As sales leaders, we spend a lot of our time trying to figure out how to make our sales teams more productive. Selling into the sales and marketing technology space, MarketBridge sees many of our clients and peers struggling to do the same.

Through that observation, an interesting and counter-intuitive trend has emerged. In an effort to make sales reps more productive, we as leaders have heaped more and more technology, data, and process on their laps and the result is far more complexity for our reps than we even realize.

Combine this with the fact that the average buyer wants less interaction with sales reps and more with online resources and tools to help them make decisions. The job of the rep is significantly harder than it has been in the past.

As evidence, I point to three examples from our Fortune 1000 clients:

  1. Buyers are increasingly opting out of engaging with sales reps as frequently nor as early in the sales cycle. Customer journeys are mainly on-line, self-educating without sales engagement. So the plays we have run as a sales reps are just not working. And the tools we “need” to use to learn about customers take up all our time. The “table stakes” buyer research that our customer expects us to know to show that we are well prepared is a huge time sink and takes away from valuable selling time where we can deliver value and insight. As a result, customers report that only 29% of the sales calls they have with suppliers are valuable.
  2. Content is king and customers expect this as part of how sales engages. But as a result of trying to deliver perfect insight to each buyer, reps struggle to find the right content to share with any given buyer. One company we looked at found that reps spend 40% or more of their time trying to figure out what content to share, and where to find it. Another implication of the new buying journey … sales reps now need to manage content. Marketers are not helping here; instead of making it easy, they tend to add complexity for the rep.
  3. Sales reps now have tons of customer data and analytics at their fingertips, including hundreds of data sources and, for most sales people, at least 7 separate apps or tools on their desktops. One large technology company we have worked with was using 11 different tools. Imagine that…to do our job “right”, we as reps need to spend most of our day logging in and out of a set of tools to get data and insight on our customer. What do we do? Well, either we stop selling or we stop using all the tools. Neither is a good outcome for the sales leader. You are either losing opportunity or wasting sales resource.

So what can sales leaders do about this?

In the words of Wayne Gretzky – they have to “go where the puck is going to be, not where it is now.” Anticipate what the world could look like 2-3 years down the road and start putting the building blocks in place.

At the most basic level, focus on:

  • Empowering sales reps with a single, useful, consolidated set of customer buying signals (data plus analytics) as opposed to the multiple random apps and data sources they have now
  • Connecting sales reps to buyers growing on-line activity, as opposed to email spamming prospects and having no clue what they are doing on-line
  • Enabling sales reps to digitally engage buyers in addition to traditional phone or face-to-face sales calls as opposed to doing thousands of costly outbound dialing for dollars

If you get these things right, you will improve sales performance and reduce cost. Sounds simple, right?

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