Josiane Feigon is a pioneer, maverick, and visionary in the inside sales community. She is the founder of TeleSmart Communications and the author of Smart Sales Managerand Smart Selling on the Phone and Online. We caught up with her to discuss what’s been going on with the inside sales industry and asked her to share a few tips about building a successful inside sales team.

What are some of the typical mistakes that companies do when they decide to create inside sales department or team for the first time? 

 

They don’t take a stand on inside sales. They only bring in a few people (under three) and give them tons of responsibility and basically set them up to fail. When leadership teams understand the power and potential of inside sales, they invest more in the headcount, the tools and their management.


For a long, long time inside selling was equated with telemarketingThat is no longer the case. What other means and channels should reps be using now? Obviously, each industry is different, but is there a golden ratio of how much time one should be spent on the phone vs other tools? 


Inside sales is anyone who is spending 40+ hours per week reaching out to prospects via phone, email and social. Telemarketing used to be just the “smile and dial” type of calling and now inside sales has become a lot more sophisticated. One big result of these changes is that inside sales teams and their managers really need to get on the same page when it comes to social media and social selling, especially around LinkedIn. I wrote a post about that just recently, in fact. 


What are the best places to hunt for inside sales team talent and what should you do to retain people so that you don’t end up with 200% turnover rate? 


Finding good talent for inside sales is becoming increasingly difficult. That’s mainly because the skill sets are much more complex and not that easy to find, onboard, or retain. Here’s a list I created on the 25 traits that make an inside sales Superhero and the interview questions that reveal them—kind of a master list for those hunting for top inside talent. Another thing is that the era of dropping a bulky, long job description off with HR and having them throw it up on Craigslist is dead – that’s definitely not an effective way to get yourself the best talent today. Instead, sales organizations need an active pipeline of prospects. They can get them by marketing their company on social media, on the company blogs, and on sites like Glassdoor as a great, fun, productive, and social place to work. 

Millennial talent is also flooding the inside sales workplace right now and they actually have all the right qualities for a strong, digitally savvy social salesperson (other than hating the phone, that is J). So college hires are actually a strong area right now. 


In-house sales team vs remote or distributed sales team, does this make a difference? 


It depends on your sale model. Remote teams are becoming more popular but I wouldn’t recommend this unless they have been on board for a while. You’ll want the opportunity to observe them at their desk and in their workflow before deciding whether they’re good candidates for a work-from-home deal. In that respect, setting up remote working as a privilege that’s earned by good performance is a great incentive. 

 

What software and services other than CRM you’ve seen dramatically increase efficiency and productivity of inside sales reps and teams? 


Salesforce is the primary CRM tool that most of our clients use and many of the apps are Salesforce friendly. This is a tough question for, since most of the dramatic improvements I’ve seen coming from a software tool are coming from a good, easy to use CRM. On the other hand, a bad, clunky one can really kill your inside team’s efficiency and motivation. 

 

Sales prospecting is very laborious, time consuming and costly process. What can companies do to go from zero incoming leads to, say, 25% of all leads incoming within 6 month? 


Investing in a marketing automation process and strong web site (SEO enhanced) are essential. Blogging is also big – build yourself a content system with a theme for each month and then blog 3 times a week and always attach a Call to Action that reminds readers how to act on what they just learned. Integrating content (like infographics, video guides, ROI calculators) will also be a big factor in upping your digital inbound leads. Creating a newsletter can also be a huge boost to inbound leads, but it can take a while to build up. Creating all this new digital content (if you’re starting from zero, that is) can be a confusing process, so the biggest piece of advice to go along with it is to try and focus your new-found web traffic into landing pages that encourage visitors to reach out, join a newsletter, connect on social media, etc. 

Thank you! 

For more on inside sales strategies and trends, subscribe to Josiane’s newsletter. 

See also: 

Email lifehacks from a productivity guru who checks his inbox only twice a week 
- Free Yammer Alternative
Why your enterprise social collaboration strategy failed and what to do about it 
Seventeen free remote employee management tools you should be using 
5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity
 
Three Simple And Inexpensive Lead Nurturing Tools That Work 

Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

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For a business to be profitable, you need customers. Customers start from leads, and leads can come to you either through word of mouth or as a response to advertising. They can also find you through the search engines – that is, if you’re doing SEO (search engine optimization) right. That said, here are five things you can do to generate more incoming leads:


1. Start a company blog 

Gone are the days when weblogs were synonymous to personal online journals. These days, companies are positioning blogs as an online marketing strategy, no matter how un-sexy the thought of regular posting may be. 
By starting a company blog, your website ceases to become just an online brochure with product/service information, contact details, and such. Blogging gives your company a voice, an opportunity to be seen as an industry expert by providing your target audience with the educational information they need to make an informed purchasing decision. It also allows you to answer pressing industry questions and engage your clients and prospects in healthy conversation. 
If readers find your inputs helpful and insightful, your blog posts can get shared and your brand introduced to new readers you can potentially turn into leads. 

2. Create great content 

Content is no longer king. Great content is, and understandably so. The Internet is literally underwater with content, hence, the terms “content shock,” “content fatigue,” and so on. Every day, people are bombarded with a great deal of content they’re likely unable to consume, which is why the content you put out there has to stand out from the crowd. Then again, what makes great content? As per Kissmetrics, the following are the characteristics of great content: 

• Original 
• Actionable 
• Has a strong headline 
• Provides answers 
• Maintains reporting accuracy 
• Engaging and thought-provoking 
• With images and video 
• Fluff-free 

Whether it’s for your own website or other content platforms, like sites you guest blog on, ensure that you’re creating no less than great content. When it comes to content marketing, quality trumps quantity every single time. 

3. Use CTAs 

Calls to action are essential for every website, and every single page of your site must have one, not just the Home and Contact pages. A call to action is an instruction you give your readers to invoke an immediate response. They are important because more often than not, people need prodding before they actually act on something. A call to action can be anything – read a related article, visit your website, download an e-book, claim a discount voucher, sign up for a free trial, join your mailing list, and others. Calls to action, or CTAs, can be placed in an email, your website, an e-book, a blog post – anywhere in your marketing, essentially. 

Remember though, your CTAs must not be obnoxious, as these can negatively affect user experience. 

4. Take advantage of social media 

Even for local and small businesses, social media is a vital marketing strategy, as it allows you to connect and interact with your followers. Timely quips – think Oreo’s blackout tweet at the Super Bowl – can even get your brand at the center of conversations. And then, there is social media’s link to search engine visibility. Neil Patel of Quick Sprout affirms that social is the new SEO. 

Now, if you’re looking for a specific demographic, like a job title or age range with specific interests, social media PPC (pay per click) advertising is worth looking into. Cheap PPC ads on Facebook can help increase the number of likes and/or shares for a YouTube video you want to go viral. Even your company’s Facebook page can benefit from this approach and significantly extend the reach of your future communications and campaigns. 

5. Create an email list 

If you haven’t tried it yet, creating an email list may seem like a daunting proposition, but if you’re looking for a long-term lead generation strategy, neglecting the power of an email list may actually hurt your business in the long run. 
While we now probably have all heard that the money is not in the list, it’s a known fact that people are likely to check their emails every day, and email lists are a great way to rapidly and effectively disseminate messages to your subscribers – people who have expressed desire to receive your messages by opting in to your list. One clear advantage of having an email list is that you own it and have full access to it. Facebook and Twitter may be popular now, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll stay that way forever. Cases in point: MySpace and Friendster.

See also: 

Why your enterprise social collaboration strategy failed and what to do about it 
Seventeen free remote employee management tools you should be using 
5 Email trends that will affect you and your business
5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity
 
How to build successful inside sales team - tips from inside sales guru Josiane Feigon 
- Free SugarCRM alternative

Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

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Cold calling, despite being disliked, is still a powerful way to generate new leads and sometimes the only option your inside sales team has. Today we talked to two cold calling experts Kelly Robertson of RobertsonTrainingGroup and Michael Halper ofSalesScripter.com about typical cold calling mistakes and how to avoid them. 

What is the biggest mistake or mistakes people do when they first try cold calls? 

MH: Trying to sell the product on the cold call. A cold call should only last between 2 to 5. This is not enough time to fully sell the product (unless it is very transactional – one call close type of sale). With that the goal, and thing to close, should be the appointment to discuss more. The initial sell is to sell the prospect on having a conversation. 

KR: The biggest mistakes is that most people don’t do any pre-call research and treat every call the same way. They use the same opening, the same value proposition, and as a result, they sound exactly the same as every other person calling that prospect. 

When you call business executives you need to stand out from the competition and give them a compelling reason to take your call. Demonstrate that you have expertise or knowledge of their business or industry by referencing your research or trends and then by asking them thought-provoking questions. Too many sales people simply launch into a pitch which automatically puts the prospect on the defensive and gets them thinking, “How do I get rid of this person”. Or, it causes a kneejerk objection such as, “We already have a supplier” or “We’re not interested.” 

Another common mistake is trying to close the sale on the first call. Your only goal on the first call is to determine interest and to set up an appointment with the prospect. 

Plenty of people hate telemarketers. How do you write a script that gets you the results you want without being too pushy and salesy? 

KR: For B2B, it is critical to use an outline but not a tightly written script. Once again, the key is focus on the prospect and an issue that they may be dealing with in their business. Skip the “Here’s what we do” opening and concentrate on establishing a two-way dialogue. 

MH: Talk about the product as little as possible. Focus more on value that the product offers. Focus the call more on the prospect than on you (the salesperson, the product, the company). You do this by having pre-qualifying questions in your script. This gets the call focused on them and gets them talking. Focus on their pain. Focus on the pain that you resolve. Do everything you can to not sound like a sales person. 

Confirm that they are available at the beginning of call by asking if they are in the middle of anything? This will decrease your pushy-ness to establish the call and gets their permission to proceed and buys you 2 to 5 minutes.

Don’t try to overcome objections – someone says they are not interested and you try to make them interested. Instead, redirect the objection by asking a question that keeps the call going. 

A good chunk of cold calls end up in the voicemail. Can you give a few pointers about leaving messages that result in returned phone calls? 

MH: The first tip is to never leave a voicemail with the goal of getting a returned call. If you are cold calling decision makers, they don’t return voicemails from cold calls – they are too busy and get too many, they know that if you are a good sales person you will be calling back. Use a mix of no voicemail left with leaving voicemail. No voicemail left (hanging up) gives you the opportunity to call back more frequently. Leave a message periodically and use this as an opportunity to educate the prospect on why they should talk to you when you call them back (mention pain that you fix, value you offer, client example, etc.). Follow every voicemail with an email. 

KR: First, the message MUST be brief. No longer than 20 seconds, 30 at the most. Anything longer than that is likely going to get deleted because business executives are too busy to listen to long, drawn-out messages. Get to the point and give them a compelling reason to listen to your message. 

Second, skip the information about your company and what you do. Instead, just like your opening on a live call, demonstrate your expertise and knowledge of the prospect’s business or industry. Reference a growing trend in the industry and ask if the prospect is facing a similar issue. Or, mention a significant issue in your client’s business and a problem that they might be facing. For example, let’s say you sell IT consulting services and you are targeting a company that has just acquired another organization. You could say, “Companies who go through mergers often struggle with integrating different operating systems. I know you just acquired ABC company and I’m wondering if you’re facing this challenge?” This approach shows that you have knowledge of their current situation (which separates you from the competition) and it also demonstrates that you have insight into a particular problem. 

Thank you! 

Bitrix24 is the only free CRM for telemarketers and inside sales professionals. Use promocode TIP10 whenregistering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

5 Simple Things You Can Do to Generate More Incoming Leads 
Seventeen free remote employee management tools you should be using 
5 Email trends that will affect you and your business
5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity
 
Using Bitrix24 as free RingCentral alternative

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So you are planning to launch a company intranet or want to replace your fossilized SharePoint portal. There are more than 30 intranet vendors to choose fr om and you are lost. After all, intranets aren’t cheap and you don’t want to make a mistake. Don’t worry, this intranet evaluation checklist will help narrow down your intranet choices to only the best solutions: 

1. Cloud AND self-hosted. 

You ONLY want solution that gives you these two choices and most vendors do. Cloud-based intranet services are usually very inexpensive and require no involvement fr om intranet developers who charge a pretty penny. That’s a plus. However, cloud intranets have few customization options and some, like Yammer, are known to have regular and prolonged outages. You want to have an option to migrate to cloud (if your intranet budget is slashed) or go from cloud to server (if you need customization or for compliance in your industry) any time you want to. Stay away from vendors wh ere you have only one choice. 

2. Classic AND social. 

Classic intranets are boring. True. Social intranets are hip, and younger workers love them. This is true, as is the fact that in many companies, social intranets devolve into an internal Facebook with mindless chatter. This is what a classic intranet looks like. This is EXACTLY the same intranet with a social interface. Let your workers chose which one they prefer. Again, stay away from vendors who force you to pick sides. 

3. Email inside the intranet 

Perhaps not a requirement but a GREAT idea and here is why: people use email daily. They probably use other communication tools as well – telephone, group chat, mobile messaging, and videoconferencing. When you add communication tools inside intranets, you kill two birds with one stone. First, you draw people into daily intranet use, solving the ‘zombie intranet’ issue that plagues so many companies. Second, you keep all conversations in one place, making them very easy to find. 

4. Employee self-service 

Employee self-service is probably the easiest way to boost intranet deployment ROI. A self-service portal can greatly reducethe load on your HR and IT departments, eliminating hours and hours of repetitive and low-value work. Things like vacation time approvals, business trip requests, meeting room booking, and IT service requests can be handled optimally by utilizing employee self-service (ESS) features in your intranet. 

5. e-Learning and knowledge management 

Intranets are perfect for accumulating knowledge, both formal and informal. Wikis, knowledge base, idea management, skill tags, employee workbooks, sales manuals, online testing - these can be easily integrated into your intranet and there are intranets that already come with these included ‘out of the box’. 

6. Project and planning 

You’ve probably noticed that companies that don’t have intranets rely on project management solutions to coordinate work. Many project management vendors add features like activity stream, file sharing and shared calendars to their solutions, making them very intranet-like. That’s because intranets and project management are made for each other. 

7. Search 

Intranet search is one of the most overlooked, but incredibly important features. Intranet search must be fast, thorough and smart. The first one is obvious. Thorough means ability to search EVERYWHERE, including inside documents, calendars, wikis and so on. Smart search means structured and permission-based search. For example, when you enter an employee name, you should get different categories – employee profile page, messages created by this employee, his or her blog post and, lastly, mentions of the person. The search box should also have filters (date range, categories) that narrow down the search results. 

We hope that this checklist will help you make you a smart choice. Obviously, we’ll be delighted if you pick Bitrix24, which comes not only with all of these, but 35+ other tools that practically guarantee success. Even if you don’t, we’d at least advise that you make some intranet consultants sweat and stutter as they try to explain why their expensive solution doesn’t have half the features that the free edition of Bitrix24 comes with.

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Neen James is a high energy, Aussie leadership expert focused on productivity who delivers engaging programs that have educated, and entertained audiences with real-world strategies that apply in all roles at work and home. The author of Folding Time™ and Secrets of Super Productivity, Neen also provides one-on-one mentoring to leaders. We talked to Neen about team productivity strategies that work. 


We see that simple things like replacing emails with group chat or private social network can significantly increase team productivity. What other simple, cheap and quick to implement things can companies do to receive immediate and noticeable productivity boost?
 

Use the phone no one does that anymore! A phone call can save multiple emails and meetings. Leverage social media tools and text messaging. It keeps conversations short and targeted. 

Group meetings – how often should one hold them, how long should they be and do you even need them? 

This is a tough question because unfortunately it ‘depends’. I advocate for 15 minute standing meetings. Asking people to stand keeps everyone on track and avoids people talking too long. 15 minutes is the key to productivity and the key to productive meetings. Ask your team how often they want/need to meet and be guided by them. Don’t hold meetings for the sake of holding a meeting. During the holidays and busy seasons cancel all unnecessary meetings. 

Companies are relying more on remote employees and teleworkers. Some claim that it reduces productivity, like Yahoo. First, do you agree and second, can you share some tips about managing distributed teams effectively? 

I don’t agree that remote or teleworking reduces productivity. For the individual it often accelerates their personal productivity. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is often the case for those working remotely. 

When managing remote team members leverage technology, especially video. Video calls keep people focused (as they are less likely or able to multitask and clear emails while they are speaking with you) and video is an engagement tool. Schedule regular touch points, one on ones so that you can help everyone stay connected to the business and the culture of the team. Vary your communication to include email, phone calls, video, and face-to-face meetings. Where possible schedule a face to face meeting for the entire team to connect. 

A great number of social productivity tools appeared on the market within the past few years – social intranets, enterprise social networks, and social collaboration platforms. What do you make of this trend and how do you see it developing further? 
It will increase. Building apps and platforms is now easier than ever before and customization will increase. Everyone wants to be able to get more done. In our book Folding Time™: How to Achieve Twice As Much in Half the Time, we share strategies on how to manage time, focus attention and leverage energy. It’s vital we filter our decisions and choices on a daily basis and review our workflow to ensure we are investing time, attention and energy in the right activities. Collaboration tools will assist us to do this. There is also a movement back towards low-tech productivity solutions – some companies are instituting no email days, email free hours, no technology allowed in meetings, using note paper/flip charts instead of PowerPoint. People feel overworked, overwhelmed and overstressed because of some technology/email/meetings… moving back to high-touch instead of high-tech is resulting in increased productivity for some. 

Standards, protocols, routines – a lot of expert advise to create standard procedures that employees should follow and claim that this increases worker productivity. But workers say that it kills their productivity, increases turnover and so on. How do you find balance between the two? 

Systems create freedom. Systemize and templatizing processes can create efficiencies for many companies - that can be very productive. When a more creative solution is required it is beneficial to get outside of routine and process to encourage free thought and collaboration. Balance occurs when you determine if it is an everyday process or procedure versus a new creative brainstorming opportunity. 

Thank you, Neen! 

Bitrix24 is free online team productivity and collaboration platform. Use promocode TIP10 whenregistering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

5 Simple Things You Can Do to Generate More Incoming Leads 
Typical cold calling mistakes and how to avoid them 
- Free SharePoint Alternative
5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity 
Intranet review checklist – seven must-have features for ANY intranet

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