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Technology Is Wonderful, But……

by David Brock on November 29th, 2013

I spent much of last week at Dreamforce.  Before I go on, if you’ve never experienced it, you should attend.  It’s one of the best events, I’ve ever attended.  I’ll write more about it later.

Dreamforce, like many other user conferences, CES and other trade shows gets a technology geek’s, like me, head spinning!  One sees and hears about all sorts of technology–each apparently the answer to every sales/marketing person’s and executive prayers.  Install this solution, click here, a few clicks there, and all of a sudden you are over quota.  At least that’s the imagery one gets from each session or vendor visited.

I’m a rapid fan of technology–but with some caveats.  Technology enables us to do much of what we used to do far more efficiently.  We can research more deeply, yet more quickly, becoming better informed.  We can reach more customers in far less time, we can manage our time more efficiently.

Technology also enables us to do things we could have never imagined in the past.  Analytics and business intelligence solutions provide us insight and capabilities to intercept customers at the right time, with the right message, with the right offer–creating a far greater experience and better results then we could have ever done in the past.  We can collaborate and work with people both in and outside our companies–globally.

Technology also enables us to create crap at the speed of light!  We can make tragic mistakes–both quickly and for free!  Which makes us all the more susceptible to making those tragic mistakes.

We can send that “tailored email,” to hundreds of thousands–even though it is probably meaningless to 99.99999% of them.  We can do it again and again.  We can set up autoresponders and content management systems that enable us to continue this meaningless conversation for as long as we want—all in the spirit of “nurturing.”  (By the way, I’ve found a cool application of technology.  I’ve set up my autoresponders to respond to your autoresponders, to carry on your meaningless conversations, mess with your scoring systems, and generally mess with your marketing people’s minds.  So many companies are have great conversations with my computer–except my computer doesn’t issue PO’s.)

Today, I engaged in a discussion with a reader advocating that with the use of technology, sales no longer needed marketing, sales could develop all the content themselves.  Politely, my response was, “Yes, technology enables us to do this, but do we really want our sales people to become content developers?  Could they leverage technology to spend more time in meaningful conversations with customers?”

The problem with technology is that just because it enables us to do something, it doesn’t mean that’s the smart thing to do!  Currently, technology by itself is relatively dumb.  A CRM tool does nothing unless we have a strategy, goals, objectives underlying the implementation–and sales people are leveraging it in ways that make them more impactful.  A BI tool is meaningless without thoughtful questions.

That’s the part of technology we forget.  Too often, we blindly apply the technology without having strong strategies, processes, goals in place.  Even things like the culture, beliefs, and values of an organization are critical to leveraging technology to maximum impact.  We have to think and be purposeful.

Too often, we think we can skip that stuff, technology will somehow address that.  We spend millions, waste person years of time, only to find, we have insufficient results, or more tragically, have done the wrong thing.

Technology is important.  No sales person, no organization can perform at the highest levels possible, without leveraging technology as much as possible.

But remember–technology supports, amplifies, accelerates, what we currently do.  Whether we are doing the right things or the wrong things, technology makes it bigger, faster, broader.

We need to make sure we do the homework to leverage technology to have its intended impact.

But doing that stuff is the hard work–the stuff we are supposed to do all the time.  The stuff that technology might free up time to enable us to invest more time in.

  1. Have to agree, technology is not a magic bullet.

    For me it’s about bringing insights to the table so that you can act upon these e.g. pipeline velocity and drop-off rates.

    The technology by itself highlights these insights but it still requires you to use your brain and refine your processes.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving Dave. I thought about having my app write this, but then… Arthur Clark’s idea of HAL is nearing reality with IBM’s Watson. Clark’s denial of intentionally mimicking IBM never flew with me.

    Organizations will automate everything they can, actuarialize loss-gain ratios and cost benefits to justify their decisions. Will the cap on the pyramid be Have your app talk to my app?

    We’re reaching a tipping point that concerns me.

    • Gary, we seem to be in a “one upmanship” contest where we lose sight of what we were originally trying to do. I do think we are reaching a tipping point.

  3. Fred Swan permalink

    I agree, some technology has it’s place.
    Unless you load the technology properly with what a customer need it will fail. Having a sales staff, use it judiciously enhances the chance for making money.

    • Fred, thanks for the comment. Technology can be leveraged to help execute our strategies and programs, but if we don’t have those in place it does nothing.

  4. Brian MacIver permalink

    “advocating that with the use of technology,
    sales no longer needed marketing,
    sales could develop all the content themselves”

    It could be argued that,
    we have been doing that for quite some time! :-p

  5. “…just because it enables us to do something, it doesn’t mean that’s the smart thing to do!” is such an important insight.

    With technology it became possible to track and measure everything. I think we are beginning to see a change in many organizations. Technology should never be the end it is always the mean and should be applied to support a clear objective and strategy.

    Great article.

  6. Tom Demarco pointed out that if your carpentry skills are limited to building orange crates, the tables and bookshelves you build will look like orange crates. Using power tools just means you can construct those boxes faster, not better.

    Using Technology as a crutch means that bad salespeople can contact more prospective non-customers; it doesn’t mean that they will close more deals.

    • Hank: I tend to present it less elegantly than you do. These tools enable us to create crap at the speed of light. In the hands of inept people or bad execution, they amplify the mistakes we make.

      Thanks for the great comment. Regards, Dave

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