Why Sales Automation Technology Needs to Get Real

Picture it: The big yearly sales conference with sales reps everywhere, all gathered for the annual sales bootcamp training on the latest products. The company hosts an exciting event and presents a ton of information. In fact, there’s so much information that the sales reps forget it a couple days later.

Why Sales Automation Technology Needs to Get Real

Fast forward eight months later and there’s a big deal on the table that could make a huge difference to your company’s quarter. The sales rep can’t find the relevant information on the products from that bootcamp, and is not sure if he should even pursue the deal aggressively. He fumbles on a few customer calls and is late with a not very well thought out proposal, and the deal is lost.

What happened?

Your sales automation software, or lack of it, may be partially to blame.

It may be assuming a “perfect world” scenario and not take into account the habits of salespeople in the real world. When your sales automation technology adjusts to those real-world habits instead of expecting salespeople to adapt to it, you set yourself up for success.

So what are the habits of real-world, effective salespeople?

They are deal-driven

Think about that annual sales training, and the wealth of information that everyone forgot two days later. Sales reps won’t start paying attention until months later when there’s a large deal in front of them. That’s when they take action and start delving in. In reality, they cannot possibly absorb all the pricing, competitors, and commissions nuances for every product for every market in a two-day sales bootcamp. When the deal starts, the real learning begins.

They binge-learn

With a sale to win, many salespeople go into binge mode. Now there’s incentive to know everything about the product that the customer might want to know. Salespeople need tools that accommodate this sudden need for learning by enabling continuous training that is comprehensive, up-to-date, and easy to find. They need collateral at their fingertips, as well as competitor and market information. They also need to be able to educate themselves on both the customer and the market. In other words, they need what they need when they need it. And they need a sales enablement platform that accommodates that.

They are commission-driven

Obviously, salespeople are motivated most of all by commission incentives. Make the sale, get the money; it’s simple. At least it should seem simple. However, there are nuances. Companies often layer incentives on top of incentives. But the layers can become complex. A certain amount of complexity is necessary, but it can become too much to digest.

For example, a company may start with a base commission of 15%. No problem. Then they say we’re trying to sell Product X for 20% commission, and add a SPIF on top of that. For this special bonus program, if you sell a certain amount of Product Y, you get a trip to Hawaii. That’s still understandable and manageable so far.

But add more incentive layers, such as incentives to sell to a certain vertical, or disincentives -- perhaps to de-emphasize Product Z. There also are end-of-quarter accelerators and beginning-of-quarter accelerators, or vice versa. Commission incentive programs can become confusing. Establishing incentive structures with an appropriate level of complexity becomes important.

You need an agile commissions system that can accommodate all sorts of programs, and one that can be changed if something isn’t working.

Effective facilitation on commissions plans also requires a lot of clear communication on incentives and what they mean. Otherwise, it just becomes noise to the sales rep. Another important facet of a successful incentive management solution is providing avenues for handling questions beforehand and for handling any disputes that may arise when payouts occur.

And you need a clear dashboard that sums up what sales reps will receive for any deal configuration. The dashboard needs real-time access to commissions payout estimates, quarterly status statements, and other incentive information. Because, in reality, the commissions payoff is going to determine the amount of effort reps put into a deal.

They have a bad case of “last-minute-itis”

Salespeople need to be able to work quickly, because, as much as we’d like to not think it’s true, “last-minute-itis” is a reality. This isn’t a reflection of any personality trait of the sales rep; last-minute requests often come from the customer, who has stakeholders that may suddenly demand more information. A customer will need things tomorrow or today, or at this hour or yesterday. And in a world so fast and connected, these demands must be accommodated. It’s just the reality of sales. So you need an automation platform built for speed, providing salespeople with fast configurations, pricing, and quotes and making it easy for them to quickly retrieve the right information that will help them win deals.

They are mobile

On a practical level, it’s easy to see why salespeople need full mobile support. Generally, they’re not sitting at their desk; they're on the road. They work on their phone more than they use email, so mobile access to everything they have at the office is essential – customer data, product information, price quotes, product configuration, and more – and they need to be able to find what they need quickly and easily. The sale depends on it. Waiting to get back to the office is not an option; speed is of the essence. You need a sales automation system that is fully mobile. Not just parts of it, but all of it.

They need to generate quick proposals

There is no area where speed is needed is more important than proposals: they’re the key customer engagement activity any sales rep will take part in. Sales automation software must take this into account. A frequent pain point has been turnaround time for getting proposals back to customers. Historically, on some complex products, salespeople would have to go back to the engineers for the quote and could wait for weeks. But automated CPQ solutions have made it possible for sales reps to produce a complex price quote in seconds.

They negotiate

Negotiation will always be a reality of sales. The customer accepts the proposal in broad terms, and negotiation begins. To facilitate the speed and ease necessary for successfully negotiating and closing the deal, salespeople need access to the proper channels for getting approvals. Online workspaces expedite the process by allowing salespeople and customers to work out the details, putting in terms and conditions, taking out T’s and C’s, creating separate pricing, and more.

It’s important to understand that these key habits of effective salespeople arise mostly from the way in which customers make their buying decisions. That makes it all the more critical that your sales automation technology adapt to how your salespeople actually work. A good sales experience will ensure a good customer experience.

Find out more about improving the sales experience here.

By | January 23rd, 2019 | Sales Performance Management (SPM)

About the Author:

Shawn Willett is Senior Director, Marketing Programs at SAP Sales Cloud, part of the SAP Customer Experience unit of SAP. With over 20 years of experience in enterprise software roles, he is responsible for articulating the unique benefits that SAP Sales Cloud's suite of sales effectiveness applications can provide to modern sales organizations.