Sales technology is experiencing a renaissance as smarter ways to monitor and measure the work of sales people and processes emerge. It’s similar to what the marketing technology landscape experienced over the past few years as 150 companies in 2011 has blossomed into nearly 3,900 marketing technology players this year.
It’s a fabulous development for anyone who carries a revenue target. Recall it wasn’t long ago that CRM systems were nascent. Today there is widespread agreement that CRM systems are only a starting point – and that there is an evolving sales stack in place at many companies. This sales stack is a group of interoperable technology applications, often integrated with a CRM system, that can support sales enablement functions ranging from content delivery and account planning to sales capabilities development.
Sales industry guru Nancy Nardin has identified nine key sales technology categories, with a total of 64 subcategories, in her Sales Stack Assessment worksheet. It’s a great overview of this evolving sector that managers can use to think about the solutions they presently have, and what else is available to help them achieve their revenue goals. It also provides an at-a-glance way to assess potential gaps that might exist within technology stacks, or simply get ideas based on specific sales process needs.
While sales stacks advance a team’s ability to meet or exceed revenue goals, they are not without challenges. Nancy cautions but says there’s an art to architecting the total sales stack so that it does not "build itself as a result of ad-hoc responses to acute challenges" – and thus fail to meet overall organisational goals. She suggests that organisations take control of their technology direction so they can achieve the highest performance wins for the lowest cost.
The advice is fitting, since nowhere in the sales stack is the one intangible that will make or break pipeline and revenue goals.
It’s the human factor – as in, the capabilities of the people who are your sales reps interacting with your customers. In fact, when it comes to the sales stack, Nancy views this important factor as the 'rocket boosters.'
Facebook made headlines recently when it revealed that despite its extremely sophisticated, proprietary algorithms, it uses people to adjust its trending topics. In other words, there’s an intangible human experience that takes priority over a gazillion data points.
B2B selling is even more reliant on the human touch. While sales analytics solutions in the stack can tell managers and executives what and when their sales reps are doing various activities, the stack cannot say much about How and Why. Can they prospect? Counter objections? Address questions while following regulatory guidelines? Close?
Solutions that monitor sales rep capabilities are forming the basis of predictive coaching ideas and other management steps at a growing number of Global 1000 organisations. For example, Qstream applies an automation at scale to analyse thousands of data points from reps’ responses to scenario-based challenges. From these, it generates highly targeted coaching actions for each individual on a team, that it makes accessible from a sales performance dashboard. This helps time-constrained sales managers in the process of knowing who, when and what to coach. Via CRM integration, the solution provides a view from which front-line sales managers and senior executives can correlate quota and pipeline information with real-time Qstream proficiency and engagement for a richer, more predictive view of future performance potential.
When the sales stack is built by prioritizing the people delivering the revenue, it’s built on a solid foundation. Each component can do its part to keep sales teams aligned and ready to win, so the unit becomes a synchronised revenue machine.
However, when people are left out of the mix, deficits may not be apparent until there’s a revenue gap.
How’s your sales stack shaping up? Is it built on what matters most?
By Lisa Clark, Vice President of Marketing, Qstream. She has 20 years of experience building high-value software companies, brands and market share. Connect with Qstream, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.