Supervising an Inside Sales Rep

I have some experience managing field salespeople. I decided to hire an inside salesperson and want this new candidate to succeed, but have never supervised a telesales rep before. Do you have any thoughts on working with them effectively?

Both field and phone reps speak with customers, make presentations and close sales. Just as you would for an outside sales staff, set minimum standards, provide coaching, sponsor sales contests and review the rep's performances on a regular basis.

The jobs do vary in certain respects, though. You're smart to realize you may need a different set of management skills at certain points.

Consider the following.

Duties and Responsibilities

Write a job description. Does this new rep call on existing accounts only or will some cold calling be involved? What percentage of their quota is new vs. renewal business?

Do they have a geographic or vertical territory? Are their accounts below a certain dollar amount? Do they assist the field reps in any way?

The more specific the job description, the more focused the new rep will be right from the beginning.

Conflicts with the Field Staff

Field salespeople will express concern about potentially losing accounts, territory, or income. Share the inside rep's job description with them. If losses will occur, explain why. Modify quotas if necessary.

Inside sales reps often call on customers in remote geographic areas or those with lower sales volume. Remind outside reps that telesales reps may free them up to cover their territory more effectively and spend increased time with their larger accounts.

Dealing with potential clashes before their first day on the job eases the inside rep's relationship with their new co-workers.

Drop by to Chat

Making phone call after phone call, even though it involves interaction with customers, can be intense and isolating - especially if they're the only person at the company doing a particular job.

Drop by and chat with them throughout the day. Make the conversation casual. Avoid any coaching or criticism of their performance. Just check in and break up their day a little bit. They will appreciate the support.

Set up a Schedule

To avoid a fragmented day, work with the new rep to devise a schedule. For instance, if they have cold call responsibilities you might agree that they will make those particular calls between 8:30am and 10:00am and 4:00pm and 5:00pm. Pick an appropriate period of time for other types of activities like follow-up calls and presentations.

Yes, interruptions and emergencies will interfere with their schedule from time to time. Establishing a routine will minimize distractions and increase their productivity.

Off the Phone -- Out of the Office

Telesales reps need variety to avoid burn-out. Arrange for them to visit their accounts in person or accompany the outside or service reps on customer visits every so often.

Sign them up for off-site training several times a year. Being introduced to new ideas and talking with reps at other companies boosts their morale and improves their sales skills.

After any outside activity you'll see an increase in their energy level and productivity for weeks.

Respect their Time

Barring an emergency, you wouldn't ask your outside reps to "come back to headquarters immediately" or demand that they call you in the middle of a client meeting. The same goes for the inside salesperson.

Just because they might sit just a few feet from your office doesn't mean you should interrupt them for frequent impromptu meetings. These actions encourage them to abandon the call schedule the two of you worked out in the beginning of their tenure. Where possible, arrange a time to speak where they might have a natural break in the day.

Most companies find the inside sales rep allows an economical expansion of their sales force with a corresponding increase in sales revenue. Many talented sales reps prefer selling over the phone to the hassle of traveling a territory. Simple, common sense adjustments to your management style make for a happy and productive inside sales representative.