The AA-ISP Leadership Summit: We Learn so Our Clients Profit
Earlier this month, three of us from VSA attended the Leadership Summit for the AA-ISP (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals) in Chicago: Michele Plunkett (head of Operations), Kerry Dougherty (who leads BDR coaching and development, and is also a Program Manager) and myself.
This is THE conference for our industry where all the best trainers and coaches, cutting edge technology and database vendors and most of the leading Inside Sales organizations meet annually. This was my third year and Michele and Kerry’s first.
I constantly look for ways VSA can improve, and this Summit is a tremendous resource for us.
In many ways, this conference is also a benchmarking opportunity for VSA to learn where we stand relative to other Inside Sales teams – both internal an outsourced. I always leave with a huge list of action steps.
Some of the learnings pertain to calling strategies, like how many times to call and when, etc. There was a huge focus this year on Artificial Intelligence. The most meaningful talks, however, are about people.
Here are some fascinating facts and insights we gained:
- One of the presenters, Amit Bendov, CEO of Gong, a company that studies sales conversations, delivered research that proved what we all know intuitively: Engaging in conversations, rather than speaking at prospects, boosts a Business Development Rep (BDR’s) success rate. It’s one thing to intuit this. It’s another to see it objectively. I cannot do justice to his incredible research and presentation, but, simply stated, here’s what Amit showed us:
- Success is about asking more questions, the right questions at the right time and knowing when to stop asking.
- Star BDRs speak 46% of the time, vs. bottom tier reps who speak 72% of the time!
- Star BDRs ask questions consistently throughout the conversation – especially at the end about “next steps” vs. average reps who ask often in the beginning but don’t leave time to ask about what’s next at the end.
- Successful reps pause 5 times longer than average performers prior to responding to an objection. Then, they start with a question of their own!
- They continue at an interactive, even pace vs. less successful BDRs who immediately plough into a lengthy monologue in response to the objection at a fast paced 188 words per minute, squashing the interactivity.
- David Hood, CEO of VanillaSoft, a CRM Software, studied 25 million sales leads and presented some superb findings about the best times and frequencies to call.
- We’ve all heard that it’s best to respond to a website inquiry within 5 minutes – and we have accepted this “fact” blindly.
- Did you know, that responding too fast is actually counterproductive? David’s research showed that it’s best to respond sometime between 10 – 60 minutes after the inquiry. Before then, you run a greater risk of losing the sale.
- Contrary to common beliefs, David showed us that there is no best day or time to call. All business days and business times have a similar response ratio from leads!
- Most importantly, consistent with what we’ve been taught, VanillaSoft’s research validated how vitally important it is to be persistent. 10% of sales are closed after 4 follow-up contacts and 80% of sales are closed between 5 – 12 follow ups.
- The most important insights came from speakers who stressed the soft skills of coaching, mentoring and leadership. These are the messages that Michele, Kerry and I were most keen to hear.
- After all, the success of any Inside Sales organization depends on its people. No amount of technology or sales playbooks can overshadow the importance of the people side of our business. (That’s what makes our industry so challenging – and rewarding!)
- We know that to move our entire organization forward requires a culture of trust, camaraderie, and openness to change. After listening to presenter after presenter, we landed on two key themes for our 2018 “People” focus:
- Empowering our Program Managers to be stronger people leaders, and
- Building a peer mentorship program for our front-line employees.
When it comes right down to it, it’s always about people. We recognize this. The Leadership Summit, as it is so aptly called, reinforced that as leaders we need to care for, cultivate and recognize our people. That’s how VSA can continue to grow, adopt best practices and remain a great value-added partner for our clients.