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Turning Sales Outside In

December 30, 2021

Accelerate Your Virtual Sales Learning Curve

Today, remote selling is the king as field sales teams are forced inside. For example, 80-90% of new car dealers are expected to have full e-commerce capability by the end of the year. In response to social distancing, dealers have been quick to re-vamp their decades-old sales model by launching at-home test drives and remote purchasing. Many customers have loved the new experience. Data shows that customers across industries are seeking more low-touch, simple, remote sales interactions.

Close up of unrecognizable car salesman using digital tablet.

As a business leader, this may leave you wondering how to transition to inside sales quickly and effectively. It’s not a simple task because it requires rapidly and drastically changing sales team behavior. Traditional field sales best practices are about building a meaningful number of deep client relationships while inside sales teams aim to cast as wide a net as possible. The skill sets needed for each are fundamentally different. To help your sales team through this transition you must approach it like any other behavior change challenge. Two principles will help:

  • be clear and prescriptive and
  • easure activities, not results.

Residential solar panel distributor Vivint Solar leveraged these two guiding principles to successfully re-skill their sales organization and position for the future.

  • Be clear and prescriptive: Vivint Solar’s sales pipeline dropped by 60% in the wake of COVID-19 as their door-to-door sales team moved inside. Before sales reps might have a 90-minute in-person lunch & learn to develop a new customer relationship. Now? A 5-minute cold call. To accelerate the learning process for this new style of selling, leadership focused on providing clear cold calling best practices, new online tools, and remote contracting capabilities while investing in re-training reps to deliver consultations over the phone. Ultimately Vivint Solar was able to backfill more than half its pipeline losses in just a few weeks.

What’s needed is rapid behavior change, and your job as a leader is to lower the barriers to change.

Field sales reps leverage experience and autonomy to grow their sales pipeline. As long as they achieve their targets, strict adherence to prescribed methods is overlooked. But, as reps transition inside, that experience is no longer as useful. What’s needed is rapid behavior change, and your job as a leader is to lower the barriers to change. To facilitate this change, make appointment setting, prospecting, and proposal generation the role of support staff, freeing reps to spend 90% of their time delivering brief but sharp scripted pitches and video demos. Provide your reps with a mechanical set of instructions to be repeated for a finite set of prospects in a deliberate and disciplined manner. Arm them with vetted customer targets, specific call scripts, and step-by-step protocols. Clear instruction will make it easy for them to operate in new ways. There is no time for trial and error.

  • Measure activities, not results: On the heels of 20%+ year-over-year growth, Vivint Solar’s sales targets were quickly out of reach for most reps once the pandemic hit. In response, leadership quickly shifted focus from results to customer engagement. By setting achievable, near in, activity-based targets Vivint Solar was able to keep reps aimed in the right direction. They saw record-high digital lead implementation and a 50% increase in inside sales during the COVID-19 market retraction. By measuring best-practice activities rather than results, many sales teams performed better than they had even before COVID struck.

By measuring best-practice activities rather than results, many sales teams performed better than they had before COVID struck.

To help your sales team operate in new ways, set goals around quantifiable actions rather than end results. For example, incentivize calls completed, leads generated, and digital demonstrations to help reps learn new behaviors and take the right actions, even when results seem a long way off. Weekly tracking and progress reviews will increase accountability and reinforce the required behavior change.

Iside sales may be your dominant sales channel in the aftermath of COVID-19. Use the crisis as an opportunity to unlock lower customer acquisition costs, improve market coverage, and accelerate lead conversion rates for your organization.