The breadth of consumer choice has never been so expansive, and that’s even the case when your consumers are businesses. Because of this immense field of competition, most business-to-business (B2B) companies need to build quality sales teams to land new customers.
The B2B world is unique in this sense. Most products have black-and-white applications, not really requiring call centers full of salespeople. When you show interest in a pair of shoes on the internet, chances are you won’t be getting a call from an Adidas rep.
On the other hand, if your business is solving a unique and complicated problem, building a sales team is essential.
At ReminderMedia, we’ve scaled our business precisely by growing our inside sales department. We increased our revenue by 80%, tripled our client base, and made the Inc. 5000 list twice. To pull this off, we had to go from four people working the phones, to 45.
If this sounds daunting, well, it certainly was a big adjustment. But it was entirely doable, and you likely don’t need this big of a team to hit your goals.
But if you think your model could benefit from a team doing phone outreach, I’ll tell you the exact moves we made in the early days to put this team into action—complete with our systems, performance metrics, and toughest decisions.
These tactics apply to a team of any size, so whether you have one sales rep, or 100, consider whether these simple methods we used to scale rapidly will work for your business. I’m betting they will.
In this article you’ll learn:
- The five most important elements of a cold call, and how getting this right is critical before hiring and scaling
- How to design a commission structure for inside sales reps
- The personality makeup of the ideal salesperson and how to attract them
Making Every Minute Count: A Plan to Mechanize Every Call
If you want to build a sales team, you have to lay the proper foundation before hiring.
If you hire employees before you perfect your process, you will hemorrhage money while racing to play catch up. The most important part of that groundwork is knowing how to replicate successful calls. If you want your team to earn consistently, you need to solidify certain fundamentals. You have to perfect the process before you bring on the people, then create a sales process that allows callers can thrive.
Part of this process is identifying the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you have to monitor. We have listed these below. If you already have callers making sales, use these metrics to track your team’s performance and see if you can improve your tactics by applying what you learned.
Qualified Leads and the 1-Call Close
The amount of time and effort you spend moving a prospect through your funnel should correspond directly to the amount of money your product costs. If it costs millions of dollars, then it makes sense to handhold and spend more time building a relationship with your prospects. If your product only costs a few hundred bucks a year, then you need to be vigilant about reps spending time wisely. Knowing when to quit is as important as knowing when to persevere.
A very general rule of thumb is to spend 15 minutes for every $1,000 of annual revenue a client is likely to bring.
If your products only cost a few hundred dollars, discourage salespeople from spending too much time winning over prospects. For these potential customers, use a high-velocity sales approach called a “one-call close.” The method is simple—turn the prospect into a client the first time one of your reps speaks to them.
To make a successful one-call close, you need to make sure you’re pulling qualified leads. Making sure they are qualified first is key. A great introduction into lead qualification is the article “How to Close 95% of Your Leads .” When you feed qualified leads to a team of one-call closers, you make the sale in 15 minutes instead of 15 weeks.
Monitor Phone Statistics
Once you start bringing in qualified leads, you need to get granular with your calling statistics.
Gather the following data from every rep. If you have yet to hire a rep, establish benchmarks that you can use as expectations for future callers.
1. How many dials should they make a day?
2. How many voicemails should they be leaving?
3. How many minutes do they actually talk to someone?
4. How many times do they call the same prospect?
5. How much time do they actively make calls?
Let’s dive into each of these in more detail.
When your system requires diligent repetition, the smallest improvement can have a major impact. You need to buy an auto-dialer or use a CRM that has a click-to-dial feature. It only takes a few seconds to type in a phone number, but when you are making 150 dials a day, all those seconds add up.
Physically dialing a number also takes the caller out of the zone. When the rep has to look back and forth from the monitor to the keypad, it breaks their concentration. With click to dial, they can keep their eyes on the screen and type notes in between calls as the phone rings.
As you integrate a one-call-close approach, the number of dials will go up, as will your voicemails. The vast majority of prospects don’t pick up on the first call. The voicemail that’s left after that initial call can make the difference in getting them to pick up on the second.
At first, there was no rhyme or reason to the messages my callers left; they were totally ad-libbed. They were basically an afterthought, which is crazy, seeing as callers can spend more time leaving voicemails than they do talking to actual clients.
You need to mechanize the process and create a script. If your callers have a script they follow when they talk to prospects, it makes sense that they have one when they leave messages. When you create this script, have your reps follow these four principles for every message they leave.
1. Keep it short – If you ramble, you’ll lose the prospect.
2. Withhold contact info – We’ve been conditioned to tune out the moment we hear a rep rattle off contact information, which is how they usually start off a voicemail. We launch into our value proposition to create intrigue, and once we have their attention, we introduce ourselves and the company.
3. Speak with authenticity – When you rattle off so many messages, you might start to sound like a robot. Make sure you convey enthusiasm every time, and if you can mention something personal to the prospect, major bonus points.
4. Speak clearly – No one is going to listen to your message twice. It’s imperative that you enunciate and repeat your contact info at the end of the voicemail.
Here’s a quick video on how to leave perfect voicemails.
Analyze and record how much time reps spend on the phone. This number could be different for your company, but if you use a one-call-close style of outreach, it should be about the same.
Once you start logging phone time, you can quantify the stats of your callers and workshop their approach if their numbers aren’t on point. Workshopping means roleplaying different objection scenarios, and analyzing the research activity that occurs between calls. While there is a slew of reasons their phone time might not be high enough, it usually boils down to their ability to focus on a repetitive task.
Phone quotas will differ greatly based on what’s being sold, but here at ReminderMedia we look for the following stats daily:
- 150 Dials
- 4 Hours of Phone Time
- 1-2 Sales
- 3-5 presentations scheduled
None of these stats are written in stone. For example, if one of your callers has five hours of active phone time, their number of dials may come in well below 150. This means they may have spent more time talking to prospects that actually pick up the phone. If someone’s dials are high, it usually means their phone time will be low, because no one will be picking up. They’ll just be leaving quick voicemails.
It’s easy to say, “Call the prospect as many times as it takes.” This works as a maxim, but in reality, it can cost you money. Remember, knowing when to quit is as important as knowing when to persevere.
In our case, calling too many times was not the problem. We found that reps were burning through leads way too fast, only calling a couple of times before writing each one off as a lost cause. We determined that our reps should be calling at least six times before taking a lead out of rotation, and even then they are still not written off completely.
Your ideal contact frequency could be much different. According to recent statistics gathered by Hubspot, it can take up to 18 phone calls before connecting with a buyer. That means you have to call them nearly 20 times before you even speak to them. If you get to more than 20 attempts and the prospect has shown no interest, then it’s time to walk away. In much the same way giving up too early is a waste of money, so is not knowing when to quit.
Time In Between Calls
This was another area where we had to improve. The rep who takes three minutes in between calls vs. the rep who takes two minutes is wasting two hours. We found that two minutes was enough time for a caller to gather themselves, take any notes about the last call, and prep briefly for the next one. By tracking times, we were able to hit quotas more consistently.
When you quantify these five pieces of data, you can make the most of every phone call, and then your new hires can adapt your streamlined system, allowing you to scale easily. There are still many intangibles when it comes to inside sales, but these are the five most important pieces of data that can be collected. Not only are they easy to gather, but if a data point is lackluster, taking action to fix it is pretty straightforward.
How To Build a Sales Team: Structure Pay to Attract Great Sales Employees
Armed with new insights and replicable phone strategies, we were in a position to bring on more callers to build our B2B sales team.
We decided on keeping our sales team in-house. This is known as “inside sales,” which is when all salespeople are under one roof, using the phone and email to communicate with prospects instead of driving around and meeting them face to face. Developing an inside sales team allowed us to manage employees better.
We also hoped to lower the turnover rate because we would have a better handle on the wants and needs of the employees. But that was a hard decision to make right out of the gate. In particular, if we were going to rapidly expand our inside sales team, the pay structure would have to change.
As a business owner or entrepreneur, you should always keep an eye on your bottom line. Inside salespeople are so valuable because they get paid commission. Other than a small salary, you don’t pay them unless they are earning for you. They require much less overhead than your typical employee, and the ROI on an inside salesperson is much more immediate than, for example, a content writer. A good inside salesperson can bring in tangible revenue for the company within their first week.
Keep the base pay low for inside salespeople from the beginning. When you provide a low base, you create a natural filter where the good salespeople will rise to the top, and low performers will move on to other companies, which will benefit your business. The flip side is that they need to make solid money when they do sell. If you don’t compensate top performers for their performance, they too will move on, which will hurt your business.
We restructured our commission when we went into expansion mode—cutting base salaries by more than half. We took guaranteed incomes from about $50,000 annually to $20,000.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. That news sucked the air out of the room, created tensions, and shocked employees. This is why I encourage owners to pay a low base and high commission from day one. It’s easy to provide a healthy base pay to a few trusted inside sellers in the beginning. Paying that same base to over 50 becomes incredibly expensive and will inhibit growth.
If you do provide a low base, your commissions should be high. Make it realistic for sellers to make six figures on your sales floor if they’re willing to grind. A general rule of thumb when it comes to commission is 5-10% of whatever sales they make, but a universal figure is hard to pin down because it is tied so heavily to your industry and product.
At ReminderMedia, this change was not made lightly. We lost employees who weren’t comfortable with the risk and reward. They wanted steady income, and that’s totally fine, but it doesn’t make for a great salesperson. A great salesperson is driven by the fact that they are in charge of their earnings. Their paycheck will not reflect the hours they were at the office, but the impact they had while they were there.
I won’t deny it, we lost some good people, but it was a necessary sacrifice. It made room for new hires, fresh blood that could come in with the new system already in place. The initial drawback would soon fade as we built our larger team up.
If you can, avoid this drawback by structuring your pay with a low base and a high commission from day one. If you have to make the change, offset any blowback by encouraging the aspirations of high earners, and make sure that you have the structures in place that will enable them to succeed.
What Makes A Good Salesperson? Identifying the Ideal Candidate
Once you have your inside sales structure and commission package in place, you are poised to start hiring.
Unfortunately, many young companies hire salespeople before they have laid out a solid foundation. This leads to misguided employees, frustrated managers, and wasted resources. A weak start usually leads the new sales hires to behave more like administrators. They perform outreach, but they don’t close deals. In sales, it’s much more profitable to get started on the right foot as opposed to righting the ship later. Build your structures slow so you can build your team fast.
When it comes to hiring salespeople, you want to leave as little up to chance as possible. A prospect might perform wonderfully when it comes to the interview and roleplay exercises, but not have what it takes to work the phones for eight hours a day, five days a week. On the other hand, you might have candidates who display behavior that is pretty unconventional for a job interview, but turn out to be incredible on the floor. You need to try and get a hold on what kind of person they are at their core.
There are two factors that have been found as commonalities among all salespeople: ego drive and empathy. These factors were highlighted by David Mayer and Herbert M. Greenberg in their article What Makes a Good Salesperson. If you are looking for an introduction into basic sales psychology, this article is a perfect place to get started.
But in short, empathy gives a salesperson the power to switch up their perspective. Ego drive is what motivates them to make call after call, even when they’re getting rejected.
One tactic you should start employing is a series of phone interviews. This will give you a chance to hear them as your clients will. They need to have a solid radio voice. If a person is boring on the phone, then you’ll save everyone’s time by not having them come into the office. Start with a phone screening, then bring them in house to explain the sales process. From there, have them pitch you on the phone just like they would if they get hired. This process will give you a more well-rounded idea of who they are in relation to their role.
Just placing emphasis on phone interviews will not be enough of a failsafe, however, and you will have to refine your interview process to fit your company culture. To add another layer of diligence to interviewing, start using a reputable personality assessment. At ReminderMedia, we use the Predictive Index which measures “Four core behavioral drives: Dominance, Extroversion, Patience, and Formality.” We look for these levels in each of those four traits.
The first people we had take the test were our best employees. We wanted to see how our rock stars scored so we could use the results as a benchmark for new hires. We wanted to create a profile of the perfect employee, so we did analysis of current employees. We identified their greatest strengths along with their most damning weaknesses. The results of this exercise gave us a pretty clear idea of who we’d be looking for.
Nathan Chan wrote a wonderful piece on how he and his team hire a-list talent at Foundr; however, his criteria is a lot different than ours because we are hiring salespeople. I believe that sales requires a unique kind of person. I’d even go so far as to say that some of the characteristics that make a person good at sales might make them pretty terrible for other roles within an organization.
If you don’t have a team yet, here is what our perfect profile looked like. The ideal candidate was was overtly dominant and extremely extroverted. They needed to be the kind of people who can become fast friends with anyone, and once that quick rapport is established, they need to be able to exercise influence over that person.
You actually want your reps to lack patience—too much patience will lead to wasted time. They need an eagerness that will keep them champing at the bit. This will bring in the kind of salesperson who can bring energy to 150 calls a day. They need to be able to get rejected 60 times in a row and still be revved up to close the 61st.
You also want them to score low on formality. They need to be able to run through walls and never be deterred by a bit of awkwardness. Hires who are overly formal feel intrusive when they pitch, which makes selling impossible. Many of us are raised with manners that teach us to be deferential when we first meet people. To be a great salesperson, you have to be assertive. You have to be comfortable pushing a person to make a decision, otherwise that person will just say they’ll “think about it,” never to heard from again.
Just because a person is likable, or even qualified, shouldn’t mean they make your initial cut. We had candidates who were surprised again and again about the fact that we weren’t interested in bringing them on board. They had the experience, but they were missing the edge.
Once you have established what you’re perfect candidate looks like, try to stick to that criteria. You can teach the right person without the right knowledge. It is much harder to rewire the intrinsic personality of a applicant who looks great on paper.
Watch Your Powerful Sales Team Supercharge Your Business
Finding great employees and scaling a team is one of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face when their ventures start to take off. You go from nearly living with a few employees (sometimes cofounders) to having a real team to manage.
If you do want to scale your business and sales team, my best piece of advice would be to bring in at least one committed inside sales associate, with the intention of having that person oversee a team in the future. If you make the right hire, they will be a direct revenue generator who can bring in more of the same. Just make sure you have your systems and commission structure ready from the gate, because even the perfect seller won’t be able to do much without it.
If you have any questions or tips based on your own experience on how to build a sales team, please leave them in the comments section below. I am also available to answer any questions.