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Creating Opening Sales Statements that Earn You Time

Wed, 2017-05-17 13:11

By Josiane Feigon

In today’s new normal reality, connect rates are dropping. The customer sees the phone as a rude interruption, yet we continue to robo-dial in hopes of getting a LIVE person on the phone. And in those valuable six seconds when your prospect picks the phone only to hear the inside sales rep waste that live call because they were not prepared.

Ouch! Today’s customers are not forgiving when a live call is wasted. Even when it’s not, they seem to vanish; disappearing into the ozone, never to be found again. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a rep dial and dial and dial and finally get a live call and unfortunately waste that live call.

Here’s how live calls are being wasted because of weak openings:

This generic opening annoys the customer so much because they’ve heard this before, so the customer shuts down. This happens when the salesperson has made hundreds of calls that week and their tone is flat and their opening is very generic.

Their opening will sound startled, something like this:

 “Hi, this is Susan with VanillaSoft, I was just calling to introduce myself.”


“Hi, this is Susan with VanillaSoft, I was calling to check to see if you have any projects going on that I could help with.”

No matter how busy our prospects are, they really appreciate a salesperson who comes in prepared with a strong opening sales statement that tells the prospect exactly why they are calling and what they want out of the call.

Here’s an example of a strong opening:

“Hi, this is Susan with VanillaSoft and the purpose of my call is to introduce myself, learn about your needs to see if there is a potential match. By the end of the call, I would like to us to identify a few people on your team we can invite to an upcoming event.”


“Hi, this is Susan with VanillaSoft and I wanted to thank you for downloading our trial eval. My goal is to better understand your interest in our solution and by the end of our call today, I would like schedule a brief appointment with one of our technical engineers to review your needs.”

The difference between the weak and strong openings is the stronger call objective tells the prospect exactly who you are, why you are calling and what you hope to accomplish. The most important part is wrapping it up by saying “at the end of the call” because this provides you with immediate control and earns you more time on the call.

Notice the difference? The strong opening earns more time and creates more accountability on the call. The delivery has a strong tone and pace. The tone is friendly, approachable, authoritative, conversational and confident. Your pace should not be too fast or too slow but sound more conversational. It does not sound generic or rehearsed.


Script your opening sales statement using this formula and you’ll see how much more time you will earn. What you’ll include is your name, your company, the reason for calling, your goal and what you hope to accomplish by the end of the call.

When you come in with more= you will walk away with more.

About the Author

Josiane Feigon is the President of TeleSmart Communications. She is a pioneer, maverick, and visionary in the inside sales community. Consistently recognized among The Top 25 Most Influential Inside Sales Professionals, Josiane is one of the world’s leading experts on inside sales team and management talent.



Boost Sales Performance with Sales Lead Tracking

Fri, 2017-05-12 09:30

Companies that apply CRM software and other sales lead tracking systems have a higher lead-to-close ratio. We’ve seen it here at VanillaSoft countless times.  An organization’s overall productivity level and bottom-line are significantly impacted by using a lead tracking software. Those that are fumbling between multiple spreadsheets are missing out and likely losing sales from a poor buyer’s journey.

Lead software efficiently funnels prospects through to the sale. Take a moment to consider your brand’s sales journey. Is it streamlined and effective, or disconnected and underperforming? Is management in touch with current sales numbers and forecasted sales at all times? Are you making it easy for your representatives to make calls? Below are seven reasons your brand can boost sales performance by tracking leads.


7 Reasons Your Brand Should Be Using Sales Lead Tracking Software

Increased sales numbers, that’s pretty much what every business owner wants. The B2B Lead found that “sales reps ignore 50% of marketing leads.” Tracking leads can ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and all leads are contacted and accounted for. Though a spreadsheet will work for tracking leads, investing in technology is the better option with room for scaling up. You’ll be amazed at how much more your team can accomplish with automation and an easy to use platform.

  1. Organization is key. Both salespeople and management teams work more efficiently when the data they’re working with is organized. A few examples of how leads can be arranged are by:
  • Stage in the buyer’s journey
  • Lead status (qualified or unqualified)
  • Lead source
  • General segmentation based on company size, demographic, industry, etc.
  1. Improved efficiency. Sales lead tracking software keeps salespeople moving. By cutting back on repetitive data entry, your representatives can focus more on tasks that generate revenue, i.e. making calls. A benefit for management on this note is their ability to check on a lead’s status at any time without disrupting their sales team.
  2. Personalization is expected. Today’s consumers expect personalization, and I don’t mean referring to them by their first names. Your messaging and the content delivered to them should align with their stage in the buyer’s journey. VanillaSoft offers workflow scripting, customizable templates, and automated messages to create targeted communications.
  3. Better reporting and forecasting. Current lead data is always available to management and other team members. Having the most up to date information at your fingertips allows for more accurate predictions. This data can easily prove ROI of marketing tasks and bring to light needed improvements of lead generation tactics.
  4. Retain more customers. Once a prospect has transformed into a client there’s still work to do. A centralized data system creates ease on renewal dates and when carrying out customer services tasks like responding to inquiries or following up.
  5. Improve the sales process. Data gathered in the journey to the sale – for those that make it and those that you lose – can be applied to future steps in your sales funnel. Management will be able to see what’s working well and what isn’t.
  6. Lead distribution is easier. Instead of manually routing leads, products like VanillaSoft route leads based on parameters input by management. Aspects you may want to consider when routing leads among your sales team include:
    • Region
    • Salesperson’s experience level
    • Previous history of contact
    • Time since lead submission

Anyone can see how beneficial it is for organizations to adopt a sales lead tracking software. Don’t waste the leads that the marketing team is generating. Use technology and automation to keep tabs on every lead that comes through.

Tips for Motivating Your Sales Team

Another way to lift sales performance is to fuel your sales team’s motivation. Motivated employees are more focused, committed, and lead to happier customers. Whether a seasoned professional or a new caller, a little encouragement goes a long way.

  1. Create competition. Healthy rivalry around the office is a good thing. Offer an incentive to your sales team that everyone on the team wants. It could be something tangible like a gift card, or simply recognition. Public praise is a self-esteem booster and shows employees that their hard work is being noticed.
  2. Provide the opportunity for growth. Be transparent with your staff on how their devotion to your brand will pay off. Also, give employees the freedom and encouragement to be innovative in their roles. If someone is highly interested in social selling, let them experiment with it. According to HubSpot, “social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing.” It’s worth a shot!
  3. Deliver regular coaching. Your employees want to succeed, and you expect certain results. The question is, are you helping them to develop their skills? Note both their strengths and areas of weakness that need to be improved upon in your routine coaching.
  4. Set reasonable, yet challenging goals. Targets that are not easy make things interesting and keep employees engaged. Goals should be specific, challenging to attain, but also practical in scope.
  5. Openly and clearly communicate with your sales reps. Involve your employees in decisions and ask them for feedback. Doing so will show them that their opinions are valued and that they’re a part of the team effort for the brand’s success.

Combining sales lead tracking software and an engaged, motivated team of sales representatives will set your business up for success. A consistent flow of calls is possible with a CRM and will drive the sales team to stay active and focused. With our product, management can quickly and easily monitor sales campaigns, the sales staff can conduct lead scoring during calls, and queue-based routing productively distributes leads. Find out more about VanillaSoft’s Lead & Sales Tracking features here.

How to Sell Insurance Over the Phone

Fri, 2017-05-05 09:30

Selling insurance over the phone can be hard work and requires perseverance to continue after getting a not so desirable response. You simply will not be able to close a deal on every call. Some prospects will take a little more work to turn into buyers. However, with a little know-how and the assistance of modern technology, you can bump up your sales numbers.

7 Lucky Tips to Closing the Deal when Selling Insurance Over the Phone
  1. Listen carefully and engage them. Every time you call a prospect or current client listen carefully for new opportunities. Ask questions about their hobbies (do they need motorcycle or boat insurance?), if they have any children (would it be beneficial to mention life insurance?), do they have investment properties (do they need liability coverage?). By giving them time to talk and asking open-ended questions you’ll have the opportunity to address their concerns. It will also help in engaging them instead of pitching them for the entirety of the call.You also want to pay attention to clues about what will affect their purchase decisions. Not all prospects are looking for the lowest price. Some are more concerned with ratings or current technology options. Consider taking notes during the conversation as you likely won’t remember everything.
  2. Avoid jargon and slang. It’s a major turnoff to be speaking with a salesperson who is talking in another language. Save the industry-specific jargon to conversations with your colleagues and speak in terms buyers can understand.Use professional language and avoid slang when calling a possible client. If it were an in-person meeting, you would be in business casual attire at the minimum, present yourself with the same decorum over the phone to boost your credibility. People want to buy from intelligent and confident individuals.
  3. Be prepared for the call. Practice your pitch, understand where you stand against competitors, read everything you can get your hands on about sales, and ask more experienced insurance salespeople for advice. Check out this blog post for more tips on improving your inside sales pitch effectiveness.
  4. Don’t give up. You may be able to sell some insurance policies in one call, but be prepared for a second or third call. Your prospect may want to do some of their own research to compare your rates, they may need to consult with their spouse, or they may just not trust you after one call. Don’t take it personally, but be persistent. If you get a solid ‘no’ ask if you can call again at their next renewal date.
  5. Organization is key. Have everything you need to make the sale available at your fingertips. It’s a good idea to open any relevant files you might need before dialing, so you’re not fumbling around searching for documents during the call. Underwriting guidelines are an important one you’ll want to have easily accessible.
  6. Script your pitch. Have a written pitch of what you need to say in the first few breaths of your call. You can change it around to the tone of your prospect once you’re on the phone, but know your script so you can add inflections into your voice and not sound like a monotone recording.
  7. Create a backup closing statement. If your prospect is not yet sold, have a secondary closing statement ready. Tying this back to tip number four, ask if it’s okay to call again at their next renewal time or even if you can send them a comparison of quotes. Sometimes having a visual instead of just hearing the numbers gives the buyer a chance to fully understand the value of your services.
Technology for Selling Insurance Over the Phone

Gone are the days of spreadsheets with multiple tabs and columns to track your insurance leads. Modern technology provides many tools that can assist in the sales process to make insurance professionals’ lives easier. Let’s review a few of the tools every insurance salesperson should be taking advantage of.

  1. VoIP – Allows you to have everything in one place. Calls can be made from a click of your mouse making sales representatives more productive.
  2. CRM Software – CRM software allows you to manage and analyze customer data throughout the sales process.
  3. Website – I know this one sounds basic, but a website with content is a major lead generator. Content should be available for each stage of the buyer’s journey to have a greater chance of capturing leads.
  4. Quoting Software – A program that compares quotes across several carriers is needed to provide the best option to your prospects.
  5. Multiple Computer Screens – With more than one screen you’ll have easier access to any programs or files you may need without too much clicking around.
Dealing with Objections

When selling insurance over the phone, you’re likely to hear a few objections repeated by different prospects. Do you know how to counter these concerns and turn a no into a yes? Here are a couple of common objections and considerations you should make when crafting your rebuttals.

“I’m happy with my current provider,” or “Why should I change what I have?”

Ask them when the last time was that they shopped around. Changing markets and demographics of the insured can influence rates and should regularly be reviewed. Many insurance pros will do the work for the initial sale and won’t follow up in the future to see if any changes have occurred that could affect the premium. Use this as your foot in the door. Provide your quotes and let the prospect make the best decision for them.

Using the phone to sell insurance requires intelligence, confidence, professionalism, and a handful of supporting tools. Set your insurance salespeople up for success with a product like VanillaSoft that combines lead management and telemarketing applications with basic CRM.

What advice can you provide for new salespeople selling insurance over the phone? Let us know in the comments below.

9 Inside Sales Techniques to Get Over Your Fear of Cold Calling

Thu, 2017-04-27 10:15

It’s astonishing how intimidating it can be to pick up a phone and start dialing numbers, but it happens to many people. Business owners often feel the effects of cold call reluctance in high costs and high turnover rates of salespeople. Sales representatives averse to cold calling are often stressed and frustrated as they’re struggling to hit their quotas while dealing with a very real fear. In this article, we’ll review a few causes of cold call reluctance and nine inside sales techniques to help your salespeople get over their anxieties.

Causes of Cold Call Reluctance

The distaste for cold calling can stem from being unprepared and/or inexperienced. Simply providing a script to your callers isn’t enough. They should frequently be practicing their pitch to boost their confidence.

Company culture can also cause cold call reluctance. Many businesses shame salespeople with the notion that they’re akin to sleazy car salesmen. This is not the idea you want the rest of your organization to have about sales. Portray the sales team in a positive light to make them feel good about what they’re doing. You can do this by highlighting those who reach their goals and praising them publicly on big sales.

Introverts often have a difficult time with telemarketing. It can be terrifying but preparing and knowing all the details of your products will boost their confidence and take some of the edge off. As Howard Walstein says, “By stepping out of your box, you don’t have to settle for what you are – you get to create who you want to become.” Anyone can sell over the phone, even introverts.

Inside Sales Techniques to Overcome Cold Call Averseness

The first step in tackling hesitancy to cold calling is admitting there’s an issue. It’s fatal for sales careers and is something that must be remedied if the individual wants to succeed. Here’s a list of nine inside sales techniques your salespeople can do to overcome their fears of cold calling.

  1. Display positive affirmations and smile. Negative emotions like fear can be paralyzing. But the effects of positive thoughts on productivity is immense. It can boost self-esteem and even reduce stress. Tell your employees to read through some positive quotes, print out their favorites, put a smile on and pick up the phone. This article from The Wall Street Journal touts how forcing a smile can make you happier and even slow down your heart rate.
  1. Use aromatherapy to bring on positive thinking. The Mayo Clinic has reported on the health benefits of aromatherapy. We know our sense of smell can trigger memories, so use it to your advantage. To move beyond fear try taking a sniff of an essential oil. Vanilla essential oil has antidepressant qualities and is a good one if you enjoy sweets. Peppermint is good to sharpen your mind, or maybe if you want to think of winter holidays. Lavender oil is another good one for concentration and fighting anxiety. Breath in some jasmine oil to increase alertness and uplift your mood. 
  1. Write a list of why making the sales call is necessary. Getting it down on paper is powerful. Yes, your inside sales reps likely know the basic reasons of why they need to make calls, but have them look deeper. What is it that they want? Maybe to save for a new car, get noticed for exceeding their quota, or go on a dream vacation. Having a list of their “whys” will give them a boost whenever they’re procrastinating making calls. 
  1. Set an objective to deliver value. Your salespeople need to adopt a helping mindset and ask questions to find out how the product they’re selling can solve a problem or fill a void. Being helpful also means knowing when a prospect is not a good fit and stopping trying to make the sale.
  1. Reward yourself for hitting personal goals. Have your employees create milestone goals to bring them through the month. These can even be daily call counts. Rewards don’t have to be anything big either, a piece of chocolate, a walk around the building, just something they want.
  1. Observe your perceptions of cold calling. Encourage your sales reps to ask themselves what personal opinions they have around cold calling? It’s not helpful as a caller to think that you know how your prospect will respond to your call. All that does is put a negative taste in your mouth before even saying “hello.” Instead of expecting the worst, they should train themselves to expect the best case scenario.
  1. Provide time for continuing education outside of the initial training. Regular coaching and guidance are very helpful for inside sales reps. With products like VanillaSoft, you can review call recordings and spot any needs for improvement. Also, as updates or new products are released at your company, even experienced salespeople need to be informed of the features.
  1. Simplify the process for inside sales by investing in lead management software. Technology takes out a lot of the work and increases productivity. For example, VanillaSoft’s auto dialing feature queues the next call for your sales reps, thereby avoiding procrastination. Logical branch scripting will make them feel comfortable knowing that they have a roadmap for the call with exactly what to say.
  1. Take a deep breath and dial. There’s nothing like taking action and doing whatever you’re afraid of to get over something. Callers will build courage as they get through the first few dials of the day. However, the fear may come back every morning, you just have to keep dialing.

 Even the most experienced salespeople can feel cold call reluctance. Know how to spot it in your employees so you can help them get over it as quickly as possible.

What inside sales techniques have you utilized to help your reps get over their reluctance to make cold calls? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Improve Lead Follow-Ups and Secure the Sale Below Par

Wed, 2017-04-19 08:30

If I go to the driving range and hit 1,000 golf balls it doesn’t make me Tiger Woods. I could’ve done it wrong 999 times.

The same principle is true for inside sales representatives. It’s not about the quantity of sales calls, it’s about the quality of your swing and follow through. Persistence is key to improve lead follow-up.

In years past a goal of making the most calls may have proven valuable. However, recent research has shown us something different. Gone are the days of color-coded index cards as a lead organization system – technology has made inside sales considerably more complex. Leads arrive at various stages of the buyer’s journey, and there are more ways to connect. Sales success today depends on follow ups and several other aspects we will look at below.

Technology can also be a hindrance though. Overzealous companies that collect multiple applications in their MarTech stack are more likely slowing down their sales team than enabling them to generate more revenue. Remembering what information is required in which software can be confusing, there’s a lot of wasted time inputting duplicate data, and having more than a handful of apps is downright intimidating. I believe the fewer sales applications, the better. Attempt to simplify the process, don’t complicate it any more.

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” – Arnold Palmer

5 Important Aspects of Optimal Follow-Ups

Lead follow-up needs to be mapped out with automation and defined logic to achieve the coveted hole-in-one and make the sale. Before the lead even comes in, management should delineate the following:

  • When the follow-up will occur once the lead is received
  • How sequential follow-ups should be timed
  • Who is the best person for the lead based on experience and locality
  • How the rep will communicate with the lead
  • Clear messaging

The sales process should be scalable and supported by an infrastructure that drives sales instead of just reports on them. In the podcast episode, “Increasing Productivity Through Workflow Automation,” I talk about a few important aspects of optimal follow-ups. Let’s take a closer view at how to improve lead follow-up and close more deals.

Submission to Contact Time

As soon as a lead is submitted on your website, how long is it before one of your representatives makes contact? In the podcast, Barb mentioned a test that she did submitting a request to a competitor’s website for one of her clients. Not only did they not reach out to her within the hour, but a year has passed, and no one ever made contact. This seems to be a regular occurrence and one that should be avoided. What is the point of having a lead collector if you’re not even going to use it?

VanillaSoft sales reps strive to contact the lead within an hour of submission. If the lead came via the web, it is very likely that they submitted requests to your competitors as well. There’s something to be said about being the first to respond.


Automated call cadence should be the foundation of any sales technology. Incorporating best practices and information from analyzing past sales data will direct management as to the best timing for a follow-up. This will be different across various industries and can change over time as consumer’s expectations evolve. Regularly revisiting data is beneficial to stay on top of any needed updates.

Caller’s Aptitude to Make the Sale

Organizations must know how to assign their “best” representative to a lead. This doesn’t necessarily mean your highest paid salesperson though. Of course, you want to ensure all your employees have received the proper training and the capacity to answer any questions that arise, but it is also smart to assign leads by region. Talking to a local experienced rep can add a sense of connection and more opportunity for the caller to build a relationship with the lead. The end goal is to secure the sale, but each point of communication opens the possibility of the prospect getting disengaged and the need for an unlikely mulligan.

Consistent Messaging

Establishing a consistent message for your communications is key. Take advantage of technologies like VanillaSoft that offer logical branch scripting, email templates, and SMS text message templates to ensure your salespeople are sticking to your brand message. Don’t stop with scripting the pitch though. Check out our post How to Improve Your Inside Sales Pitch Effectiveness for ways your reps can practice their pitch. The better they know it, the more likely their personality will shine through and attract your prospects even more to them and your brand.

Forms of Communication

How a prospect contacts your company should be considered when following up with them. If the lead comes from a web submission then maybe your first point of contact should be emailing them. This is something that your organization will need to decipher in advance and have plugged into your automation.

Continue to Improve Lead Follow-Up

Going back to my golf analogy, practice makes perfect, but perfection requires improvements. Technology is moving fast, and with the inception of artificial intelligence and deep learning, you can expect more changes to the sales process over the next few years. These developments will alter your prospects’ expectations from the brand, and you must keep up.

Mapping out and automating a clear plan for follow-ups will increase your salespeople’s speed to lead response time and assist in increasing revenue. Our queue-based routing and lead integration tools distribute leads so they are handled in the most productive and timely way according to your parameters. Allow technology to work for your organization and improve your salespeople’s overall productivity by simplifying the tedious, non-revenue generating tasks.

If you are interested in listening to more on the subject, I recently spoke on a podcast episode of Barb Giamanco’s Razor’s Edge Podcast.  I highly recommend you check it out.


How Lead Management Software and Sales Performance Go Hand In Hand

Wed, 2017-04-12 09:47

Would you try to plant a garden without a shovel? You certainly could try, but if there are rocks and other obstacles in the soil you won’t be as successful as if you were equipped with the right tools. So why would you let your sales team work without the proper tools, -i.e. Lead Management Software? Let’s review some of the benefits of proper lead management software and sales performance.

Benefits of Lead Management Software and Sales Performance

You’ll see most of the effects of using a lead management program on efficiency. This type of program offers automatic dialing to take representatives from one call straight to the next. Queue-based lead routing allows management to specify parameters denoting importance levels. 45% of companies report that their sales representatives need help deciding which leads to prioritize, so this is a major benefit. It saves the representative valuable time since they don’t have to look through a list of contacts and decide who to call next. The system handles that decision-making process for them which leads to a 35-100% increase in the average calls per hour.

In addition to letting the representative know which contact to call next, queue-based lead routing increases the number of contact attempts made per lead by three and a half times. The ability to put a time frame on when a callback should occur decreases the lead decay rate by 30%.

Administrators have greater control with lead management software. Once best practices are realized they can be automated through customized workflows. Lead management systems provide automation and follow-up reminders to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and all leads are contacted promptly. The follow-up feature is crucial because it takes eight attempts to reach a prospect but the average salesperson only makes two attempts. Triggers can be set up in lead management software to automate email nurture sequences or other actions.

Email and text message templates paired with call scripting ensure that the brand message is consistent across all means of communication. Call recording is another protector against employee missteps in portraying your message. If an issue arises, it can be addressed and corrected quickly.

Lead management systems like VanillaSoft automatically document all actions on each lead for reporting purposes. With every step of the sales process documented, management can easily review what’s working and what’s not. If the market shifts and a previous step doesn’t grant the same results, it can be improved upon and updated accordingly. Your brand can save your representatives even more time by looking at the importance and urgency of every task. You can learn more about increasing productivity with workflow automation in this blog post, Webinar Recap: Why Traditional CRM Fails Inside Sales Organizations.

Other Ways to Improve Inside Sales Performance

Investing in modern technology with lead management software is a great start to improving sales performance, but it doesn’t stop there. Employees must be engaged with their work. Here are eight other way you can increase sales:

  1. Get rid of cubicles and embrace an open office space. It will boost the competitive spirit among representatives and encourage collaboration which will build up your company’s culture.
  2. Encourage social selling. Social media is another powerful piece of technology that can connect sales reps with busy decision makers they otherwise may have been unable to reach.
  3. Enact daily role playing of sales scenarios. Practicing their inside sales pitch in various contexts will help both new and seasoned salespeople.
  4. Provide ongoing training. Test employees product knowledge and provide any needed education where you see gaps. Also, make your reps aware of how your product squares up to competitors.
  5. Make reps aware of their impact on the brand. Employees are often motivated to work harder when they understand the purpose of their daily endeavors.
  6. Recognize top performers. Acknowledge individuals who achieve and exceed their goals, as well as those who improve their overall performance. Consider rewarding them with small prizes like food, branded promotional items, or gift certificates.
  7. Collect feedback from your reps. Create a place online where employees can be heard and discuss ongoing challenges among their peers.
  8. Support exercise and breaks. Exercise induces the release of happy chemicals in the brain and can reduce stress. Encourage breaks throughout the day to take short walks and get away from the computer screen for a little while.
8 Things to Look for in Lead Management Software

VanillaSoft has seen a 100% increase in calls when brands begin utilizing the lead management software. When searching for new lead management software, be sure to consider these eight aspects:

  1. Usability of the system – Look at both the front end that the representatives will see and the backend management will use.
  2. Customization options – Will you be able to change workflows around easily or will it require assistance from a software technician?
  3. Queue-based lead routing – This feature ensures that your leads flow to the right person at the right time.
  4. Auto dialing functionality – Increases call productivity by initiating the next call for your salesperson.
  5. Email marketing integration – This feature allows for email nurturing and the ability to send a follow-up email with a single click.
  6. Recording and monitoring – The ability to record a call or listen live and “whisper” to your rep.
  7. Real-time lead integration – As soon as a lead is entered on your site you want it to go straight into the queue.
  8. Logical branch scripting – Based off of customer responses the system can present proper scripts.

Only 20% of an inside sales representative’s day is spent on revenue generating activities. What are they doing the rest of the day? They’re making an average of eight dials an hour and then working with a clunky system to figure out who to call next, researching the prospect, documenting tasks, etc. Lead Management Software does the work for them so they can focus on what makes your company money, making more calls and boosting sales performance.


Webinar Recap: Why Traditional CRM Fails Inside Sales Organizations

Fri, 2017-03-31 09:39

Upon its initial introduction, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software was innovative. But that was at least 30 years ago, and technologies have substantially changed since then. Today CRM is a default tool in many inside sales organizations, but it’s acting as more of a problem to be overcome than a solution. This tool of the past is effective at collecting and analyzing data, but it doesn’t offer features that help sales representatives to sell more.

In a recent webinar, Nancy Nardin, Founder of Smart Selling Tools Joined VanillaSoft’s Vice President of Sales, Scott Amerson to discuss Why Traditional CRM Fails Inside Sales Organizations. Smart Selling Tools is an analyst and consulting firm specializing in the use of smart sales tools to improve sales productivity and performance. Nancy points out that CRM Software is a system to keep track of records or a database. It wasn’t designed to make sales representatives more productive. Most CRMs are time-consuming and frustrating for sales reps. Nancy believes, “it’s not a “user adoption” issue. It’s a technology issue.”

The failure rates of CRM are between 30 and 60 percent. Again, this ties back to frustrations with the system and not seeing the return on time invested. Nancy says that there’s a place for CRM, but it’s not the best tool available.

Why People Like CRM

Going on the assumption that those continuing to use CRMs are hoping the software eventually increases sales productivity is ludicrous. Sadly, this is common. Some organizations believe that if they could just get more of their reps to use the platform, it would work. Since most salespeople see CRM as more of a hindrance than a help, that’s going to be tough. Another reason Nancy mentions on why people are still using CRM is they believe customizations will give them what they need. And it could, but it will require a lot of money and time. The bottom line is that CRM is not a productivity tool and it consumes more time than it frees up.

Increase Productivity with Workflow Automation

The belief that gathering leads and hiring salespeople equals to success is false! There’s more needed for this equation to be valid. Previously workflows have been basic. A seller would take their leads list, call three times, maybe leave a voicemail, and then move on. Now, with workflow automation, lengthy workflows drive behaviors and activities from the sales team with consideration for cadence, calls versus emails, etc.

Actions are derived from if this/then that scenarios set up by the management team. Let’s take a look at a few key statistics that support the need for something more advanced than your basic CRM.

  1. 45% of companies report that their salespeople need help figuring out which leads to prioritize.
  2. 80% of an inside sales representative’s day is spent on non-revenue generating activities.
  3. The average dials per hour is eight.
  4. It takes eight attempts to reach a prospect, but the average salesperson only makes two attempts.
  5. 80% of sales require five call attempts after the first contact, but the average rep stops after one.
Call Productivity

After taking the above stats into consideration, I’m sure you see the need for workflow automation. The more that’s automated, the more successful salespeople will be. One important automation tool that allows a rep to drop a prerecorded message into a mailbox and move onto the next call is Voicemail Drop.

Autodialing, scripting, and queue based routing are three other major features that increase call productivity. Parameters set up by the management team let the system know which contact to dial next. This number is then auto-dialed for the rep, and the script is made available. Scripting your sales team’s calls ensures your sales reps present your brand message clearly.

Another feature that helps salespeople connect with prospects is the ability to use SMS texting as another form of communication. It allows callers to text their prospect with pre-defined templates. Many VanillaSoft users say that their customers prefer a text over a call.

Cadence Automation and Email Enhancement

VanillaSoft’s email features include triggered templates, lead nurturing, and email follow-ups. Cadence automation provides the next action whether it be an email or call. The templates make it easy for reps to respond with only a little personalization. Taking the task of writing a new email away from salespeople will make them more efficient, and again, give control back to the brand on messaging.

Inside sales has become more complicated, and automation is a must in the present market. Learn more about why the technology you choose makes a big difference in this webinar. Traditional CRMs that do not fully automate cadence and workflow are not enough for today’s inside sales teams.


Frustrating and Avoidable Causes of Lost Sales Opportunities

Tue, 2017-03-28 09:01

Nothing is worse than forecasting your sales for the month and then losing the sale you were most sure of closing. According to research from IDC, 85% of sales representatives struggle to meet their quotas. In this article let’s take a look at a few possible causes of lost sales and how getting past the first meeting is a big step.

Keeping the Meeting

Getting your qualified prospects to set up an appointment is one thing; actually having the meeting is a different story. The appointments you set with your prospects could be getting canceled for several reasons. Let’s start with the basics.

The first aspect of canceled appointments I’d like to address is who. Job titles today can be misleading and provide the idea of more authority than the person holds. For example, secretaries are now Administrative Assistants, and many other non-managerial titles include “director.” These individuals are often just gatekeepers. Be certain that you’re talking with someone who truly has decision-making power to avoid lost sales.

Inviting too many people from your company is another deterrent and a possible reason for abandoned sales meetings. You risk scaring off your prospect by introducing them to too much too soon. If they have specific questions for IT, then invite IT to join in on a follow-up call in the future.

Timing is another important factor that comes into play. Everyone is busy these days, and a thirty-minute meeting is rare. When sending a calendar invite try to keep it under 20 minutes and show that you value their time by being prepared. How far out you schedule an appointment can also affect the likelihood of it being canceled. By allowing the prospect to pick a date more than two weeks in advance, you are setting them up to cancel on you. A lot can come up over two weeks, and a sales meeting will be near the top of the chopping block if they need to trim their schedule.

One way to avoid cancellations is by clarifying what will be discussed in advance. Set expectations for the conversation so that when your prospect sees your appointment on their calendar, they think about securing a solution to problem ‘x’ and not just another sales call. You can do this by including a brief outline of your meeting in the calendar invite or simply mentioning it when asking for the meeting.

Qualifying Your Leads

According to Forrester, by the time a lead contacts someone at your brand they’re already more than 60% of the way into the sales process. This means they’ve already done most of their research and have been comparing your brand with competitors. Colleen Francis from Engage Selling says four stages make up most pipelines: prospecting, qualification, presentation, and closing. She points out that 75 percent of the time in the buyer’s journey is spent in the qualification stage. It’s also important to note that “90 percent of all sales start to fail in that qualification phase.” The probability of a sale increases as the seller invests more time into the buyer’s qualification stage. During this period, the buyer needs to ask the right questions and find out how their product addresses the sellers’ needs.

Tips to Avoid Lost Sales

Chasing unqualified leads is a major time waster for sales reps. Asking questions and reviewing company data will help to weed out prospects unsuitable for your product. It’s important that you invest your time wisely and qualify your leads before starting to court them.

InsideSales.com reported that when a lead is called within five minutes of sending an information request, they are ten times more likely to respond and four times more likely to be a qualified lead. Sadly, the same report indicates that 71% of Internet-generated leads are not called. Software features like VanillaSoft’s Queue-Based Priority Lead Routing ensure no leads fall through the cracks uncalled.

The presentations you give to your prospects should be efficient and brief. As noted earlier, everyone is busy, so you’ll want to keep your presentations short and to the point. If you’re using PowerPoint, try not to overload your slides with data.

And finally, be authentic when speaking with prospective clients. If you’re using a script, use inflection in your voice to avoid sounding like a machine. Showing your personality portrays your uniqueness and humanity. As Bryan Kramer says, it’s all about human to human (H2H) connections, not business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C).

Download our eBook Stop the Lost Sales Fallout From Cancelled Appointments to learn more strategies and tactics you can use to safeguard against losing meetings.

How to Improve Your Inside Sales Pitch Effectiveness

Mon, 2017-03-27 09:30

You wouldn’t pick up the phone to call a client without having a little background information on them, so why wouldn’t you take the time to practice your inside sales pitch a little bit first too? The better you know what you’re planning to say the more comfortable you’ll be with infusing your personality into your words.

It is Essential to Practice Your Inside Sales Pitch

When you sound like you’re reading from a script in monotone, it’s not enticing to anyone. Don’t get me wrong…logical branch scripting should be an essential part of your inside sales call strategy; however, people want to deal with people and know that there’s a person with feelings on the other end of the phone line. So, it’s important to follow your script but also not read it word for word. Splash some of your personality into it!

Another reason to rehearse your sales pitch is for improvements. Practicing usually involves some form of review, be it by yourself or someone else. The feedback you receive will give you the opportunity to better your presentation with regards to how it’s structured, what you include, and how it’s delivered. Even if your organization is using scripting, it will be beneficial to your success to take the time to practice your sales pitch. Let’s take a look at five tips for practicing your sales pitch.

1. Rehearse with a Mirror

Once you’ve figured out what you want to include in your pitch, write it out and edit it down as much as you can. Take on an editorial mindset and delete any fluff or content that is unnecessary for an initial pitch. From here, get yourself in front of a mirror.

Reciting your speech to yourself before involving any others will help to boost your confidence and allow you to find areas that need improvement. Try to emulate the body language, intonations, and cadence that you would use during an actual pitch. As the cliché goes, you are your own worst critic. You’ll likely realize a few things you can change about your pitch just by rehearsing to yourself.

2. Record and Review

Taking self-review a step further, consider setting up your phone or camera and recording yourself giving your pitch. Immediately review the recording, and save it to review again later on. It’s good to take a step back, do something else, and then return to the project with a clear mind. When reviewing the recording, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is your tone? Are you adding inflection to your voice in the right spots?
  • Do your statements flow together smoothly?
  • What does your body language say?
3. Practice with Family and Friends

After your self-review, incorporate individuals close to you into your evaluation process. Family and friends can serve as your inside sales pitch guinea pigs to give you an outside perspective. They may have more of an understanding of what you sell then your prospect will, but they can bring up questions you otherwise may not have considered. The comfort of preparing with a friend will allow you to let your personality shine through.

4. Practice with Colleagues

Practice, practice, practice. Next, consult your colleagues and work peers. These individuals will know your industry and be able to give you educated feedback. Many organizations include mock calls for training purposes.

If it’s not a part of your inside sales training program, find a coworker willing to play the role of your prospect and present them with your pitch as you would on an actual call. Request that they fully take on the prospect role and ask relevant questions. By sharing the queries they hear regularly, you’ll become better prepared in your capacity as an inside sales person at your brand.

5. Regularly Review Your Pitch

Now that you know your pitch by heart you may think you’re finished practicing, but you’re not.  Remember to regularly review your sales pitch. Every month or so go back to your written pitch and make sure you haven’t accidentally dropped anything important. Reexamining your pitch will also give you the chance to update your offerings or features as needed. You may find that you want to change your format often to keep yourself engaged and not fall into giving a bland recitation every time. If your organization is using scripting, management should be on top of reviewing the script on a regular basis.

Ensuring you have a solid sales pitch will improve your inside sales strategy. While practicing your inside sales pitch will aid in your success as an inside sales professional, you still must take the time to understand your buyer personas and what motivates them to buy. You can have the best pitch in the world, but if you don’t recognize the buyer’s journey, you won’t be able to guide your prospect to the sale.

4 Effective Sales Coaching Tips to Create a Successful Team

Wed, 2017-03-01 14:37

No one grows as a leader without the support and mentorship of others. That’s why effective sales coaching is critical to managers and representatives. What defines sales coaching? Sales coaching is the process of developing and accelerating a rep’s performance by incorporating behavioral changes. This practice focuses on helping a rep or manager take their knowledge, experience, and ability to the next level by finding the  best ways to enhance that person’s skill, wisdom, and talent.  It’s clear that sales coaching is a ‘must-have’ activity in any organization’s arsenal.

The purpose of sales coaching is to maximize the performance of sales teams by leveraging tools, messaging, training, and overall attitudes. The Corporate Executive Board Company explains that reps who receive just three hours of coaching a month can exceed goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 25% and increasing the average close rate by 70% The numbers don’t lie!

How can you tell if sales coaching is necessary for your team? The harsh reality is that more than half of B2B executives believe their employees don’t understand their company’s strategy. This is one of the main reasons sales coaching is so important – it allows leaders to define business goals, outline workflow, and work one-on-one with reps to achieve stellar results. A study from the Harvard Business Review noted that coaching has a marginal impact on either the weakest or strongest performers in the sales organization. As such, successful sales coaching encourages a collaborative environment with mutual trust and respect, which focuses on the need to increase rep retention within an organization.

Let’s outline the path to effective sales coaching:

1. Establish Expectations

It’s the age-old question, ‘what are you hoping to accomplish within [insert time frame]?’ This also lays the foundation for creating coaching initiatives with you and your reps. When you can set up clear and simple goals, you create an inviting and transparent environment.

2. Create an Open-door Policy Environment

Good sales coaching means you are caring and engaging – you motivate and mentor reps in a timely manner because your peers trust you. Reps shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and come speak with you. When you meet with your sales team, ask open-ended questions to keep conversations lively. Then, actively listen to what your reps have to say. Finally offer guidance and advice after each talk.

Examples of open-ended questions include:

  • What did the lead say?
  • How did the conversation go? What could’ve gone better?
  • What steps would you take next?
3. Use Data Visuals

The industry has seen a recent surge in data visuals, and can be a great technique for sales coaching. When you have a clear understanding of showing your team sales goals outlined or reach, you will be able to set a standard for reaching success. The best training methods have visual elements show you can measure and repeat results – the numbers should drive sales training.

You can use dashboards to visual trends and see rep activity. Collect and analyze this data so you can see new opportunities for coaching and improvement.

4. Sales Coaching 101: Be Patient and Consistent

Change takes time and there’s not nearly enough hours in the day for reps to pick up new skills and change their behavior. A one-time meetup/session won’t cut it, given that 87% of training content is forgotten within weeks. You should set up weekly, bi-weekly or monthly coaching – depending on the individual rep’s opportunity – to keep up with the momentum of the one-on-one relationship you’re constantly trying to shape.

Becoming a great sales coach requires time and dedication. However, it’s worthwhile in terms of business impact and the satisfaction of seeing your reps’ skills and confidence grow. When it comes to sales coaching, both the approach and results can be erratic so there’s a few things to keep in time that are essential to becoming a successful sales coach, including: time to coach; understanding of this specific role, access to tools and resources, ability to lead great conversation, keeping up with rep relationships and, of course, remaining inspiring and patient.

5 Tips for Hiring Top Shelf Inside Sales Talent in 2017

Wed, 2017-03-01 09:33

By Max Altschuler

Hiring the right person is a complex challenge for any department, but competition is especially fierce for hiring inside sales talent. The data is in and the return on investment from a well-oiled inside sales team compared to more traditional outside sales teams is impossible to ignore. The challenge becomes even greater for fast-growing startups that don’t have an excess of time or money to make mistakes by bringing in the wrong person for the job. What we’re trying to achieve are two key objectives that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

First and foremost, this person has to fit the job description with the right skills and the right amount of experience. That’s the obvious part, but there’s also the matter of being able to assimilate into your company culture—a lot harder to gauge just through interviewing and reading resumes. Here’s 5 things to keep in mind with regard to hiring the best and brightest inside sales talent:

1. Take calculated risks

You’ve heard the old adage, “Hire for attitude and train for aptitude.” While you can go with the “safe bet” candidates who fit exactly what your inside sales talent needs in terms of skill and experience, you have to be willing to take calculated risks on potential hires who show huge potential. At minimum though, make sure you’re hiring world class listeners. If a potential hire listens and asks great questions during an interview, they have part of the foundation to become a top-notch inside sales rep. Bottom line, make your organization a place where serious talent blossoms. Not everyone will be where they should be when you hire; the key is to find those who are on the verge of greatness.

2. Mental promotions

See team members as being one role ahead of where they are today and treat them as such. Give people some of the responsibilities you know they want to have but that are technically designated for someone in a higher position. See how they perform and put your belief in them; you’ll be surprised how many people rise to the occasion to meet your standards for inside sales talent.

3. Referral incentives

Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If that’s true, we need to make sure our best employees are bringing in likeminded people. Chances are, if you’ve got someone who is great at what they do, they are also surrounded by lots of other people who are great at what they do. Make sure to incentivize them to invite other high achievers to the company.

4. Define your brand online

When someone becomes interested in working for your company, the first thing they’re going to do is Google your company and see if there’s any information about what it’s like to work there. Do you have a vibrant company culture? Have employees at your company gone on to do great things elsewhere? Write about it on your company blog or on another platform. When people start looking for evidence that your company is a great place to work, make sure it shows up.

5. Hire in groups (if possible)

While it might not always be possible given the size of your company, hiring in groups has some great advantages. Having a group of new hires coming on at the same time can create a great environment for peer-to-peer learning. The ability for new hires to share tips and even commiserate to a degree with fellow new hires can increase their success rate and help lay an early foundation for trust and teamwork.

There’s more to hiring than just these 5 quick points, so keep an open mind and always be having conversations with other organizations who might be doing something innovative with their hiring process that could work for your company too.

Discover how to connect like never before!

About the Author

Max Altschuler is the founder, organizer, and editor for Saleshacker.com and the Sales Hacker Conferences. Previously he led BD at Attorneyfee (acquired by Legalzoom) and built the supply side of Udemy as their first sales hire.

7 Do’s and Don’ts for Inside Sales Coaching During Onboarding

Tue, 2017-02-21 08:30

You’ve searched through countless resumes, interviewed masses of prospective employees, and brought on the ones you felt were best suited to fill the open inside sales representative positions at your company. Now, what? Instead of just throwing them into the snake pit and handing them a manual with minimal training, onboard them with proper inside sales coaching so that they can succeed and your business can grow. Your onboarding process of new sales reps should be part of your overall inside sales strategy.

Most established companies have a documented training program for new hires. The following list of do’s and don’ts may shed light on some overlooked aspects and can serve as a list of basics for new organizations looking for direction. Each don’t is a caution of what to avoid and is followed up with a positive replacement action. Are you making any of these mistakes in onboarding your new inside sales reps?

Inside Sales Coaching Tips for Success 1. Don’t have a one-size fits all approach.

Instead, change it up. Set up your training plans in various modalities. Allow new trainees to work with more than one trainer, offer interactive computer-based training, and video too. Coaching in different formats will allow you to appeal to the individuals’ best learning capabilities.

2. Don’t hand them a manual, show them their desk, and expect decent results.

Source: Learning Pyramid National Training Laboratories Bethel, Maine

Most learning through reading alone is forgotten. According to National Training Laboratories’ Learning Pyramid, only 10% of what is learned through reading is retained, whereas 75% of what is learned through practice is retained. The onboarding phase for new inside sales employees should not be solely self-guided from a book. Remember that the time invested in each new employee will improve their likelihood of success and thereby benefit the organization as well.

3. Don’t only speak with them during sales meetings.

Interact with new hires on a daily basis so that they feel welcome and part of the team. Consider having lunch with them and take the opportunity to ask for feedback on their training. You’ll make a connection with your new employee and possibly gain some valuable intel that could benefit your training program. Being a good inside sales coach isn’t just about the ramp up period, it’s about having ongoing conversations to seek new teaching opportunities.

4. Don’t expect them to know how to______.

Be prepared to explain “everything.” If the new employee is proficient in sales but new to your industry, you must include industry-specific training. Instruction provided should include demonstrations of the product, so they can get a clear understanding and ask any questions that arise.

Any company specific expectations regarding communications with prospects or clients should be made clear in training too. Teaching your new inside sales reps the proper language and tone of your company’s voice along with how to use your inside sales software will save a significant amount of time down the road. If they’re computer savvy, they may be able to figure it out, but with the proper instruction, that time can be better spent on something else. What seems normal or natural to you could be a brand new way of thinking to your employee.

5. Don’t skip setting metrics-based goals.

Neglecting to let your new hires know what you expect from them will be a pitfall to their success. Clearly outlining realistic goals and quotas they need to meet will help with productivity. It will also make it easy to figure out who requires more coaching in the future. To increase employee retention, you can take it a step further and provide a roadmap for career growth at your company. By letting your new inside sales rep know the basis for promotions and raises they’ll be able to visualize their next step with you.

6. Don’t send new employees straight to the phone after training.

Provide some sort of assessment to ensure they’re ready to be on their own. An assessment can be in the form of a written test, group presentation, or role playing. Following up training with testing is logical and will indicate if training has adequately prepared them for the job. Wouldn’t you rather know if someone needed more training before they got on the phone and ruined a deal with one of your targeted customers?

7. Don’t end training once they’ve settled in.

Even wise employees with seniority can find value from continued sales training. This could be instruction on sales tactics using social media, on new product features available, or so much more. Halting education is careless and can leave your inside sales reps trailing the competitors in skill level.

 Again, this list of inside sales coaching tips is not comprehensive and was written to serve as a reminder that training new employees is just as important as the efficiency of the software that you use. Learn more about inside sales onboarding in this webinar, Onboarding a World-Class  Inside Sales Force, to help improve your process.


What’s with the Cold Calling is Dead Conspiracy?

Mon, 2017-02-20 08:09

The proof is out there – cold calling isn’t dead. But take a quick look around the Internet, and you’ll also find plenty of naysayers with little evidence to back their claims. Maybe these individuals are scared to pick up the phone because they’re worried they’ll get a no. If making a call will get a straight answer from your prospect while emailing and social selling only delays the inevitable, why would you wait? You’re only spinning your wheels and wasting time reaching out to them, conducting more research, etc.

If it’s not the possibility of a no, are these cold calling haters just lazy or when they hear “cold calling” do they think of the stereotypical calls we all used to receive on our home phones during supper time? The individual on the other end couldn’t answer your questions if you stayed on the line long enough to hear their scripted pitch. It doesn’t have to be so tactless,  let’s look at how you can transcend the old cliché of telemarketing.

Differentiate Yourself From Other Callers

If you’re calling consumers, then you know no one wants to be interrupted during dinner. If your main focus is B2B selling, you don’t want to waste your efforts calling your prospects outside of their work hours or during peak business hours where they won’t be available. Consider your target contacts’ time zone and call them when they’re in the office. Secondly, conduct thorough research and only make calls to vetted contacts. Due to advancements in technology you don’t need to spend tons of time researching. Software like VanillaSoft can do the work for you. You can think of it as “targeted calling” not cold calling. Yes, the contact still doesn’t know the caller, so it’s technically a cold call, but today’s inside sales representative has access to more information about their prospects than their first name and job title.
Another way to differentiate yourself from the cold callers of days past is to show an interest in your prospect’s business. Find out what their challenges are and tell them how your product will solve their problems. Don’t just regurgitate case studies and statistics, speak to them in their language and show how your brand can help.

Know your product. Learn as much as you can about your industry, including how your brand squares up against competitors. Think about the questions that will be asked and have your answers readily available. Being prepared will build your confidence and allow your personality to show. You’ll spend less time fumbling for a reply thereby allowing you more time to learn about your prospect.

Social and Email is Not a Replacement

As Anthony Iannarino noted in his blog post, LinkedIn Groups and Twitter were dished up as an alternative to the phone a few years ago. These are great tools to warm up your prospects and listen to their problems, but they should not be considered a replacement. Social media and online content are both mediums to build brand awareness. Buyers are still looking for human interaction and want to have legitimate conversations. And, not all of your prospects are on social media, so why would you even consider crossing off the telephone?

Let’s take a look at email. You’ve spent countless hours creating email nurture plans with multiple tracks based on actions… that’s great, but could the interaction of an actual phone call assist in your closing ratio? The average open rate is around 20% according to MailChimp. Even if you have 10,000 contacts, only about 2,000 are going to read your email. Then, of those 2,000 readers how many are likely to click through? You get the point. The numbers are low and very few practical sales strategies can rely solely on automated emails. Your clients want human engagement, so call them!

Cold Calling Still Works

Social Business Engine recently hosted Chris Beall, the CEO of ConnectAndSell due to the virality of a LinkedIn post he shared. In his post, Chris says “If cold calling is dead, who got these results last Thursday?” Attached to the post is a screenshot showing significant results from phone calls. The post caught the attention of readers and even upset some. During the interview, Chris points out that online content can support communications in any form, but a phone call adds tone of voice and a human factor.

Don’t rule out cold calling for your inside sales reps, it might be time to get back on the horn and start dialing more. Take a blended approach and avoid relying solely on any one form of communication. The invention of the first telephone may have been over one hundred and forty years ago, but it’s still a valuable tool in the modern business world.