The other day I was having a conversation with a CEO at a large national brokerage. The conversation quickly turned to sales. It’s the goal of every company to sell more, right? But then our conversation shifted to building competitive sales teams in today’s ultra-competitive environment. It’s not enough to pound the phones and the slam submit key on your email anymore; selling in the twenty-twenties takes conscientiousness. The goal now for sales teams is consultation, not disruption.
For this CEO and their company, consultative selling took a technological edge. It is about creating a digital crystal ball that helped match customers’ real-time needs with the hundreds of different products they sell, Which is no mean feat. The conversation got me thinking, other than audacity and perseverance, technology is quickly becoming a sales cornerstone. So how can all companies sell like that CEO’s company? I decided to write my thoughts out so all sales teams can begin to benefit from technology.
Step 1: Get everyone on the same page
Innovation is not accidental. It takes a committed team, all marching to the same drumbeat and executing seamlessly to pull it off. Especially when it comes to implementing new processes and technology, someone that chooses to play by different rules can drag down the rest. Getting everyone on the same page starts with seeking feedback: what’s working today, and what is a thorn in the side.
If you are reading this and you don’t have a CRM or are not using it to track everything, that’s your starting point.
Use this feedback to drive the technology roadmap. If you have a solid sales culture, then this feedback will highlight areas of opportunity. For sales, it is no longer enough ‘technology’ to just have a CRM. If you are reading this and you don’t have a CRM or are not using it to track everything, that’s your starting point.
Step 2: Consolidate and Integrate
I speak to salespeople all the time (and I bet you do too,) that need three monitors to quickly access six or more different systems as part of their daily tasks. Before companies can benefit from technology, they need to clean up what they have. Start with the systems that your staff need to access every day to do their job and make one single system they are in the most the hub for all the other technology. Eliminate systems that they access infrequently or provides minimum value, or at worse, another redundant step.
With sales being so fast-paced, the goal should always be one single system to rule them all.
Once you have boiled down the tech stack to something manageable, work on integration. This may not be as straightforward as plugging one system into another because legacy systems were not built for interconnectivity. Work with your different vendors to explore what options exist. With sales being so fast-paced, the goal should always be one single system to rule them all. That’s right - one system that allows your sales teams to access and record every bit of information they need too. This may require selecting a new hub, but in the long run, the ability to seamlessly integrate all your systems (rather than using a bandaid to stick them on) pays dividends as any new technology becomes an easy ‘plug-in,’ not another screen to have open.
Step 3: Find Easy Wins
Technology is often bulky and arduous to implement. Return on investment for major systems may be measured in years or even decades. Look for wins that payback on a monthly or quarterly timescale. These wins tend to come from small changes to configuration for systems you already have, or be lightweight plugins that don’t absorb copious amounts of your IT department’s time.
Products that analyze or augment your data can provide a rapid boost to your sales teams...
Products that analyze or augment your data can provide a rapid boost to your sales teams, so long as the hole that is being plugged is one that your sales team advocated to fix. Adoption is everything and creating a track record of success-one that demonstrates ROI starts with getting the small projects right.
Step 4: Create Force Multipliers
Technology is great for increasing efficiency. But it is also great for boosting effectiveness. Consider tools that use AI to write better subject lines for example. Or help you surface information to address a potential concern on a contentious sales call. Technology can also offload the analysis piece of the puzzle - analyzing conversions and lead generation, so salespeople can spend more time doing what they do best: selling.
With the technology salespeople have available to them today, they can craft the perfect message...
The specific force multipliers for your business will be unique for you. Traditionally, we would throw more bodies in front of telephones, or spend more add dollars in the Yellow Pages. With the technology salespeople have available to them today, they can craft the perfect message on an individual client basis, and ensure more conversions.
Step 5: Set KPIs that Encourage Experimentation
Innovation is fine and dandy, but absent adequate KPIs amounts to one more exercise in futility. If you are not measuring the success of your technology, how can you possibly know what’s working and where to improve? Start by looking at system utilization and how much time it takes to complete individual tasks. Use these findings to drive a cycle of continuous improvement which will further the technological investment that your organization made.
The biggest advances come from individuals that think outside the box...
It’s important to create a culture that values experimentation and to an extent risk-taking. The biggest advances come from individuals that think outside the box, so making sure that staff at all levels can innovate is one way to encourage success. The KPIs set also have to foster this innovation. If the KPIs are too task-oriented, and not outcome-oriented, experimentation (and revenue) will be stifled. For example, rather than requiring a specific number of calls per day, set a number of initial customer engagements per week. Setting goals that focus on the desired results help salespeople play to their strengths to achieve them. If you find that your sales team cannot think outside the box, or are not trustworthy when given more flexibility, maybe it’s time to take another look at the company culture.
Tech For the Win
It is misguided to think that technology for technology’s sake is a boon to your sales teams. However, technology that reduces pain points that were identified by those on the front lines is a great place to start. All businesses can leverage technology, regardless of size. The companies that understand this the best have grown hundreds of percent in the last decade, swallowing competitors that move too slowly.
Innovation properly applied is a revenue generator...
The best technology, the one that is most useful to your sales staff, can provide information that they currently do not know, or have an easy way to get. Identifying things like outreach windows, when prospects are likely to be seeking expert advice on their own anyways is a great example of this. Innovation properly applied is a revenue generator, and when properly equipped, turns your salesforce into an unstoppable juggernaut.