As they say, it feels a bit like déjà vu all over again. I remember, at the start of this decade, debating the potential impact of the Internet on business. Everyone ‘got it’ for the consumer world, but many struggled to believe that mainstream business would be impacted. Now, seven or eight years later, there’s not an industry untouched – but I find myself once again in animated parley about recent developments in technology; social media, social networks, blogging, tweets, tele-presence, collaboration, wikis, and – as it pertains to the subject matter of this blog – sales performance automation.Of many of these new developments, the naysayers’ mutterings are carbon copies of their forerunners who were in denial about the Internet.
“My kids use it, but I don’t see the applicability to business, we don’t need to worry about it.”
“Yeah, one of the new sales guys was saying to me that our competitor has a blog and is active on Twitter, and it’s costing us business. I’m not sure I’m convinced.”
“How much automation can you really provide for sales people? Surely it’s all about the relationships they have.”
In 1984 I wrote a book called “Expert Systems Introduced”. The main thesis of that book was that automation and software intelligence, having being applied primarily to manufacturing and other ‘blue collar’ tasks, would now enter the domain of the white-collar professional, and increasingly supplant or support many of the functions of the knowledge worker. My contention was that expert systems (the commercially acceptable face of Artificial Intelligence) would have a role to play.
Since then we’ve seen tremendous changes, the Internet has fundamentally changed how all business operates. The pace, the depth, and the breadth of metamorphosis have been astounding, and the only certainty is that the rate of change will increase. The continued growth in the presence of digital natives will, alone, force that movement.
According to Forrester’s North American Consumer Technology Adoption Benchmark Study 2007, Gen Y uses social networking sites almost 3 times more than the rest of the population, reads blogs 2 times more, and utilizes instant messaging 1.8 times more. The only technological advancement that Gen Y has not embraced as its own is email. Email is not the primary way the younger generation communicates with its peers.
That was two years ago, and the trend continues in this direction every day.
So what does this mean for the sales professional, manager or executive leader? What’s the role of technology in increasing productivity? What are the factors that you should be looking for in a Sales Performance Automation platform? Well, I think you need to set the bar pretty high. It should be a ‘Shoot for the moon, at least you’ll land in the stars’ aspiration.
Here are my top ten attributes of the Sales Performance Automation system you should be looking for:
- Intuitive and context sensitive – easy to use for sales person and sales manager alike, ‘reacting’ to the need of the user
- Built-in collaboration capability – sharing data, opportunity plans, account plans, sales forecasts, should all happen automatically
- Incorporates blogs and other social media feeds – leverage the knowledge of the community, and the wisdom of crowds;
- Supports on-going on-line learning, assessment and certification – to teach and reinforce concepts – in the first instance as knowledge transfer, and then through on-going application
- Includes proven opportunity management methodology – to help win more deals, and increase average deal value
- Incorporates configurable sales process(es), to map to your buyer’s sales processes
- Includes account planning and management – to plan and manage key accounts in a team framework, with a live and dynamic account plan that’s easily shared and managed
- Integrates deeply with CRM – for contacts, opportunities, accounts and sales team hierarchy and quotas – to leverage the CRM information (no re-keying of data) and to become a complete business management solution
- Produces Intelligent accurate sales forecasts and insightful pipeline analytics – heuristics-based forecast systems can remove the subjectivity of deal closure probability, and therefore increase accuracy
- Auto-learning system to expose sales best practices based on actual results – with all the information gathered from all the deals going through the system, it should learn what works and what doesn’t, identify your real sales cycle, funnel velocity, and sales best practices.
All of this is available today, and you shouldn’t settle for less.