Technology’s role in sales: Adapt and adopt or get left behind

We’re now more than one generation deep into a Digital Revolution: one that is every bit as profound as the Industrial Revolution that preceded it, and we are still learning as we go about how these changes are influencing the way we work. Just as important, no matter what line of work you’re in today, you won’t be immune from its effects.

As we rely more and more on technology and innovation, efficiency comes with gains as well as new challenges. Look at American manufacturing output today. Data from the U.S. Federal Reserve tells us that it’s up 150 per cent over the last four decades. While jobs have dropped by 30 per cent over that same period, much of that is due to automation.

Doing more with fewer people only tells us half the story. Look at what happened to those who stayed employed in manufacturing. They adapted and evolved so that their performance now ties into technology rather than competes with it. By embracing innovation, those workers aren’t just survivors of downsizing: they’ve become indispensable.

Those changes and those massive gains in efficiencies in manufacturing are now taking hold in other sectors and other lines of work—including your workplace. I see this every day in my work with business leaders across the globe, studying their winning habits for revenue acceleration. When it comes to how technology is influencing the outcomes of everyone today—and especially top sales performers—there’s an important shift happening in two places: expectations and opportunities.

Growing expectations

You’ve likely already experienced this in your own workplace: from targets to quotas, from prospects to outputs, expectations are going up. To keep pace, you need to be a master of technology because it controls your career success.

Why? Because businesses of all sizes have invested heavily in new technology.

Having made the same link that manufacturing did in linking technology with greater output, those in sales and marketing have spent buckets of cash on developing and refining CRMs, automated marketing, mobile communications and social selling tools. They’ve also broadened their vision and have changed workplace rules to allow for greater flexibility on how, when and where technology is used. Just as with manufacturing output going through the roof after innovation took hold, employers expect the same now from their investments in other lines of work.

So they have every right to expect to see a substantial return on their investment. Now. Already, the top people in sales understand this. Today, seventy-seven percent of top performers rely on sales intelligence tools to both attain and sustain their sales velocity, compared with 52 percent of overall sales professionals.

The benefit of efficiency

The first time I witnessed how technology could transform work and create more alive time was back in the 1970s. My dad was a field seller and his employer gave him a beeper—upgraded later to a pager. Today, we consider such devices laughably crude and outdated. But look at how this changed his work. It created hours out of free time every day: adding to what my father could conceivably accomplish both as a employee and a parent. He no long had to go to the office in the middle of his day to collect his messages. He could return calls from the road. He could see up to two more customers every day.

For him and for other sellers, this was instrumental in being able to boost their output by more than 20 per cent. It also became the foundation for a complete transformation in how productivity is measured.

The risk of not using tech to drive efficiencies

Whether we choose to adopt it or choose to resist it, technology reveals room for improvement in our workflows. I like how Bill Gates put this: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

Consider the experience of a hard-working seller I know who works for a large medical-device company: one that chooses to not invest in technology for their sales team. She spends eight hours a day on the road daily to complete a minimum of seven face-to-face meetings. That’s up 10 per cent from last year. And her targets just went up by 20 per cent! She has  no CRM available on the road. Pricing authorizations are done by a slow, unreliable VPN connection. All her paperwork is in hard copy, requiring manual signatures.

Each one of those needless steps represents a significant speedbump where she’s unable to add any improvements to her sales velocity. The risks are huge: high staff turnover, low morale and a questionable level of customer loyalty from customers who eventually discover they can get a better experience from tech-enabled competitors.

Deeper understanding, deeper ramifications

With a deeper understanding of how technology adoption improves sales and marketing, here are emerging trends that top companies are adopting and embracing now:

More than just being an enabler, technology is the great leveler. Yes, the expectations are going to keep rising as employers seek greater ROI on their innovation investments. But on the flipside, those who fully adopt and master technology that’s being made available to them will also become highly valued members of the workforce. Knowledge will be less of a hierarchy and much more flat across the organization. Ask anyone in the junior ranks who has a good command of their company CRM today: they can likely tell you nearly as much about the performance of their company as the C-level staff.

Everyone onboard is becoming a revenue center. Going forward, every business must think more about how they can create and sustain a frictionless buying process. Technology today means that your list of competitors keeps growing. But technology also means that you have an unprecedented level of insight into buyer behavior and into your sales process. Therefore, all parts of your organization—not just sales—should be looking closely and critically at how customers are earned and looked after.

Mobile makes everything present tense. We already know that marketing automation is a powerful took for queuing up the best leads. Since CRM data provides real-time access to customer data company-wide, it means every member of the team can make intelligent decisions about customers and markets. With the added benefit of mobile, that knowledge is instant and everywhere. What one person shares while out in the field, the rest of the organization learns about right away.

Better sales come from smarter transactions. Technology-enabled estimating tools help speed up the process of generating custom pricing and proposals. Match that capability with electronic signature support, online scheduling, and 24/7 social media support and you can see that there is tremendous potential for both generating new sales and identifying previously overlooked opportunities.

Summing up: technology is no longer a nice-to-have bonus in the operation of a business.
It’s essential.

Companies expect their staff to embrace and master these powerful, innovative tools. Yes, they want to see their considerable investments being put to good use. But they don’t lose sight of the fact—even the midst of this Digital Revolution—that technology itself isn’t what boosts revenue, profits and outputs. It’s what people do with it that counts the most. That’s the crucial lesson for every worker out there today. When it comes to technology in your business: be ready to adapt and adopt—applying the insights that these tools can give you. Or resist and be shown the door.

Make sure you check out Colleen’s latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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