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“The Boom In Sales Technology”

by David Brock on November 25th, 2019

I suppose it’s normal to see the flood of articles, prospecting emails, calls and such on “sales technology.” Dreamforce is over, we all have visions of our technology based futures dancing in our heads.

We see the MarTech and other charts, with 1000’s of suppliers, in unimaginable niches, giving us the most essential sales and marketing technologies, guaranteed to drive performance and customer engagement.

We all talk about the future of AI/ML enabled marketing and sales. Seeing a bright future of effortless customer engagement, sales performance, and sky rocketing productivity.

We know the future of sales and marketing, and it is technology enabled–if not technology led. Already we are spending billions on tools, software, and services. Our technology stacks are growing.

The future is bright! At least for the suppliers of these products and services.

But then, as it inevitably does, reality comes crashing in. We look at actual sales and revenue performance. We look at customer engagement, experience, and satisfaction. We look at sales turnover (voluntary/involuntary). We look at trust–trust customers have in our organizations, trust our employees have in us and our organizations.

The numbers in all of these areas are going the wrong direction! Performance and productivity continues to hit new lows, customer engagement too often becomes avoidance, turnover is now at 16.5 months, and trust is at all time lows.

Wasn’t technology supposed to do just the opposite?

Then, we get really granular, we look at our own personal experiences of technology. Daily we get inundated with emails, phone calls, texts, and other “messaging,” from people leveraging technology for outreach and engagement. For 99% of those outreaches, there is no way I should have ever been on the list. I’m not in the ICP, I’m not a target customer. But for some reason, they have captured my contact information and decide to blindly inundate me with garbage.

Add a layer of AI/ML, and one would be certain that, not only should I not be on those lists, but I probably should be avoided–because I write about the experiences or encourage my friend, Hank Barnes, to put in #FridayFails.

Or I look at my clients, after decades of CRM use, compliance is still their number one technology issue. Organizations are spending billions on technology that their people aren’t/won’t/can’t use. Recently, I was speaking with a mid level manager, we were talking about a deal. I asked him to display the deal in the CRM system, he didn’t know how. Or another client, we agreed on next steps the teams should be taking in the account, but they didn’t know how to enter tasks/events—so they reverted to Outlook.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a technologist. Most of my career has involved bringing some type of technology to the market and customers, whether selling mainframe computers, software, or co-founding AI/ML based companies.

Technology offers us great promise. But in the decades that I have been involved in technology, the available technologies are far ahead of our abilities to exploit the technology in meaningful ways. Our abilities to exploit it, extracting it’s real value continues to be ridiculously poor.

Who’s at fault?

It’s all of us, suppliers and consumers of technology alike.

Suppliers exploit our penchant to look for miracle cures, quick fixes, silver bullets. They have THE answer, we naively believe it is just that easy, no thought required and sign on for a 3 year subscription. They add us to their list of references, seeking yet another victim, I mean customer, to build their ARR/CLV. They don’t have to worry about retention for a few years.

Our sales enablement teams deploy the technology, claiming victory, because too often, success for them is the deployment of new tools, technologies, capabilities. We all have sat in the reviews where the leaders proudly discuss what they accomplished over the past quarter or year. Yet we seldom come back to measure the results–or it becomes impossible to attribute the results to any one thing.

And we and our people, trudge on, doing the same things we have always done, perhaps with a veneer of new technology, not getting better–often getting worse.

So it’s everyone’s fault and no one’s fault. The reality is none of it (well almost none) is as malicious as I portray it, it’s really the thoughtlessness with which we implement these technologies and new capabilities.

The answer is clear, it’s always been in front of us. Perhaps it’s because it is so obvious and simple, we discount it. Perhaps because it’s tough work, we avoid it.

It’s all about the fundamentals!

  • Who are we, what do we want to stand for with our customers, in our markets, to our shareholders, to our communities, and to our employees?
  • What are the problems that we are the best in the world at solving, who has those problems? Who are our customers?
  • How do we create real value with those customers?
  • How do they want to be engaged? How do we help them learn? How do we help them achieve their goals (which is critical to their ability to buy)?
  • How do we help them become confident in the decisions they have made?
  • Are we creating cultures and workplaces that people want to be part of, that they feel valued, that they learn/develop, in which they can see a future?
  • How do we develop and execute customer engagement strategies consistently, day after day, week after week, …..?

Until we know these things, we can never exploit technology in meaningful ways. We can never extract the value and promise the technologies offer.

Instead we leverage the technologies, to create crap at the speed of light.

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4 Comments
  1. Dave you are spot on. Unless we take care of the basics, all sales enablement spend is wasted. Hiding behind technology has done little more than alienate prospects and customers.

    Today I got a robot calling me to tell me there was a text from a conference that wanted me to register for their event. I hung up as soon as I heard what it was about and wrote off the company and their event. The price of free and automated is all the people who will never do business with you

  2. Brian MacIver permalink

    “But then, as it inevitably does, reality comes crashing in. We look at ACTUAL sales and revenue performance. We look at customer engagement, experience, and satisfaction. We look at sales (people) turnover (voluntary/involuntary). We look at trust–trust customers have in our organizations, trust our employees have in us and our organizations.”

    To quote a lady who has made her way in Sales Enablement:

    “A Fool, with a Tool, is still a Fool.”

    Good article, well timed, Dave.

    PS we just bought a Floor cleaning AI Robot in ‘Black Friday’ offers. It’s so smart, it will be able to persuade us to clean the floor for it…
    It will become: “A Tool with two Fools”

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Thanks so much Brian, I always look forward to your comments and wry humour. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures with your floor cleaning robot. I’m not sure the UK/Spanish equivalent or timing for “Happy Thanksgiving,” but you have my best wishes!

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