Steve Richard is the Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer of VorsightBP, an award-winning sales effectiveness firm that specializes in training B2B sales teams. VorsightBP is currently ranked #1689 on Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5000 fastest growing companies in the United States. Steve was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in Inside Sales in 2010 by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP). The AA-ISP also recently named VorsightBP as the Service Provider of the Year for Sales Training for the fourth year in a row. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Steve on a variety of inside sales topics including what makes VorsightBP different, how Steve defines analytical sales management and where the inside sales industry is trending in 2013.
What is VorsightBP’s secret sauce? What makes your company different?
There are very few people out there who have a systematic process for filling the “Sales Top of the Funnel” but many have something for the bottom, leaving the Sales TOFU as a black box. Most sales training companies like Miller Heiman, Customer-Centric Selling, Value Selling and the TAS Group are great at the bottom of the funnel but not at generating qualified prospects at the top. The big questions in sales is “What do I have to do to get a qualified meeting?” and “How do I take more of the leads from marketing and convert them into opportunities?” or “How do I take a list and turn it into qualified appointments?” Very few organizations do this well and even fewer can measure it effectively.
VorsightBP has cracked the code at the Top of the Funnel. We’ve done a lot of research, a lot of testing in internal experiments and have developed best practices.
What are some of the best practices of generating leads through inside sales that you apply?
At VorsightBP, we have 8 basic tenets:
1) Hypothesis of Need
2) Direct Lines
3) 3×3 Research
4) Client Voice
5) Universal Truths
6) Verbal Judo
7) Overtime Questions
8) Call Windows
For more information on VorsightBP’s key tenets, check out our free on-demand webinars.
Where do you see inside sales trending in 2013?
Inside sales is growing faster than field sales. Win rates from qualified meetings are actually up significantly – but you have to get those qualified meetings in the first place. There’s also a trend toward more transparency and and a greater emphasis on sales coaching instead of the traditional sales management.
Finally, and most importantly, inside sales is measurable and analyzing inside sales performance is critical today. We now have analytical tools like InsightSquared that were never available in the past to measure sales activity ratios, pipeline and results.
What are some of the biggest challenges for inside sales reps today?
It is harder than ever to get people on the phone or to engage with people who don’t know who you are or who have never heard of your company before. Prospects are tuning out – we call this Vendor Noise or Vendor Static. There is a paradox – it’s harder than ever to get people on the phone but at the same time, the best meetings are a result of having that conversation. If you look at all the appointments that we schedule at VorsightBP, 65% come as a result of a live conversation.
We have so much more information today due to the internet and social media, but you can always learn more about what the prospect is doing before you call the VP, and many companies are not doing it. You have to find something about the organization and/or individual. Prospecting by phone call complements the research done on the internet or on social media.
What is your definition of sales management and what would you consider the top objective of inside sales management?
My definition of sales management is to optimize the performance of your sales staff. According to “Cracking the Sales Management Code,” it involves coaching and inspection – the inspection of metrics and activities to figure out how you can coach reps to improve their performance and what they are doing. You have to inspect the “right” metrics that you can control and do something about. You can’t control the results but you can control the activities along the way.
Many sales managers just demand more dials so their reps don’t do any pre-call research since they need to hit their dial numbers – this is a challenge and increasing activities is not the right approach. The right approach is to measure the conversion of these activities to connect them to actual results. Some reps may make fewer dials but they book more appointments and not just more but of better quality which convert to deals better (because they may be also good at qualifying, not just dialing a lot of numbers). If a sales manager is not measuring activity to results ratios then he is missing out on what’s really working to grow sales.
What key performance indicators and metrics do you use as a sales manager for inside sales? What KPIs do you use as a CEO of a company?
I look at activity metrics and activity ratios, pipeline metrics, sales results metrics and marketing and lead generation metrics. Every sales manager should be reviewing these regularly and coaching based on the insights he or she is getting from this information.
As a customer, how do you use InsightSquared? Why did you buy it and what does it help you achieve that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to?
We were always good at measuring activities before because we are a data-focused company. We are now better at planning our objectives – which requires analyzing what happened in the past – and InsightSquared does a great job of showing critical information in only a few clicks of a mouse.
We are now learning the importance of 4 sales objectives outlined in “Cracking the Sales Management Code”: Market coverage – do we have enough sales reps to serve our market? Sales force capability – how do sales reps and managers execute sales activities. Customer focus – do we have the right mix of going for new business versus expanding existing accounts? Product focus – is the sales team selling the right things?
More about Steve Richard
Steve Richard is the co-founder of VorsightBP, which is dedicated to arming talented sales professionals with real life tools, tips, tactics, techniques and templates to successfully secure sales meetings with senior executives. Steve has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, The Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, CNN/Money and is a guest contributor on CNBC. He has also been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in Inside Sales by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP). He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and two daughters. Together, the family enjoys jogging, skiing, scuba diving, camping and checking out the museums and dining options in the DC area.