Salespeople Need Better, but Fewer, Tools

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While companies are spending $2.4 trillion to upgrade their digital sales tools and channels, they are still not using them to their full potential, according to a report by Accenture.

Similarly, Aragon Research found in June that the market for end-to-end sales engagement platforms (SEPs) will grow from $780 million to $5 billion by 2021.

Both of these studies suggest sales professionals require technologies that facilitate their engagements with prospects and customers.

According to Jim Lundy, CEO of Aragon Research, users are frustrated by the sheer quantity of the applications they must sift through to get work done, and technology buyers feel overwhelmed. “There are too many tools, too many things for my sales reps to go and do.’’

Sales engagement platforms will solve some of the problems; they integrate with CRM systems and are designed to consolidate the disparate tools salespeople use in one environment. Lundy describes the ideal platform as the equivalent of Microsoft Office for sales: It allows you to connect with customers; it allows you to share information with them; and it allows you to understand what’s happening in real time.

“Business buyers want outcomes,” Lundy adds. “They don’t just want a tech stack that IT gives them.”

Instead of using separate applications to launch Web conferences or retrieve content to share with their prospects, sales engagement platform users can access frequently used functions from one convenient environment. This consolidation will save companies money, enabling them to invest in one service rather than strapping together several best-of-breed programs. Vendors like ClearSlide, Brainshark, Seismic, bigtincan, and Highspot are already moving in that direction, Lundy says.

Jose Goncalves, managing director and global digital sales lead at Accenture Interactive, agrees there is a need for simplicity but notes that a major problem for sales organizations is the disconnect between management objectives and those of reps.

While management has been diligently arming reps with the tools to help them acquire new customers, the reps have focused on maintaining customer satisfaction. For the reps, “the tools [they are using] are not being perceived as a natural extension of themselves” or their processes, Goncalves says, and they are awkward to use as a result.

Only 13 percent of the sales reps Accenture surveyed felt they were using their digital tools to their fullest capabilities. Close to 60 percent felt they were being asked to use too many applications, and that the apps were in place to help management monitor their progress. And while they acknowledge that digitals tools are an important part of the sales process, they perceive them to be more obstacle than facilitator.

As a result of these misaligned objectives, turnover rates have risen upwards of 22 percent, and 60 percent of organizations lack confidence they will meet their sales targets. Goncalves believes sales reps should have more freedom to use tools in ways that feel natural to them. The tools should be more human- and experience-­centered, he says.

Lundy adds that users need tools that enable them to track engagement with the content they’re sending customers, and that tell them what to do to keep customers interested.

Goncalves agrees that guided selling tools must be easy to comprehend and act on. “A very important dimension [of predictive] is the ability to socialize the findings to the point where a user doesn’t really need to perceive the complexity that goes into all the modeling to [produce] the results,” Goncalves says. “Predictive is really important when properly contextualized and when it will clearly helps salespeople to be more effective.” 

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