Less is more” the old platitude goes, and nowhere does this apply more than in the world of technology. Too many functions can cause sensory and informational overload, and usability is, in many cases, a quality overlooked by companies producing the digital tools we use every day.
To put this in perspective, consider the average smartphone, smart TV, or any number of other smart devices currently available. Consider just how many applications they include, and how many of those apps are actually being used by the average person with any regularity.
This same logic applies to the business world as well, because, as José Gonçalves, managing director and global digital sales lead at Accenture Interactive, points out, “consumers are employees.” They’re certainly not immune to digital overload just because they go to work.
Sales reps might actually have it worse than employees in other fields. Many of today’s sales professionals are being asked to consult a plethora of programs to get their jobs done, and it’s cutting away at their productivity and sales results. According to Aragon Research, the average sales rep has to work with an average of five to eight tools during the process of reaching a prospect and closing a deal. A 2016 report from Accenture Strategy—which draws on data from CSO Insights—confirms that 59 percent of sales executives believe they have too many sales tools to be effective. In fact, more than 55 percent of them say that overly complicated sales tools, and the digital overload that comes with them, have become an obstacle to meeting their annual sales targets.
While having technology is a boon, vendors should deliver functionality that salespeople need in a way that doesn’t call attention to itself and fits naturally into their workflows. Companies need to make those same considerations when looking to purchase sales enablement software.
To start, keep in mind that modern sales professionals are often on the go and working on mobile devices. They are also pressed for time when they’re interacting with customers. They have many messages coming at them from many sources and in varying formats, and it can be hard to keep track of them all.
At the same time, the average customer—whether B2B or B2C—is also tremendously busy, and when salespeople talk to them, every second counts. Forcing sales reps to dig around to find something can be costly.
Sales enablement platforms, which attempt to consolidate and streamline the top applications accessed by professionals in one user-friendly environment, integrate with and draw data from a number of interrelated CRM systems. According to Jim Lundy, CEO and lead analyst at Aragon Research, it’s no wonder, therefore, that the demand for them is rising. Aragon expects the market for sales enablement platforms to exceed $5 billion by 2021. It currently values the market at about $780 million.
A number of other prominent research houses, including Forrester Research and SiriusDecisions, have also begun to place a spotlight on the emerging sales enablement and asset management market.
For the companies that deploy these sales enablement platforms, the benefits of consolidating all their sales tools on one clean, intuitive pane of glass are numerous. For starters, such unified platforms promise to increase the rate of adoption for CRM systems and reduce the confusion salespeople experience as they acclimate. Further, these environments can make it easier for coaches to keep up with their sales team members’ productivity, usher them along when they need help, and encourage collaboration among team members.
PLACING SALES ENABLEMENT INTO CONTEXT
In the past, sales organizations often grappled with whether to invest in CRM systems, and if so, which ones made the most sense for their industry or size. Now, in an era when CRM is table stakes for many serious organizations, the question has become which third-party add-ons and apps to buy. Doing so can help firms make better use of the data they are collecting regularly from customers and prospects.
According to Gonçalves, companies should pay attention to the needs of sales reps and look for tools that will be most beneficial to them in their greatest moments of need. He points out that a quick look at the consumer landscape makes clear that increased adoption depends on simplicity, engagement, and ease of use.
“More and more, the consumer is valuing something that is simple, intuitive, and engaging, and the explosion of information, getting worse still by [the Internet of Things], makes it even more urgent to really start insisting on and prioritizing simplicity,” Gonçalves says. In such a climate, an emphasis on the prioritization, relevance, and contextualization of information is vital.
Because it is important for companies to buy and use their products, software vendors have indeed paid considerable attention to providing end users with visually appealing dashboards that are easy and comfortable to navigate without too much thought, Lundy points out. He predicts that sales suites will replace traditional office suites, provided by the likes of Microsoft, as the central hubs for sales professionals.