Everyone, especially men, seems to love the tooling analogies in business. “That’s a great tool for the job.” “This is an extra tool in your kit-bag.” This metaphor for the digital world – the manual, physical paradigm – may suggest positive images of visible progress, but can obviate the need for what should be an obvious question. What job are you trying to get done? What problem are you trying to solve?
In the homophily that was the recent Sales 2.0 conference, vendors or different color, shape and size engaged in what someone [reasonably] characterized to me as a ‘vendor tools love-in’.
“We want to be the Facebook for sales – this tool will change forever how you sell!’
“Use this tool to better analyze your sales forecast.”
“Look, my tool will let you talk to your CRM system.”
But maybe I don’t want to ‘change forever how I sell’. Analyzing my forecast data is useless if the data on which I base my forecast is inaccurate. And, at times if I ‘talked’ to my CRM, it might just be offended. So much jargon, techno-speak and management babble – all reinforced in its inefficacy by the tool label.
Beware vendors bearing tools.
Seek out instead those who’ve taken the time to understand the real issues sales people need to face. Sales professionals need [automated] solutions to help progress deals. Solutions that entice adoption because the reward is greater for participation than the effort required to participate. I’m talking about ‘voluntary use’ not forced compliance. Sales people and sales managers need solutions that help them get accurate sales forecasts. Please don’t unleash anymore analytics tools that just regurgitate pretty versions of inaccurate data. For a sales forecasting solution to be valuable it must embed, at its core, an understanding of sales cycles, buying processes, procurement procedures, and normalized sales performance. If you think about it, all the data and knowledge is available. Someone’s being lazy.
I spoke recently with the executive responsible for all product direction at one of the world’s top ten CRM companies. I asked if they [the CRM company] were ever going to fix sales forecasting for their customers. His response was “Look, nobody in the world really uses CRM to create their sales forecasts. It’s all done in Excel. Then the sales person and sales manager negotiate about what to enter into the ‘Commit’ field in the CRM – and that’s what’s reported to management. That’s what my customers expect to happen.” Aaarrgghh! Maybe we get the CRM systems we deserve.
Everything now has a 2.0 moniker – this blog included. But Sales 2.0 tools will likely cause more angst than benefit if they’re not designed exclusively from a ‘what problem is it solving’ perspective. Here are a few things to consider.
‘Tools’ are tactical, not strategic. Strategic issues should get priority; the ones that are company-wide and address the business drivers your company is facing. If you’re looking to get internal sponsorship for a ‘tool purchase’, you should be pigeonholed straight away, filed away and relegated to maybe a ‘nice to have’.
‘Tools’ means IT, not business. You want to solve business problems, not technical issues. If you’re having technical conversations and not business conversation with your supplier, then they’re not getting to the heart of your problems and figuring out how to help you.
‘Tools’ mean Service Units, not Business Units. Business Units should be the power-center in your organization. They are the revenue/profit centers, not the cost centers. Business Units don’t buy tools – they buy solutions to problems. Service Units buy tools. You need to be a Business Unit – or think like one.
So, next time a vendor wants to show you his shiny Sales 2.0 tool, ask these four questions:
- Do you understand my business?
- What’s the most important task on my list?
- Which urgent business problem of mine does your ‘tool’ address?
- How does it fit in with my strategic priorities?
You will save a lot of time.