What’s your Inside Sales culture? Whatever it is, it’s impacting your bottom line in a positive direction or a negative one. Every organization wants a lively, disciplined, and competitive sales team. Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, there are several proven ways of using culture to maximize your Inside Sales talent.
Within the Inside Sales industry, company culture tends to lag far behind, well, just about everything in terms of importance and conscious decision-making. The prevailing view is that spending time and money improving culture is a wasteful diversion of resources that has little practical utility.
The zero-sum game of sales team culture makes it worthwhile to take a look at three particular companies that have built creative, highly profitable Inside Sales cultures. Hubspot, Zappos and Alert1 are three major names in business who each took a distinct approach to building an Inside Sales culture and have been rapidly growing revenue ever since. Here’s a look at how they did it.
3 Epic Inside Sales Cultures That Fueled ROI
The classic approach to B2B culture is to think of it as a byproduct of success, rather than a facilitator. Or in the alternative, to see it as a fairly cut-and-dry game of “Keep people fired up with incentives and recognition.”
And indeed, there are countless, high-performing inside sales organizations the world over that have found great success via the classic approach to building culture: granting financial incentives, providing cool company perks, and bringing on high-caliber personalities.
These three companies, however, took the road less traveled. And they’ve been reaping the benefits ever since.
Inside Sales Culture #1. The Laboratory at HubSpot
Much has been written about HubSpot’s approach to building out a truly data and analytics-driven business team model. Original VP of Sales and current CRO Mark Roberge is a veritable legend within the SaaS industry and the model he set forth is considered the class of software companies around the world.
Foremost, is HubSpot’s hiring process: This is a company that approaches each hiring decision like it’s a quantum physics equation. KISSMetrics gives a great synopsis , but for those who want the short version, let’s just say candidate assessments includes weighted performance metrics, regression analysis, and a personalized predictive index.
True to form, Hubspot’s new hire training is second-to-none. In terms of sheer rigor, it’s hard to beat a company that makes its new Sales Reps go through a month-long classroom-style training course, pass a 150 question exam, become certified on the product (in 6 different ways!), and build both a blog and website from scratch.
Once they’re in, however, Hubspot’s Inside Sales reps are as well-trained as they come and enjoy perks like a completely “open-door” company policy, working quota-free while focusing exclusively on closing deals generated by their ace marketing team (who is on quota), and are encouraged to think unconventionally.
In many ways, Hubspot has turned the prototypical Inside Sales organization on its head, with amazing success. I’d call Roberge the Billy Beane (Moneyball) of Sales hiring, but that wouldn’t be fair to Roberge. Beane never even made the World Series, while Roberge took HubSpot from $2.2 million to $77 million in annual sales in 5 years flat. Their culture is clearly working for them.
Inside Sales Culture #2. The Burning Man at Zappos
Zappos is legendary for its all-around culture, which both encompasses and is directly aimed at making sales as easy as possible. As a B2C online retailer, Zappos’s customer service and inside sales teams When you’re a member of Zappos’s Inside Sales team, you have one mission, and one mission only: “Make the customer happy.”
For that reason, Zappos actually tracks its call center personnel on metrics denoting customer happiness, rather than call volume or talk time. If that’s not an innovative approach to employee performance evaluation, I don’t know what is.
The company epitomizes team effort, open-mindedness and iconoclast. Why Burning Man? Check out this breathless report from a Zappos employee meeting. Blowout quarterly meetings functions with big theatrics are child’s play compared to the Barnum & Bailey-esque spectacle that Zappos runs.
If nothing else, the clarion, laser-like focus of Zappos’s directive to its inside sales team is a revelation. When your Inside Sales is always thinking with such positive, clear purpose, it’s easy to come to work every day inspired and ready to dominate. Credit to Tony Hsieh for having that kind of foresight.
Inside Sales Culture #3. The War Room at Alert1
My colleague Jason Seyler, who recently authored a book entitled Mastering Millennials, once regaled me with a story about his own success in drawing from military culture during his tenure as National Sales Manager for Alert1. “We declared war on the industry,” he explained. He bought army fatigues and camouflage paint for his team, supplied them with Nerf guns and targets (their customers) and had them all come to work one day in full military grab.
The sales team absolutely loved it — so much, in fact, that it became a tradition during his tenure and the unofficial sales team culture. The impact on sales? By his third year as National Sales Manager, Seyler had grown annual sales revenue at Alert1 from $1.7 million to $15 million.
Another example: Avaya identifies its Sales Reps’ territories as global, in country, or “theatre.” Which means someone out there gets to tell people at cocktail parties that they oversee Avaya’s sales operations in the U.S Theatre. Possibly unintentional, in terms of evoking the military, but you’ll be hard-pressed to hear such terminology outside of the military.
What’s Your Inside Sales Culture?
Be pro-active in figuring that out. Remember, culture is an ever-evolving, nebulous thing (and why we’ll never see Hammer pants again). It’s time to take a more pro-active role in influencing the culture that defines your Inside Sales team.
Whatever actions you undertake to impact culture, my recommendation is to go big or go home. Create something sustainable, memorable and likely to drive the passion and productivity of your salesforce. Your inside sales culture dictates the mentalities of your people — it defines the place where you and your peers spend the most time, and can either inspire or deflate your team’s potential for success. Be bold, be creative and act with ambition to take control of your Inside Sales culture and fuel your ROI.
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