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10 Inside Sales Lessons Learned Over 10 Years at AG Salesworks


Craig Ferrara 3Last week was my 10-year anniversary at AG. At times, 10 years seems like eons ago, but honestly most of the time it truly feels as if time has flown by. During this period, I bought a condo, got married, had a child (who is now 7), sold a condo, and bought a house... all while watching AG grow from an 8-person shop to the 60 folks we are today. 

I was watching a great documentary last night called "180° South." It spotlights the co-founders of the clothing companies Patagonia and NorthFace. In effect, these guys would best be described as anti-CEOs. In the documentary, a big message they tried to convey was that you can't be afraid to get a little dirty in order to learn important lessons as you grow. The joy of what we do is less about the process, and more about the experience. One quote that stuck with me was:

"The best journeys answer questions you didn't even think to ask about yourself."

To some degree, this describes my experience with AG. I came here back in the day with no idea what to expect, but I knew that I was brought in to help complete a vision. Before I came here, I had been fairly conservative with my choices professionally, taking the safer, more obvious route. I had my reservations, but I was willing to get a little dirty for the sake of the journey. 

Here is a collection of 10 inside sales management and prospecting lessons I have learned over the past decade at AG:

1. Employees need to know you’re in the trenches with them, fighting the good fight. There is nothing worse than a boss who commands the team from behind their desk. Get out of your office! Take some time to sit in their space and listen to their calls while offering up collective strategies to attack their job tasks.

2. Employees need to know you have their back. Nothing demotivates an employee more than bosses who don't stick their neck out for their people. We’re in this together aren’t we?

3. They need to know their opinion is heard. Opinions on scripts, call plans, employee motivation, retention & development are all areas your employees can provide valuable insight on. Listen to them! After all, these are all areas that affect them each and every day, and they may even offer up an idea you'd never even thought of.

4. Campaigns will die if you don't feed them with solid contact data. 100% of the campaigns I’ve worked on don’t meet expectations when we’ve purchased a crappy list or have been handed un-scrubbed MQLs.

5. Pre-call planning is a must. You rarely get very far when cold calling if you don’t do your research and have a mental game plan before each and every dial you make.

6. Devise effective tracking metrics. I’m sure there are a variety of metrics that are very important to you, such as lead rate, conversion rate, total activity, etc. Before you ramp any campaign, make sure to determine the metrics that are the most important to you to adequately track effectiveness from the outset.

7. Ongoing training can lead to employee success. This may be time-consuming, but we can’t assume that the front-end training as a campaign launches is all the training that sales reps needed. Training should be an ongoing effort that takes place over several months… especially with greenhorns.

8. Create a tough but attainable comp plan. There's nothing more demotivating than seeing an unattainable goal dropped in front of you at the start of the quarter. I understand that it isn't always going to be a walk in the park, but we need to feel that the odds of hitting the goal are reasonable. 

9. Continual feedback from outside reps is a must. Providing a good quantity of leads to sales is obviously a good thing, but if the reps aren't doing anything with them, what's the point of even picking up the phone? Implementing a closed loop feedback process should help keep them accountable. At AG, we send lead feedback requests 24 hours after a meeting has been scheduled with their boss copied. The last thing a sales rep wants is an angry superior wondering why they never followed up on a hot opportunity. Beyond that, feedback lets us know if there are additional questions we could be asking to better qualify the lead.

10. Don't avoid conflict with employees: A problem rarely goes away on its own and eventually it may bite you in the arse. Address it head-on so the cards are on the table and your employee knows what is required of them moving forward. 

BONUS lessons learned, and far and away the most important:

Nurture your culture. We’ve all heard that culture eats innovation for lunch. Teleprospecting will grow old very quickly when you feel like a number. Since we all know it ain’t glamorous, there's still a lot we can do to keep the team engaged. What I've seen that can have the biggest impact is making employees "active participants" in their own success (for example, by allowing them to strategize on their calling effort). At the end of the day, it is actually possible for cold calling to be fun, but it starts with your team culture.

Be nice. You really shouldn’t vary from this. When you feel like you may stray from being nice, consider being nice.

They say that fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all. The only thing you can do in those situations is just go for it. I'm glad I did. 

 Craig Ferrara is the Vice President of Client Operations for AG Salesworks. He has extensive experience in the sales and teleprospecting process.  Craig joined AG Salesworks in 2003 and has successfully managed several teams of high-performing Business Development Representatives.  To read more of his articles, see here


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