How much would you be willing to spend on technology to have a weaker relationship with your customers? Not a penny, I would assume. But companies are allowing technology to interfere with their customer relationships every day. For example, how often have you seen an email formatted like this,
“Hello John, I was doing some research and thought of you…”
If you were on the receiving end of this email in which the personalized greeting was clearly amiss, it is annoying but if you were the sender, it’s even worse. This is just one example of a sales technology interfering with the customer relationship. Technology is supposed to make it easier and more efficient to reach prospects and sell to customers. And the good news is, when the right technology is combined with the right strategy, processes, and skills, it certainly can. But in most cases the technology alone will not solve the problem by itself. I have seen many sales organizations that make the costly mistake of over-relying on technology in an effort to solve their most pressing sales challenges.
A 2021 poll by LinkedIn found 65% of sellers believe they put the buyer first, but only 23% of buyers agree with that statement. Another LinkedIn poll showed that 91% of sales professionals reported using technologies to shorten lengthy sales cycles, close bigger deals and grow their revenue. If nearly every sales rep is using technology, why do buyers feel they are not having their needs met by salespeople? Because there is an overreliance of sales technology and as a result it has become a crutch for sellers. This is one of the reasons the disconnect between buyers and sellers is widening and not closing.
How can this be happening if there is more technology than ever to assist salespeople with the deal flow? First, technology alone is not a sales strategy. Improving sales results is a combination of having the right sales strategy, process and people. The best technology cannot fix the wrong strategy, a broken process, or untrained people. Investing in more sales technology can be counter-productive if your sales process and people are not air tight.
Secondly, as sales technology becomes more sophisticated, it also becomes more complicated. The set-it and forget-it idea is a myth in most cases. A sales manager can spend hours every day inside their technology stack. This does not include the time they spent researching or training on the new sales tools. For some companies, this is a full-time role for a sales administrator with a tech background. But for others, this falls on the sales manager. They spend their time validating data, creating reports, and generating workflows.
Technology has a role in the sales process, but the unintended consequence is that it can lead to a half-baked solution. The goal of most technology today is to increase volume and velocity. The plan is to pump more prospects into the top of the sales funnel and then allow sales reps to contact more prospects, faster. The logic is simple—if you have more contacts, you will have more appointments and with more appointments, you end up with more sales.
However, this logic is flawed. Remember how only 23% of buyers feel like they are being put first? What this process does is just depreciate the quality of the lead and the salesperson. When buyers feel like the salesperson does not understand their needs, is just another number, or does not appreciate the nuances of their business, no technology can unite that disconnect. The statistics are freighting:
- 66% of Sales Reps miss quota
- 42.5% of sales reps take 10 months or longer to contribute to company goals.
- Sales tech budgets are expected to grow 5% in 2021.
The good news is, if your company is in the business of selling sales technology, business is booming. The bad news is, statistics show, sales performance for most sales reps are not where it should be. In theory, sales technology sounds like the solution. Who does not want a “cloud-based, transformative, disruptive, game-changer” sales tool to help their team sell faster? But adding new technology to the sales process prior to improving sales skills, is like adding 100 horse power to a car with a flat tire. Not the most effective solution.
For a new prospect to make a purchase decision, it requires trust. Creating trust is hard because every sales environment is competitive, complex, and uncertain. It is competitive because of how your competition positions itself to your customers. It is complex because of the interaction your sales team has with the prospects. It is uncertain because of the shifting requirements and resources of your customers. The number of factors that can determine the outcome of a sale is huge. Sales technology alone will rarely be the solution.
Taking a fast-food approach to selling, where sales is just a numbers game, the math rarely works. This approach can result in high client churn, low lifetime value, reps missing quota and sales rep burnout. Developing high-performing salespeople that stay with your company demands a personal approach. Technology is a component, but it should not be the only approach.
Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet (Google), stated:
“Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naive to think so. Technology is an enabler, but humanity has to deal with humanity’s problems.”
Selling is a human endeavor. Technology can enhance outcomes in the sales process, but it requires all the pieces to work together. Building a healthy sales team is a lot like building a healthy body. Sure, it’s nice to have the Peloton, but eating your broccoli and avoiding ice cream is boring but effective. As they say in fitness, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. In sales, you can’t out-technology bad behaviors. For some CEOs, when you mention training, their eyes are likely to glaze. Yet mention technology, their eyes widen with exciting visions of sophisticated solutions. But if you want your sales muscles to grow, you have to feed them right and exercise.
Technology is a great tool to make sales reps more efficient, but it will rarely get you the full result on its own. Be sure to look at the whole picture when identifying and solving a sales performance problem.