How to Survive—and Thrive—in the Age of Sales Tool Proliferation

iStock_000060405330_MediumHow many different tools or solutions does it take for your sales force to get through a day of selling? SiriusDecisions estimates that sales reps use an average of nine different sales tools to prepare for, execute, and follow up on a single sales call. But the number can be much higher for many organizations. If you think about a typical day for reps, you’ll realize they use a variety of tools for sending and monitoring email, two or three databases and/or social sites for prospecting, a few scheduling tools, CRM (and its add-ons) for recording and reporting sales activities, and finally one or more tools to create and update all the materials for a sales presentation.

It’s exhausting for sales reps and even more tiresome for sales leaders to keep up with all of these tools and determine whether they’re helping or hurting the sales process. The oversaturation of sales tool offerings in the B2B landscape doesn’t help this issue, either. An infographic from VB Insights shows that there are over 500 vendors offering some benefit to inside sales reps, making it difficult to choose the right one(s) for your team. Further, many of these tools’ benefits and features overlap, resulting in a very clunky, tedious sales process.

Sales leaders are responsible for choosing the right tools for their sales teams, and for making the process of selling as simple as possible. If you’re unable to clearly define your sales organization’s problems, it’s impossible to evaluate the right tools to help solve those problems. In reality, you’ll likely end up settling for a lower cost solution that might solve a smaller problem in less time, instead of finding an all-in-one solution that addresses all of your issues—some you may not even know your organization experiences.

Before making any purchase decisions for your sales organization, it’s important to clear out the clutter and identify the productivity gaps in your sales process. Where are the overlaps in your existing sales tool arsenal, and where can you cut back? Are there any areas of your sales process that can be streamlined, minimized, or delegated to other parts of the organization? What parts of the sales process could be enhanced by the right sales tool?

This process of maximizing reps’ productivity is a strategy that SiriusDecisions identifies as activity-based enablement, and involves systematically understanding how your reps work and maximizing their core selling activities. Once you’ve implemented activity-based enablement, you’re able to see exactly where the inefficiencies are in your sales process, and can prepare to take the right steps towards mitigating those inefficiencies.

Heather Cole, Service Director of Sales Enablement Strategies at SiriusDecisions, discussed the issue of sales tool proliferation and a possible solution with Seismic:

When it comes to sales tools, the inefficiencies multiply the more systems you are asking the rep to open and access on a daily basis. Helping the rep focus on core selling activities means assessing how they get their work done today and then identifying opportunities to streamline access to content and activity support into one source of truth and selling motion support. Deep integration of systems is key to minimize disruption of rep workflow. The goal is to meet the rep where they conduct most of their business today instead of forcing them into a yet another discrete platform. If you are asking a rep to change their normal workflow and behavior to access a tool, you are bound to get less engagement and potentially less ROI on the tool investment.”

As Heather stated, it’s imperative to consolidate your sales tools down to the must-haves for your sales reps and integrate them where possible. For example, SiriusDecisions found that the tool reps spend the most time in is email, so choosing tools that easily integrate with and/or work within email is a great way to maximize rep productivity. If your reps are able to access CRM and prospect data, relevant sales materials, and pertinent marketing automation information directly within their own email on any device, they will free up hordes of valuable time previously wasted on administrative and manual tasks. When you consider that sales reps spend over 30 hours a month simply searching for and creating their own sales content, it’s easy to see that consolidating your reps’ sales tools is immensely helpful for your sales organization.

The key to any successful sales process is simplification. You want to make it as easy as possible for your sales reps to do what they do best: sell. Cut out the tools that have become obsolete or that are unable to integrate with newer programs and tools, and find a way to provide for your team without complicating the sales process. Measure and analyze what your reps are wasting time on, and find ways to minimize manual, tedious processes. Make sure that any solution you decide to purchase isn’t just plugging one of many holes in the side of a sinking ship, and that it is capable of solving even more strategic issues down the road. The perfect solution for your team is out there, it’s just a matter of identifying the right one with which your sales team can grow.