Inside sales reps who engage prospects with a personalized pitch see better open rates, have longer conversations, and book more meetings. But migrating from a traditional cold calling model to one that requires a high-level of customization can be challenging, even for the most sophisticated inside sales environments.

In our experience, the organizations that are seeing the most success are committed to enabling their inside sales teams with the tools, data, and necessary process adjustments to support personalized selling. Without this powerful combination, your teams will struggle to reach the level necessary to achieve breakthrough results. Here are 4 best practices that provide guidance and insight to put your inside sales teams on the right track to more effectiveness through personalization.

#1 Adjust KPIs to encourage new behavior

The old KPIs focused on total calls, emails, and connects don’t work if you’re trying to encourage reps to spend more time researching. But that doesn’t mean you should completely get rid of them either.

Many of the inside sales mangers we work with keep their volume-based KPIs in place but lower the thresholds to give their reps more time to research and customize. We recently met with a customer who cut the daily call requirements for his team in half to give them extra time to look up prospects on LinkedIn and to leverage tools and data sources such as purchase intent insight to come up with better hooks to make more inroads with their account list. After only testing this for a month he noticed two interesting trends…

  1. Only half of his team made fewer calls – even with a lower quota. At first, he was impressed with their drive to overachieve and continue to achieve their old quota, until he reviewed the results. The reps who made fewer, but more personalized calls had higher appointment rates and better show rates, proving that personalization not only resulted in more meetings, but better ones.
  2. He also quickly learned that some reps are better at this than others. If you’re going to move towards a path of personalization, think about how you hire and staff your team. If you’ve built your team based on speed, volume, and a mantra of “just pick up the phone,” moving to a more strategic selling model is going to take time and may require a reevaluation of current rep skills and hiring practices.
#2 Test your approach at first with a few champions

While some mangers prefer to throw the whole team into the personalization pool, most do not. Moving an entire sales organization to a new model without evidence that it’s going to work usually results in a few failed attempts and a quick retreat back to the old ways.

The most successful teams start by running small pilot programs with a few key reps. We all have eager employees who are willing to take on new challenges and try different tactics. Find them, nurture them, train them, and when they start to see success, let them sell the new process to the rest of the team for you.

As a sales technology and data provider, a key element of our process, similar to any provider in this space, is onboarding. I am sure that anyone can sympathize with going through the effort of onboarding an entire sales team only to find one or two sales champions who were willing to use new data sources to personalize their outreach. Don’t be frustrated as this is a natural occurrence in the highly competitive world of sales. The minute that these champions break into a new account, book an appointment, or close a deal using new methods, the news spreads and others start to adopt and embrace a more personalized approach. As more reps join in and see success, the momentum just grows from there. You won’t have to tell them to personalize anymore, they will just do it because it’s a better and faster way to reach their goals.

You should also consider adding new goals based on quality. For example, explore bonus and payment structures not based just on meetings set, but meetings kept as well as meetings that turned into pipeline. These new incentives not only help increase adoption, but also reward reps who properly vet prospects and engage them in a more personalized way.

#3 Make personalization part of your process

Before you introduce a new personalized selling model (which usually means adding new tools and data), you need to understand how it will affect your reps’ daily workflow. If it’s going to be disruptive, make sure you’re accounting for additional time for training, practice, and failure. In other words, you may first see dips in results before you see an improvement.

Try to find ways to make it easier for your reps to access and use the data. For example, if the only tool your reps use is Salesforce or a sales engagement platform, try to get everything into that tool if you can. If that’s not possible, make sure the other tools and data you’re using are providing a unique value and easily integrate into your current processes.

#4 Train reps on how to (and not to) use behavioral data

Leveraging behavioral insights in emails and calls can be an amazing door opener, but it can also be a dangerous weapon in the hands of an uninformed rep. Reps must be properly trained before you give them access to powerful behavioral data or it will result in calls like this…

“Hi Josh. I see you downloaded one of our white papers and were researching content management software on TechTarget. I also noticed on LinkedIn that you’re interested in ABM. Would you like to meet with one of our product managers to talk about how we can help you solve your content marketing and ABM challenges?”

The problem with this type of approach (outside of being creepy) is it’s just too much too fast because:

  1. I don’t know who you are or why you’re calling.
  2. Rather than asking me leading questions based on what you know about me, you’re telling me what I already know. This shuts the door, rather than opens it.
  3. What if I have other problems or interests that you’re not aware of? You may have missed your best chance to close me by assuming instead of asking.

The lesson here is… If you’re going to give your team valuable information to help them personalize, make sure they know how to use it without overusing it. At TechTarget we call this the “Don’t Be Big Brother” approach.

If you’re concerned that your reps are not capable of handling behavioral data, the alternative approach is to create scripts and email templates that leverage key data points they can fill in before a call. For example, you could have a blank line in your script where the rep could mention something someone shared on LinkedIn, or potentially ask a question based on account-level topical interest uncovered by sources of purchase intent insight like TechTarget. It’s open ended but controlled. The key is that you can control the level of customization based on the sales structure you have in place. The more freedom your reps have, the more training they will need to be effective.

This week’s post is by guest author, Josh Garland, Vice President of Product Marketing for TechTarget. TechTarget’s Priority Engine™ makes it easy for marketers and sales to fuel their pipeline faster. View and download hundreds of new prospects each week to drive your measurable marketing and sales success. You can connect with Josh on Twitter and/or LinkedIn.