Managing Your Working Day in Inside Sales

To CRM or not to CRM – that’s the question

Most organisations I work with have some form of customer database or CRM – customer relationship management – system in place. If you do, then you should learn every aspect of it and use it to run your working life. Simple.

A good CRM will allow you to track every contact with a customer, what you said, what they said and the progress you made along your company’s sales process. CRMs can be useful in curating data such as key performance indicators – KPIs and many of them have calendars and email management built in.

If you don’t have a CRM system either buy one, lease one that’s in the cloud such as Salesforce or use the latest version of Microsoft Outlook with the CRM add-on. Better still, obtain Office 365 for yourself and your team, add the CRM bolt on and you’re cooking on gas. If you’re familiar with Outlook and the Office suite of products then your learning curve for Office 365 will be negligible. I’m going to show you how you can do this and finally get to grips with time and email management.

Office 365 is an Inside Salesperson’s dream. Add on Dynamics CRM Online and you have the perfect intuitive solution. Your emails, tasks and appointments from Outlook can automatically be synchronised into the database. Your Word docs and Excel files can be stored there too. Your conversations will be noted and saved. And not just for you – but for your whole company.

There’s nothing worse for a customer than when he or she calls a company and they’re treated like a stranger. That doesn’t happen with a good CRM system. You and your employees are sharing all interactions with your community in the system. You have the system integrated with social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. You have emails, activities, notes, conversations and documents linked to every contact and account. Let’s get into Office 365.

Use the Cloud

Office 365 sits in the cloud, in other words, it can be accessed from any device via the internet. It doesn’t sit on an old fashioned hard-drive. This means you can pull data from any device, so set them all up first. Your phone, laptop, PC, tablet. Whenever an entry is made on any device, the database is updated in the cloud in real time so anyone can see the information from their devices.

365 Contacts

The best feature here is the merge option where you can link your social media accounts to your contacts. So when you link in with a new contact, their details automatically transfer into your contacts, with a picture too.

If you get into the habit of photographing people you meet with your phone, incorporate this into the contact details. So when they phone your mobile, their name flashes up and a photograph too. A picture brings back memories far quicker than text.

Emails from new contacts can be dragged into the contacts box and a contact entry is automatically made with all the details harvested from the email.

365 Calendar

Firstly set the options so your calendar looks like you want it to. Decide you working week, which may include Saturday, mine does. Sort out the default view for your calendar.

Now decide colours for differing items. Here’s my suggestion:

  • Red – making money
  • Blue – marketing activities
  • Yellow – administration
  • Green – self development
  • Orange – personal activities

You can then see at a glance whether you’re being productive or not.

Microsoft provides an enterprise quality web meeting software platform called Skype for Business. It uses the Skype engine but it’s not connected to your personal Skype. It allows you to run a web meeting with anyone or any group at the click of a button. Make sure you obtain this and link it into Office 365. It’s far better than GoToWebinar and more cost effective too.

365 Tasks

Office 365 comes with a stable task management engine which is underused. Many people just list all their tasks into one giant “to do” list and this can be very bewildering.

There’s a couple of ways you can convert your tasks into something more digestible. The first manner is to put dates on each task – start and end dates – so they appear at the bottom of your calendar for the relevant day. Handy if they must be done on that day.

I do it differently. I categorise each task so I can group them on my calendar. I believe I’m more productive when I’m doing similar tasks in clusters rather than free-wheeling.

Firstly, I’m crystal clear as to my objectives, supporting projects and goals I need to achieve. I’m sure you are too. With that in mind you should be choosy whether you add an item into tasks. You should only do this if it moves you forward in your objectives. If it does, it’s known as a Tactical Next Action – an TNA.

I have TNAs for:

  • TNA: Calls
  • TNA: Online
  • TNA: Do
  • TNA: Write
  • TNA: Someday maybe

The last one is true; I have 35 items in that category at the moment but none are deal breakers, but the first four are what my calendar carries most.

When a new task comes into your task list, put it in as unassigned – it will automatically find its way to the top, so when you do your task management, you can allocate an TNA to it. Use your phone to add tasks whenever you think of something or someone gives you a job to do. Don’t rely on the brain to remember, it won’t, but the phone will. The task will whiz into the cloud and synchronise across all devices.

365 Email

The foundation of all communications and one of your collection points. I’ll talk about collection points shortly. But let’s tame your email once and for all; I’ve known salespeople to drown in it. Here’s how.

Before we go any further, turn off your email alert feature. This has to be one of the worst distractions known to the Inside Salesperson.

You are allowed to check email regularly for important items but it’s best to do this every couple of hours – say 9am, 12 noon, 3pm and 5pm. But only to deal with urgent ones, leave the rest till later when you clear your inbox. For a quick reminder of urgent versus important you won’t do worse than Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid. You can see below that he creates four boxes which determine whether a task should be done or delayed or even ignored.

If you really do need to keep tabs of urgent email as they come in, buy yourself a smartwatch and Bluetooth your inbox. I have a Microsoft Band which does this for me, it vibrates and you glance at the tiny screen without accessing email.

And you must clear your inbox every day. Here’s how.

Choose a 60 minute window every day at some time, best before the close of play. Start with the first email. Can you handle it in less than 2 minutes? If so, handle it. If it’s going to take longer than 2 minutes, then put it into a task to be dealt with at another time. You can simply drag the email into the task area on Office 365 and it will automatically populate a task, which remains unassigned to be assigned an SNA later.

If it’s something you don’t want such as a subscription, see if you can unsubscribe. Be ruthless with these.

If it just needs filing somewhere, just drag it into the folder on your PC where it belongs.

Work your way through your emails in this manner and you will clear your inbox. And you must do this every day. Believe me, you’ll feel good when you do.

Collection Points

This is my term for where information and communications come into your business. Have a quick think about what collection points you have. Here’s mine when I first did this exercise:

  • Texts
  • Email
  • Post
  • In tray on my desk
  • Desk
  • Car dashboard
  • Post-it notes on my computer screen
  • Unassigned tasks on my phone
  • Mobile voicemail
  • Land-line voicemail
  • Social Media direct messaging
  • WhatsApp communications
  • Ideas stored in my brain

The aim is to reduce them, I was ruthless because the more collection points you have, the more difficult it all becomes to keep in control and you’ll soon be overwhelmed. Here’s my culled list:

  • Texts
  • Office 365 Email
  • Unassigned tasks for ideas etc.
  • In tray on my desk for all paperwork including post
  • Plastic folder in brief case for receipts etc.

Email is king for me, so I channel everything through to my email inbox and because I can access this on my phone, I don’t miss a thing. All social media messages come through to email, eBay notifications everything. It does mean I have a full inbox every day but I do clear this each day.

Do all these things and you too will manage your time really effectively so you can concentrate on selling. I do.

Telemarketing Sales – When Buyers Don’t Buy

In the telemarketing sales profession many sales are lost within the first twenty seconds of the pitch when it comes to executing a telephone sales presentation. Successful salespeople will greet customers with warmth and let their personality naturally sell themselves as a person first. The buyer, in many cases, decides first, before even hearing about the actual offer, if you are a person he or she would like to do business with. When the telephone sales process is not successful it is oftentimes because the salesperson fails to connect with the prospect quickly using a rapport building greeting and opening. The worst part about this is that the potential customer remains on the line and hears you out already having made up his or her mind to say no at the end of the presentation. Its a loss of time, energy and a potential customer when the result could have been different with the correct approach at the very beginning of the pitch.

Secondly, buyers and decision makers sometimes do not buy because of the failure of the salesperson to connect both emotionally and rationally with prospect during the pitch. Successful sales people will use both their heart and their head to make the sales. Keep in mind, as a salesperson you will be successful to the degree buyers…

  • 1) Like you.
  • 2) Believe you.
  • 3) Trust you.

Buyers subconsciously have a built-in meter that is measuring how you rate in these three critical areas. Your job as a sales professional is to register as high as possible in these areas.

Top salespeople also ask the appropriate questions at the right time while “selling the sizzle” and not the steak. Sell the benefits of your product or service to your prospect as opposed to selling them on the actual features of the product. Your questions should be designed to expose the prospects “unsolved problem” as it were. You always want to talk about the end result benefits of the product or service as it relates to your prospects “unsolved problem”. Doing so will make the task of rebutting less of a struggle because there will be less sales resistance at the end of the pitch when you ask for the payment for the item.

10 Futurist Technology Predictions for Inside Sales Teams

What is AI?

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. I prefer automated intelligence. It’s already with us in many forms. Artificial Intelligence is the intelligence exhibited by machines or software.

Algorithms helping Google to be the smartest search engine in the galaxy.

Stock markets around the world use Algos, as they call them, allowing high frequency trading using algorithms. It’s estimated that as of 2009, high frequency trading accounted for 60-73% of all US equity trading volume. So Artificial Intelligence or AI has done away with human traders.

  • Robots, at such a low price, that you can afford one to cut your grass or vacuum your carpets.
  • Cars that drive without humans. Scary.
  • Amazon’s algorithms that suggest what you should buy next, the most successful cross-selling engine on the planet.

AI is already with us and is about to go through massive growth. Before I take a look at the predictions for us, let’s have a quick look at the economics of all of this, after all, it’s money that drives everything.

The Economic Influence

The fundamental aim of all advanced economies is to increase productivity. In other words to produce more goods and services or gross domestic product (GDP) per person in the workforce. Gone are the days of cheap labour. In the UK we now have the Living Wage which has increased the old minimum wage substantially. Off-shoring to the Far East doesn’t bring cheap labour, in fact labour costs in China are rising rapidly as their industrial growth continues.

  • In the past we’ve relied on innovations and inventions to drive productivity.
  • In the 19th century, we had steam power
  • In the early 20th century, we had electricity and the motor car
  • In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, we had personal computing and the internet

All these inventions increased GDP for the countries who maximised their use.

AI is predicted to increase GDP by 1% during the years 2020 and 2030. That’s when the changes I’m going to talk about will become mainstream. Let’s go.

1. Brains in the sky

Or smart data in the cloud. Have you ever spoken to Siri or Cortana? These are embryos of this prediction. In the future all of our knowledge, our experiences, our data will be held in personal cloud storage accessible via voice control from our Smartphones. It is already. But the future knowledge will be able to learn and improve based upon what we experience, do and learn.

Think about it. Everything you ever want to know or do, the answer will be in the personal cloud. You can ask the cloud any question… anything… and it’ll answer it for you in seconds.

The implications for the Inside Sales operation are enormous. No need for training anymore. Your cloud can advise you what you need to know, can feed you information, show you how to do things at a voice command.

No need for coaching since the cloud storage will observe you and provide feedback to make you better at what you do. It’s an automated mentor, a coach always on hand to help and assist.

And it learns, it improves, you will be able to buy “boost” packs that enhance it. Can you imagine being able to perform and do anything?

There’s even talk of being able to map the human brain, digitise the output and put that in the cloud for accessibility at any time. To be able to “back up” your brain. Maybe this is a few more years away yet.

2. Robotics

Will have an enormous influence on the Inside Sales Operation. Tea fetching robots, robot cleaners. Your manager using a robot to enquire how you are, almost like a moving avatar. Window cleaning robots, compliance robots wandering the centre, observing and recording all around them.

3. The Internet of Things

Every device will be connected to the internet and will communicate with other devices.

In our home the following items have chips in them and can communicate via the internet:

  • Our Aga cooker. You can switch it on and off from a phone and if it develops an electrical fault, it tells the Aga central control of the problem.
  • Our fridge which can inform Tesco’s when we’re light on milk.
  • TVs, DVD Players, Sky Box, naturally.
  • My printer.
  • My Microsoft Band.
  • My car. The computer tells me that my service is due and simultaneously contacts the local garage who emails me to fix up an appointment.
  • Smartphones, Tablets, Kindles… but you knew they were connected.

The number of devices connected to the internet is expected to grow tenfold, from 2 billion to 25 billion, between 2010 and 2020.

What are the implications for the Inside Sales operation? Everything smelling of electrics will be connected to the internet and will be able to talk to something else. I mentioned the vending machine, but this is small ticket compared to the bands around the wrists of your Inside Sales People.

Imagine the bands feeding you information about their state of mind, their motivation, their stress levels. Do they need a break, a conversation or just someone to counsel with? We all know that the burn-out amongst Inside Sales People is high and the turnover of staff in a call centre is horrendous. Imagine being able to monitor their state of mind, how useful this would be.

4. 3D Printing

Not necessarily AI, but something that will change the way companies and individuals buy in products. Instead of buying them in, we will use the 3D Printer to make them.

From the internet comes the blueprint fed straight into the 3D Printer which makes it there and then, using some kind of polymer or liquid metal or tofu foodstuff.

So when you need a piece of equipment, you order it up on the internet, pay for the blueprint and have it printed in the office 3D printer or the resource shared with the landlord, since they’re going to start off very pricy.

5. Automated salesperson

This might sound very unusual, but you can obtain software that is intelligent and can read and respond to the written text. Imagine an email coming through, the Automated Salesperson called Lucy answers it based upon her programming algorithms and her ability to react to the written word.

She has access to everyone’s calendar, email systems and the company’s cloud of data and intelligence so can mimic the responses of a real human.

This morning I was using live chat to speak with HP about my malfunctioning printer. Questions came from her, I responded, she reacted and told me how to fix the printer. She might well have been human, she might well have been an intelligent algorithm handling the job.

More and more of these roles will migrate to algorithms and in the Inside Sales of the future much of the initial email exchanging and live chats will be dealt with in this manner. Once the customer has been qualified by the algorithm or algo as I’m going to call it from now on, it’ll pass the query onto a human who can make contact and handle the customer moving forward.

Live video chats can be accomplished with an algo. The algo will look, sound and act like a real person on the screen in front of you.

6. Algos in websites

This is the most exciting innovation for the future of the Inside Sales operations. Algos in action on websites. Already Amazon’s cross selling engine will recommend products for me, but I’m talking about advice being given by algos.

Imagine you’re an Inside Sales operation selling mortgages and associated protection products. Many companies do use humans at the moment to give the advice and complete the sale. In the future, customers will log onto the system looking for mortgage advice and they’ll get it from the algo.

The algo will imitate being human, will have all the questions needed to be asked, will call themselves Dave or Umran and will give a great service. I can see voice being added to the mix in a way difficult to distinguish from a real human. A rigidly regulated sale conducted by a computer programme.

Is it a person on the screen or is it a lip synced avatar of the algo? We’ll never know.

7. Smart Call Monitoring

This is currently available. A call monitoring system can monitor and listen to the actual call and flag up when an issue occurs. Maybe an irate customer or key words being uttered by either the customer or the sales person. This could be intercepted by the manager or recorded for coaching purposes later. A real time saver.

8. Recruitment with no Limits

It’s hard to recruit the right kind of people in the area where the Inside Sales operation lies but the future will allow you to recruit from anywhere in the world and connect them to the centre via the internet. You can now, but the future will allow this to be more effective than it is now with all the algos and AI in operation.

9. Virtual Reality

Will become a reality and ubiquitous. We already have the technology but it’ll be become cheaper and easier to move the mass of data around the lightning fast connections everyone has.

Your Inside Salesperson based in Singapore can don their headset and be in the training room in Milton Keynes, interacting with his colleagues. He can be with the manager for a one to one in the meeting room number 4.

10. Holographics

Will be beamed to these rooms and in time, you’ll think the person is actually there in front of you. But they’re not, they’re in the home office in downtown Singapore Capital City.

Think about the impact with customers. With the ability to beam your hologram anywhere, Inside Sales will need to change their name back to field sales. Now there’s a game changer.

Summary

All these predictions are based on present day facts and trends already happening. The period 2020 to 2030 will see robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominating our economies and contributing to a 1% increase in the world’s GDP through additional productivity.

For the Inside Sales operations, we will witness an enormous increase in productivity and, by the way, the HP representative on the live chat this morning was a human and she told me her name was Lucy.