Predicting the trends of anything can be problematic. In fact, I believe that the future cannot be predicted with any kind of accuracy. Just look at the situation in which we find ourselves today—who could have predicted this pandemic and its effect? We have no idea where we’re going, as we know all too well in California right now: opening up, shutting down, opening up, shutting down.
We can assume some things, but the future isn’t cast in stone and is certainly not clear. Perhaps there is some glimpse we can make of it, though, with regard to sales enablement platforms (SEPs). One prediction we can make with almost total certainty is one on which Pipeliner CRM has been basing our business since its inception—working remotely. So video conferencing and collaboration tools are a no-brainer in terms of prediction.
Another prediction we can make—simply because this has been the trend of automation itself since the beginning of time—is that any repetitive action that it is possible to automate, will be automated.
Salesperson Skill Requirements
Another claim that Pipeliner has been making since its inception is that salespeople will come to be viewed far differently than the stupid, greed-driven, and pushy characterization that has been given them through history. The truth, which we’re really beginning to see today, is that salespeople are highly qualified, intelligent, and specialized knowledge workers. Today they are having to learn new skills, too, because through the lockdown, and even beyond it, they’re not able to be right in front of their prospects.
These new skills not only deal with the product or service presentation itself but also learning to perceive the prospect, their attitudes, and understanding when the prospect isn’t visible. Not everyone wants to be on camera during video presentations, so a salesperson must learn to “see” beyond it. Through this, a salesperson must be able to build a relationship, which isn’t easy. A salesperson needs a great many helpful and integrated tools.
The Sales Process
A salesperson cannot function without a sales process, and it is the job of the salesperson’s sales manager, or the company itself, to define that sales process. It’s not just the basic sales process stages; that’s the easy part and just the beginning. The real insight comes about in assisting salespeople in the specific actions of each step, what they should and shouldn’t do. These actions need to be made part and parcel of the technology involved.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can operate a salesperson like a machine. In a factory, let’s say one in which cars are manufactured, you have a computerized assembly line. Each step of the manufacturing process is totally automated, from the chassis on up through the body, and it’s all laid out exactly.
But sales cannot run this way. Each action must be evaluated for its own application because sales is a dynamic activity. It is constantly changing. It’s not just a matter of pulling documents together, it is a matter of gathering and applying intelligence. It’s not just a matter of using a particular sales methodology, because such a methodology has to be applied for each stage of the sales process. And all of this is going to be different for each industry and company.
Buyer’s Action, Seller’s Activity
Due to the dynamic nature of the sales process, at Pipeliner we created functionality for Pipeliner CRM called the Buyer’s Action and Seller’s Activity. This functionality means that a seller only proceeds with various activities when they are based on the buyer’s actions. The combination of this feature with the capacity to directly attach documents to each sales process stage, along with our Automatizer feature which automates workflows, provides real sales enablement.
Every CRM solution deals with a basic sales process. But now there are vendors insisting that you have another tool, in addition to CRM, that allows sales enablement for each step of the sales process. That enablement should absolutely be embedded in the CRM, as we have done with Pipeliner CRM.
With a feature such as a Buyer’s Action and Seller’s Activity, the seller can never move an opportunity or take action on it, unless the buyer gives the seller an indication that they should do so. That indication can be a particular type of signal. Using an example of a car dealership, let us say a buyer comes in and says they’re looking for an SUV. They tell the salesperson that they have a family of 5, along with a dog. That’s certainly a signal to the seller that this person is a qualified buyer for an SUV.
The biggest mistake a seller could make in such an instance is to take the customer over and show them a 4-seat sports car, simply because the seller makes the best profit and commission on it. The seller, in such a case, is ignoring the buyer’s signals. People reading this article might say, “What a stupid salesperson!” But events like this happen every day—the seller makes moves that don’t match what the buyer is telling them.
With the Buyer’s Actions/Seller’s Activity, the buyer must provide such signals before the seller proceeds along the sales process. Of course, the seller can ask questions to clarify the buyer’s intentions. But as the seller proceeds, they formulate the activities they should engage in. Pipeliner is the only CRM—and the only SEP—to bring this functionality right into the sales pipeline. This is true sales enablement because you are truly guiding the salesperson by providing buyer signals to watch for, and providing a path to follow once those signals are received. Additional guidance can be provided to the salesperson in documents attached to that specific sales stage.
With our latest release, we took it one step further, making it possible to automate various seller activities with a single click. This could be something such as generating an email with an attachment or sending over a video. At the same time, a reminder would be placed in the salesperson’s tasks for follow-up.
Data Analysis and Use
When considering sales enablement, the focus should be on the full overview of the prospect or customer. In my opinion, sales enablement hasn’t so much to do with the generation of a lot of data, but the understanding and analysis of the data. Not only that but what should that data trigger? What should the sales rep do with it? The answer to that might even be, nothing at all. It could be that the best “action” would be to rest for a while and allow the prospect to look over all the data you have sent them.
We live in a society that is completely overloaded with data. We have more technological systems than ever, but less insight than ever. Are people making intelligent decisions with data? Just take a look at the chaos around the world, and the pandemic. Intelligent use of the data, I think, would not have allowed us to sink so far down.
It’s not about the amount and sophistication of the technology you have, but how you utilize it with processes.
The Pipeliner CRM Example
In Pipeliner CRM, a mouse-over of a particular sales process step will show, for the current sales period, the value of opportunities open and lost in that particular stage. You can see the time an opportunity has spent in that sales stage, and know if you are ahead of or behind the average.
You can then take a look at the loss rate—what percentage of opportunities have been lost from this step? You can then also see the percentage of opportunities converting into the next sales process stage.
As far as a sales enablement platform goes, no vendor other than Pipeliner CRM has this powerful combination of benefits: the required activities for each stage, the capacity to attach needed documents to each stage, the detailed but important analysis points for each stage, and the ability to automate and create manual triggers for sales tasks.
And this is real sales enablement!