With thousands of sales enhancement tools available to layer on top of a CRM, many sales managers see a more robust tech stack as the path to increased sales. However, the result for a lot of companies is a bloated toolset that costs expensive resources – both dollars and people – to maintain.
There's no denying the power of technology to improve the sales process. Sales automation and data management software take many of the mundane, arbitrary tasks off the plate of sales reps and allow them to focus on the true heart of sales: communication and interaction.
However, if those communication and interaction skills aren't up to par, the most robust, powerful tech stack in the world won't make a difference. In order for your toolset to really matter, your team has to first have the right mindset and the skillset.
Step 1: Shift your team's mindset
The right technology adds value to the sales process in one key way: it replaces wasted time with productive time. Sales reps are able to spend more time doing meaningful, value-added work and less time doing low-skill tasks.
The big problem arises when tooling fatigue settles in. It's not uncommon for a sales team to have a dozen or more digital tools at play in the sales process. This abundance of tooling can overwhelm a seller and diminish the importance of tooling through surplus. Thoughtlessly throwing more tools at the problem doesn't solve it, it exacerbates it.
As a sales manager, it's your responsibility to inspire your sales team. Specifically in relation to skills and tooling, you need to take them back to square one: understanding the value they bring to the sales process, and how tooling and efficiencies can amplify (not replace) their value.
In actuality, there are some things a tech stack will never be able to replace, namely soft skills like communication and interactive skills. These skills are the foundation of professional persuasion, and the core skillset that sales managers need to refine in their sales people to get more out of them.
The core value-adds a sales person brings to the table that tools can never replace include:
1. Ability to understand customer's perspective: A high-performing sales rep crafts dialogue based on where the customer is in the buyer journey at that time, and changes conversation as the buyer moves toward purchase.
2. Ability to create value, not just communicate value: A high-performing sales rep creates value throughout the sales process before selling anything, rather than talking about future value post-purchase.
3. Ability to help customers make decisions that are good for both parties: A high-performing sales rep sees this talent as the crux of professional persuasion and can create a set of circumstances through which both the buyer and seller are rewarded.
4. Ability to recognize real opportunity from time wasting efforts: A high-performing sales rep is able to recognize when to focus on a highly qualified lead and when to let go of leads that aren't going anywhere. Powerful sales data will tell you what ideal looks like, but it's up to the sales rep to remove dead leads and focus on the few real opportunities in the funnel.
5. Ability to help customers better understand their challenges: A high-performing sales rep understands the customer problem so deeply that he or she can experience the perspective of the buyer.
Once your sales reps have the right mindset and understand the importance of their role in the sales process, you can move forward with honing those skills through coaching.
Step 2: Develop your team's skillset
As a sales manager, you should be working with your team to hone these core skills over time. While the list may look long, these skills can be learned quickly, but need to be practiced consistently.
- Driving curiosity: Convincing people to open their minds to a new type of solution
- Recognizing what drives opportunities to make a sale: Knowing that change drives opportunity and recognizing the different ways it manifests
- Knowing what information to uncover and when to find it: Using discovery to add value to the prospect experience as well as the sales process
- Driving customer insights with questions: Asking the right questions at the right times to give insight and drive the customer toward purchase
- Having REAL conversations: Knowing how to craft engaging conversation and build value throughout those conversations
- Establishing and nurturing rapport: Building trust through interaction
- Effective listening: Knowing how to recognize when a prospect is or is not engaged in conversation
Since 74 percent of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before talking to a sales rep, the customer is already armed with information and a point of view well before talking to a seller.
The challenge then is to add value, using the skills above, to drive that buyer to purchase.
Step 3: Layer on a toolset
After your reps understand the unique value they add in the sales process, the importance of improved efficiencies, and the core skills they need to practice to be successful, you can then layer on a tech stack to accelerate sales. Through mechanizing a manual process and refining your team's skills, you'll make the most of both your people and your technology.