cheaper than having the field sales force answer questions, and the inside resources are accessible.  However, management should further segregate this responsibility to a Sales Support role, which should earn significantly less than the Inside Sales Rep’s salary.  Otherwise, the Inside Sales Death Spiral ensues. 

 

  1. Management notices that reps cannot achieve their quota given the time demands of problem solving; they lower quota.
  2. Quota becomes easier to achieve, Sales Reps stop complaining, and continue to play the role of sales support.
  3.  Revenue falls short of expectations, and more inside sales reps are brought in.
  4. Cost of Sales skyrockets, senior management notices, and cuts inside sales positions.

 

Before you know it, Inside Sales has is a corrupted, bloated department largely responsible for maintaining customer relationships, with a side role for upgrades and add-ons.  Sales come in solely based on marketing inquiries, and reps are troubleshooting experts and order takers. 

 

To find out if your Direct Channel Sales force has a problem, spend some time with Inside Sales and conduct a time study.  World Class Inside Sales organizations spend 79% of their time on Selling Activities.  Selling Activities are Pre-call planning, Sales Calls, and Post Call follow up  (including CRM entry).  If your Inside Sales Reps are under this 79% threshold, chances are there is role corruption.

 

Key Takeaway:  Offloading unproductive job responsibilities does not stop at Inside Sales.  Make sure that you are not paying Sales Rep wages for non-revenue generating activities. Download our Inside Sales / Sales Support calculator to find out how much this is costing your organization.

 

sales rep support calculator

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Drew Zarges

Helps small business owners overcome their biggest sales and marketing challenges to accelerate revenue growth.

Prior to joining SBI in 2011, Drew worked in the intermediary investment sales world. During that time, he worked his way up the ladder from client service representative to leading and coaching his former company’s sales team on the west coast. At SBI, Drew has served some of the company’s most prestigious accounts as a consultant. For these clients, he successfully executed everything from sales process and lead generation projects to highly technical account segmentation work. He now serves as the General Manager of SBI OnDemand, a unit dedicated to applying the firm’s battle tested concepts and projects to the small business community.

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