Today, many sales managers and sales teams are almost constantly connected to their screens, devices, apps, and online tools. While these technologies are designed to improve sales effectiveness, I see two potential pitfalls when it comes to the proliferation of technology and selling.
One pitfall is to the temptation to sit back and become an armchair quarterback who never gets out from behind the screen and fails to build relationships. No matter how much technology we rely on, relationships are still foundational to sales (which involves personal interactions with customers) and sales management (which involves personal interactions with the sales team).
The other pitfall is to become intimidated by technology and not harness its power properly. Technology in sales can be overwhelming, so it is essential to remember that, as a manager, you don’t need to embrace every new technology. Instead, focus on adopting those technologies that yield the highest performance and productivity gains.
Let’s take a look at some examples of basic technology tools and how sales managers can use them to improve sales performance.
Today, most sales organizations use some type of CRM system. CRM absolutely provides better visibility into sales opportunities and allows sales managers to track deals as they progress through the pipeline. By monitoring these opportunities, sales managers can review stage, probability, and velocity to improve forecast accuracy.
However, if you’re just using CRM to gain insight into sales opportunities and turn out better sales forecasts, you’re not leveraging its full potential. Unless a sales manager uses those insights from data in CRM to actively coach reps (i.e., deal coaching), they’re not leveraging the power of CRM to increase win rates.
#2: Video Conferencing
Video conferencing used to require big, bulky, expensive equipment. Today, anyone can hop on a video conferencing call. This has been a great enhancement for sales managers whose salespeople work remotely.
However, the default for many sales managers is still to pick up the phone or send reps an email. Don’t overlook the value of video technology. Body language, facial expression, and energy level are all readily apparent on a video conferencing call and can be masked on an ordinary phone call.
#3: Virtual Learning
Salespeople today no longer have to wait for in-person events or classroom training to improve their skills. Thanks to virtual learning platforms (VLT) and Learning Management Systems (LMS), sales managers can provide salespeople with ways to engage with sales training anytime, from almost anywhere.
Again, however, the key is to leverage these tools to reinforce and enhance coaching and group collaboration. It’s not enough for salespeople to log on to an LMS, take a few quizzes, and log off. Salespeople still need direct engagement and feedback from managers to improve their selling skills.
#4: Mobile Devices
All salespeople today are on mobile devices -- and not just phones. They’re using iPads, laptops, and other devices that help them routinely during a given day of selling.
As an example, sales acceleration software from QStream, (a partner of ours) can send out questions to the salesperson's mobile device in the form of real-world sales scenarios. Salespeople can then submit responses, and managers can view how well their sales team is mastering the skills and concepts. This reinforces selling skills in a very tangible way because sales managers can identify skills gaps and tailor coaching efforts accordingly.
#5 Social Networks
Social tools are getting a lot of attention, especially as more millennials enter the sales ranks. My view is that sales managers can provide much-needed direction for salespeople who might be trying to using too many platforms at once. Instead of multiple networks, focus on cultivating a high-quality presence on the key social networks that your target customers are using. As an example, we have found that for B2B sales, LinkedIn and Twitter work particularly well.
All of these technology tools allow sales managers to engage more frequently and in an enhanced way with their sales teams. The job of any sales manager is to lead, manage, and inspire salespeople. This means that sales managers need to be visible and make personal connections with individual reps. If you spend all your time behind a screen, you won’t be able to do that effectively.
Most importantly, sales managers need to become great coaches who can help their salespeople improve how they sell. To be a great sales coach, you need to see your salespeople in action, not just gather data about their behaviors and their sales calls.
You should accompany them on sales calls and observe their interactions with customers. This will provide you the opportunity to see their strengths and weaknesses, provide feedback, and help them develop the right skills. By providing ongoing sales coaching, you will see an amazing improvement in sales performance.
Above all, remember that selling is about developing relationships and that today’s technology tools are there to enhance how we provide value to our customers and sales teams.
About Norman Behar