The technology-enabled salesperson
The tech our own team uses every single day
The day’s of the rolodex are long gone. Today’s sales professionals are now more tech savvy than ever before. Whether it’s researching new prospects, making contact with them or working to close the deal, technology is fundamental to success.
The options are many and varied. From the latest laptops, ultrabooks, tablets and smartphones through to the software, cloud apps and services that give them the information they need – there have never been more choices.
As you’d expect, our own sales team at salesforce.com are always looking to adopt the latest tools and technologies to do a better job. So we thought we’d take a look inside their laptop bags to get a better idea of the kit that helps them succeed.
Don’t leave the office without it – the hardware
All our salespeople (together with much of the rest of the world) have left the desktop PC behind. And while laptops are still a core piece of kit, even these appear to be on the road to extinction.
With so much computing now offered as a service, today’s salespeople are discovering that even the lightest laptops are a burden they no longer need to carry. The move today is firmly towards tablets and smartphones – particularly Apple’s i-ware. Our salespeople are discovering they can access all the information they need whenever and wherever they need it (without damaging their backs lugging heavy bags).
Tomorrow appears to feature more of the same with thinner, lighter, more powerful devices. Critically, the move to ever faster wireless data in the form of 4G is likely to finally release salespeople to use any device they choose – iPads, Android tablets, Windows Surface, whatever – without compromising what they can achieve.
"The one piece of technology I couldn’t live without is my iPhone. It gives me access to all the information I need, anytime I need it. I have apps for Chatter, Salesforce (of course) and the Logger app helping me manage my customers, accounts etc. I also have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn apps which I use to research industry trends and reach out to prospects/customers."
Anna Bratton, Strategic Account Executive, Salesforce.com
Open to the close – the applications
In the past, salespeople would spend their lives in Microsoft Office. Excel to do their forecasts and crunch the numbers. Word to put together their proposals. And PowerPoint for those all-important big presentations. While all three are still to be found on most salespeople’s laptops, if our team is anything to go by, the world is moving on.
The core tool our team relies upon is the browser. It’s their gateway to virtually everything they need to do their jobs. With so much software now being delivered as a service, a web browser and an internet connection is more important than pretty much any of the traditional packages. We still see a reliance on email clients such as Outlook among our team but the traditional ‘office’ functionality is increasingly being found in online suites such as Google Docs. (Check out our Run Your Business from a Browser eBook for a closer look.)
While much of the business world revolves around email, it is also the bane of many business people’s working lives. With the move to more social media interaction and collaboration tools such as Chatter, the question is: how long will email hold out as the last bastion of installed software?
"When it comes to software and services, I practically live in LinkedIn, Outlook and Salesforce. LinkedIn is my bible when it comes to prospecting. Outlook allows me to take a structured approach to my day. And Salesforce is the only way I can connect the dots and gain credibility with prospects."
Ciaran Avitabile, Strategic Account Executive, Salesforce.com
Success-as-a-Service – the services revolution
Not so long ago, the vast majority of services our salespeople now depend on simply didn’t exist. Prospecting was an endless round of cold calling, letter writing and poorly-informed sales meetings. Fortunately, the old school has given way to a vast array of services that today’s salespeople can use to find new prospects, learn about their challenges and have meaningful conversations with them.
Across our sales team, services rule. Unsurprisingly, our people use a lot of our own tools but it doesn’t end there. Here’s our round-up of the top 6 cloud apps our people use every day to help drive sales:
- Chatter – our collaboration tool that keeps our people fully in the loop about current opportunities. Now, they can find everything they need in one easy place – from in-depth information about the prospect to what’s happening across social channels to how to connect with one of our subject-area experts to get the insights they need to close the sale.
- LinkedIn – for business-to-business sales, there is no better place to find new prospects, learn about their businesses and teams, and make contact. With over 180m business professionals on the network, you’re often only a couple of connections away from a profitable introduction.
- Twitter – as a way of taking the pulse of the market, Twitter can deliver valuable insights. With a little smart listening you can learn an amazing amount about customer pain-points, unfulfilled needs and competitor weaknesses. From there, you can be just 140 characters away from offering a solution.
- Sales Cloud – you’d expect this of course, but our team uses our service to run every aspect of their pipeline from managing their teams to documenting contacts and forecasting sales.
- GoToMeeting – whereas at one time a salesperson would spend almost all their days out on the road, increasingly this is being seen as dead-time. There are, of course, plenty of occasions when only a face-to-face meeting will do but all too often, the same result can be achieved over a web-conference. GoToMeeting is our team’s tool of choice.
- Logger – this one is a new tool out of our Labs team but it’s already got a devoted following among our salespeople. It’s a clever iPhone app that allows salespeople to quickly and easily log their activity with customers and prospects as well as scheduling follow-up tasks. It saves them time and keeps them connected.
Soon, we believe everything will be available as a service. More than this, all the component parts that salespeople rely on every day will be more seamlessly integrated than ever before. We may see greater use of facial recognition technology and location-based services as ways to add greater richness and depth to sales activity. And with the emergence of ever-faster mobile broadband, it’ll all be available virtually anytime, anywhere and on any device salespeople choose to carry.
"I am always trying out new applications. I mainly find out about them from colleagues I follow on Chatter or through connections on LinkedIn. Sometimes customers even suggest applications they use on their mobiles. I found out about Logger via a Chatter group I follow and from seeing others post about it. I also regularly check AppExchange and the Apple App Store."
Stephen Mason, Account Executive, Salesforce.com
The best of the rest
There are of course a multitude of apps and services available for today’s technology-enabled salespeople. Some good, some less so. So we thought we’d take this opportunity to give credit where it’s due to other tools you may find useful:
- Evernote – the daddy of note taking apps, allowing you to save interesting snippets from the web, email notes to yourself and keep everything in sync across whatever device you’re using.
- Do.com – a task management service that’ll help you and your team co-ordinate your activities to get stuff done (full disclosure – Do.com is a salesforce.com service).
- Google Maps – for when you need to get where you need to go, it doesn’t come much better.
- Google Alerts – need to keep up with news in your industry or on specific prospects? Set up Google Alerts and it’ll come to you in an easy-to-digest email or RSS feed.
The reality is that, today, a salesperson armed with a smartphone and a bunch of clever apps and services can have virtually all the information, resources and tools they need to close a sale. And the good news is: it’s only getting better.
We hope you’ve found our picks useful. Of course, you may use a killer app or service that we either haven’t come across or have sadly neglected in this post. If so, we’d love to hear about it. Put your recommendations in the comments below. Thanks.