The Digital Era of Sales Management
“If you’re a leader in today’s world, whether you’re a government leader or a business leader, you have to focus on the fact that this is the biggest technology transition ever. This digital era of sales management will dwarf what’s occurred in the information era and the value of the Internet today. As leaders, if you don’t transform and use this technology differently—if you don’t reinvent yourself, change your organization structure; if you don’t talk about the speed of innovation—you’re going to get disrupted. And it’ll be a brutal disruption, where the majority of companies will not exist in a meaningful way 10 to 15 years from now.” -John Chambers, Cisco Executive Chairman
Big impact? Or business as usual?
Sales management has been impacted by the onset of the digital era, but not always in the ways that people think. The digital age brought on a new term called digital disruption. Digital disruption is how companies transform the way that they operate based on technology and data-empowered decision making. This digital disruption has led to many different things, but one of the most significant changes is the role that the sales managers take on.
Sales managers are left with the tasks of hiring, managing the pipeline, training, coaching, forecasting, team management, and leadership, all at the same time. This serves as a distraction from their primary job of leading and coaching their salespeople. Additionally, they have more jobs to do in managing the technology and other digital tools. Sales managers main goals are still the same. How sales managers fulfill their role in the digital era, however, is what’s different.
In lew of being left behind in the fast-moving sales world, keep up with these vital changes. Establish creative solutions to embrace the changes instead of shying away from them. And most importantly, understand the impact that digital disruption has had on how to be a sales manager.
Positives and Negatives, Pros and Cons
There are both positive and negatives to using technology. But, in the crux of this digital transition, there is still much to discover about how it will affect the sales world. Some of the current data suggests that sales performance as a whole has been slipping, and that closing rates have dropped year after year since the start of the digital era. Other data suggests that since implementing these new technologies, sales managers are better able to train and oversee their salespeople.
As a sales manager, analyze your own data now, taking into consideration the amount of technology you currently have. If you feel as if things could be improved, consider adding additional technologies to your sales team’s toolbox. If things seem to be holding steady and you are meeting your goals, perhaps you have the right amount of technology. There are general positives and negatives, but find what specifically works or doesn’t work for your company.
Are Sales Managers Using the Tools?
It is evident that there is an impact when implementing digital tools. But, are sales managers even using it? Have sales managers harnessed technology in the right way to improve performance? The technology is out there and available. But, if a sales manager is not using them correctly, or at all, it can have a negative impact. If you’re a sales manager with access to these technological tools and advances, start using them! Larger companies often use these tools, but mid-size and smaller companies have not all adapted these advances. There is the potential for positive application. But, if sales managers are behind in using these tools, sales will also slip. Don’t fall back by not utilizing the resources that are at your fingertips.
Acceptance by Sales Managers
The rate of adoption of these technologies varies based on company size and the specific industry. Leading edge companies are much more likely to have and use these technologies. Smaller companies, however, have sometimes been slower to utilize these advances. Often, these small companies will have a pipeline or CRM system as their only tool. Even necessary sales intelligence programs, like email tracking, aren’t being utilized. It is notable that this curve of adoption isn’t dissimilar to other technologies. The PC, now regarded as a necessity, took 10 to 15 years to get 70% to 80% penetration in companies. If you can change this rate of adoption in your own company, do so! Stay ahead of the curve and adopt these newer technologies sooner.
Encouraging Sales Managers to Make the Switch
Persuading sales managers and organizations to transition into the digital era can be challenging. Often, sales managers hesitate to switch. Without a specific need for software, they opt to keep their current system. If you are a salesperson trying to influence a sales manager to make the switch, use techniques very similar to selling to a client. Demonstrate through communication, sharing insights, discussing advantages and disadvantages, and general education helps the sales manager understand why digital technology is essential. It also articulates to sales managers that this move into the digital era will undoubtedly help them get better results.
Changes in the Technological Era
In the technological era, there have been many changes. The primary task of a sales manager is to coach and improve the performance of the sales staff. However, with technological tools, it has become harder for sales managers to focus on this goal. The sales team, upper management, and other employees want to see and understand the data too. The sales managers become torn between being processing and disseminating the data and coaching the sales staff. Additionally, sales managers try to keep up with the buyers, who are immersed in the technological era as well.
Buyers are more informed than ever and have access to more choices than in previous decades. This is a lot to keep up with in and of itself. Sales managers are trying to assign priority to these tasks. But, with everything that gets juggled at once, it is even more critical that sales managers utilize the different tools. Although the technological era has created some of these changes that have led to problems, the technological era has also created the solution. Implement these solutions to keep up with the changing technological era.
Information for this article was sourced from this panel discussion, hosted by John Golden, featuring the expert opinions of Andy Paul, James Obermayer, and Mike Kunkle.