Sales technology transformation for the digital age

by Marty Nicholas

In our ‘Rep of the Future’ blog series, we have outlined four critical initiatives required to transform sales for the digital age. So far, we’ve spoken in-depth about the first two of those critical initiatives – evolving organisational design and sales process transformation. Today, we’ll give you the inside track on the third critical initiative of technology and data; which outlines the key technology shifts, such as CRM platforms and automation, needed to create sales capacity, while optimising effectiveness and efficiency.

Across the sales transformation projects that we observe, the most effective ones always feature a good balance of people, process and technology elements. When we are aiming to set up salespeople for a digital future, it can be easy to over-emphasise the technology component. Whilst this is an important part of the puzzle, it is the optimal combination of all three of these critical elements that enables an organisation to realise genuine transformation of the marketing and sales engine.

On the people side, organisational design must change in order to create the capacity and capabilities required for salespeople to be more relevant and value-adding to customers. Equally important is evolving the sales process to support more integrated ways of working across marketing and sales in today’s multi-channel environment. With these important foundations right, technology then plays a critical role in hardwiring these new ways of working, enhancing productivity and providing the responsiveness that is needed to engage today’s customer.

So, what are the shifts to technology and data that can make this happen? Throughout our transformation work with enterprise clients, we’ve distilled the below three shifts that count when embarking on sales transformation.

1. Deliver user value to drive CRM adoption

Adoption and usage of CRM systems is poor in many organisations, with data quality and customer insights suffering as a result. Underlining the imperative to enhance CRM adoption is an emerging array of artificial intelligence-driven selling tools. For organisations that are collecting high-quality data, these tools offer the ability to 'guide' salespeople with predictive insights gleaned from CRM, calendar and email data. Without strong CRM adoption and clean data, however, organisations struggle to leverage these tools and the competitive advantage which they offer.

Typically, these adoption challenges stem from a CRM which is too complex, too difficult to use or a perception that the system is intended for managing salespeople, rather than helping them in their day-to-day roles. A proven path to solving these challenges is a shift from a ‘top-down’ to ‘bottom-up’ approach, where a focus on simplicity and mobility are key to getting sales on board with the new technology.

2. Digitise the frontline and leverage process automation

A leading cause of sales capacity challenges – and the resultant lack of effective selling time – are time-consuming, administrative processes. With an exploding array of tools available, organisations have the opportunity to build a technology ecosystem around their salespeople which enhances productivity, effectiveness and efficiency. A successful approach to securing these benefits is to invest in technology tools that can help eliminate low value admin tasks and create the capacity for salespeople to spend more time with customers.

Among a myriad of options available, tools which reduce platform duplication and integrate CRM, email and calendars can represent quick productivity wins for salespeople. Depending on the selling environment and process challenges, more involved tools such as those which automate proposal and quote generation are also common solutions.

3. Enable data-driven selling

Salespeople in today’s environment face the distinct challenges of firstly meeting the expectations of a more informed buyer, and secondly keeping pace with them as they traverse across sales and marketing channels. To enable salespeople to be as relevant and value-creating as possible in every interaction, organisations need to leverage the ‘digital exhaust’ of buyer activity and equip sales to reduce the information advantage held by today’s highly-informed customer.

Typically, a marketing automation platform or comprehensive web content management system will be required, which integrates closely with the CRM. By placing customer interaction data at the salesperson’s fingertips, they can understand what customers are thinking about and utilise this to cohesively compliment the buyer’s journey.
Stay tuned for future posts, where we’ll look at Talent and Capabilities – the last group of critical initiatives required to adapt sales for the digital age.