For too long the sales team have relied on gut instinct and educated guesswork. Yet to invest in the technology tools which have revolutionised other areas of the business, including HR, finance and marketing, the sales department stands alone as the last bastion of enterprise technophobia.
Not for much longer: sales people are starting to embrace IT in a big way. But who is the data-driven salesperson and how will they work differently to the traditional sales team?
Every sales team, whether from large, long-established organisations or small start-ups, has the same set of objectives: find prospects, convert them and retain them as customers. Sales performance excellence boils down to a similarly singular aim: increased revenues and better profitability.
Similarly most sales team suffer from the same pressures. A recent report from Harvard Business found that nearly all sales organisations (94%) say their 2014 revenue targets are higher than last year’s while a massive 58% of sales reps are struggling to meet current quotas.
Building in the cloud
Using data is crucial, though it’s slightly more complex than it first seems. Not all data is born equal: some information is more valuable than others. And having access to real-time data will always be the best way to gain an edge over the competition.
Enter cloud computing: using the cloud can be a game-changer for sales management, allowing sales quotas and territories to be assigned in real-time, as soon as the year begins. Sales reps shouldn’t have to wait several weeks or months into the financial year to find out what their accounts and targets will be.
Additionally, cloud adds another level of flexibility on customer deals, helping a salesperson to instantly calculate how a discount will impact quarterly revenues as well as their own targets. With this information available within a few clicks, management can make strategic decisions quicker, signing off on any discounts before the potential customer has time to drop out of the sales cycle. Any solution must also incorporate a level of collaboration - allowing multiple users to update and share customer information in real time.
Showing value, quickly
Of course, investment in the technology is really the easy part - the challenge comes in encouraging the sales force to make their own investment in the solution and start to adopt it into their working environment. It’s important to remember that the sales team are a result driven bunch, they won’t care whether the solution is cloud-based or uses that latest technology specifications; they want to know how it’s going to help them sell your organisation’s products or services, nothing more and nothing less.
Bringing the sales team into the discussion as early as possible can help to reduce any resistance, making it clear from the outset why the technology is being implemented and showing how the cost - generally couched in terms of the sales team learning the new technology and updating their working practices - is vastly outweighed by the benefits. The sales team need to understand how having access to the latest data on a customer or territory will help them in upselling and contacting prospective leads - it’s up to you to make sure the solution can deliver this information in a way that is easily accessible and understood.
Success relies on putting in place the right tools and processes to enable the sales team to see the market opportunities at a glance, move quickly to capitalise on them and offer customers the right deal at the right time. This means access to the right data at the right time. It depends on a system that can allow the team to work collaboratively, pooling resources, while having the flexibility to change the script and react to volatile market conditions.