How to Identify a Good Inside Sales Job
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Inside sales has what those in the marketing game might term a branding issue. Images of call centre workers slaving away over hot phones are what many career focussed individuals envisage, leading them to automatically strike it off as a career path. It’s fair to say that it’s a mental picture that doesn’t exactly get the knees trembling with excitement.
“People see it as a real contact centre environment”, admits George Beddoes, the National Sales Manager of MYOB, “but that’s not how we view inside sales”.
MYOB is a big company, and one that provides a great example of the fast tracked career path inside sales can be, when designed well. Beddoes manages a large inside sales team –
“I’ve got 40 or so inside sales consultants in my team selling accounting software to accountants, and another group selling directly to small businesses”. But the way the way the inside sales role is approached is similar to a field consultant role. He explains:
“Our sales reps are assigned client portfolios which they are responsible for managing and growing. They are consultants helping clients to drive better business outcomes. The focus is on autonomy and self-management; in this role you’re very much in control of your own destiny.”
Jarrad Warren, Director of Market Development at SaaS leader Concur, sees similar misconceptions regularly directed at those who work in inside sales positions. He finds that there’s a view that “they don’t understand the business, they’re the kids of the organisation, they’re admin, they’re gen-Y, and they only care about themselves”. But, like MYOB, the inside sales staff at Concur are so much more than that.
One of the major misconceptions regarding inside sales is the perception of a rather low career ceiling. Once you’re in a sales role many feel as though you’re stuck there for life. You may be able to work your way up to a sales management role or earn a healthy commission, but further promotion is perceived as limited. Beddoes, and MYOB in general, couldn’t disagree more.
“There are a multitude of other roles that we can help [inside salespeople] work towards into the future”. Most commonly MYOB sees salespeople who love what they do, and are keen to stay within the sales realm. “A lot of people want to move into field sales, so that’s a really obvious progression. We’ve also got our ‘Pinnacle’ or corporate/enterprise sales teams as well, so there are definitely a few tiers in regards to sales role opportunities”.
But contrary to the widespread assumption, at MYOB an inside sales role doesn’t form the first step in a linear, sales-only career path. Leadership roles are available, such as managing sales teams or coaching new hires. Outside of that, corporate roles are also a popular progression for inside salespeople at MYOB. Marketing, support roles; the list goes on and on.
Concur’s attitude to progression is perhaps even more delineated. “6-18 months into their job a salesperson will have open discussions with other departments, attend their meetings, partner on calls and begin to experience a day in the life of another Concur employee”, Warren explains. “After 18-24 months in the job an inside sales rep will inherently know where they want to go, and work directly with the director/future hire manager to close any gaps in their knowledge before considering an application”. Within 2 years an inside sales employee could end up anywhere.
When hiring new inside sales staff Beddoes looks for those with a long-term, career driven mindset. “We want to know what their motivations and drivers are, and how they think the role at MYOB might align with their aspirations, their hopes and their dreams. If we get the sense that they have a career plan in sales, that’s something that’s really appealing to us”.
But with the myriad of progression opportunities that MYOB offers its inside sales staff, a sales-centric mindset isn’t the be all and end all. The focus is more on an employee being ambitious and motivated. “We look at how they view success, and how they go about achieving it. When people come in talking about the records they’ve broken, or have a good story about how they went about achieving their KPIs, that’s very exciting for us”.
To this end, MYOB does all that it can to actively aid their employees in getting where they want to go. It’s a process that starts right at the beginning of the employee/employer relationship. “We obviously talk about people’s aspirations and career development in their one-on-one coaching sessions, which happen on a regular basis. We also offer externally facilitated workshops on things like industry, career objectives or professional development, and those are free to all our employees, which we actively encourage our teams to get involved with”. Beddoes knows that an investment in his people is an investment in MYOB.
But MYOB doesn’t stop there. It echoes Concur in its active encouragement of inside sales workers looking to move forward or even sideways in their career path. “We try to get people on the job experience. So if we’ve got an inside sales consultant who wants to move into a field role into the future, we’ll encourage them to spend some time in the field to get a feel for it, so they can gauge whether it’s right for them. If it is, and a role becomes available, they’ve then already got some runs on the board”.
For their part, Concur focus on putting their inside sales staff at the centre of the organisation, allowing them to move in a multitude of directions. “Inside sales staff at Concur gain exposure to all professionals within the organisation, be they sales staff, partner representatives, solutions consultants or marketers. This opens up many opportunities to progress your career in the direction that suits you”.
In short, the difference between good and bad inside sales jobs, as demonstrated by MYOB and Concur, is opportunity. You want to feel as though you can grow and develop as a professional. A good inside sales job will give you the flexibility to follow dreams, whether they’re to be the best salesperson you can be, or to progress into a field that may initially be seen as unrelated.
As far as Beddoes is concerned, seeing his employees do just that provides him with the ultimate job satisfaction. “I love seeing people achieve their goals; that sounds really fluffy, but it’s true. At the end of the day, when I’m working with someone who puts a plan in place and then achieves their goals, I find that really exciting and really rewarding”.
And the inside sales staff of MYOB and Concur have as good a chance of doing that as almost any.
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