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Sales Q&A #27 – How do you get inside sales to be proactive?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

Q. How can we get inside sales to do some proactive sales activities each day? We expect our inside salespeople to use some of their time to shift into the proactive mode to make outbound phone contact to existing and new business. But it is hard for them to do this regularly.

A. I wish I had $5.00 for every time I came across this question. I would have retired years’ ago. Let me answer it in two ways.

First, how do you get inside sales to be proactive?  Answer:  You don’t.

It is far easier to refloat the Titanic than it is to get a group of essentially reactive customer-service-type personalities to change their mode of operation and make proactive phone calls.  That’s because of the personality of the typical inside/customer service person.  Generally, the people who fill these positions are very reactively oriented.  By that I mean that if a customer comes to them with a problem, they will knock down walls to fix the problem and help the customer.  They are great helpers and problem-fixers.  That personality characteristic is one of their strengths, and one of the reasons they are good in that job.

However, if you ask them to make ten phone calls to people who are not expecting the call – proactive calls, in other words – they will lose sleep the night before,  worrying about it.  And tomorrow, when they are supposed to do this proactive calling, they will discover that the amount of other work they have to do has swelled up and crowded out the time that they had dedicated to proactive phone calls.  They rarely get to it because “other stuff” gets in the way.

So, the first answer is “Don’t bother trying.”

Now, it may be that the circumstances of your situation will not allow you to hire a new person and create a new position.  If that is the case, then you need to consider my second answer.

Second:  How do you get inside sales to be proactive? If you must, you follow these guidelines:

1.  Make the task extremely specific.  It is not, “Proactively call ten people and see if they need anything.”  Instead, the task should be, “From 3 PM to 4PM every Tuesday, call the ten people on the list I give you, and make this 50-word presentation which I have written out, word for word, for you.

The more specific is the task, the more likely it is to happen.

2.  Train them in the task.  Don’t expect that they automatically know how to do what you want them to do.  One of the reasons that they are uncomfortable making proactive out-bound calls is that they have little experience and virtually no confidence. You have to inject some confidence into them.  Confidence only comes from one of two places:  experience or practice.

So, provide them some practice.

3.  Measure and publish their progress.  Keep track of how many calls each person makes, and how successful each call is.  Share those numbers with everyone in the group.

4.  Reward all success.  When someone has a successful call, praise that person in front of everyone.  Lavishly reward them for doing what you asked them to do.

As you can see, this is a lot of work and requires high-touch involvement on management’s part.  It may be that the cost, in time and effort, is more than the potential reward.  Back to my answer number one.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Read the expanded version of this article here:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level. You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or

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