Technology is essential in sales today. You need it to track performance, provide support and make accurate forecasts.
Although technology hacks are improving every day, your top salespeople are still wasting time. They’re spending about a third of their day on tech support, approvals, pre-qualification, paperwork, and data entry. Sellers are a company’s most valuable asset. You need to keep your salespeople deployed on calls and building customer relations.
For buyers, finding the right sales technology can be a baffling process. There’s an estimated 830-plus vendors (see landscape graphic below) offering solutions and it’s a growing list.
With so much choice, how do you find the right solution?
Photo source: The 6 biggest sales-tech trends to watch in 2016
1) Find a champion
First off, identify a champion who will oversee the technology acquisition, installation, then encourage adoption and knowledge sharing. If you acquire technology by committee you risk the final product becoming a compromise. Your champion could also help with implementation, and report on its use to leadership.
2) Make sure to budget
Another preliminary step would be to identify resources — do you have the time and money for a big IT change? There will be heavy internal costs if you have to stop or slow sales. Then there are potential consultants fees, launching the technology, and upskilling staff.
Once you have budgeted, seek out the problem. You might already have a hunch of what’s going wrong, but you need to gather the data, information and materials that are going to prove your case.
3) Conduct sales post mortems
Do a post-mortem on your failed sales. Start with the customer’s goals — what were they trying to achieve? Was the problem a financial misalignment or was it to do with quality of service? You can also try doing a post mortem on successful sales, and seek out the differences from your unsuccessful sales.
4) Compare datasets
Next, try building a database or spreadsheet, entering key information on each sale so they can be compared side by side. What are the right metrics to measure? Some possible sales metrics to look into could be: contact ratios, connection rates, sales growth, sales targets, sales to date, lead conversion, product performance, cannibalization, sell-through, sales per rep and average purchase value. Do you need to reduce downtime or administrative work, increasing call volumes, or minimize interactions with the CRM?
Categorize and segment each sale into its smallest segments possible to deepen the data profile you are building. Remember, the more segmented your audience is the easier they will be to target and sell to.
If this still doesn’t bring any patterns, red flags, or breakthroughs that you can identify as a sales support problem, it’s time to look deeper. Record the stages of your sales funnel, from engaging customers to closing the deal. Do you need to do deeper pre-sale research? Better product demonstrations? Is your positioning or negotiation acumen a little off?
5) Take multiple points of view
It’s important to keep looking at the problem from different angles to find the patterns and insights that reveal a problematic trend. Some areas to look could be:
- Training — are the right pitches, cadences and behaviors being cycled through the sales floor?
- Tech support — are any internal or external communication failures holding reps back?
- Qualifying and tracking leads — is marketing holding up their side of the bargain, providing accurate and interested prospects
- Data entry — is accurate information from sales being entered, reported, or passed along?
- Scaling up sales activities
- Measuring content effectiveness
- Monitoring finance
- Ensuring compliance
Also, think about whether you need to look outside your current sales system. How are the actions of other employees or departments affecting the sales activity? It could even be appropriate to overhaul the system entirely. The fewer preconceptions you have going in to this process, the better your conclusions will be.
6) Talk to your front line
Throughout your fact-finding, maintain the lines of communication to your sales reps and front-line managers, they’ll have the best idea on what works and what doesn’t.
Information gathering can also be facilitated through surveys, looking at your site engagement, and social channel engagement. Diving deeper, you could design your systems to gather more information about your customer’s preferences or demographic. It can be hard work but it’s worth it to improve your sales process for next time.
7) Identify the problem
By now you should have the gathered data. What do you do with it? Analyze it and find the problem.
Run the data through models, forecasts. What comes out? Adjust sensitivities, variables and run the models again.
These variables might include:
- More staff on the team
- Better productivity through technology
- Old technology metrics vs claimed metrics of new technology
8) Check your competitors
Next, see what everyone else in your sector is doing. Seek out information on other companies in your specific industry. Use your contacts. Otherwise read case studies and white papers, which many tech companies are more than willing to provide. Try to find online review sites and consultants that are unbiased.
9) Check your own systems
If you want to add new technology, you’ll have to check in with what incumbent technology you’re currently running. It’s a good idea to keep up with what’s around in the current marketplace, and regularly adjust, so you’re not playing catchup to your competitors.
Dive deep into where your systems could be optimized, with a focus on cutting time wasted. What can be automated, streamlined, or scaled up? Document your work and share it with colleagues for feedback.
10) Ask what it can do for you
Literally, thousands of solutions exist for sales and marketing technology. New segments such as “Sales Engagement” are springing up every year. Therefore, your question should not be, “What technology can we get?” Instead ask, “What technology is best for us?”
Beware those selling leading-edge products. Just because Artificial Intelligence exists doesn’t mean you need it yet. Avoid “hot trends” and focus more on targeted and data-driven products. Ask your vendor for references so you can talk to their previous customers.
You can take on a scientific mindset and conduct some experiments. That’s one of the great benefits of SaaS in that you’re not locked in. Most companies offer free demos, some even offer free trials for businesses. You could try running various programs alongside each other and try A/B testing to find what works.
Today’s CRMs and ERPs are good places to start and most sales organizations will already have a version of them. YEt some sales floors are tied unnecessarily to these behemoths and should be adjusting the software to suit them, not the other way around.
What are some good examples to look for?
Prime examples of sales technology
Looking for suggestions? Luckily, the sales tech market is flooded with options. Here are just a few examples of tech tools you can use:
- Social selling — Early stage companies with few resources might find social selling valuable exercise. Try all the major social media sites, along with Hootsuite, Leadfeeder, Buzzsumo, and Reply.io.
- Lead generation — Accent accelerate, Klenty, Mailchimp. These help you gain visibility on opportunities, activities and recommended steps.
- Product training — Lessonly, Action Selling, Bloomfire. These products help sort your expertise and knowledge.
- Active market communications — Chorus, Connect and Sell, Frontspin, Refract. These add-ons enhance your conversations and analyze them to improve for next time.
Don’t forget that once you have a sales support technology selected, you still need to negotiate on price. Then there needs to be time set aside time for adoption, launch, staff training and fine-tuning. A vendor should be able to estimate all these costs.
Note that often the technology will not work as advertised, won’t gel with your team, won’t have necessary compliance, won’t work with other technology, or there will some other type of hiccup. Implementation and adoption can be just as important as a technology choice, in some respects.
Let tech do the work: revolutionize your sales support
Your sales team is perhaps the most important part of your businesses. While difficult to navigate, SaaS tools and technology can work out to be a cost-effective solution to support your frontline sales team. With your business properly structured and optimized, you can expect high functionality among your staff and longer-term benefits, like sustained revenue growth.
Finding the right marketing technology solution shouldn’t be hard, but there is an overwhelming number of options. The main challenge is knowing which is right for you.
To improve sales support using technology:
- First, budget for and build a case for improved sales processes by gathering detailed data.
- Second, analyze your sales operations.
- Thirdly, research widely and select a technology solution. Don’t forget to allow proper resources for full adoption.
Don’t be disheartened if you find yourself stuck, as sales technology can be highly complex. By following the above steps you can at least start on the right path.