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Designing the Next Generation Inside Sales Office

13 August 2015


When potential employees or customers walk into your offices, do they think “cutting edge and modern” or “tired and old school”? A sales professional’s physical working environment signals a lot: your culture, your investment, and how you expect your team to work. Office facilities are often overlooked when considering sales productivity- not to mention hosting clients and recruiting. But the best companies are investing in optimal architectural design and workspace planning in addition to training, sales playbooks, and technology.

Take IBM for example. When Bruce Church was the senior executive at Big Blue’s Dallas Digital Sales Center, his facility was tapped to be the model on which IBM would base their centers globally. After thorough data collection from rep interviews, observation of work flows, discussions with clients and an eye to emerging trends, a high level design was created.   In addition to individual rep work spaces, the Dallas pilot included alternative places to convene, such as a work lab, team rooms, and a cafe with soft and bar height furniture that could be mistaken for an onsite Starbucks or Peets (or Ritual, Blue Bottle or other favorite artisanal brand.) In addition to the basics – a desktop computer, telephone and wireless headset – sellers and sales development reps were given access to:

  • HD video for one -to -one and one- to -many client interactions
  • A high ratio of video conference rooms per rep to encourage them to meet privately with clients and peers
  • Wall-mounted Smart Boards in conference rooms to capture the outcome of collaborative brainstorming sessions
  • Laptops, iPads and large monitors to take advantage of video and tools simultaneously

I visited the Dallas facility when we first started working with IBM – and Bruce was our client – and was immediately struck by how similar IBM’s office felt to many of the newest start-ups in SF and Silicon Valley. Yes, it was missing an open bar, de rigeur in Bay Area start up these days and a replica of the White House’s Oval Office (go visit GitHub’s HQ online to see what I mean), but felt on trend all the same.

Charissa Franklin (Reality Works VP, Client Success) and I were originally introduced to out-of-the-box thinking around office design when we worked together to build the first inside sales organization at NeXT, just before the company became one with Apple. Steve Jobs knew in the early 1990’s that a cappuccino machine, healthy and gourmet snacks and comfortable open seating in addition to desk space not only helped inspire one’s best work but also facilitated collaboration and played a hand in attracting and keeping really talented people.

What does your office space say about your company? Does it help you recruit and retain the best sales employees and facilitate their success? Does it reflect your culture? Encourage client and peer interaction?

Post your comments – and office blueprints! – here and take the AA-ISP’s survey on “Cube of the Future” and receive a copy of the research.