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Sales automation technology needs to get real

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Picture it: The big yearly sales conference with sales reps everywhere, gathered for the annual sales boot-camp training on the latest products. It’s an exciting event with a ton of information. In fact, there’s so much information that the sales reps forget it a couple days later.

Fast forward eight months, and there’s a big deal on the table that could make a huge difference to your company’s quarter. The sales rep can’t find the relevant information on the products from that boot camp, and is not sure if they should even pursue the deal aggressively. They fumble on a few customer calls and are late with a not very well thought out proposal, and the deal is lost.

What happened?

Your sales automation software – or lack of it – may be partially to blame.

Your software may be assuming a perfect-world scenario and not accounting for the habits of salespeople in the real world. When your sales automation technology adjusts to those real-world habits instead of expecting salespeople to adapt to it, you set yourself up for success.

So what are the habits of real-world, effective salespeople, and how can your sales automation software accommodate them?

Sales reps are deal-driven; your sales automation technology must be as well

Recall that annual sales training, and the wealth of information that was forgotten two days later. Sales reps won’t start paying attention until there’s a large deal in front of them. That’s when they take action and start delving in.

In reality, one person cannot possibly absorb all the pricing, competitors, and commissions nuances for every product for every market in a two-day sales boot camp. When the deal starts, the real learning begins, and that’s when your sales technology needs to be able to step up and support them

Binge-learning balanced fueled by intelligent technology

With a sale to win, many salespeople go into binge mode. Suddenly there’s incentive to know everything about the product that the customer might want to know.

Salespeople need tools to accommodate this need for learning by enabling continuous training that is comprehensive, up-to-date, and easy to find. They need collateral at their fingertips, as well as competitor and market information. They also need to be able to educate themselves on both the customer and the market. In other words, they need what they need, when they need it. And they need a sales enablement platform that accommodates that.

Money talks: Commissions are the lifeblood of sales

Obviously, salespeople are motivated most by commission incentives. Make the sale, get the money – it’s simple. (At least it should seem simple.) However, there are nuances. Companies often layer incentives on top of incentives, and the layers can become complex. A certain amount of complexity is necessary, but can become too much to digest.

For example, a company may start with a base commission of 15%. No problem. Then they say we’re trying to sell Product X for 20% commission, and add a SPIF on top of that. For this special bonus program, if you sell a certain amount of Product Y, you get a trip to Hawaii. That’s still understandable and manageable so far. 

But add more incentive layers, such as incentives to sell to a certain vertical, or disincentives… perhaps to de-emphasize Product Z. There also are end-of-quarter accelerators and beginning-of-quarter accelerators, or vice versa. Commission incentive programs can become confusing. Establishing incentive structures with an appropriate level of complexity becomes important.

You need an agile commissions system that can accommodate all sorts of programs and be changed if something isn’t working.

Effective facilitation on commissions plans also requires clear communication on incentives and what they mean. Otherwise, it just becomes noise to the sales rep. Another important facet of a successful incentive management solution is providing avenues to handle questions beforehand and any disputes that may arise when payouts occur.

And you need a clear dashboard that sums up what sales reps will receive for any deal configuration. The dashboard needs real-time access to commissions payout estimates, quarterly status statements, and other incentive information. Because, in reality, the commissions payoff is going to determine the amount of effort reps put into a deal.

I want it yesterday: “last-minute-itis” is real

Salespeople need to be able to work quickly because “last-minute-itis” is a reality. This isn’t a reflection of any personality trait of the sales rep; last-minute requests often come from the customer, who has stakeholders that may suddenly demand more information.

A customer will need things tomorrow or today, or at this hour, or yesterday. And in a world so fast and connected, these demands must be accommodated – it’s just the reality of sales. You need an automation platform built for speed, providing salespeople with fast configurations, pricing, and quotes, making it easy for them to quickly retrieve the information to help them win deals.

Call me maybe: Sales automation must be fully mobile

Salespeople need full mobile support. Generally, they’re not sitting at their desk; they’re on the road. They work on their phone more than they use email, so mobile access to everything they have at the office is essential – customer data, product information, price quotes, product configuration, and more – and they need to be able to find what they need quickly and easily. The sale depends on it.

Waiting to get back to the office is not an option; speed is of the essence. Your sales automation technology must be fully mobile. Not just parts of it – all of it.

Fast proposals = faster deals

There’s no area where speed is needed is more important than proposals: They’re the key customer engagement activity for any sales rep, and sales automation software must take this into account.

A frequent pain point in sales has been turnaround time for getting proposals back to customers. On some complex products, salespeople would have to go back to the engineers for the quote, and could wait for weeks. But automated CPQ solutions have made it possible for reps to produce a complex price quote in seconds.

Negotiations require agility

Negotiation is a reality of sales: The customer accepts the proposal in broad terms, and negotiation begins. To successfully negotiate and close the deal, salespeople need access to the proper channels for approvals. Online workspaces expedite the process by allowing salespeople and customers to work out the details, putting in terms and conditions, taking out T’s and C’s, creating separate pricing, and more.

The key habits of effective salespeople arise mostly from the way customers make their buying decisions, making it all the more critical that your sales automation technology adapt to how your salespeople actually work.

After all, a good sales experience will ensure a good customer experience.

Find out how the right sales automation technology can help your business here.

Shawn Willett
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January 31, 2019
Shawn Willett

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