Sales 2.0 Leaders Interview: When NOT to Build Inside Sales

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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 is the second excerpt from my interview with Jim Pitkow, CEO of Attributor, which produces Web-monitoring software that protects publishers’ revenue by preventing unauthorized use of content.

An inside-sales veteran, Pitkow worked with my company, Phone Works, to research his market and customers as well as test the feasibility of using an inside-sales model, before he ramped up his sales efforts. Like most Sales 2.0 leaders, Pitkow isn’t afraid to try new things, but he is smart enough to test his hypotheses on small scales with pilot programs in all aspects of his business.

Anneke: I’m curious about your perspective on testing sales messages and approaches, markets and sales processes before building a sales organization. Many companies want to do this themselves with their own employees — often after they’ve hired an entire sales team. Why didn’t you do that?

Jim: I’ve run inside sales. I ran a $10 million-plus run rate telesales company, multinational, multiple sales offices and stuff like that. The first issue is, if you haven’t done it, you’re going to pay the cost of learning on the job and go through all the inefficiencies of that. Even in my situation where I’ve done this — I’ve seen the movie, and I know how it ends — there are certain risks I’m not willing to entertain at certain critical points in the company’s growth cycle.

There is a certain amount of data I need before I’ll commit toward constructing a full telesales department. I’m a believer in efficiency being more a function of time than cost. I’d much rather bring on a temporary team for six months — where there is zero startup cost outside of working with them — to get to know them and nail the messaging.

I would hire outside consultants if I were building my own sales team. The startup costs are near zero, and in our project we were getting data back within four to five weeks from when we signed a contract, so we could execute upon our thesis. That began to shift our messaging, shift our notion of the product and shift our thesis in the entire marketplace.

Had we seen different results, we would have moved toward building an inside sales team. I wouldn’t build an inside sales team until I had the data that showed it was proved and repeatable. I wouldn’t want to spend six months building the team and then six months dismantling it.

Anneke: Exactly, and paying for all those severance packages.

Jim: There are multiple costs: the physical cost, the morale cost, the resourcing cost. It’s just an expensive proposition. In this day of low-cost, high-efficiency, quick time-to-market requirements, it doesn’t make sense not to test first. We don’t have time to lose getting it wrong. We’ll pay a little extra to get it right, and everybody benefits. The VCs are happier. The employees are happier. Our customers are happier.

Read the other excerpt of this interview series, “Why Pilot Your Sales 2.0 Programs?” or find the full interview in the Resources section.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Anneke Seley
Anneke Seley was the twelfth employee at Oracle and the designer of OracleDirect, the company's revolutionary inside sales operation. She is currently the CEO and founder of Phone Works, a sales strategy and implementation consultancy that helps large and small businesses build and restructure sales teams to achieve predictable, measurable, and sustainable sales growth, using Sales 2. principles.

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