TL:DR answer: It’s not the tech’s fault. Get these five things right first or the tech has no chance to help you.
A few weeks ago I had the honor of participating in a roundtable discussion hosted by Jonathan Farrington centered on the role, impact and importance of technology in driving successful sales. It was as spirited conversation, with a definitive negative lean towards technology in general.
It wasn’t surprising. Sales influencers often tend towards one or another end of a polarizing spectrum. Some say tech is the answer and near-replacement of traditional sales. Others say tech is a distraction at best and a deterrent at worst, and that traditional selling best practices are all that you need.
I believe the answer (not surprisingly) isn’t quite as simple and is somewhere in the middle. In other words, technology without solid sales fundamentals ain’t gonna get you very far. And if you pretend to ignore the impact technology can have on your business, your competitors will take advantage and widen their market edge.
The wider the gap, the harder it will be to catch up.
Unfortunately this debate tends to focus on the technology itself. But I don’t know any technology, in any industry or category, that runs itself. If your sales technology investment is failing, you may be missing one or more of these critical requirements to short and long-term success.
No Executive Commitment
Your c-suite probably doesn’t want to be involved in your sales technology selection process. But there should be a high-level understanding and commitment to providing the sales organization with tools, processes and best practices that help make them both more efficient and more effective.
Simply “making more calls” isn’t going to have the force-multiplier on your success that consistently-applied best practices (including tools and processes) can have. Unfortunately, budgets can be fleeting. And if you treat sales process improvement as a campaign instead of a culture change, if the company’s commitment to arming the sales organization with everything they need to succeed hinges on your next earnings call, there’s no way any initiative will have the room and oxygen to succeed.
I mentioned in the section above that “making more calls” isn’t the answer to any question. One of the reasons this is true is that a phone call is simply an empty vessel. Calling more prospects with no message, no offer, nothing that will get your prospect to actually give you some attention, is a huge waste of time for everyone.
Similarly, with any sales tool, answering “why” you need it is more important than “what” it does. Your strategy needs to be tool-agnostic, meaning it’s about the need and outcome – not how big of a booth the tech vendor has at the next show.
Just because everybody else has it, doesn’t mean you need it. Strategy first, technology second.
No Training and Integration
Many companies treat sales and marketing technology tools like my six year old treats toys. Gotta have it, gotta have it, gotta have it. Then two days after unwrapping that gift under the tree, they’re onto something else.
High-potential tools have zero changes of delivering impact if your team doesn’t know how to use it. If they don’t understand how to integrate it into their routine, their processes and systems to repeatably create successful outcomes.
I’ve also seen companies buy new technology and fail to invest the time and resources to integrate them with existing systems. If your sales team us constantly flipping back and forth between browser windows desperately trying to use tools that don’t speak to each other, that effort to create productivity across the sales force is likely backfiring.
No Investment in Optimization and Support
There are no successful “set it and forget it” tools out there. Even if you successfully and effectively launch and integrate a new high-potential sales tool, adjustments will need to be made over time.
If your sales operations team is busy buying the next shiny object, it could be that last month’s shiny object has already been kicked to the curb.
Think about how you used CRM five years ago. Now assume you were using it exactly the same way today. Sounds silly right? So how would failing to improve leverage of your other sales technology tools be any different?
No Sales Skills To Begin With
This is the point I believe many sales technology naysayers are really making, and I completely agree with them. If you don’t know how to sell, tools aren’t going to make you better. If you don’t have something of value for your customers, tools aren’t going to fix that.
If you can’t articulate why a prospect should give you the time of day, automated emails aren’t gonna make that happen. And if you can’t master the fundamentals and discipline of doing the daily hard work it takes to build, manage and convert a pipeline of business – don’t expect a machine to do it all for you.
In summary, I’m a huge proponent of the raw potential that sales technology can have on any selling organization. Just make sure you invest in the fundamentals before, during and after its implementation to maximize that potential.