Inside Sales and Field Sales Harmony

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I’m publishing a series of Q&A excerpts from my interviews with Sales 2.0 leaders, which will appear in my next book. This excerpt is from my interview with Bill Donellan, vice president of the Americas sales teams for i2, a company that provides intelligence and investigation software for law-enforcement, intelligence, military and commercial organizations.

Anneke: No new Sales 2.0 project is flawless. What were some of your mistakes, challenges or failures?

Bill: We’ve had a lot of challenges as we transformed our marketing. That’s been a big challenge for our inside sales team, because there has been a gap in lead-generation activity.

Also, while the inside sales team has kept the outside reps focused on large opportunities by handling our smaller transaction sales, opportunities in that size range decreased in the past year. With greater focus on larger deals, our outside reps are building bigger deals based on solution selling. Examples include how we position all our products around high growth areas such as fraud and cyber.

Anneke: Did your field sales organization readily accept inside sales?

Bill: (laughs) Field sales reps can’t appreciate inside sales until they’ve had a chance to work with good inside sales reps. Not everyone has had that opportunity, because not every company has a top-notch inside sales team. Besides that, many field sales reps don’t always want to delegate tasks, which makes it challenging for them to work in a team-selling environment. Phil (i2’s VP of the State and Local sales team) and I had to manage through the process and reassure the reluctant members of field sales that it was OK for inside reps to touch the customer first. We got everyone on the phone together to talk about what each sales rep, inside and outside, was doing on every account. Outside reps had to learn that the burden was on them to help their inside teammate come up to speed and let them take ownership — and that it would benefit them in the long run.

Anneke: How did management support the success of inside sales?

Bill: We had to monitor the program closely, listen in on phone calls and coach everyone through the value-selling process. And we had to ensure we had the right comp plans.

Anneke: What are the key things to get right with compensation plans?

Bill: Comp plans shouldn’t create competition in a team environment. They need to reinforce the goals of the program and the company.

Anneke: How long did it take for field sales and inside sales to work comfortably together?

Bill: It took two or three months. After that, field sales realized the value and was reassured the inside reps knew what they were talking about. With new field reps at Documentum (Bill’s former employer), it was the same: It took six months for the field to get comfortable with the inside group. Our goal in both companies was to find a way to work it out with no turnover.

Read the full interview with Bill Donellan in the Resources section of this website.

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