Sales Tools Don’t Fail – Sales eXchange 1864

By Tibor


Advancements in technology, and the access to information have come at a staggering rate over the last 25 years.  In some cases the resulting gains in productivity and efficiency have been as great or greater; access to data and analysis, manufacturing and supply chain are a couple of examples.  But some areas like sales, have lagged.  Considering the upside presented by sales tools, and lately web 2.0 based apps, sales people should in theory be much more productive and efficient in executing their craft and improving their output, but they are not; the question is why.

There are a number of contributing factors, and all are in some way are connected to probably the most prominent factor, the inability of the purveyors of said technology, to effectively communicate to the users, the sales people, a compelling reason to adopt.  While both vendors and the executives of sales organizations can be blamed, I would focus on the executive/leadership.

I hold the executives responsible, for one simple reason: they fail to do the very thing they demand from their teams daily – putting the clients’ interest first, show the client the upside and they’ll deal with you, put yourself first and you lose.  The vendors fail because they only focus on part of the buying group, not the whole.  Since the final decision and funding is with the executives, vendors spend a lot of time selling the executive, the visibility they will get, the great data collected, leading to valuable and actionable data, while ignoring the front line rep.  But if the front line rep does not adopt, there is little visibility, insufficient or questionable input, leading to questionable output, analysis, action or the desired change; all leading to failed implementations.

Both vendors and the executive need to sell the front line reps on “what is in it for them”, the oldest rule in sales.  Instead reps are told about all the ways these tools are going to make it easier to adhere to the process, give management a better inside view, provide data to other departments, make it easier for marketing to support the sales effort and customers, give CSR’s a complete view of the customer, and more.  All good things, but none speak to how the tool’s will make it easier for the sales person to close deals, make quota, and make more money; which is “what’s in it for the rep”.

What’s ironic is that sales people have traditionally been early adopters of technology and tools that help them with any or all three of the things above; they were early users of the web, e-mail, and mobile phones.  They will often take time to learn or relearn things when they believe it will make it easier for them to close more deals, make quota and money.  Remember the effort many of us put in to learning how to write again when we bought our Palm Pilot in the 1990’s because it made selling easier, freed up time and resources used to sell more.

That has not changed, today you can see hundreds of tools and apps sales people seek out and adopt on their own in order to make sales gains.  Just look at the growth in the BYOD movement, sales people willing to spend time and money on those things that help them make sales, quota and money.

Leaders need to practice what they preach and provide tools that first help sellers succeed, and in the process spin-off all the benefits they need.  Providing tools that integrate into the sellers daily efforts, rather than distracting them.  When a tool does require time and effort to learn, show the front line rep how it will help them succeed.  Show them how the tool, app or whole new system will help them be more strategic, save them time and effort while enhancing their tactical execution; do that, and they will clamor for the tool.  Tell them how it helps YOU with YOUR forecasts, job or help YOU cover your ass instead of theirs, and you can bet that same ass that you’ll have assure minimal use, mandated or not.

Another mistake some leaders make is going BIG right out of the gate, and assuming the gains before they happen.  Rolling out a new SFA tool, with a steep learning curve, and using the new tool as a reason why reps should be able to sell more is not only counterproductive, but unnecessary.  You can either introduce a tool in stages, aligning it with the team’s execution of the sale, allowing them to integrate as they benefit, then introduce the next phase, and so on, leading to a smooth and productive adoption.

The alternative is to introduce tools that make it easy to deliver value to the user, the executive, the organization as a whole, by helping reps do something they already do in a more productive way.  An example would be Front Row Solutions.  This app, which sees a 95% adoption rate, helps reps capture the outcome of a sales call (live or phone), in a few taps on their wireless phones.  This helps them stay focused on their best opportunities, plan next steps, drive deals, evolve their execution and best practices, and more, all in a few easy seconds.  In the process it produces some of the most actionable data for management and the rest of the organization.

In the end you can blame lack of adoption on failed roll-outs, the tools themselves, on reps reluctance, and more.  But for me it comes down to bad selling; bad selling on the part of leadership.  Failing to sell their customer, the front line rep on “what’s in it for them”, instead making it all about the leaders.  What makes things worse is that same sloppy selling manifests itself right through the sales organization they lead, putting them at an even further disadvantage.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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