Part 1 in a 4 Part Series.
It seems like these days every sales and marketing seminar has a handful of breakouts or sessions around sales technology or what is now become better known as the “sales stack.” This theme within the sales enablement space has only continued to grow, and vendors are reaping the benefit. But for buyers, it can be a bit overwhelming. With all the platforms across so many categories, it can become easy to get caught up in the hype and find yourself on the wrong buying path.
And rightfully so, when we consider sales technology investments we’re looking at more than just allocating budget. There are often overlooked costs of the purchase, such as the time and resources needed to successfully build and implement a solution or the costs of an unsuccessful investment. Before we go down the path of making sales technology investment decisions, there are some things we need to know first.
Where Do You Want to Improve?
Buying sales technology is a delicate process of determining the right application that has the biggest impact or ROI for your organization. Although you can easily find an application that would be beneficial, you may be better off by determining what would deliver maximum benefit to the sales organization for the cost.
Before you choose a technology, It’s recommended you do a deep dive into your sales organization to determine what its primary needs are. This will vary from company to company, but chances are its increasing sales through a few different mechanisms. Determining where the biggest impact would come from is key. Things like increasing call volumes, reducing downtime or administrative work, minimizing interactions with your CRM, or improving contact ratios and connection rates are all impactful, but may not all be solved by a single solution or product.
There are a variety of ways to look at it, but only you will know after you dig in. Quick ways to figure out what would change the game is to ask your sellers and front-line managers. Ask them where they waste the most time, what is the most challenging part of their day, and what they think would improve their day to day activities. These are the people who live the sales role day in and day out, so they will know what needs to change.
What are the Questions to Ask?
To unearth the challenges your sales teams face you will need to conduct varying levels of discovery and due diligence depending on your familiarity with the operation. You can certainly bring on a consulting firm to do the heavy lifting here, and it is well warranted, saving you time and money in the long run. But if that isn’t within your budget, here are some questions to help drive your initial internal discovery:
Is it a Technology Issue or Seller Issue?
This may be one of the most impactful questions you can ask. Is it an actual technology issue or are members of our teams not doing their jobs?? This may a tough question to ask first, but the focus should be on the productivity and output of these individuals. Focus less on the individual and more on the role and its impact. Is there something slowing it down or impacting it? Again, ask those involved. There may be a hiccup along the process that has escalating impacts down the line. Focus on non-sales related functions first, try and work with functional heads to determine the root cause and if there is a solution. This alone may help your organization improve (and free up the budget for a tech investment).
Now the harder part, focus on your sales organization. It may be a non-issue, but validating that your sellers possess the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities will ensure a tech investment isn’t premature and your budget is better spent elsewhere. It may seem like a no-brainer, but when it comes to enterprise level or large scale investments and implementations this is one box you must check off your list
Will Technology Solve This Problem?
The next question to consider is will a technology investment solve the problem or help me improve. All platforms are built with an end goal of making selling easier in some capacity, but the execution, as demonstrated over and over can be a whole different story entirely. Maybe the platform doesn’t do what you thought it does. Maybe it isn’t compliant or able to communicate with your existing CRM, email, or telephony system. The point being, the intention or purpose of the platform should be considered, but the implementation needs and compatibility should be taken into account as well.
The next part of this question to consider is if the solution does solve the problem, then what? Sometimes it’s hard to look past the immediate challenge to see the impacts down the line. If you invest in an automation tool, can functions farther in your process handle increased volume? If we increase seller call volume, can our membership teams handle increased applications? All things to consider, as thinking across the business is another key element to a successful technology investment. Do your best to not limit your thinking to just the sales department.
What Do We Need and What’s a Nice to Have?
Most sales technology can come pre-loaded with a handful of features, but depending on the area you are looking to improve or challenges you are trying to address you will need to identify key functions or features that focus on these specific areas. Similar to the concept of “minimal viable product,” look at your challenges and hone in on what you believe would solve it. If you can think of other features that aren’t necessary but would be a benefit none the less, write them down. It is useful to think ahead and consider expanding a platforms offerings.
Can We Handle a Tech Investment? (Resources, Skills, Budget)
One of the most overlooked costs of a sales technology investment is the internal costs of resources. Maybe we are so used to downloading apps on our phones that we have become accustomed to a quick process, but for a true implementation there are multiple considerations like time (and the associated salary costs), IT costs, and the time impacts of launch, including time off the phone or not selling, and the potential slowed production post-launch. All of this adds up quick so the previous work you may have done to determine the scope of the challenge or area of improvement will be helpful.
The other part of this question should focus on if your sales team has the capabilities to utilize new technology. Do they have the right skills and technology acumen or savviness to be able to handle another platform? We all know those sellers who struggle with email and the CRM, so you should consider if there is the capability for your team to grow and adapt. All of this should be considered before even the initial cost of the technology can be considered.
Once you’ve determined the key areas that could improve and answered your internal questions, it’s time for the next step, determining the impact.
Determine How Your Business is Impacted and the Possible Upside Improvement
So you’ve identified some key areas for improvements or challenges you may have. The next step is to put value behind these issues. If your team spends too much time between calls or on admin tasks, figure out how long and the cost. If they need more prospects, determine current conversion ratios and what they are doing to qualify leads (how many calls, touches, etc.) You not only want to benchmark your team’s current performance but establish projected metrics on incremental increases.
Associating value will benefit you later, as inevitably you’ll have to assemble a business case for the investment. Typically you always need to prove or justify the purchase of a plug-in or platform long before you enter into deep conversations with a vendor.
Regardless of a platform or vendors claims, establishing current and possible volumes and production will help in determining the ROI of addressing the challenge at hand. This information will come in handy later, as justifying budget is much easier when you have an idea of when you will start to see the benefits of an investment or at least break even.
As you calculate the potential impacts and upside also be conscious of some of the incalculable items, such as the value of a seller’s hour, what a seller could accomplish with an extra hour or two a day to make calls, or the culmination of minutes shaved off each call per day from a process, or technology improvement. These impacts should be noted, but also called out specifically if you can’t truly determine a value.
By now you have done a significant level of due diligence to determine how to make positive impacts on your business through the implementation and adoption of sales technology. Although this may seem daunting, these tasks are necessary in laying a strong foundation that will inform the necessary business case that instills confidence in your internal teams who are required to approve this investment. Some of this may even be a bit of overkill, especially if you already know the challenges, or have benchmarked performance and know where to improve, but it should still be done to some degree, because just like a bad hire, a bad sales technology investment can cause much more damage to more than just your budget. Conduct the right amount of due diligence, ensure you understand your organization’s challenges are areas for improvement and be confident when you approach the next step: Vendor selection.
If you have questions or need further guidance with your SalesTech selection process, contact Vendor Neutral today. Vendor Neutral provides practical resources and advice on the SalesTech selection process. We are supportive and transparent partners who help businesses identify the right technology that supports the goal of Selling More, in Less time, at the Right Price, while Reducing Costs.