The Sales Technology Challenge - How Much is Too Much?

By Michael Perla on Jun 7, 2017

According to CB Insights, in 2016, deals and dollars invested into sales tech startups reached all-time highs of over $5B invested across 425 deals. Moreover, sales organizations spent an average of $4,797 per quota-carrying rep on enablement technology annually, according to a Gartner (formerly CEB) analysis. Net net, more and more money is being spent on SalesTech and sales enablement and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon.

You can’t read much today that doesn’t mention or involve technology. I just read an article on digitizing the customer journey and processes. There are now SalesTech (think FinTech, AdTech) awards that recognize products and companies who exhibit excellence, innovation and leadership in the sales technology space.

Suffice it to say, the technology wave has not bypassed the sales function. Most B2B sales professionals would be lost without some basic sales tools - a smart phone, an audio or web conference line, and a way to keep track of contacts, opportunities, and their pipeline.  Per a recent Techcrunch article I read, the authors ask a good question in their title: 

How Much Sales Technology Is Too Much?

There was a recent thread on LinkedIn about the over-abundance of tools, methodologies, and content that sellers had to contend with. There is a strong voice today – across sales pundits and service providers – around getting back-to-basics.  My colleague Warren Shiver just blogged about getting back to basics in B2B sales here.

In a January 2017 blog post by CEB Sales and Service (now Gartner) entitled Five [Sales] Trends for 2017, the authors wrote the following about the 5th trend:

Simplification at the heart of sales strategy: Making a business purchase has become far more complex for both buyers and sellers, and the most successful commercial teams will be those that are able to simplify internally while at the same time simplifying their customers’ world.

The authors go on to say that that “those firms that deliberately simplify the seller experience – such as by streamlining workflows and rationalizing sales support – will see big commercial benefits.”

Back to Basics

We’d submit that in a world of dizzying amount of data and sales technologies, keeping it simple is a requirement. This tool/data proliferation often causes decision ‘paralysis’ and is related to a concept first written about by Alvin Toffler in the 1970’s called overchoice. Toffler contended that people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with too many options – choice overload. More choices or tools is not necessarily better – there is an inverted U-shaped curve to it.

What sales technology choices have you made?  We are interested in your quick take with the survey link below. (First 100 respondents will receive one of our books -- Kindle or Hardcopy -- and all the participants can receive a copy of the summary results.)

Sales Technology Survey

In Nancy Nardin’s sales technology landscape for 2017, there are 400 sales solutions across 25+ categories. You either need a magnifying glass to read it or have a lot of time on your hands to digest it all. There are also separate CRM and MarTech landscapes. Many sales organization are awash in tools, with plans to add even more to the current stockpile.

Similar to what we wrote about with the linkage between CRM and Sales Effectiveness, failures in sales technology implementations are often more about the underlying approach and processes vs. the technology itself. Not unlike painting a room, the prep and up-front work is 80% of the effort, and often the most important.

Qualifying Questions for Sales Techologies

Some questions you should ask yourself when implementing another sales tool or technology:

  • What is your vision and strategy for sales and how does technology support it?
  • For a new tool, what are you specifically trying to solve for?
  • Is the sales organization using the tools/technologies you have now? If not, why not?
  • Are your current selling processes defined, documented, and acted upon by the sales teams? Where are the breakdowns or inefficiencies?
  • What specific processes are you trying to enable or automate or make more efficient with a new tool?
  • Do you have a group in the sales organization that can pilot a new tool to see if the benefits outweigh the effort?

When I was at Siebel Systems we talked about the elements of people, process and technology when discussing CRM. You often need to ask the hard questions about the first two before debating the last one. If sales people are highly resistant and overwhelmed and the selling processes are non-existent or built-on “tribal knowledge”, a sales technology implementation could be on life-support very quickly and may never recover … and it’s not about the robustness of the technology.

Michael Perla

Written by Michael Perla

Michael Perla is a strategic leader and co-author of Symmetrics Group’s book "7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation." Michael specializes in providing actionable insights to marketing and sales organizations to help them increase pipelines, win ratios and productivity. Having sold and led projects with the Global 50 to Fortune 1000 companies, Michael provides the analytical rigor of a financial analyst with the holistic skills of a strategist to help Symmetrics Group clients improve marketing or sales performance. He has worked as a sales overlay, head of sales operations, and head of strategic marketing planning, in addition to a sales effectiveness consultant. In his spare time, he enjoys working out, reading, and watching his kids play sports.

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