Sales Productivity Series: Harnessing Technology for Better Selling

Whether it’s the Internet or mobile devices, technology has changed the way buyers are buying, allowing them to plug in from anywhere to do their own research. But it’s also changed how salespeople sell. Now, reps can work from anywhere, present from anywhere, sell from anywhere. With the right devices and software, sales reps can:

  • Cut through the clutter—to zero in and easily identify what they need to do next
  • Find a relevant way to connect with buyers so they can win faster
  • Easily collaborate with people, to find and access the information they need to ultimately sell more

As James Oldroyd, Assistant Professor of International Business at Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University explains, “You want to send a better email? There are tools to help you. You want to measure your response to the email? There are tools to help you. Every step, when to respond, how to respond, how to follow up, how to build a relationship etc. can be measured and optimized.”  

Identify the processes that work

It’s all a matter of choosing the right tools for the job at hand. It’s also critical, however, to use technology to support the best way of working. Tiffani Bova of Gartner advises organizations not to put the cart before the horse: “Technology for technology’s sake doesn’t help anyone, and rolling out tools which users find no value in or don’t know how to use puts a strain on any organization. If the organization is willing to change, then they can’t look at technology as a way to automate and improve processes. Technology must be used to support (new) processes, which are built from new ways of thinking about how to create a top performing sales culture.”

“You want to send a better email? There are tools to help you. You want to measure your response to the email? There are tools to help you. Every step, when to respond, how to respond, how to follow up, how to build a relationship etc. can be measured and optimized.”  

In fact, formalizing sales process workflows is key to increasing productivity. Think of it the way a data scientist would. What elements around an opportunity provide true insight into pipeline? What key markers of success should the sales team focus on? It’s not enough to rely on the instinct of the sales force (as solid as that might be). Companies need to determine the key indicators for each stage in an opportunity. Not only does this reduce guesswork, it can provide sales managers with actionable feedback on how a rep can improve.

Now that we’ve covered the basics when it comes to laying a solid foundation, here’s a rundown on the latest tools designed to take sales productivity to new levels.

A modern CRM solution can better enable sales

There’s little question that CRM systems are the de facto tool for sales, but in the past, CRM systems weren’t built to help salespeople do their job. They were made for reporting purposes, so the management team could get an accurate view into forecast. We call those systems of oppression. Salespeople had to take time out of their day to keep the system updated. Those systems are a drain on productivity and don’t help reps do what’s needed to sell. Even systems created just 10 or so years ago aren’t optimized for what a sales person needs to do today.

Let’s consider what happens when reps get a lead. They have to log into one application (i.e., the CRM system) to see the lead, then open a browser to start researching that person and company on the buyer’s company website and on social networks.

All of this takes time, can lead to distractions, and still often leaves reps short on information. Once sales finds the opportunity to connect, they need to get as educated as they can—as quickly as possible—to identify a way to provide immediate value.

As Colleen Francis, founder and president of Engage Selling Solutions explains, “The CRM system must be the hub for all sales templates, proposals, marketing materials and coaching dashboards. If everything sellers need is in one place, they will use the tool completely. When CRM is being utilized to its fullest extent, the team will be more productive and the organization will have a more predictable sales forecast.”

The good news is that CRM technology has evolved to help sales reps conduct research internally and externally, collaborate with colleagues, make connections on social networks, and focus on the buyer. The result is a modern selling experience that facilitates interactions and sales and improves sales productivity.

Put predictive analytics into the hands of every rep

Today sales can also tap into the power of predictive analytics and dashboards to identify promising opportunities. In a nutshell, predictive analytics makes it possible for everyday businesspeople to query data using natural language and checking off boxes for instant and visual results. Specifically, they can apply analytics to data sets and easily see possible future outcomes. Many call this the democratization of data. No matter what its name, it’s all about putting important insights directly into sales reps’ hands.

Imagine entering the query “show all customers by geography and lead source over the past five years and predict the likelihood of repeats.” Or think about being able to take note of when a certain segment of prospects is typically ready to speak to a rep. The sales team can reach out when the opportunity is hot. They can even pinpoint when existing customers are most likely to purchase an additional product or service, and jump on cross- and upsell opportunities.

But sales pros need an easy way to view and analyze all that data. That’s where the dashboards in CRM systems shine. With it, sales pros can easily:

  • Visualize data in a clean way
  • Easily draw conclusions from trends
  • Make the right decisions when it comes to assessing the health of their pipeline, prioritizing the hottest leads, and focusing on the right deals

Arm road warriors

At the same time, sales apps need to do one thing: Help sellers close more deals faster—wherever they are. The smartest organizations are responding to the BYOD trend by empowering reps with a secure way to access information, content and colleagues via their mobile devices, whether smartphones or tablets. Doing so keeps the sales team happy, focused and productive.

Organizations doing business on a global scale need to help their reps to do their jobs more effectively around the world. Until recently, this meant establishing field sales offices in every location where the company did business. But with today’s advanced tools, a new approach is possible. For instance, Skype instantly translates conversations, enabling teams to knock down language barriers and easily sell in global markets.

Read the other posts in the Always Be Closing blog series

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