Sales Essentials: 6 Trends to Watch with Sales Tools and Technology
Nancy Nardin shares the latest ways to help sales teams succeed
The old world of sales saw leaders essentially hand their reps a bag of basketballs, stick them in the middle of the court, and say, “Shoot.” Success depended on memorized pitches and luck. Coaching and sales tools were just not part of the game plan. But to stand out in the modern sales world — where thousands of different companies vie for the attention of an easily distracted audience — sales leaders have to get out on the court with their reps and provide specific hands-on training.
As a sales manager or leader, the best thing you can do for your sellers is to ensure they have the tools they need to perform at their best and feel successful in your company.
Jake Reni, senior manager of inside sales at Adobe, had a chance to talk to Smart Selling Tools Founder Nancy Nardin about the trends she sees in the sales tools industry. Watch the full interview here and read the highlights below.
- There are more available sales tools now than ever, so companies will be incorporating additional tools into their workflows.
There are currently almost 500 sales technologies detailed in this year’s Sales Technology Landscape Project, which is twice as many as last year. Sales reps are adding new technologies to their repertoire at the rate of about two a year, but most companies are still focusing almost exclusively on customer relationship management (CRM). Nancy points out that while CRM is great, many of the new tools can enhance existing workflows and enable sellers to expand upon tools they are already familiar with.
As you consider the tools your employees need, note that many sales reps use five or six tools at a time, and most companies spend around $200-$300 per rep, per year on sales tools.
- More solutions will come to market that allow sales leaders to stitch multiple tools together to better serve the salesperson.
Manipulating five or six disparate tools in order to achieve one outcome can get tiring, which is why sales tool developers are looking into options that allow different platforms to work together seamlessly and without much human oversight.
“Let’s not make the salesperson operate tools,” Nancy says. “Let’s make the tools operate on behalf of the salesperson. Everything we have today is still based on a salesperson going in and manipulating something.” The goal is to combine all the different processes the salesperson has to accomplish, which will allow them to spend less time on managing technologies and more time selling.
According to Nancy, several tools designed to monitor multiple platforms and provide a concise report to sellers have entered the marketplace in the past, but they were unable to gain a foothold. She hopes that as sales leaders begin looking at tools more seriously, these types of consolidating technologies will catch on.
- The breakthrough tools of the year will allow organizations to sell differently than the competition.
If sales leaders and sellers want to stand out, they need to find tools that engage the audience and pique their interest. To do so, Nancy recommends starting with the basics, much like in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The first need, which corresponds with survival, is to understand to whom the salesperson should be selling. The second is that the seller needs to know how to engage with that target, because, as Nancy says, “It’s so hard now to be competitive and to get an appointment.” Many emerging technologies this year will be geared toward helping sellers gain an edge in this area.
For example, a standard form email may not catch a customer’s attention, but a video thumbnail and personalized message will stand out. Smart tools will make it simple for reps to produce unique assets like these quickly.
- The industry will see a rise in sales coaching platforms and other tools that allow front-liners to be guided more efficiently by their sales leaders.
Like any profession, sales requires training to make sure employees are equipped with the best skills and most successful strategies. A new generation of sales technology is geared toward improving the coaching experience between sales leaders and sales reps.
Take, for example, the difference between practicing sales techniques in a role-play setting and practicing on video. “Role-playing,” Nancy says, “is more to check off boxes and prove the salesperson is capable of following a script. But when you’re in your own office in front of your webcam and you get a chance to practice different scenarios, you realize, ‘That didn’t really come out so well.’ You can share these videos to get feedback. So it’s coaching from your manager, coaching from yourself, and coaching each other as a team.”
Keep an eye out for tools that will provide more beneficial training programs and help leaders work more closely and effectively with their employees.
- AI-powered sales tools will gain popularity by beginning to remove the drudgery that salespeople feel today.
Nancy’s research shows that only 35 percent of a seller’s time is spent working on prospects. The other 65 percent is spent pulling forecasts or doing pipeline reviews or compiling reports — important work, but work that could be handled more efficiently with the right tools.
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) leads some people to worry about the security of their jobs, but Nancy contends that AI will actually improve a salesperson’s ability to sell. If technology can take care of an employee’s paperwork and menial tasks, they can focus on honing their skills and working with clients. This leads to greater ROI because the more time a salesperson has to sell, the greater their personal profit margin — and the company’s.
- The industry will see more recognition for tools like e-signatures that improve the customer and seller experiences simultaneously.
“Companies exploring potential sales tools tend to be ambivalent towards e-signatures, ranking them sixth or seventh on the list of technology they would like to implement,” Nancy says. “However, companies who use e-signatures consistently consider it one of their most useful tools, and one of the tools that provides the most satisfaction to their sellers and their customers.”
Many companies see e-signature tools as low priority because of their simplicity, but they prove their value in situations where small miscommunications can have a major negative impact on a sale. Nancy says, “A lot can go wrong between, ‘Hey, I got a verbal’ and ‘Where’s that order? I was expecting that order.’” With an e-signature, you can quickly confirm the order and have the paperwork on file digitally, and the customer has the assurance that they will get exactly what they asked for.
Tools like e-signatures that are not only easy to use for both sellers and customers, but also offer measurable value in return and in customer experience, will benefit companies greatly in the near future.