Historically, top sellers have generally relied on the right mix of confidence, stamina and people skills--and a hefty Rolodex. Sales force automation and CRM systems have added a layer of technology to sales operations, without fundamentally shifting the skill set needed by a sales person or sales teams to make quota. Simply put, selling is still considered more art than science, even after decades of technology advances.
What if technology could save sales people time by providing them with relevant intelligence on prospective customers? What if this relevant intelligence could help uncover new customers? New types of on-demand applications have arrived that are transforming the sales process. These new tools are built on intelligent Web applications that can discover new customers and their buying habits, help sales people connect more easily with the right targets and provide the necessary information to ensure that you sell to the right person at the right time.
Sales Force Automation and CRM adoption
The adoption of CRM through applications like salesforce.com and SugarCRM has been important to an industry determined to see stronger, faster sales. But CRM applications alone are not a quick fix. To continue increasing ROI, companies must look deeper. CRM does well at the level of tracking and forecasting, however these applications do little to improve prospecting or pipeline quality or to help close deals.
Previous attempts at providing sales intelligence proved useful to a certain extent. With the emergence of Web 1.0 technologies, sales people could more easily learn the basics about prospect companies. Very quickly, however, the amount of data available on the Web has ballooned. Finding the relevant and actionable data out there has become difficult and incredibly time consuming. Fortunately, the new wave of sales intelligence applications bring strong aggregating and filtering capabilities to help sales people find and even predict their next customers.
The Science Of Sales
The emergence of Web 2.0 has begun to disrupt traditional sales and marketing considerably. Enterprises are beginning to utilize the abundance of information gathering and social networking tools now available. In the area of sales, this has spawned a set of technologies that are able to provide relevant intelligence to help sales people zero in on the customers most likely to buy or even help predict who future customers might be. For the first time, sales people have technology at their disposal that enables highly targeted selling in order to close more deals and make quota, transforming sales from an art to a science.
Companies like InsideView, Landslide and Genius utilize Web 2.0 strategies to aggregate and distill the wealth of information available on the Web, providing sales people with invaluable knowledge that they could not have imagined having access to even five years ago. Such applications weed through the immense clutter of information available today to provide sales people with data that can streamline the sales process or uncover opportunities that would have been impossible to identify without their help.
As an example, a sales person using one of these tools to close a deal on a particular company could find out in real time that
1) a fresh CFO just came on board in a particular company he or she is scouting,
2) that the new CFO is connected to the sales person via his or her social network,
3) that the company is searching for engineers in a particular department and
4) that someone from the prospective company has spent time looking at particular products on the sales person's Web site, indicating that they presently require a particular technology.
These tools offer a scientific approach to sales that makes it possible for anyone to find the information needed to close deals or to prioritize leads or particular accounts. More and more salespeople are starting to deploy these tools rather than relying on the difficult-to-master art traditionally utilized by the top players in the industry.
The exponential growth of data generated in our information economy demands that salespeople utilize new tools to sell in an ever-increasingly competitive world. Closing the big deal will always require artful touches. However, personality and presentation skills will matter less and less in a world where technology is able to provide relevant intelligence. Sales people and organizations that utilize the latest technology for managing this information--tools that apply the best science to the problem--will have the competitive advantage needed to thrive.
About the Author
Umberto Milletti is the founder and CEO of InsideView, the pioneering sales opportunity intelligence service. Before founding InsideView, Umberto was an executive and cofounder of DigitalThink, a provider of Web-based corporate training services.