Sales team automation solutions come in different shapes and sizes and they are usually billed as solutions that enhance the salesperson’s ability to hit their target. How they do it varies tremendously, and their success rates vary even more. The best-in-breed tools stimulate the salesperson to want to use them, by assisting them in creating personal and company success. These interactive sales coaches have context and understand not only the nuances of how to sell successfully , but also capture the specifics of the user’s products and services, their competitive landscape and their selling process. They act as sales manager or sales mentor guiding the individual to the optimum path to achieve success.
So, in a world of selling with technology based intelligence on our side, it might makes sense to use these systems all the time, and keep them continuously updated – and there are strong arguments to suggest that this is best practice. There maybe an inherent issue with this approach however, and it’s in the usability of the sales automation itself. It’s often not designed with the sales person in mind – and when that happens the adoption level (and the associated accrued benefit) declines.
There are many examples of the failures of sales team automation to attract usage, CRM systems being perhaps the most obvious. The trick therefore is to have a system designed with the salesperson’s use in mind. It has to benefit them. When that goal is achieved and usability is no longer a limiting factor, and return for effort – is it then appropriate then to have the sales team use the system constantly, keeping all their sales efforts updated ? The answer which may seem counter intuitive is – maybe.
The amount of time spent in a sales team automation system – a good one that mentors appropriately and reflects the companies’ best selling practices – should be commensurate with the helpfulness it has to the deals in progress. Here’s the catch though – the key aspect of that is “in progress”. In the same way that a sales person wouldn’t equally spend their time and energies on all sales before them, ‘fairly’ investing their time, a sales person will concentrate on certain sales opportunities to close them, or advance them. If this real-life activity is super-imposed back into the sales automation system, it then becomes clear why some of their deals are updated, and some are not. The better systems available today tend to highlight where and when effort should be spent, identifying time critical actions, as well are giving visibility into the need for future proofing strategic activities. Then it becomes more performance enhancing adoption rather than compliance based adoption.
So, how do you tell if the adoption level is adequate or optimum? Looked at from the sales manager’s perspective, how can they objectively determined if the selling staff are using the system enough? To determine this demands that the system is smart enough to know, in a dynamic and real-time manner, average sales cycles and deal sizes, and key deal inflection points. With this information, a pipeline and portfolio of opportunities can be constructed that is indicative of how many opportunities should be pursued, at various stages of maturity. Knowing that a company might be successful in one in eight cases at the earliest stages of qualification might mean that it should reflect eight times the actual quota or sales target. For this to be certain, the system needs to inform the user of the pipeline velocity more than just the pipeline size.
Determination of whether your sales methodology or automation tools are being adequately adopted, can only be fairly assessed when these core metrics are available and continuously automatically updated. Then you achieve two things:- 1. You answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question for the sales person, and 2. Adoption, and associated sales effectiveness improvement increase. The net result is increased predictable and profitable revenue – and that’s surely the only measure that matters.