As I reflect back on client hurdles from last week, the popular challenge of how to successfully align inside and outside sales reps comes to mind. This is an obstacle that never seems to go away, and all sales and marketing VPs seem to face it again and again. The key to bridging this gap is to put some best practices in place so that a mutual trust is established and everyone is working towards the ultimate goal of bringing in more sales pipeline and revenue for the company.
When reviewing how we’ve overcome this challenge throughout many client engagements in the past, three best practices stand out as being the starting point towards strengthening the relationships. Below I’ve listed three ways to bridge the gap and included ways to accomplish them:
Establish a mutual understanding on the definition of a qualified lead. Outside reps often get frustrated and lose faith in their inside sales reps when they aren’t getting the quality of leads they are looking for. The number one goal for an inside rep should be to get excited about passing qualified opportunities and to get the outside reps psyched about following up with these opps. The first step in achieving this is to determine the qualification information needed to be a solid lead. The best way to get there is to have the outside sales reps provide the inside reps with all the necessary qualification questions that need to be answered before the initial meeting is scheduled. For example, if an outside rep feels they should only follow up with active opportunities that will buy within 6 months, then the inside rep needs to uncover this information ahead of time and nurture that lead until it is ready. If inside reps are sending over unqualified leads, the outside reps won’t even bother to follow up on their leads, and as a result, the qualified ones will end up slipping through the cracks because they will have lost trust.
Implement a realistic rep to rep ratio. If you have one inside rep calling for three outside reps, odds are that your outside reps are going to be happy with an abundance of qualified leads to follow up on, and your inside reps won’t feel overwhelmed and burnt out. If you try to stretch the ratio to having one inside rep to five or more reps, the reps won’t be getting the volume of leads needed to see the value in their inside sales team. Instead of spreading inside reps too thin, make the extra investment to bring on more inside reps so it’s a win-win.
Encourage close knit relationships between the inside and outside reps. There are many ways to establish this, the obvious one being weekly phone calls to connect about opportunities passed. The key is to go beyond these conversations and think outside of the box. For example, these conversations shouldn’t just be about listing off when appointments are supposed to occur and what the prospect wants to talk about. While this is good, a key component for success is for the inside rep to follow up with the outside rep right after a lead is scheduled to occur. When following up, items discussed should be: Did the call occur? How did it go? What is the next step? If proper follow up isn’t completed by the inside rep, they won’t learn what is great about the opportunities they pass over and what is not so great. Connecting right after calls occur is crucial to building the relationship between outside and inside reps. Otherwise, time passes and the details from the call are forgotten. If the call didn’t happen or didn’t go as well as hoped, you risk the problem I talked about above – you lose trust from the outside reps and they will no longer feel the need to follow up on leads passed to them. If the two teams are constantly following up with each other, tight relationships are naturally established. An even better way to strengthen the relationship is to have the inside rep introduce the outside rep on the initial call that they have scheduled, and then listen to the whole meeting; it’s a great learning and training exercise as well.
By defining what a lead is, implementing a realistic rep to rep ratio, and establishing close knit relationships, there’s no doubt the trust between inside and outside reps will continue to grow. What are your best practices for aligning your inside and outside reps?