Q: Let’s say some super-advanced tech tool to help salespeople comes out. How does the sales team try to keep up?
A: In the tech world, there are always new products deemed “the next big thing” hitting the market. And, like most shiny new objects, people are drawn to them. Take the case of the iPad: tablets are certainly valuable tools for sales reps, but when they first came out, people just bought them without even knowing how they would use them.
This can be risky -- even detrimental -- when manifested at the organizational level. As new sales products and technologies are brought to market, organizations tend to buy the latest and greatest tool, and roll it out without having a strategy or plan in place to help reps use it effectively.
To avoid falling victim to “the shiny new object effect” and ensure your tech investment makes a real impact, here are some things to think about when evaluating new sales tools -- along with ideas for implementing them effectively.
1. Emphasize effectiveness over efficiency
In an effort to improve sales productivity, organizations historically have invested in technology that’s specifically focused on increasing efficiency: configure, price and quote (CPQ) solutions; deal desks; contract management software and the like. Even customer relationship management (CRM) system investments are initially viewed as an efficiency play.
These are all really important tools, but at this point, it’s my view that we’ve mostly squeezed as much as we can from these types of efficiency investments. They can give hours back to your sales force but time is just that -- time. These tools don’t necessarily help your reps use that time more effectively.
At this point, the greatest return comes from investments in tools and solutions that make your sales team not only efficient but also more effective in the way they sell. For example, consider products that help with onboarding and training, coaching and content access and management -- as well as analytics that provide insights into what’s really going on throughout the sales process. These are just examples, but when it comes to deciding which new sales technologies to prioritize, the tools that are designed to help your team become more effective is a good place to start.
2. Make adoption easy -- and attractive
Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer at marketing and sales messaging company Corporate Visions, has said that selling today has a lot to do with change management. Often, the buyers you talk to don’t see your new product as a solution to something; they see a change management problem waiting to be implemented.
This is true with the products you sell, but it’s also true for the technology you roll out to your own sales organization. Any new product or tool is going to, in some way, change how your reps do their jobs (of course, that’s the whole idea). People often resist change, so you need a plan in place to make adoption of any new technology as simple and painless as possible. You don’t want to roll something out that will disrupt your reps’ workflow.
Of course, adoption is made a lot easier if reps actually want to use the new product. Don’t take this part for granted -- anyone who’s struggled with CRM adoption (and there are many) will tell you that. Make sure the value of the new technology is readily apparent at the beginning.
3. Get buy-in from front-line managers
This one is easily overlooked, but we’ve seen research that shows coaching and mentoring is the most important role your front-line sales managers play. If the managers that are supporting your reps don’t recognize the value in a new technology, that will trickle down throughout your team. So buy-in at every level of the sales organization is very important, as it will ensure your managers are reinforcing the behavior (and technology usage) you’re looking for.
Finally, remember, technology for technology's sake will rarely deliver the ROI you’re looking for. You need to take into account the needs and skills of the people on your team, and be able to clearly demonstrate the positive impact any new tool will have on their processes and workflows.