Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane newcomer ramps up to 140 employees

Innuity Inc.’s office here exceeds sales expectations, will employ 200 by year-end

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Innuity Inc., a Web-based services provider that opened a telemarketing center here last August, already employs 140 people here, and true to promise, expects to employ 200 by years end.

The Minneapolis-based companys Spokane operation, located at 1425 N. Washington, sells Web-related services over the phone to owners of businesses nationwide that employ 10 people or less.

Weve found that theres a large percentage of small businesses that have various barriers that are stopping them from being successful on the Internet, says Edward Hechter, Innuitys Spokane-based vice president of strategic planning. Our job is to create solutions for them to help them be successful.

Innuitys services include Web-site development, Web promotions, Web hosting, and Web programming for e-commerce transactions. Those services are handled by other Innuity offices, located in Portland, Ore.; San Clemente, Calif.; and at its headquarters in Minneapolis. The Spokane office simply interviews customers over the phone to determine what services they might need and then attempts to sell them such services. It also sells services that are provided by other companies.

The Spokane operation is exceeding its sales expectations, Hechter says. He declines to disclose actual sales figures, but says that the office here has been generating about 200 sales a day, and that per-day sales have grown 80 percent since January.

Sales volume is expected to continue to rise as the Spokane operation is given more services to sell, which should broaden its customer base. By next month, the office will begin offering higher-priced and higher-valued Web promotional services and products, such as directory services, banner-ad placement, search capabilities, and Web-based commercials, Hechter says. It also will begin offering more advanced Web-related tools targeted at businesses that employ up to 100 people, such as products that allow intranet and extranet capabilities, he says. An intranet is a corporate computer network, while an extranet is a secure client-access only portion of the Internet.

Hechter expects that the new products in addition to generating more sales here, will provide more of a challenge for Spokane employees, allowing them to gain more product knowledge.

Innuity, as a whole, currently provides services to 90,000 small businesses nationwide, and the companys ultimate goal is to double that figure by the end of the year, Hechter says.

In addition to selling Innuitys own services, the company also sells Web-related services for its business partners, including Nampa, Idaho-based Micron Electronics Inc.; White Plains, N.Y.-based IBM Corp; and Vancouver, Wash.-based Egghead.com Inc.

A significant portion of our customer base is served on behalf of those other companies, Hechter says.

Sales contests

Innuitys Spokane sales office is a sea of cubicles in which sales representatives sit in front of a computer wearing a headset and talking to potential customers. The office has 155 work stations, as well as a raised area where the companys five quality-assurance employees work. They listen in on sales representatives calls, evaluating their performance and offering feedback and tips, Hechter says. Newly trained sales representatives sit in a special area, separate from the seasoned salespeople, for about three to four weeks, where they receive more supervision.

Whiteboards are scattered throughout the office, touting different sales contests in which the employees can participate. Pictures of top salespeople for the month and other contest winners hang in the hallway leading to the sales area.

The company currently is leasing about 15,000 square feet of space on North Washington but has talked to the buildings landlord about taking more space there in order to accommodate the 200 employees it expects to have by the end of the year, Hechter says.

Innuity chose to open a sales office here after evaluating other markets, partly because it had outsourced its telemarket-ing services to a company here and had been impressed with the quality of workers that vendor employed. Hechter declines to name the company it had worked with here.

He says that sales, computer, and Web-related experience isnt required in the people Innuity employs here because of the companys training program.

Some workers begin their shifts here at 6 a.m., targeting small business owners on the East Coast first, and continuing calls until 3 p.m. The remainder of the sales representatives start their day at 7 a.m. and finish their shift at 4 p.m.

To generate sales, Innuity buys lists of small businesses that fall into certain demographic groups. Hechter declines to disclose those demographics, however, for proprietary reasons. Workers here call prospects on the list and also receive calls from potential customers who have been routed to the Spokane office from the toll-free phone numbers of Innuity and its business partners, Hechter says.

Operating a high-production sales environment, such as this, is half art and half science, he says. It requires a lot of people, a lot of complex operational processes, and a lot of computer and telemarketing technology. Says Hechter, getting those three elements to dance in a coordinated way is a daily challenge.

  • Lisa Harrell

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