There are born leaders and then there is Dionne Mischler. Three months ago, Dionne's Chapter of enormously influential sales and marketing leaders, the Orange County Chapter of American Association of Inside Professionals, was recognized as the best Chapter in the country. Dionne herself was recognized as AA-ISP Supporter of the Year.

Ms. Mischler is the definition of an elite inside sales leader in 2014. We interviewed Dionne about her best practices in managing an inside sales team.

How Dionne Mischler Rose to the Top of Inside Sales

Not bad for someone who, by her own admission, initially had no aspirations of becoming a sales industry leader. Over time, however, an intense internal competitiveness and natural inclination for coaching steered her towards becoming a key industry figure, presiding over one of its most prominent leadership roles.

Last week, Dionne was kind enough to chat with us for a few minutes – once she was done coaching our sales team via webinar.

1. Tell us about your background, and how you've grown to become Chapter President of AA-ISP?

Believe it or not, I have been in sales in the technology world for the last 17 years, and I had my first official inside sales team 7 years ago. And in that time, I knew there had to be an association out there, and in doing some research, found out there were 10,000 associations in America. Laughs.

So I joined AA-ISP and began volunteering and reaching out to other people, and there were some great people there with years and years of experience who were able to help me become better.

I’ve always been a really competitive person, so when leadership positions started opening up, I volunteered and was accepted; and the Orange County Chapter of the AA-ISP is now recognized as the best Chapter in the country.

2. What is the mission of AA-ISP?

The mission is really to help inside sales professionals progress. We want the inside sales teams of Orange County to be the best they can be.

And it’s funny, I’ll give people from other Chapters some little tips or access to information that I've used to help our Chapter become so successful. Then they'll tell me, "Oh that's great! We're going to share this with our members now and take your Best Chapter title next year. We’re coming for you, Dionne!”

And I respond to them, "Hold on a second, I didn’t tell you everything, just enough to make you better." Laughs. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.

3. What basic principles are behind a successful inside sales team?

That’s a great question. I really think so much of managing a sales team is setting the right paths for them. You know you can get to your destination one of three ways, but you have to stay on the path.

Something I also preach is creating a repeatable, sustainable process.

The best sales reps that I have seen are not just extremely good listeners (a critical, overlooked attribute of most great sales reps), they have cultivated a daily method, or plan of action, that maximizes their productivity and efficiency.

4. What role does technology play in inside sales, and how is it changing how inside sales teams operate?

Well you can look at us. Laughs. You found me via a Webinar. And now here on the West Coast, I can connect with you guys in Tennessee instantaneously. It's made the process so much more sophisticated--I think sometimes people have this outdated view of what inside sales is. It's nothing like it was in the 80's, there is so much more that goes into it now.

Technology, while it can help your sales team, can never replace the people and processes that make up the core of your team. At the end of the day, if your people and processes are not of good quality, then that’s what needs to be fixed.

The important thing is that sales is really half-science, half-art. Technology goes towards the “science” aspect.

Nowadays we have metrics that we can use to measure what’s working and what is not. And you can use that to refine your processes a little bit better. So I think that’s what technology is used for.

And then the art is knowing how to engage with people. How to influence people's behavior. And that's really where the coaching and training comes in.

5. What are some ways that you keep an inside sales team engaged and how do you as a coach drive the right habits?

Well, for one I encourage sales teams that I inherit to undergo training, and if I am building a sales team, I build training into the team and onboarding program. In my opinion, there’s just no replacing that. And as far as rewards, I give LOTS of recognition, but at the end of the day, nothing motivates better than money. That hasn’t changed.

For example, I'll have monthly competitions centered around a certain metric. And midway through the month, I'll surprise the top two leaders by giving them $1,000 each. It's that sort of thing which keeps people engaged and on their toes.

Beyond that, I think proactive goals are huge for keeping people engaged. Sometimes, I'll have my highest performers come attend a fun, industry event with me, and I'll give them recognition if I'm doing a speech. That's more of a supplement though than the core of how I motivate.

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