Making Technology Work For Sales Enablement
Updated: Nov 21, 2018
If you have been in B2B sales long enough, you would have noticed how buying has changed over time. Think of your first Reverse-Auction and you know what I mean. But, has selling changed adequately? Most people I meet, are surprised that there are over 700 sales tech companies globally! Nicolas de Kouchkovsky categorises the #SalesTech landscape into Engagement, Productivity & Enablement, Sales Intelligence, Pipeline & Analytics and People Management with further sub-categories. Technology companies claim upwards of 40% improvement in sales outcomes. Yet every year, the percentage of sales people achieving targets is reducing and the time to complete a sales cycle is getting longer!
So, the problem facing sales leaders is not the availability of tools and solutions but rather how to make them effective. Why is #TechnologyAdoption in sales so difficult? At the core, most interventions expect sales people to provide greater transparency of their actions without any pay-off in return. Rather sometimes, information from the frontline is used only for reviews by their managers who have no better idea of how they can add value. Which is why sales people often resist #CRM and other initiatives which makes so much sense to management.
This frustrates the efforts of #SalesLeaders and #SalesEnablement folk. So, what is the solution? I believe it lies in incorporating the Principles of Technology Adoption at the design stage of your initiatives. At a conceptual level, this means ensuring the following:
1. Involve sales people in selecting the solution
This should be fairly straight forward and obvious. Yet, a majority of leaders fail to adequately democratise the technology selection process. I know of a large global organisation that struggled with getting the sales team to stop using spreadsheets for reviews 6 months after they implemented a new CRM. Why? Because the new system fitted well with the IT architecture of the company but poorly reflected the nuances of its sales process.
2. Create and Demonstrate a Performance Benefit
The users want to know What's In It For Them. Incentives are important but most sales team I have known, would happily trade a 10% higher target in return for exemption from filling out reports. Technology must solve a real problem for sales. Can it save time? Can it genuinely help win more or make the account manager look good to the people that matter viz. the customer, boss, peers?
3. Minimise Effort Requirement
Technology is expected to make things easier, faster and smoother. You want the end users to feel that using the tools is not a task in itself. If the complexity is necessary, then find a way to build it in a phased manner.
4. Have the right Facilitating Conditions
The basics of execution need to be right, first time. Attention to detail is needed in accounts and access set-up, trouble-shooting support, user training, data migration, training the managers and team leaders. These are hygiene factors and not ticking the boxes can virtually guarantee failure.
5. Use the Influence of Social
"Only hermits have no peer pressure". Sales people are influenced by the expectations of their peers, bosses and customers. People's attitude towards change is shaped by how they see others behave. Proactively building social expectations into an adoption program goes a long way in directing the right behaviour.
Leaders have a the responsibility of providing visible sponsorship to the #SalesTransformation initiative. Consistent and sustained enthusiasm of the leader is probably the single biggest difference between successful change initiatives and the not so successful ones. Maintaining momentum requires an anchor for the change. This role could be played by your Sales Enablement team with or without support from external specialists or the technology partner.
In summary, enthusiastic implementation of transformation projects in sales must be backed by a robust adoption program. Together, Sales Enablement and Sales Leaders can create an environment for adoption of technology with a great pay back.
Note: The above draws from a variety of published scientific research on technology adoption. In particular, I have taken elements from the 'Reasoned Action Approach' and the 'Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology' while building the above guidances.