Customer Success

Inside Sales is Science, Not Art

November 29, 2010

There are numerous inside sales strategies and methodologies that companies employ.

But the key to the practice — and the many ways to successfully execute it — is to think of inside sales scientifically.

It’s certainly not an art form. Sure, there are salespeople that possess certain abilities and skills that may appear artful, but the process is formulaic. Trish Bertuzzi, president and chief strategist for inside sales consulting firm The Bridge Group, echoed that sentiment to Marketing Interactions. Inside sales isn’t magic, art, or anything else. It’s science.

Bertuzzi and The Bridge Group developed a nice Periodic Table of Inside Sales Metrics to support that idea. Rather than including lithium, sodium, and nitrogen, this periodic table covers lead generation, quota, productivity, and compensation.

It reminds me of two meetings I had recently. The first was with Townsend Wardlaw, who is exceptionally skilled at building high efficiency inside sales teams. He recently swooped into one of our portfolio companies, AtTask, and spent about a year recrafting the inside sales process. Prior to AtTask, he spent six years running a lead generation services company.  He’s extremely good at what he does because he approaches inside sales scientifically.

At AtTask, his charter was to increase the inside sales team’s efficiency.

His first step was to redesign the company’s existing sales process. Here’s a graphical representation of AtTask’s new process, which is now ingrained in the CRM and the daily activities of the sales team.

Townsend’s second step was to split up the inside sales team in to more specialized groupings. One group (Sales Development Reps) focuses on lead qualification, a second group (Account Executives) is dedicated to outbound prospecting and managing opportunities to close, and a third group (Customer Service Reps) is responsible for account management practices to renew and up-sell existing customers.

For each group, a sub-process was developed and implemented within the CRM and the daily activities of the reps. Here’s an example of their SDR process:

Last, but not least, Townsend communicated a clear set of expectations to the team members, holding them accountable to the disciplined execution to the process. Here’s the gist of AtTask’s expectations:

  • Set clear roles and responsibilities. Reps in each sales group should know what they’re expected to accomplish and deliver at each step of the sales cycle.
  • Define aggressive activity goals and hold the reps accountable to them. For example, each day an SDR is expected to make 100 calls and have 10 conversations that lead to four opportunities that can be passed on to an account executive. Those AE’s should, in turn, make 30 outbound prospecting calls, leading to four conversations, and resulting in one to two opportunities per week.
  • Measure and track all the activity and opportunity metrics on a daily and weekly basis. Sales managers need to be drill sergeants in charge of a precisely designed activity engine.
  • Repeat the process forever. It’s not enough to have one good week or to stick to the process for a few months or a year. As long as your sales teams are intact, they should be adhering to these expectations.
  • Make your reps happy. Inside sales can be a brutal career. Brighten it up for your employees by augmenting hard work with hard play. And pay the reps well if they succeed.

Maximum Volume, Optimal Results

My second meeting was with Dave Elkington, the CEO and founder of, Elkington is another guru in the field, specializing in creating highly efficient lead qualification processes, systems, and people.  He’s a co-contributor to Lead Response Management and his focal point is the creation of highly efficient, high volume outbound calling teams. Some of his insights can be found in this short paper about the 10 Steps to Quadruple Inside Sales Results. provides a telephone-based work flow system designed for high volume outbound calls. Elkington and his partner, Ken Krogue, created their own outbound calling team and claim their reps can do 85 Dials an Hour. Check out a video on Krogue’s blog that discusses the system in more detail.

All of this ties back to the the classic paper on the Sales Learning Curve, which you can find in this post on my blog. This paper is a must-read for anyone building a new sales team or process. The bottom line is that some business practices have certain artistic qualities. But inside sales is not one of them. If you start to think about that part of your business scientifically, I’m sure you’ll reap the benefits of much more efficient sales teams.

The Chief Executive Officer

Firas was previously a venture capitalist at Openview. He has returned to his operational roots and now works as The Chief Executive Officer of Everteam and is also the Founder of <a href="">nsquared advisory</a>. Previously, he helped launch a VC fund, start and grow a successful software company and also served time as an obscenely expensive consultant, where he helped multi-billion-dollar companies get their operations back on track.