A key factor in a sales manager’s approach is technology. Without the right technology, the sales manager isn’t going to even have the data to view, let alone interpret, and make decisions with. A sales manager can make vital changes and decisions when he or she is first on the job in relation to technology, that factually will make or break the team.
As we’ve said before numerous times, nothing can happen in today’s business world without technology. Companies that have tried, especially since the turn of the millennium, have failed. So to succeed, a company must take advantage of technology.
What does this mean for a sales manager newly on the job? A new sales manager will likely inherit both the sales team and the CRM or sales automation technology that the company has in place and is using (or being made to use).
The smart sales manager will not simply take the technology they are given. Technology is a vitally important step—and so the sales manager should look at the existing technology and evaluate it. The primary questions the sales manager should ask are:
A. What kind of technology does this sales team need in order to really compete and succeed?
B. Does the current technology answer the question in “a”, or is new, more modern (or more simple or more powerful) technology required?
I would say that choosing the right technology is every bit as important as choosing the right people for the team. Today people and technology have a very symbiotic relationship. Technology must totally support what a sales team does. Using a sports analogy, a runner couldn’t run a marathon with shoes that hurt them. Just as an athlete requires shoes that fit and support them perfectly, so does a sales team require technology that supports them in the same way.
It happens far too often that the wrong people in the company, such as the CIO, choose the CRM solution for sales. They’re selecting sales tools based on cost or other factors, not on the results that can actually be achieved with that tool, or the support it will actually provide sales. That would be like the office manager in a contracting company choosing the tools for the carpenters to use. If you’ve ever known journeymen, carpenters, they won’t work with any tools that they themselves don’t select. Technology for sales should be chosen by the sales manager and at least tested out by the sales team–otherwise, they’re not going to use it. Or they’ll use it begrudgingly and not to its full potential.
Here are some basic guidelines the sales manager should follow in evaluating and choosing technology for sales:
- Benefit The technology chosen should not just be “state of the art” and enforced by company policy—it should bring users a benefit. If it does, then magic seemingly happens: the sales manager won’t have to pull all kinds of fancy tricks (including enforcement) to motivate the sales team to use it. So technology should be something that salespeople will love to use, and that is easy to learn.
- Turnover Not only are these benefits important for the current staff, but also for the future. A salesperson generally remains with a company an average of 2 years. When a rep leaves and a new one comes on board, the new rep must be able to get rapidly up and running with the technology, and with the leads and opportunities from the departed rep.
- Flexibility No two companies are alike—hence the technology should be extremely flexible so that it can be rapidly and easily customized to a company’s requirements. Such flexibility also includes ease of maintenance so that modifications can be made on the fly.
- Implementation Today no company has weeks or months to get the technology up and running, and trained in on users. It should take days or, at the very outside, a week or so.
- Processes Your sales processes, reflected in your digital pipeline stages, are crucial and must reflect buyer patterns as closely as possible. With the advent of the Internet, it’s a buyer’s world. If vendors aren’t following the buyer’s patterns and trends, they will be missing deals. Your technology must be totally and rapidly adaptable to buyer patterns and your company’s processes.
- Within Each Stage Then there are the vertical processes taken within each stage of a process or a pipeline; the actions and activities a salesperson takes in moving an opportunity through a particular stage. Technology must make these actions very easy for salespeople to follow and accomplish, and for sales managers to observe.
Breaking with sales technology tradition, technology should not be simply and only for the purpose of “tracking sales reps” and their activities. Rather, technology should assist the sales manager in seeing that a rep is doing an efficient job, and highlighting ways the manager can assist the salesperson to do an even better job. For example, it might be that a rep could better perform if he or she had more leads—but to know that a sales manager is going to have to know how many leads the rep can handle. To know that, the manager will have to know the lead conversion ratio for each rep.
Further, the sales manager must be able to rapidly tell how many opportunities of what size should be in the pipeline for a rep to close a certain percentage of the quota. For example, a rep has a quota of $1 million. The opportunity closing ratio for that rep is 1 out of 5. So the total value of opportunities in that rep’s pipeline must be 5 times the quota—in this case, $5 million—for the rep to make that $1 million quota.
For a sales manager to truly provide help to reps, lead conversion ratios and opportunity closing ratios must be known. That’s the kind of data that is extracted from an empowering CRM solution.
“Speak My Language?”
When a sales manager goes out seeking and evaluating technology, a very important point to evaluate about the companies he’s talking to—and evaluating software from—is: “Do they speak my language?”
This means, do they truly understand the challenges you face in managing a sales organization? At Pipeliner, we are salespeople—and hence Pipeliner is built by salespeople for salespeople. We are keenly aware that it’s not so much the data that you put into CRM, but what you get out of it.
Analyzing your data, for example, you might suddenly realize that given the leads and opportunities you have, and your lead conversion rates and opportunity closing ratios, you’re not going to make your quota unless something changes. The only way a CRM will assist you in rapidly arriving at that conclusion is if the CRM is truly geared toward your sales management challenges.
CRM applications were originally designed and built by programmers who perhaps had some understanding of sales, but had never actually “sat in the hot seat.” And therein lies the enormous difference between Pipeliner and other CRM applications.
On top of our sales understanding, we are also applying a very sound understanding of business. That understanding is based on a business philosophy that has been proven for over 150 years. So when it all comes down to it, we have created a technology that fits a company very exactly.
After The Start
Once a technology has been implemented and users trained, now comes the beginning of the story. You have fully checked out technology and put it into use, and so far everything looks great. Now you need to find out: how does this technology perform under real business conditions?
Such conditions are the true test of a technology’s flexibility. Sales, business, and markets are dynamic—things change, and nothing stays the same for long. Just as you’ll be making adjustments and changes to a sales process, sales pitches, presentations, strategies, and everything else, so will you be tweaking and making changes in the technology. That technology had better be flexible enough for you to adapt to those changes in a timely manner.
When all is said and done, the technology you chose has to act as navigation through the incredible complexity of today’s sales. Without technology, this won’t happen. And even with the wrong technology, it won’t happen, either.
As a sales manager, make sure that you are choosing the right technology.