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The Sales Productivity Trap: Don’t Add New Tools Without Rep Buy-In


We salespeople are a competitive bunch. We constantly try to gain an edge on our competition by working faster and smarter. Every day, there seems to be a new sales technology with promises of greasing the wheels and making it easier to hit our numbers.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were using Excel spreadsheets, Post-it notes, and a Rolodex to keep track of our clients. Then we really got “innovative” and invested in a single-user license of Act! or GoldMine to digitize our contact information.

Now we need only reach into our pockets for capabilities such as analytics and artificial intelligence that provide a true 360-degree view of our customers and help us operate more proactively and intelligently.

With so much promised upside, it’s easy to get excited about all that is possible with new sales tools, and to bring them online immediately. However, management must take the time to ensure it has buy-in from those with the biggest stake — salespeople. If they don’t have a positive, value-based relationship with the tools at their disposal, companies will never see widespread adoption or realize the full impact of these investments.

How are sales teams across the globe confronting this new dawn of sales technology to ensure reps are aligned with management on the value of these enablement tools and empowered to use them efficiently? Salesforce Research surveyed more than 3,100 global sales professionals to discover key technology trends. Here are some relevant findings:

Sales reps today face unprecedented expectations from all angles.

Regardless of industry, today’s customers are connected, informed, and empowered. As a result, their expectations for the companies they do business with are higher than ever. For instance:

Internally, sales teams also see a marked change in how their contributions to business strategy and success are viewed:

The result is that sales teams are embracing new mindsets as they become more customer-centric and guide their companies into a new era. To be sure, this can be overwhelming for reps without the proper training and tools.

To meet expectations, top performers turn to enablement tools.

To overcome challenges wrought by evolving customer expectations, sales teams must enlist technologies to support their daily activities, or risk falling short. On average, 88% of high performers use sales technology (or plan to use within three years), compared to only 54% of underperformers. But top sales leaders are not only quick to put the right tools in their reps’ hands, they also adjust the processes that support these new capabilities. They look to technology to boost their efficiency and productivity. For example, compared to underperformers, high performers are:

The adversarial relationship between reps and tech impacts adoption.

An email blast about a new sales technology or a quick overview at a sales kickoff meeting isn’t enough to get reps on board. If reps don’t understand the business case for why technologies are deployed — and if they’re not well-trained to make the most of them — even the most advanced tools can languish as losing investments. To convey the full potential of powerful, game-changing technologies like artificial intelligence, mobile productivity apps, or predictive analytics, sales management must demonstrate how technology can not only help sales reps work faster but also smarter. Reps who get this don’t complain about using new technology — they worry about what they’d do if it were to go away!

Here are some methods to try:

  • Earn reps’ trust in tech. Demonstrate real instances where your reps will greatly benefit from technology. For example, when reps see that with artificial intelligence they can make 20 high-quality calls versus 100 unpredictable calls, it deepens their confidence in the tool and the virtues of incorporating it in their sales process.

  • Don’t skimp on training. Training doesn’t just refer to large, formal sessions that every sales rep must attend at the beginning of the year or quarter. Create additional opportunities for skills growth by engaging reps with self-service, just-in-time modules, informal lunch-and-learns, and educational conferences. Also, include your sales managers in training to help them determine the best way to guide their team with the insights these new tools provide. A robust training program differentiates leading sales teams from the rest. Eighty percent of high-performing sales teams rate their sales training process as outstanding or very good.

  • Focus on coaching and mentoring, not just productivity metrics. Creating a high-performing sales team is about more than just mechanics — it’s also about mentorship from all levels of the sales organization. Make sure you’re effectively communicating with, inspiring, and listening to your team. And recruit other executives in your company to do the same. You can learn some tips and best practices in this podcast with Walter Rogers, CEO of CCI Global Holdings.

Successful alignment stems from technology buy-in.

It may come as no surprise that top sales teams are aligned on how they’re addressing customer needs. In fact, high-performing sales teams are 2.1x more likely to be completely or mostly aligned on changing customer expectations. Technology empowers successful teams to achieve this alignment. Top teams have a better understanding of which technologies are needed to succeed in the “Age of the Customer.” Notably we’ve seen that when compared to underperforming counterparts, high-performing sales team are:

In many client conversations, we’re already seeing strong evidence that competition between companies is based not only on product differentiation, but increasingly on informed and predictive sales activities. Research tells us that reps who use new capabilities — powered by analytics, automation, and intelligence — will outperform those who “work harder, not smarter.” Show your reps the tangible benefits to their daily lives and retiring quota, train them to be confident and efficient in using new technologies, and coach them to become more informed and customer-centric sellers.

Looking for more top sales tactics? Download the full second annual “State of Sales” report.

If they don’t have a positive, value-based relationship with the tools at their disposal, companies will never see widespread adoption or realize the full impact of these investments.”

Tiffani Bova | Global Customer Growth & Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce

Learn More

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Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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