Imagine this scenario. You’re sitting at your desk at the tech startup you joined last month. You are a sales professional and are leading a new crop of eager sales talent. Your team is meeting their goals, but you’re looking for the next big thing to do to increase the capabilities of your team.

Where do you and your team turn for guidance? Indianapolis is full of networking events and meetup groups for both tech-skilled and business-skilled careers, but where do you find like-minded sales professionals in the startup and scale-up tech space?

Enter Hoosier Sales Pros powered by AA-ISP, known as the global inside sales association. The group came onto the Indy scene in September of 2015, due to Emplify’s Director of Sales Mary Browning and Phill Keene, director of sales at Costello. Now, the chapter board includes sales expertiese from Kate Elliott (Bolstra), Donna Dwyer-Pitz (mAccounting), Tom Chandler (Customer Count), Brian Ellis (Independant Sales Pro), and Joshua DeLucia (Vendita Veloce LLC).

AA-ISP Indianapolis Chapter meetings have quickly grown from a handful of members to standing room only events focused on improving sales.

We spoke with Mary and Phill to learn more about why the global AA-ISP organization pinpointed Indy as a market and what this group will bring to new and seasoned tech sales professionals in central Indiana.


Sara: When did you start courting the international AA-ISP group and why did you think it would provide value for Indy sales professionals?

Mary Browning

Mary BrowningDirector of Sales, Emplify

Mary: A little over 2 years ago, fellow sales professional Phill Keene, now Director of Sales at Costello, reached out with the idea of re-invigorating AA-ISP here in Indy, and it didn’t take me long to see that he was onto something.

Initially, we both got involved on a national scale and began to see the benefit in our own sales careers. In parallel, recruiting for our board became my first task to getting things rolling, and I recognized that the response was similar; “there’s no other group like this in Indy” and “wow, my team could really benefit from this”, and “yes, I want to be a part of this”. That’s really where it clicked for me and the mission of the organization became clear. Sales is a difficult mental profession, and it’s rare for there to be monumental, earth shattering ideas that do more than incrementally increase results. The magic is in hearing how others have done it, because it is in hearing a new perspective and learning a new way that helps it click.

I realized a need to bring people together so we could navigate this new environment together. AA-ISP was really a perfect opportunity to do that because these changes and challenges are the same no matter your industry, target market, sales cycle or product.

Phill Keene

Phill KeeneDirector of Sales, Costello

Phill: There are a lot of marketing groups out there, but we are lacking sales-specific groups. I was already familiar with AA-ISP and an Indy group was already formed, but it was inactive at the time. I reached out to Jenny Vance, who put me in touch with Mary. Once we met we decided there was a serious need for an organization like this.

After seeing the success other cities with a growing tech community have with similar organizations, I felt that personally we needed a way for local sales professionals to get to know each other. I joined in because I personally wanted to get to know local sales professionals and gain insights into how they are developing their careers and what hurdles they run into.

Mary: Our goal is that every attendee walks away with at least one item they can put into their job the next day that will substantially improve their results, process or attitude. I knew we had a unique opportunity in front of us, and our work over the last couple years has proven that out. We’ve gone from 19 people at our first event to our most highly attended event this year with over 85 people.

Sara: What’s the current structure of the meetup group? How often do you meet and where? What are some of the topics you discuss? Who attends and where are they hearing about this?

Mary: In terms of structure, the most valuable part of our meetings is the networking time we provide for sales professionals. We hear that our events are exceptional because it’s hard to make time to get together with liked minded folks doing the same hard work day-in and day-out, so we dedicate both the beginning and end of our meetings to do just that.

We also always feature a well known sales leader and practitioner. So far we’ve had Jim Brown from SalesTuners, Jenny Vance from PERQ, Kevin Vanes from Sigstr, Tim Shurr from Shurr ! Success, and Bill Caskey, Sales Coach, to really tie the bow on enabling members to gain value from every meeting they attend. We draw a mixed crowd from sales representatives to sales leaders, and topics tend to apply to both levels of professional work. A few examples:

  1. Mindset and attitude in sales
  2. Objection Handling
  3. Taking control of your career path
  4. Prospecting to build a strong pipeline
  5. Integrating Account Based Selling
  6. Sales tools and technologies

Today, we meet quarterly although expect to see a couple events each quarter next year, with a focus on more networking via round table discussions going into next year. You can almost always find us at a fun local brewery where first round is on us or at a local company. This gives our members a great opportunity to see office space in companies like Emplify, Union 525, or Bolstra in the new Platform 24  co-working space in Carmel. We’re always looking for new companies who are interested in hosting.

Sara: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Indy market when it comes to sales professionals?

Mary: One of the biggest challenges I found was accessibility to a group like this. The Indianapolis market boasts great skill and talent for sales consultants, professional sales training & coaching but what about the stuff you learn when rubbing shoulders with people you wouldn’t meet otherwise? It’s been encouraging to hear of instances where members are meeting up to talk about the current sales roadblocks they’re facing outside of our quarterly meetings. This tells me that we’ve hopefully solved this big challenge!

Phill: The problem is that we don’t see sales as a profession earlier in life, even though such a large percentage of the workforce is in sales. Very few people actually have a major or degree in sales, and very few universities even offer a degree path in the area.

We also aren’t setting people up for success early. We do a poor job in general of level setting early what expectations should look like for a career in sales, or even giving them the basic skills to be successful in a sales role. People come into this career thinking they are going to close major deals right away, and that’s just not true. They are going to learn along the way, and get a lot of bumps and bruises.  AA-ISP helps give sales professionals of all backgrounds those resources to learn, grow and develop from others who are experiencing the sames things you are

Sara: What advice would you give to the startup and scale-up tech audience who is tasked with building a sales team from scratch? What are some of the things to consider in the tech industry that might not be the same for someone not in tech?

Phill: A lot of companies fall down early because they don’t have an actual sales process. AA-ISP provides a network of professionals to help you develop that process and help understand roadblocks you aren’t seeing.

We also do a poor job as senior leaders to model those best practice sales behaviors. The best VP’s and directors of sales are in it every single day with their team, still making phone calls and involved in day to day processes.

As far as the difference between tech and non-tech sales, tech is more about leading with hypothesis. You’re painting a vision of what could potentially be. With other industries you have a physical product, widget, or object to transfer physically from one person to another. For you to get someone else to understand this product, you have to correlate emotions to it. There’s a whole process for how you do that. The teams and sales professionals that are able to do that will be around for a long time.

Mary: Recognize that intentional planning and effort trumps speed. I know the difficulty in this because sales is the lifeblood of the organization and its hard to delay it, however this has burned me and other organizations I’ve worked with far too many times. Without strategy around prospecting, messaging, data, qualification, hand-off, discovery, next steps, and process to close; it’s rare the team will fly. The best way to jump to solve these process pieces quickly is to do the work yourself first, even if just for the first 2 weeks. Gain success with everything from the cold call to deal close as it’s the best way to learn the process and strategy that should exist, and gain support and credibility from new team members.

For the tech world specifically, the prospecting and closing processes should be viewed as two unique initiatives and most of the time, two separate teams. If they aren’t, prospecting tends to go to way-side. The risk here is that you can’t sell successfully unless you can find a way in the door.

Ready to attend your first AA-ISP event? Register for the upcoming November 15 event hosted at The Union 525 titled “This Dopamine, Sell More, & Get Better Results” on Eventbrite here.