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Using Technology as the Basis for Building the “Path to Sales Mastery” May Be a Bit Ambitious

Most sales professionals are either underwhelmed with the quality of their tech stack deployment or overwhelmed with the complexity to learn it and downright aggravated with the amount of time it takes to become “pipeline” positive with a growing momentum toward quota achievement.

The path to sales mastery is filled with ambiguity — largely arising from the role of CRMs and the way sales professionals leverage technology to support the fundamental tenets of selling to the focused-groups. In a candid chat on sales mastery with Scott Benedetti, Vice President of Sales, The Pedowitz Group, we attempt to clearly measure the role of CRMs and sales automation technologies for modern business development teams.

Tell us about your journey as a sales leader. How do you leverage sales technologies to stay on top of your game?

Fortunately, I entered sales before the advent of much of the technology we now take for granted. My first cell phone was a Nokia 6110, released in 1997, and it was no smartphone. I was selling life insurance in a commission-only position and had to learn the basic mechanics of sales with paper files, a landline, my car and a lot of change for pay phones!

As the PC was coming of age and I was learning the first Microsoft Office applications, I discovered a contact management application, ACT by Conductor Software, and got hooked on tech for sales. I took on the role of deploying that application and saw my personal productivity increase astronomically. Since then I’ve always taken an “explorer” role in investigating technology while making sure to keep the basic sales mechanics in mind.

With all that in mind, the technology landscape to support sales has and continues to grow dramatically and in some cases, to the detriment of actual sales productivity. For salespeople to stay on top of their game, they need to start using technology to support the fundamental tenants of selling and focus on three key areas:

  1. Contact Management
  2. Time Management
  3. Efficient Research

How do you deliver conversations at scale to your customers?

That word, conversations, can be interpreted in a couple of ways in our progressively growing digital world; however, from a sales point of view, in my opinion, conversations mean direct communication between an individual prospect and the salesperson and are not intended to be delivered at scale.

To facilitate more efficient and therefore more conversations, or scale requires research and building an inventory of tools and tactics that support the salesperson during the conversational phases of the customer/prospect experience. Most start with a generic, product/features-oriented approach with little to no personalization and progressively move through industry-oriented focus toward a more account-specific, personalized approach.

When I put on my marketing hat, I look to create touchpoints during both digital and live conversations that could be a more “scalable” approach. The following illustration, which I first found in Engagio’s “Clear and Complete Guide to Account-Based Marketing

How do you define and build “The Path to Sales Mastery” using CRM and sales automation?

Using technology as the basis for defining and building the “Path to Sales Mastery” may be a bit ambitious as that is a journey made up of many elements tech notwithstanding. When it comes to CRM and sales automation, I focus on a path to productivity and efficiency.

Many salespeople view the CRM platform as an administrative burden and in some cases, it can be, depending on the configuration and accompanying stack of selling supportive applications. That said, the number one challenge we see sales face is the quality of data. For optimal effectivity, the CRM system should support sales in quickly identifying their key accounts and contacts, then provide simple access to efficiently execute communications including calls, emails or social interactions.

Define the ‘State of Sales Transformation’ in 2018? How do you enable customers to adapt to this state of sales mastery quickly?

This is a tough one. Most technology vendors would have you think that the state of sales transformation has improved tremendously. I would agree that the number of applications and exponential growth in features to assist salespeople has increased. Unfortunately, when I interact with actual salespeople, many of their responses are less than positive.

A lot of people in the sales profession are underwhelmed with the quality of their tech stack deployment, overwhelmed with the complexity to learn it and downright aggravated with the amount of time it takes to become “pipeline” positive with a growing momentum toward quota achievement.

From an enablement standpoint, I think the fastest path to empowering the team is to start out with an honest skills assessment. It is critical to understand the who and the what that needs improvement as inputs for creating an effective sales empowerment plan. At a minimum, the assessment should include the non-tech “blocking and tackling” of sales, time management, product knowledge, product-to-business value applicability then on to sales technology proficiency and the ability to execute those skills.

What are your B2B sales goals and to what extent you rely on sales coaching and onboarding tools?

Our B2B sales goals include stretching revenue targets by better identifying prospective buyers, then delivering and communicating/confirming that the value we intended to sell was delivered. From a bigger perspective, it is aligning with marketing and services to enable an efficient and positive customer experience. Last but not least, it is in improving onboarding efforts and decreasing the amount of time from sales hire to measurable productivity.

Onboarding tools can go a long way toward accelerating these efforts as long as they are configured from an experiential sales reality point of view and not a purely academic exercise.

How should sales organizations strategize and deliver on their Contact Management and Revenue Management budget for sales mastery?

The strategies for saleas mastery are unique or should be, depending on the goals of the organization, division, product etc. A lot depends on the overall go to market style, the complexity of the selling cycle/buying committee requirements and, most importantly the nature of the product.

One thing I can say, definitively, is that most organizations overlook the value of maintaining an accurate database for both sales and marketing. The faster sales can identify targets and initiate communications, the faster they will become productive.

Given the current shift in analytics and customer intelligence, what skills and knowledge do sales teams need to close deals faster?

The amount of data that can be converted into valuable information through analytics is incredible. To some extent, many salespeople/managers are unaware of what can be discerned from all that data. I think data teams, marketing and sales need to invest time to define what specific knowledge they need and how it should be presented so that marketing and sales can accelerate the selling process.

What’s the most exciting part of using sales technologies and intelligence? Could humans ever match in sales what virtual assistants and call tracking analytics deliver?

Personally, I get excited when customers report their level of satisfaction by clearly articulating how the value we promised (sold) was delivered and why it met or exceeded their expectations.

When it comes to the human’s vs. virtual assistant’s question, I don’t think an individual will ever manually match the quantity of communications that can be delivered. I think, for now, that people need to make sure that the quality of the interaction supports their customer experience goals.

If what you mean by call tracking analytics is a technology that, through artificial intelligence, can contextually analyze an actual sales conversation, I get excited!

Given the sheer number of conversations, sales managers do not have enough time to sit in on every sales call. I am currently exploring technologies that can accomplish this level of analysis and make suggestions to the salesperson in real time on how they might adjust their tone, pace and even provide suggestions on how to move the call directionally.

How could AI in sales and marketing further disrupt SaaS platforms? How do you prepare for the disruptive sales ecosystem?

As I mentioned earlier, the sheer number of applications and the speed at which they are developing is a disruption. Even more disturbing is positioning these apps as a panacea for poor quota performance, their overpromising improvements while understating the challenges to deployment and ignoring the strategic efforts to promote positive adoption.

From a preparation standpoint, I advise customers and colleagues to confirm that they or their teams are well grounded in the basic skills and mechanics of selling. Even as the sales ecosystem gets disrupted, if you know the fundamentals, the disrupters will require configuration, use cases developed, deployments facilitated and fans of adoption won.

Thank you, Scott, for chatting with us on Sales and Revenue Management technologies.