How to turn average inside sales reps into record breakers: Tips from EngageTech

Team colleagues working with technology at office

By the end of your onboarding process, every rep should be able to hit the phones and perform reasonably well without much guidance. But ambitious reps won’t want to settle for that, and neither should you. As an inside sales manager, your job is to provide the ongoing training and guidance these reps need to smash your company’s sales records.

Through regular meetings, call listening, role play and several other strategies, you can turn average performers into great salespeople. Here’s exactly how we do it at EngageTech. 

Great inside sales training starts with a great onboarding process

A great onboarding process makes ongoing sales training a heck of a lot easier. SDRs with a solid grounding in sales techniques, sales tools and the product they sell will be much easier to coach in the future.   

A great onboarding process can also separate potential company record breakers from those just going through the motions. In doing so, you won’t have to waste time training people who aren’t up to the task. It’s particularly important to let go of any reps who can’t receive or implement feedback. 

New sales reps need to be able to take feedback and put it into practice, writes Stage 2 Capital’s Mark Roberge. A long and thorough onboarding process will make these people abundantly clear. It’s also why we’ve designed our hiring process in a way that forces candidates to demonstrate how well they can learn from their mistakes.

“Being the best leader for another means you must first become the best version of yourself”

Give each rep the attention they need

Inside sales training should be an ongoing process. You can’t just host a random coaching session each month and expect your SDRs to improve. 

We recommend devoting an hour of training per rep per week. Some reps will need more time, others less. The beauty is that you can borrow time from your high performing reps who don’t need much guidance and spend it on newer reps who need a more hands-on approach.

Forgo group coaching sessions in favour of one-on-one coaching sessions. Every SDR you manage will be at a different stage of their career and require coaching on different things. That means almost all of your group sessions will be redundant for at least one or two reps. 

One-on-ones, on the other hand, let you focus on each rep’s individual needs. While a dozen one-on-ones will eat up more of your time than a single group session, personal meetings will deliver a much bigger return on your investment.

These meetings aren’t just an excellent way for you to improve your SDRs, writes IMPACT’s Tom DiScipio. They also provide an opportunity for SDRs to give feedback to you. They will only continue to grow as inside sales reps if you keep improving as a coach. “Being the best leader for another means you must first become the best version of yourself,” adds DiScipio.

“The fact that high-performing sales managers had a higher team effectiveness factor than underperforming teams supports these statements.”

Make a plan for each SDR

Because every inside sales rep is different, you’ll need a different plan for each rep you manage. When you first take on a new SDR, we recommend holding a series of open chats to discuss that cover how the rep is getting on in general and whether they are having any specific problems. Over time, you’ll be able to identify patterns that keep occurring, and this will give you a list of topics to cover and improve. 

Naturally, your coaching style will need to adapt to suit each SDR, too. This is what great sales managers do, writes Steve W. Martin on the Harvard Business Review. “Rather, they adapt their style to suit each individual,” he says. “The fact that high-performing sales managers had a higher team effectiveness factor than underperforming teams supports these statements.”

Listen to calls religiously

Listening to sales calls should be a regular feature of your one-on-one meetings. Learning theory is fine up to a point, but most people learn best from their mistakes. Replaying a call, talking through what happened, discussing why the rep said that and asking them what they could have done better can be enlightening. 

Reps get so caught up in the act of being on the phone that they never take the time to think through what happened. When they do, they’ll immediately notice where they can improve. It’s why we believe a VoIP system is an absolutely essential training tool. 

Not listening to real-life conversations is a common failure with sales coaches and trainers, says Refract co-founder Richard Smith on Linkedin. In his experience, coaches spent hours discussing mindset and roleplaying, but they never took the time to listen to how he was actually performing on the phone. “How could they truly know the mistakes I was making which I wasn’t aware of?” he asked. “How could they truly know whether the stuff I was feeding back to them in deal reviews was accurate?”

Role play potential scenarios

Once you’ve listened to calls, spend some time roleplaying scenarios and exploring how the conversation could have gone differently. Sales calls are unpredictable. But when you control the conversation, you can get your reps to work through a particular issue they’re struggling with. 

Whether that’s overcoming objections, nailing their pitch or answering questions, the more they practice it, the better prepared they’ll be on the phone. With time, your reps will learn how to lead sales calls in their favour, explains the team at Refract.

And, as Brainshark’s Alec Shirkey points out, the more they can practice with you, the less they’ll have to practice on potential buyers.

How many reps should managers manage?

How well you can train SDRs depends, in part, on how many of them you manage. Too many, and you’ll never be able to devote enough time to each one while also hitting your appointment targets. 

Training is a core part of your role as an inside sales manager. But, let’s be real, it’s hard not to put yourself first if you are still selling. We’ve found the upper limit to be around ten reps to every sales manager. 

Any more and even the best-meaning inside sales managers can’t give the attention and guidance that each rep needs to improve. Less will obviously be better. But it probably won’t make fiscal sense to have almost as many managers as you do SDRs.

Give great reps more responsibility

Eventually, you’ll want to start training some reps to become managers in the future. There are few better ways of doing this than having them mentor fresh-faced SDRs who are new to the business and still learning the ropes.  

As Mr. Inside Sales Mike Brooks points out, being a great sales manager requires more than the ability to out-sell your colleagues. “People skills, leadership skills, management skills, etc. are all important components in helping a sales manager be successful at hiring, training, and growing a successful inside sales team,” he says. 

That often means the best salesperson won’t be the best manager. It also means that those who are suited to management roles still need to spend time developing soft skills. Mentoring recruits is a great way to introduce experienced SDRs to management responsibilities. It’s also an excellent way for you to see who has the potential to fill your shoes when you get promoted. 

Training will only take your sales reps so far. Even the best reps can’t do a good job with bad data. That’s why sales managers use our sales intelligence platform to supercharge their reps’ prospecting and swell pipelines. Find out more or request a demo.


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