One of few things that hasn’t changed in decades of corporate history is that sales reps must travel to their customers. For many large and complex B2B sales processes, there is no viable alternative to visiting an office and sitting down face to face with a prospect.
But what has changed beyond recognition is the technology that now makes this much easier. From the first BlackBerry devices offering mobile email over a decade ago to smartphones that provide access to company systems today, sales reps can accomplish far more from the airport departure lounge than they once could.
However, there is still a lack of coordination among all this technology at reps’ disposal. Reading emails in one app and having to log activity via cumbersome processes in another hurts productivity and, worse, can often mean vital pieces of information are lost.
As the Gartner Hype Cycle for CRM Sales technology shows, vendors are now starting to offer sales reps and managers products that can bring established tools, such as video technology and mobile sales productivity technology, together in one easy-to-use interface. These platforms can also draw on existing CRM systems to help with faster data entry, easier information retrieval and, ultimately, better decision making.
Beyond this, according to findings from the Hype Cycle research, sales leaders should also carefully consider the potential of new analytics capabilities. “Advanced analytics tools enable application leaders to boost revenue or profitability by using, for example, algorithm-driven solutions for lead scoring, forecast scoring, next best action for opportunities and price optimization,” says Melissa A. Hilbert, research director at Gartner.
Global sales teams should concentrate on four major topics as they consider these two trends and making CRM investments in 2018.
Sales enablement platforms
These systems unite disparate customer-facing sales processes into a single application. They provide features such as sales content delivery and sales activity capture, but also provide a set of open APIs that permit integration with other applications or external data sources.
They enable sales teams to track, measure and optimize engagement with prospects, based on how often prospects download content and interact with sales reps. They also support coaching and training objectives and measure reps’ adherence to sales best practices.
The technology is still too new to measure the impact that it has had on early adopters to date.
The technology can overlap with existing sales force automation and other CRM investments, so many sales teams will question whether it’s beneficial to purchase yet another sales technology platform. However, it will be some time before the more established sales force automation vendors add these solutions into their products, so sales teams that are looking for rapid improvements should evaluate some of these newer developments. Overall, the technology is still too new to measure the impact that it has had on early adopters to date.
Mobile sales productivity
Mobile sales productivity apps can make reps’ daily work more productive — helping them with logging emails and phone calls, preparing for sales meetings, managing tasks and following through with prospects for fulfillment. Primarily, reps still enter data manually into these apps, but voice entry is becoming increasingly common.
This is a rapidly maturing market, and these apps tend to reflect the best elements of the consumer web. But be aware that salespeople will be able to purchase these apps on their own, so it is best to recommend a specific vendor to avoid having multiple apps performing the same task entering the organization.
Mobile sales productivity apps will be highly beneficial. Unlike a mobile sales force automation (SFA) app that requires salespeople to adapt their behavior to how the app is designed, mobile sales productivity apps capture information automatically based on salesperson behavior. For example, when a salesperson completes a sales meeting, a prompt will appear to log the meeting in a pertinent note, rather than requiring the representative to go to a mobile SFA app, add an opportunity, create an activity and then log the meeting. More advanced apps will also analyze activities and provide prescriptive advice. Mobile sales productivity apps will increase sales adoption and improve data quality by using a less intrusive approach to collect sales data.
Sales predictive analytics
These systems apply heuristic and machine-learning algorithms to sales opportunity and customer account data to provide insights that increase sales velocity, improve opportunity close rates and increase forecast accuracy. The systems have three capabilities: Predictive forecasting, upsell/cross-sell recommendations and opportunity scoring.
The major vendors will continue to improve and expand embedded predictive analytics, based on a growing interest and need for these capabilities from sales teams. Many providers offer a suite of capabilities, expanding beyond just opportunity scoring into account scoring and predictive forecasting. While most vendors have good predictive capabilities, the products’ prescriptive capabilities are still maturing.
These tools offer improvements in deal closure rates, complex forecast accuracy, renewal rates, pipeline growth and revenue growth, as well as sophisticated insights and recommendations, without complicated advanced analytic packages.
While most vendors have good predictive capabilities, the products’ prescriptive capabilities are still maturing.
Finally, these solutions can be implemented rapidly. They do not require difficult integration into business intelligence systems or data warehouses and don’t require maintenance by IT teams.
Sales performance management
This category includes a range of operational and analytical functions that automate and unite back-office operational sales processes to improve sales execution. Capabilities include sales incentive compensation management (ICM), quota management (QM), territory management (TM), territory and quota planning, advanced analytics and gamification.
The top three reasons that companies deploy a sales performance management (SPM) solution are to gain new operational efficiencies, improve ICM, territory and quota management, and gain better visibility into compensation plans. When implementing SPM, companies usually implement ICM first, largely to eliminate manual or Excel-based processes, adding QM and TM in a subsequent phase. Sales teams should consider these capabilities in combination to optimize their compensation processes and performance.
SPM is now past the educational phase, and buyers are able to acquire budget for SPM projects. New tools are also available that make SPM more effective at helping to increase revenue.