Why Sales Tools Fail

Chances are your company implemented at least one new sales tool in the recent past. Whether or not you like the tool, use it, and consider it to be a success, depends on who you are. That’s because, as with all things in life, people view things from their own unique perspective. Even when we try to see things from others’ perspective, we don’t always (rarely?) get it right.

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”

John Lubbock


This inescapable truth offers one clue as to why sales tools fail.  There is another equally important element that explains the phenomenon and it’s The Golden Rule; “Those with all the gold, rule.” The people or persons holding the budget get to make the decisions on what tools to implement. As in the cartoon above, their views on the subject will be occluded by the blindfold of their position.


Perspective and the Golden Rule, these are two reasons why tools fail. Both of these have to do with the decision process and how decisions about sales tools are made.


Before tools are implemented


If you’re the person with ‘the gold’, how will you go about deciding on new technology? You’ll likely follow a two-step process and somewhere during those two steps is where the inevitable screw-up will occur, dooming you and your organization to a failed deployment.  


1)      Identifying the problem(s) that need solving

2)      Selecting the tools to solve them


Both of these steps will be steeped in your own desires. It’s human nature. It’s difficult not to give an extra helping of credence to our own desires at the expense of others’.


How to avoid failure

As I’ve said, the first step is to identify the problem. Let’s say your problem (as you see it) is that you lack visibility into what’s happening—are reps doing what they should be doing, how likely is the forecast, how real is the pipeline—to give just a few examples.


Let me pose some questions that will help you determine more about the issue and whether this is indeed the problem.


1) Why do you feel you lack visibility—what is happening (or not happening) that led you to that conclusion? Name all the reasons you can think of.

2)Will others view the problem differently? Name all the possibilities you can think of.

3) Will others ascribe the same level of urgency to the problem?


Is it possible that you’ve drawn the wrong conclusion as to the real nature of the problem? Is it possible that the real nature of the problem—in this example—is that reps don’t have a way to easily communicate their activities, or that you’ve never made it clear what information you want from them?


If you make a decision without fully analyzing the problem or considering those affected, you’ll find yourself in the position of defending the decision and enforcing the use of the tool (think CRM) with ultimatums. Countless articles have been written about poor adoption of sales tools and how to take-down what is mistakenly identified as the main culprit; salespeople’s attitude.


I have a couple of questions for you to ask yourself. Will a salesperson refuse a tool that helps them get contracts signed faster? Not likely. Will a salesperson refuse a tool that adds valuable prospect insight to their email system?  Again, not likely. Will a salesperson refuse a tool that offers great conveniences in the way they perform and report on their activities? No, they won’t. That’s because these tools offer them a net-benefit above and beyond any additional burdens associated with changing behavior or habits.


Indeed the best sales tools are the ones that provide value for everyone affected. To know how the tools you’re considering will affect your constituents; salespeople, salesops, CXOs, and marketing, you’ll need to analyze problems and solutions from every which angle.  Don’t just grab hold of one problem and decide that it’s obviously the right one (as in the cartoon of the elephant).

Sales tools fail, quite simply, when they aren’t deemed helpful or important by the people who will use them. They fail when users don’t have a good answer to “What’s in it for me?” Whatever you do, make sure you’ve figured that out ahead of time—from their perspective.