SM: Closing deals on the phone … there are people who don’t know anything about selling by phone, and would probably tell you that you cannot close deals on the phone. That isn’t true. But there is probably a threshold of how big of a deal can be closed on the phone.
AS: I’m loath to name an amount of money beyond which you cannot close over the phone, especially if you have a customer who already has your product. It is very easy to sell very large deals and add-on deals over the phone. I would suggest, ask for the order – go as far as you can. Try to move to the next stage in the sales cycle, and if you are finding that for whatever reason – culture, the size of the deal, or the need to see more on site – that it is not closing, then you are going to find something out. If you never ask to go forward in the sale cycle, you would never know how far it is possible to go by phone.
SM: One issue about phone sales revolves around the need for a set of reference accounts you can cite to show your credibility. What if you don’t have that?
AS: Then the customer has to touch the product through a free trial. A lot of startups have made the experience so rich with the customer’s actual data and situation, that after a period of time, the customer says “yes, I am comfortable and this is what we really need”.
SM: Let’s talk about hiring. Who is a great telephone technology sales manager? What is the profile, what do you look for?
AS: It depends on whether the department is brand new or whether the manager is coming in after it has been set up.
SM: Let’s talk about each separately.
AS: Managers, in general, for inside sales, have to be great people managers. They have to be comfortable with technology, and they have to be detail oriented so that they can really be on top of measuring and process. That is a wide skill set.
SM: And they must have a very good voice!
AS: If they are not selling on the phone, and they are just managing people, you can get away without it.
SM: What kind of manager would you be if you have never done it yourself?
AS: That’s true! They also have to know how to use the kinds of technologies that are now used to show product features and benefits, and demonstrate business value. It is more than just the phone voice. Nowadays, a lot of inside sales people have those video cameras on their computers, so you even have to look good!
SM: That was not a requirement at one time!
AS: There are some funny stories about that! Managers that are inheriting a group or are being brought in to manage a group which is already established, must have an appreciation for this kind of management that is very people intensive and process intensive.
On top of that, managers that are starting groups from scratch need additional skills. They need to understand that all of the answers do not come up front, and you just plug it in and go. There is a lot of trial and error. You might have a brilliant idea for the program and the strategy. You might hire the right people and you might put all of the systems in place and define the process, which are not things which the other managers have to do. However, you then have to see how you go forward. A lot of groups are changing things around every quarter. You have to be flexible.