Sunday, November 30, 2014

Can technology help you sell? No really - “Sell”?

Selling is an art, and those artists come in every shape and size, age, sex, color and religion. Some are good talkers and others are good listeners, and everything in between. Some have great product knowledge and some haven’t got a clue. Yet they do their numbers.

Selling, though, is also a science. Companies go to a great deal of time and expense to have their sales people trained on how to “sell”, and how to sell their products. They also invest in sales tools, and the emphasis over the past 30 years has been traditional sales accounting systems (CRMs), where the emphasis is on Sales accounting, reporting and forecasting for management. In more recent times we have seen huge growth in analytics and marketing automation (leads). If Dreamforce 2014 was anything to go by, comfortably 90% of exhibitors focused on those two technologies.  Getting good leads is obviously important and management can now get better insights from the data produced from our CRMs – and the marketing Automation processes – but what about actual “Selling”?

The burning question is whether or not technology can make the science of selling more effective for the sales people; put the emphasis on the “selling” as well as the “accounting”; enhance the art of selling? In recent times Gartner has been making much of the concept of digital business, and the effect of the mobile form factor is an obvious one for sales people. For the first time ever you can carry a mobile battle card, or playbook with you into an appointment or call, and no customer would object to a simple request: “ I have a checklist of questions about your requirements, (relative to our product) do you mind if we go through those together now or later?”

As a rep you are expected to know everything there is to know about every product and every specialist use of those products. The company has just done a marketing campaign aimed at Finance (or Healthcare, etc, etc), for one of your 20 products. In the course of a day you might do 5 calls for 5 different products in 5 different sectors. This might seem an exaggeration, but in my last company, the account managers had to contend with 125 products and every vertical marketing sector.

Do you think technology can help? Of course, it can. While those are “product” or “needs analysis” questions, you have the device in your hands, it is perfectly natural to just check about Business questions – the budget, the timescales, decision makers, any specific drivers for this deal? Compliance, for example, or ROI targets? What is the best process for this product? Arrange a trial, or a demo? Right through the sales cycle we follow a workflow and every product in every market has its own playbook. As a rep you cannot possibly know all of that but those product managers and marketing people can. They need to get that encapsulated into a simple process you can check through across all 5 of those calls you have today. Every deal has its playbook. Every deal for every sector has its own playbook – but for you they are all the same – a series of checklists, and maybe the opportunity to fire up a Powerpoint or video demo at an appropriate time?

This is tool to get your win rate average up, but even better it also detects that you have made changes that should be reflected into your sales accounting system and into your companies brand new Business Intelligence and Predictive analytics system. More to the point, you are a few steps closer to another good quarter and that Club trip to Hawaii, and your Fridays can be spent on the golf course (with your customers), rather than trying to remember what to put into your CRM!