I saw this question on LinkedIn the other day:
Lead Generation to Inside Sales – Are You Worth The Risk?
Many high tech salespeople earn their stripes in lead generation for the complex sale. It’s a low risk way for companies to test and train sales professionals without allowing inexperienced reps to blow deals. However, most lead gen reps don’t view the role as the zenith of their professional sales career; instead they have their sights set on the next rung of the ladder. Contrast that with companies, and more specifically sales managers, who are hesitant to hire someone for a closing position unless the sales professional has experience closing deals.
Fair or unfair, you’ll have to win the chicken or the egg argument—how am I supposed to get closing experience unless someone gives me an opportunity to get closing experience—because managers may see you as a project that they don’t need on their already overcrowded plate.
In order to win this debate, you’ll need to prove that you’re a sales professional worth betting on.
Record Your Calls.
Peyton Manning is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of football. The New York Times wrote an article “Peyton Manning’s Case for Being the Best Ever” detailing how he out-prepares the competition each week and chronicles his legendary film study habits.
In order to outpace the pack, invest time each week breaking down recordings of your prospecting calls. Pick one or two calls each week and complete a detailed call evaluation where you dissect the call. My team selects their strongest call and weakest call of each week for this exercise.
Share your call recordings and evaluations with your manager, the VP of Sales, or the strongest closing rep and ask them for their feedback and coaching.
This exercise will help you accelerate how quickly you improve your selling skills. If you want to eventually become the “Peyton Manning of Sales,” you’ll need to match his famous work ethic.
If your company’s telephone system doesn’t have this functionality you can get a USB call recorder for less than $200.
Get Face Time.
Lobby for a standing weekly 30 minute meeting with your manager to review your results and activities. Many sales reps hope that their management leaves them alone. Seeking out an audience with management is a rare role reversal that few desire. Plus it makes you accountable for producing results every week.
Identify the strongest closing rep at your company and befriend that individual. Birds of a feather flock together. Of course you’ll want to find out how that individual got into a closing role and ask for advice on how you can follow suit. More immediately, ask that individual what you can do to help them become more successful.
Offer to take your VP of Sales out for coffee, breakfast, or lunch and ask for advice on how you can succeed under their leadership. Insist on picking up the check. This small but not insignificant gesture signals that you value their time and are willing to invest in yourself.
Invest in Your Career.
The sales trainers I know tell me there are two types of salespeople who attend their sales training: 1) the ones whose companies pay for them to go and 2) the ones who invest in themselves by paying their own money to go.
I’m told that less than 3% of sales reps fall into that second category.
Mark Twain nailed it over a century ago. Here’s my tweak to his famous quote: “The man salesperson who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man salesperson who can’t read them.”
There are dozens of great sales books out there. Reading and applying the material will sharpen your sales skills and help you demonstrate you can handle the responsibility of closing deals.
Produce Quality Results.
Develop a portfolio of highly qualified sales opportunities that ultimately close. Pay extra special attention to the qualitative aspects of your leads and try to carry these sales opportunities as far as possible prior to involving your closing teammates. Your goal should be to know more details about your sales opportunities than any other salesperson in your company. Try to “out qualify” not only your lead gen contemporaries, but the closing reps too.
Demonstrate that you can consistently surface, qualify, and drive the sales process to the point that the deal advances to the next stage of the sales process with clear and mutually agreed upon next steps.
Bottom line: amass a war chest of sales opportunities that are likely to close, regardless of who ultimately gets ink on paper.
“There is very little traffic on the extra mile.” – Unknown
If you’re given a list of prospects, augment it through your own personal research. If you have one name at a target prospect, find ten. Extend your research so you’ve got a compelling reason to speak with each person. Ask any experienced litigation attorney, and you’ll hear that cases are won or lost at trial because of what happens prior to trial. The same holds true in prospecting.
Invite yourself to participate in the initial meetings you surface. If you run into resistance, offer to join in “listen only mode,” provide detailed call notes to the closing rep and your manager, and perform all post call follow-up for the rep.
The good news is you can become an elite lead gen rep—one worth risking a closing role on—by simply doing all the little things that most lead gen reps won’t do. The choice, of course, is up to you.
I absolutely love this. For me, the advice to read, ask & know more are hugely important for success in any profession. Gigantic thanks to Chris for the thought-provoking words.
What advice would you give to reps looking to make the transition?