There are a huge number of tools available to help sales professionals be more effective and efficient. Properly used and implemented they can have a profound impact in improving sales performance. At the same time, used improperly, the provide the potential of causing great problems or creating crap at the speed of light. Every tool has the opportunity, properly used to have great impact or improperly used to have great negative impact.
Too often, however, it seems the implementation of the tool in itself, is the end rather than just a means. People implement CRM thinking “because we have CRM, we have much greater insight into our customers, pipelines, opportunities, and so forth.” Or implementing powerful research tools to provide great sales intelligence–without providing a foundation the sales people can intelligently use these tools. Or providing great content and email marketing tools that are used to blindly inflict content on people who have no interest or desire to get that content.
We too often forget about the fundamentals–the basic blocking and tackling, the foundations of sales effectiveness. None of these tools replace the need for this, but the amplify the impact of the sales person using it. A high performing sales person, executing a well defined sales process will get phenomenal benefit and create much more value using these tools. They will be able to leverage their time and presence in ways they couldn’t without the tools.
We have to continue to focus on building a sound platform based on the fundamentals: Do we have a well defined sales process aligned with the customer buying process? Do we know how to develop and execute high impact sales strategies? Do we have the knowledge and business acumen that enables sales professionals to connect with their customers discussing their issues, concerns or helping them discover new opportunities? Do we understand what customers value, how we create, communicate, and deliver differentiated value? Do we understand how to listen and really understand? Do we have the ability to confront the customer–appropriately, to ask for money in exchange for value and to defend that value without resorting to discounting? Do we understand how to manage our time, leveraging it for maximum impact? Do we understand how to prospect and gain the attention and interest of people we may have never met? Do we understand how to create, build and maintain relationships? Do we understand how to trust and be trusted? As managers, do we understand how to analyze performance, how to coach and develop people to achieve their full potential, how to measure performance and hold people accountable for that performance?
All of these are the foundations of high performance selling. Implementing tools, whether they are CRM, sales intelligence, analytic, content management/delivery, presentation or other tools on this sound foundation can magnify the impact and effectiveness of the sales team.
Absent these foundations the tools can be harmful. Not only do we waste time, resource, money on tools that aren’t used, used well, or used properly. But we run an even greater danger–used improperly they can have exactly the opposite affect. They can alienate and create great distance with customers. They can magnify poor strategies and stupid execution. Recently, I encountered a sales person selling a marketing/lead development tool–his thoughtless use of the tool he was selling caused him to spam 1000’s of people. My feedback to him was that his use of his tool made me certain that I would never use his tool and would actively recommend people avoid his company. He didn’t seem to understand. This week, I get prospecting calls from a person selling a tool that was to provide great insight into customers. His first question was, “What does your company do?” I get endless offers for content, newsletters for thing I never requested, things that I have no interest in.
I talk to people who are considering the acquisition of very powerful tools. I ask a few questions. For example, powerful analytic tools–but are you asking the right questions? The quality of the analytics is dependent on the quality of the question you are applying the analytics after–or the quality of the data being analyzed. Bad questions, bad data give you terrible answers. The greatest presentation, storytelling, whiteboarding tools are meaningless if your people do not understand the customer, what they value and how to create value.
I can’t imagine any high performing sales professional not leveraging these tools to their full potential! They are very powerful. But the tools are the means, not the end. If you don’t have a strong foundation in place, they are worse than useless. Before wasting time, resource, and money on these tools, make sure you are building on a strong foundation.