The Inbound to Outbound Sales Rep Path

How do you build a team of successful sales development reps that are hungry for the next deal? It’s all about creating a career path that allows reps to grow, learn relevant skills, and earn the right to reach for the next level of sales.

As the manager of a team of sales development reps, I’m often hiring people right out of college who have little to no sales experience. In order to get the best results from my team, I want my reps to specialize and become masters of inbound selling before moving onto outbound selling, and possibly being promoted to closing reps later on in their career.

Here’s how you should organize and build your team to drive performance, prioritize learning and get the best sales results possible from sales development reps.

(Check out our Sales Career Paths Chart to find out where your sales career may be headed.)

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Divide the Team

The first thing you have to consider is, how do you want to organize your sales team? If you have a good marketing team, you’ll be getting qualified inbound sales leads who show interest in your product by downloading an eBook or attending a webinar. If you have a great sales organization, you’re also going to have a team of sales reps seeking out more leads by outbound cold prospecting. However, the sales reps that will be assigned to chasing those two different types of leads require very different skill sets in order to succeed.

Outbound requires skilled prospecting, the knowledge to overcome common sales objections, and a compelling value proposition. Inbound sales requires less objection handling and more qualification questioning. Because of these distinct skills involved, you should segment your team into outbound and inbound sales development reps. By separating your team this way, your inbound reps won’t get confused or frustrated by doing cold calls, and outbound reps won’t have the crutch of inbound leads to fall back on to hit their number at the end of the month. It pushes both teams of reps to focus on developing the skills they need in order to source more qualified opportunities for your team of closing reps.

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Promote Inbound to Outbound

Now that you’ve segmented your sales development team, the question is, should outbound reps be promoted to inbound reps, or should inbound reps get promoted to outbound reps? There are good arguments for each side, and you need to consider what works best for your team. Many people argue that your inbound leads are like gold – you shouldn’t just hand them to an inexperienced rep who doesn’t know how to work them. You want to take care of those leads, since they’re so valuable and are more likely to turn into deals. Instead, you should hire a new rep, feed them to the wolves on the outbound team, and – if they survive – promote them to inbound.

However, I don’t agree with this. On my team, we promote reps from inbound to outbound, simply because outbound prospecting is a more difficult job and requires more sales skills. New reps work first on the inbound team so they can learn the product, learn the value proposition, and practice their selling skills on receptive leads. We’ve found that inexperienced reps can still source inbound opportunities at the same rate as more experienced reps, without hurting our numbers. However, outbound prospecting is another story. By promoting top-performing inbound reps to outbound, I’m able to de-risk the challenging job of outbound sales.

Becoming Closers

By promoting the best inbound reps to outbound, I have incentivized cold calling as the next step on the sales career ladder. This creates a culture of people who want to do outbound sales in order to be promoted, and who will push themselves to source more deals. This is important because many people consider cold calling to be the lowest rung on the ladder. It’s not a very glamourous job, and no one wants to dial the phone all day for the rest of their lives.

Much like in baseball, new sales reps have to prove themselves first in the minor league team. If the closing team is the Boston Red Sox, the sales development team is the PawSox – the AAA baseball team. Once reps have proven their abilities on the outbound team, the top outbound reps will be promoted to the closing team and can start winning deals. But by making reps do cold calls for 6 months or a year, you ensure the reps that make it have the drive and the skills they need to become a successful closing rep.

The progression from inexperienced inbound sales rep, to outbound prospecting sales rep, to closing sales rep is one that drives our entire sales organization. Using this method of segmenting and promoting your team of sales development reps, you will see more focus, better development of skills and – most importantly – better sales numbers.

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