How to Avoid Sales Tool Sensory Overload
The sales department of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings has used ClearSlide’s platform to good effect. “ClearSlide has been instrumental in helping us focus our resources,” said Trevor Derrett, the team’s corporate sales manager, in a statement. “Being able to see that prospects are actually looking at the information they said they are interested in has really helped us speed up the sales cycle.”
The Kings’ sales organization now closes deals three times faster and offers better sales coaching, on-boarding, and training. It has also seen a 90 percent reduction in the time sales reps spend on their proposals.
FOSTERING COLLABORATION AND SHARING BEST PRACTICES
Sales professionals who know what their peers are doing to win deals tend to emulate their tendencies, experts agree. Sales enablement platforms help companies minimize the gaps between mediocre performers and their high-achieving colleagues, says Lundy. A number of vendors are working to break down the barriers that keep quality performances limited to a select few within an organization.
One such company is KnowledgeTree, whose cloud-based offering can draw on the best uses of content throughout an organization to provide reps with recommended actions. Showpad’s content activation platform integrates with Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com and allows users to get a better view of how content shared by colleagues is going over with prospects. Seismic’s software was recently updated to include a virtual hub in which sales reps can work together to improve their slide decks and videos.
Bigtincan has taken a similar approach. “If you look at a lot of salespeople, one of the problems they have within their organizations is that they get bombarded with too much stuff,” says David Keane, Bigtincan’s CEO and founder. Ideally, sales reps should be able to move freely during conversations and use a guided approach that helps them share the right information about the right product to the right customer at the right time. However, “they often don’t know what peers are doing, and they don’t know what’s been successful inside their own organizations. We took the concept behind content intelligence and applied it to helping salespeople know what they could spend time doing that’s likely to be more successful.”
Bigtincan’s technology enables users to access leaderboards and view profiles of coworkers to better connect with them. In large organizations, this can be useful, Keane points out, because it might bring together colleagues who don’t see one another often, and reps can be exposed to particularly interesting work by far-flung coworkers. Within Bigtincan, users can also create their own content and prep slide presentations (though that is not always advised by marketing). Importantly, the technology works to understand the user and adapt to his preferences over time.
KEEPING MANAGERS IN THE KNOW
Companies considering investments in sales enablement platforms should first ask how the technology will help their sales managers, according to Lundy. He notes that, unfortunately, many technologies are developed by people with purely technical backgrounds who are not acquainted with the needs of actual sales teams. So it’s a good sign when a vendor can answer this question.
This is one of the strengths of Brainshark’s sales enablement tools, which the company says aim not only to assist sales reps and marketers accountable for content ROI, but to help managers oversee the progress and productivity of their sales forces—in essence, to help them become better coaches. Central to the company’s technology is training and on-boarding capabilities, sales content creation and management, and analytics that give users a better read on how the content is performing.
According to Jim Ninivaggi, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Brainshark and a founding member of the Sales Enablement Society, the tools can help managers focus their efforts and provide “just-in-time coaching.”
“One of the challenges of sales managers is span of control, so a platform that allows a manager to do asynchronous coaching, where they may not have to be present”—to send instructional videos to their sales reps, for instance—can be highly beneficial, he says.
Brainshark customers have seen significant boosts in engagement rates. Cleo, a provider of integration solutions, for instance, lifted lead conversions by 156 percent and increased each business development representative’s productivity by 50 percent with Brainshark.
While platforms like this are the future, the technology has not reached its full potential just yet. Ninivaggi notes that in consolidating tools, companies still need to work on mastering the communication. “If you think about all the ways that a salesperson is being communicated to—there’s internal email, external email; there’s cell phones, voicemail, text, instant messaging; there are chat groups; there’s LinkedIn messaging—it’s a little freaky,” he says. “It’s overwhelming, and I think there’s a lot of lost productivity in the amount of time reps are spending sifting through communications and trying to find information when they need it.”
The next frontier of the platform is in streamlining these communications, he says, “because it’s a bigger issue than I think a lot of companies recognize.”
Associate Editor Oren Smilansky can be reached at email@example.com.