Several years ago, I met a Salesforce user at a social occasion.  He was a sales person in a mid-market team at a business that sold enterprise solutions to other companies – Salesforce’s sweet-spot at the time. Despite our best efforts, the conversation eventually turned to work. When I asked him how he liked Salesforce, he said “I like it, it doesn’t get in the way of me doing my job”.

Believe it or not I was happy with this rather back-handed compliment, and any other CRM vendor would be too: Even a few years ago, a sales tool was something imposed by senior management on the front line sales employees. It was more about management information, accurate sales forecasting, and pipeline reporting, than it was about making individual sales people more effective. So getting a mildly positive review was a win.

Of course, there are serious benefits to be gained from having insight into your sales processes:

  • Better pipeline rigour through visibility
  • Higher close rates through sales discipline
  • Better sales velocity through consistent sales processes

That’s just for starters, and it’s why Salesforce customers, on average, enjoy 37% higher sales revenues.  

Today though, most companies understand the value of a good sales system, and many have the rigour and visibility they need to compete.  But if the competition has the same information and discipline, there’s no advantage to be gained, so forward-looking companies are seeking out “what’s next”.

Sales tools built for the future

Competition is becoming more sophisticated - new entrants, newer tools & channels, increased customer expectations and transparency are all forcing sales professionals to innovate in how they sell. A new or clever approach from few years ago that gave sales the upper hand in a deal is now commoditised. It’s an arms race for the next advantage.

In this world, simply tracking activities and being organised has become table stakes. Senior sales leaders need to understand that what modern sales tools & CRM can do for their business has evolved way beyond the tools they used when they were in front-line sales roles.

And bubbling up from the bottom, salespeople who are now accustomed to slick experiences like Siri, Netflix recommendations, and Spotify collaborative playlists are looking to their apps and tools to be smarter and more proactive – actually helping them close deals rather than just recording them in a database.

What does this look like?

It’s about reading the signals. It’s about sifting through the noise and finding the best leads to work on. It’s about suggesting the right sales approach. It’s about finding the hidden networks behind the org-charts. At its heart, it’s about the sales tool actively using the information available to it – both in the database and in other connected systems - to learn what works, to find the patterns salespeople might miss.

If you ever hear a salesperson talking about a deal they’ve won, the story nearly always starts with some fortuitous event:

  • “I noticed an article about the new CEO”
  • “I wasn’t going to call them but I did”
  • “I met someone who knew the decision maker”

Typically all that information is buried somewhere in the sales system waiting to be uncovered. A modern sales tool needs to be able to read the signals in the data, cut through the noise, and surface those gems for the sales team to use, at the right time.

That’s why a next-generation sales system should have a sales whisperer built in as part of the experience. Being organised is no longer sufficient, sales people have to have ESP (extrasensory perception) – or a sixth sense, if you will.

So look for capabilities beyond the “standard” sales features. Ask for those that will proactively help your sales people. For instance, make sure any sales tool you consider:

  • Puts the best account news & research in front of the sales person, in context 
  • Guides the sales person to focus on the right tasks at the right time
  • Flags actions and gaps in your deals – which deals should you look at
  • Makes your email inbox a sales tool – suggesting which messages you should prioritise

Give a good sales person a head-start like this on a deal, and they’ll never look back.  Furthermore, rather than staying out the way, the sales tool needs to support the sales person – pushing, suggesting, nudging reminders.

The sales coach you always wish you had

Every great salesperson has had a coach at some time, pointing out the obvious and the not so obvious. Coaches often have the benefit of perspective, and because they are not so caught up in the cut and thrust of a deal, they can see the big picture. They will often ask an unpopular question or suggest a course of action the sales team didn’t want to consider, but with hindsight was the right thing to do. Coaches can’t be everywhere though, nor can they cover every deal.

Instead, the sales system itself can become a coach, or whisperer, to every account executive on every deal. This is why customers are so excited about the new Salesforce Lightning Experience which uses the signals in the data to make recommendations, suggest articles, advise on next steps, surface what’s being missed. 

It’s not going to close the deal for them, but it focuses on helping salespeople sell better and is there to give them a competitive advantage in a market where every scrap of insight is invaluable.

I wish I could meet my dinner party acquaintance again. I’m sure his market has changed as much as others have. I’m confident he’s no longer looking for a sales tool to stay out of the way, but for one that is there to help him. That’s why I’m sure if I asked him the same question he’d tell me he loves his new Sales Whisperer.

Take a look at this short demo video so you can see for yourself how a modern sales tool can help you become more productive, and close more deals.