Inside Sales Using Social Media

by Bob Perkins, Founder and Chairman of American Association of Inside Sales Professionals

Bob Perkins, AA-ISP, inside sales with social media

Bob Perkins, Founder & Chairman of the AA-ISP will present a “State of the Union” on the Inside Sales industry, including the virtual, digital, and social revolution. Over the past five years Inside Sales has advanced and adapted new tools and technologies to increase sales performance and in turn, revenues.

Webinar Transcript

Hi. This is Bob Perkins, Founder and Chairman of AA-ISP. The AA-ISP is an international association dedicated to the advancement of the inside sales profession. It's great to be with you today. I'd like to share some of my thoughts around the State of the Union of Inside Sales, and this great virtual, digital, and social revolution. It's so exciting to see what's happening with the whole movement around inside sales. It really is a movement. So many jobs are being created. Openings for managers and leaders, they pop up almost every day. Tools and technologies represented by our service providers, they really continue to expand to help us to be more efficient at our jobs.

In companies of all sizes, they are making inside sales one of its most important sales strategies now and in the future. As the founder of our growing association, I have the privilege and honor to help foster in a new era for our great profession of inside sales. All of us here viewing this webinar, and many of you I know are members, collectively we all have the responsibility for the future health and evolution of the profession of inside sales. If you're already a member, you know this mission real well. But if not, welcome to our community. I hope you consider joining us in claiming, "I'm in with 9,000 other passionate inside sales professionals." Well, lets get started.

Let's take a look at some of the key highlights of the state of the union here of inside sales. The opportunities are pretty much endless. Our community is growing. As I just mentioned, we have over 9,600 members within the community. Both individual contributors, leaders, also service providers. The job creation is incredible. In fact, the bureau of labor has a statistic that about almost three quarters of a million, almost 700,000 jobs for inside sales will be created since 2012 going out to 2020.

As the AA-ISP does research, we found that 97% of companies of all sizes have adopted inside sales as one of its key revenue channels. It's really accepted. Gone are the days that we talk about inside sales riding in the backseat or the redheaded step-child syndrome. Inside sales is really accepted. It's evolved to a critical component and sales channel for most companies. We're seeing new roles created. There's really a recent growth and emphasis on the business development role, for example, that continues to grow, both internally as well as companies that outsource that, they're growing as well. The career advancement has never been stronger for inside sales. What we used to see as inside sales being a stepping stone for someone to go in for a couple years and move to the field, although that still exists, it's not that predominate anymore. Today, we see many long time careers that start and end with inside sales itself.

And how about the adoption of social? In fact, that's what we're all gathered here today for the social summit. It's been amazing. It's really inside sales that were the first adopters of social and they help create the social movement. I like to say that the modern day prospecting, social will be a part of that. That was invented by inside sales. So it's an exciting time. Then the technology boom, it's incredible. We're seeing new softwares and service companies pop-up every single day, that cater specifically to virtual selling, yet we have our challenges as well. We know there's a tremendous candidate shortage out there, especially in the leadership ranks. Not too many years ago, if I was at a conference for inside sales, I'd ask, "How many inside sales leaders with VP in the title?" We'd see one or two hands go up. Today, vice president, senior vice president, C-level roles are being created for inside sales, or virtual digital sales leadership. It's incredible.

I'll also mention, especially for women, it's been pretty much a male dominated role, especially in leadership. We need and want more women if this is their career desire to take these leadership roles. In fact the AA-ISP supports women in leadership, and at all of our conferences we usually dedicate one of our sessions to women advancing in inside sales, inside sales leadership. We still haven't got training and development right, although I've got to say, a lot of the companies now, a lot of the training companies, some of the smaller training companies have really done a nice job catering to inside sales. So take a look at them out there. Go visit the AA-ISP service provider directory, and you'll see some great sales training firms.

Lead quality, as you'll see, is still a bit of an issue with inside sales. In fact, I'm going to share some of these top challenges here, in just a minute, from our latest research. And then, there's a senior leadership gap. It kind of goes along with this candidate shortage. I can't tell you the number of calls that I get from senior recruiters for jobs that never existed a few years ago that are paying incredible salaries and compensation packages for senior leaders. So we need people to take management roles, get a mentor, develop your career. We have a shortage, a clear shortage, at the senior leadership level.

Let's go ahead and look at some of the statistics that are out there. Here's one on growth, and as I mentioned before, you can see that since 2011 about in an 8 year time span, we're going to see almost 750,000 jobs created for inside sales. This is in the US, by the way. You can see, it's a little hard to see from this chart, but the statistic is inside sales is growing at 3 times the rate as field sales, and it's for a reason.

Let's take a look at the AA-ISP's latest research and top challenges and sales trends, just briefly. You can go out to our website and get the full report, but I'd like to highlight a couple pieces. First of all, this is a very revealing statistic here. The team selling model, some of us know it as overlay, has always been by far the most predominate model that is deployed. In fact, not only a few years ago was up in the high 60% range. Well you can see now from this research, it's still the predominate model, but what we're seeing, is that we're seeing a clear shift from team to discrete. Discrete meaning, inside sales that carries its own quota that has full responsibility for closing the sales, without being teamed with any other resource, i.e. a field rep. This is a clear indication. It couldn't speak any more loudly about the fact that inside sales has progressed to its own spot in terms of carrying a quota and being solely responsible for the sale. It speaks volumes about how much confidence and how much the emphasis and the importance on inside sales, that it has in companies of all sizes as a key revenue generator.

Here are the challenges that the leaders selected. For the past 4 years that we did this, these top 2 or 3 here, training and development, and recruiting and hiring in particular, have made the top 3 the last 4 years. In close third place here is lead quality and quantity of leads as well. But what we're seeing is, because phenomenons happening here and it's around how fast inside sales is growing, because we're growing so fast, there's a shortage of highly experienced candidates. So companies have to actually look to recent college or college hires to fill their open positions. Because of that, we need to train them and we have identified that we have a training gap. We don't quite know how to best train when someone is coming in this raw without much experience.

Now, when you couple that job growth and shortage of candidates, you couple that with the fact that, now I'll go back a slide for a minute, the fact that we're now carrying the full discrete quota in many models. The skills required to carry that quota, it's not just like it used to be to support a field rep, but now you've got to research prospect. You have to be really good at virtual demonstrations. You have to negotiate. You have to propose to a great proposal. And you have to do that predominantly, virtually over the phone, via the web. Those skills now are mandatory for all these new hires, so you can see the acute issue we have of really trying to develop and train people. So that's a big area of focus of the association. And I know as I speak with member companies, they're looking at it to.

I want to switch gears. A couple of years ago we decided, well, we can ask managers, "What are your top issues?" Let's go ask the frontline reps. What's interesting is, you wouldn't expect the reps to say, "Well, I don't get compensated enough," or, "My quotas too high," or, "Senior management doesn't engage," but notice those things are way down. They too say, "I need training and development." Right? "I need coaching." And also, they say, "We need better quality of leads," as well as the leadership said. So this is a very revealing statistic that we found.

So let's switch gears a bit now, and let's talk about future trends, okay. As I opened up and the topic of this was the virtual, digital and social revolution, so I just want to touch on those briefly today, to set the stage for this entire social selling summit. By the way, I want to give a quick shout-out to our host here today, HireVue, as well as Sales for Life. I want to thank them for the work they've done on this summit. It's great that they put it together. I want to thank them for having me here and allowing me to present to you all. So make sure you thank them as well. They're doing a great job.

So let's go ahead and look at the first one. What's this virtual sales trend? Well, in our last research, we asked around, "What type of virtual tools are you using?" Right? We know, right, there's been a lot of statistics out there around how far the decision maker goes down the sales cycle before they get engaged either face-to-face or over the phone with a sales rep, and it's quite far. So some of these virtual selling tools are supporting that. LinkedIn by far, takes the number one spot, and I'll talk a little bit about LinkedIn later, how it really has evolved into a highly social capable tool. A little bit more about that later.

Look at this next one though, texting, the use of texting. I'm telling you, I remember 7, 8 years ago when texting was starting to be normal, day-to-day occurrence. Maybe it's a little bit longer than that, 8, 9 years ago. But I asked my team, "How many of you text customers?" And nobody raised their hand. Today, the last conference I went, I asked the same thing and nearly every hand was raised. So you're seeing the mode of communication, the mode of making contact is evolving. It's becoming highly virtual, and it's supported by some of these tools. The one disappointing thing that we found, and this was back in January, last January 2015, we found that live video was still pretty low. It hadn't been adopted that much. Now the good news is, we just did a Cube of the Future survey, and if you had a chance to take it, thank you for responding. But we have found, just in the last 6 or 7 months, that the use of video and collaboration tools is on the increase, so that's a great trend.

But pretty much the takeaway from this slide is, the tools and the people themselves. The actual process of engaging with customers, prospecting, building relationships, it is done virtually and more and more is being supported. More and more tools are supporting the virtual selling process, and it's making it easier for customers, who by the way, they indicate they want to be sold to virtually, right? They indicate that, so these tools, and the process, and the training around that, it's only further supporting this. There's some pretty amazing tools on the horizon coming out to help support this virtual selling mode, if you will.

Let's talk about digital sales right now. This is a fantastic quote that a gentleman, a senior vice president with IBM, talked about. This goes back a couple of years, and I'll just quote him, and you can read along. "The digital revolution is changing the way buying decisions are made and commerce is transacted," and this is a key point right here. "What individuals are experiencing as consumers," okay, so think for a minute. You and I as a consumer, right? What do we do? We get on our laptop, we fire up Google, we do some research, we go out to product websites, we find out what we want to buy, and we get really close to buying it. Sometimes we buy online, but how we act as a consumer now has transcended into the business-to-business world. So business leaders want to buy, sometimes very complex and very expensive products or services the same way they do as a consumer. That's what this quote is saying. They want us to know them and understand their preferences and get their value from our expertise in new ways, and on their terms. In other words, digital is central, not secondary. So this is a paradigm shift in how business-to-business decision makers want to interact and want to connect in the selling process itself.

Let's go ahead and just touch briefly on social sales trends. This picture here that you see, was taken right out of LinkedIn's Social Selling Index. I thought it was appropriate, not to say that LinkedIn is the only social tool out there, or it's supportable. But what we're seeing, and as I talk to other sales leaders, and as we go to all the AA-ISP conferences and the chapter meetings around the world, literally, we're seeing LinkedIn as a more and more important social tool. And you see here, their social selling index, we'll just take a second here to take a look at the things that build up that score, right? Are you building strong relationships? Do you engage with insights? Can you find the right people? Are you creating a professional brand. So, really these things are a shift from the older prospecting methods, which is "smile and dial", right? Call until you get somebody. Talk to them about your product. This is a whole different world, and it was really embraced and adopted early by inside sales. In fact, I got a great little story I'll share with you.

Back a few years ago as I was still a leader, a practitioner of inside sales. We put together this, what we call the "call camp" and we actually invited the field sales reps to come to the inside sales organization, and we trained them on things such as leaving voice mails and writing emails, and how to get through gatekeepers and things like that, via the phone. By the way, field sales is doing primarily all the prospecting virtually just like inside sales. But anyway, we asked them how many are using LinkedIn and how they're using it, and it was interesting to see how further ahead inside sales was with the use of LinkedIn than the field. So social is...it was the big, big, big buzzword several years ago. Maybe it's not as much of a buzz today, but it's still critical, it's important, and many sales leaders are still looking to harness its power, and these are some of the ways that that can be accomplished.

So let's conclude today and take a look at, "Where do we go from here?" The state of the union of inside sales, it's great. It's a growing profession, right? Lots of opportunity. Some challenges we're dealing with. Where do we go from here? What does the future hold? Well first of all, I'd encourage everyone on the webinar today embrace this age of digital selling, right? I was at a meeting just this afternoon at a former company, and I was talking to the CEO, and he was picking my brain about inside sales. He looked at me and he said, "You know, the old sales rep carrying the bag and spending all the time entertaining, we're becoming dinosaurs," and we all kind of laughed about it. But all of us know, the line between inside and field is blurred anymore. So, it doesn't matter where you sit or how much you get out in the field, we can, all of us, embrace the age of digital selling.

We really need to develop tomorrow's leaders. I'd encourage you, if you're a member or even if you're not a member, join the AA-ISP. Take advantage of the mentor program. We have a great mentor program, it's in place in part to help develop people further in their careers and help develop tomorrow's leaders.

Adopt some inside sales best practices. There's so much information out there you can study. One of the attributes of the high performing sales rep, whether you're inside of the field, is the thirst for improvement. Continue to improve, continue to read and try new best practices in your sales process.

Embrace social. That's why we're here today. I hope all of you get a chance to sit through a lot of the sessions and learn some new social techniques that may help you in your sales effort. In fact, I intend to get on some of these sessions as well, so I can learn some of these things.

Then finally, I mentioned it before. Claim "I'm In". Join the movement. The AA-ISP is a wonderful community. In fact, when people show up at conferences that they say, "This is unlike any expo I've been to, it feels like a family reunion." Join the AA-ISP, become part of the community, give back, right? Maybe you can volunteer, be a chapter officer. We have 70 chapters, 50 some odd in the US, and 20 plus globally. So get involved in a local chapter near you. Become part of the movement.

I'd like to thank everyone for taking a few minutes to be with me today, to look at the state of the union of inside sales. It's something I'm tremendously passionate about. I believe in what inside sales is doing. I know social, social selling, and inside sales share a common bond in having kind of grown up together. So hopefully, you're going to enjoy the rest of the event. Please feel free to reach out to me. There is my email, as well as my Twitter handle. I hope to hear from any of you in the future, and I really hope to see you at one of our future AA-ISP events. Thank you very much.