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Not another CRM: It’s time for sales leaders to acquire more than velocity-inducing tools

by jcp

Mary Shea, VP, Global Innovation Evangelist at Outreach

Automation is everywhere: from factory floors to medical laboratories to financial investing, almost every line of work now relies on some form of automation and AI to speed up data collection, improve productivity, and in the world of selling, to deliver better experiences.

For decades, sales teams have relied on velocity-inducing tools like customer relationship management (CRM) systems, automated data extraction tools, and outbound dialers.  All of this begs the question: why have these tools underperformed and failed to deliver meaningful returns on investment?

The answer is simple — sellers require much more than tools that drive velocity.

In a profession where soft skills are as essential as the ability to forecast revenue, technology designed just to increase productivity isn’t enough. Regardless of their channel choices, buyers are looking to have meaningful connections when they interact with sellers. Today’s sellers must be confident using digital-first methods; they must be disciplined operators who can follow clearly defined processes. They must also be great listeners who can empathetically relate to their customers and prospects. As a result, sales technologies need to do much more than drive efficiencies; they must augment sellers.

Today’s business relationships are multi-dimensional

Todaybusinessrelationships are typically initiated and deepenedthrough digital and remote interactions. Individual buyers have evolved into large, distributed buying groups, and the number of touchpoints required to close an enterprise sale increased by 59% between 2019 and 2020.

In the best of times, sales leaders face a myriad of challenges. They must find new ways to enable and motivate their sales forces as we migrate from a global pandemic to an ongoing endemic. In a volatile environment where change is the norm rather than the exception, they must find creative and cost-effective ways to reach, interact and prompt prospects and customers to do deals. To set their organizations up for success, they mustdouble down on reskilling and upskilling theirteams, and they must replace or augment legacy tools with more innovative digital technologies.

Leading companies are now investing in sales technology platforms, or “single panes of glass” that sit on top of the CRM, from which all members of the revenue team can operate. Unlike CRM, which had more applicability for management to monitor seller activities, this technology is specifically designed for sellers and allows them to integrate their workflows right into the platform. The functionality additionally automates the capture of buyer behavioral activity across the revenue cycle, allowing sellers and all revenue team members to leverage those signals to inform future customer interactions and forecasts.

Sell smarter, not harder

Successful sellers increasingly lead with knowledge and insights. In addition to deep product or solution knowledge, buying groups now expect sellers to have industry expertise, to understand their role and pressures therein, and in many cases to lead total cost of ownership discussions. Rising buyer expectations have created an environment where traditional technologies and enablement programs simply don’t meet the needs of the modern sales organization.

To provide the type of experiences both buyers and sellers want, sales technologiesmust blend strong data management with analytics capabilities.For their sellers to deliver next-generation engagement experiences, businesses must invest in a unified platform that identifies buyer intent, automatically captures key buyer and seller interactions, creates a buying group history, delivers insights, and informs forecasting. To compress sales cycles and deliver better buyer experiences, AI-powered conversation intelligence uses natural language processing (NLP) to listen to and document real-time conversations between buyers and sellers. This functionality helps sellers quickly and accurately respond to buyer questions and allows managers to coach sellers in the moment rather than after.

Identify and act on growth opportunities

Every organisation needs to effectively engage with its buyers, guide its sellers through sales cycles, and confidently commit to their number. Engagement and intelligenceplatforms help organizationsstreamline their sales enablement solutions, 3rd party data, dialers, email packages, and other tools into one centralized platform that sits on top of the CRM. In addition, these platforms allow for more customisation; they improve seller productivity at scaleand help managers and leaders proactively identify and act on growth opportunities.

With an engagement and intelligence platform, reps will have access to the data, content, and information they need to sell effectively. The platform brings intelligence to workflows and provides real-time guidanceon where and how to improve performance and serve customers better. In addition, an engagement and intelligence platform transforms the forecast process from guessing the future based on past or previous results to changing the future using recommended actions. As a result, companies using these platforms have greater predictability, and they use signals captured along the revenue cycles to proactively take steps to change outcomes.

An engagement and intelligence platform integrates with CRM and marketing automation solutions so organizations can deliver a connected customer experience. The platform also eliminates data gaps and inaccuracies, automates tasks,and leverages machine learning to help improve processes. These platforms are designed to bridge operational gaps, build alignment, and spark synergies between cross-functional revenue teams.

It’s time to lean into the science

CRM and marketing automation solutions remain crucial assets for go-to-market teams, but as buying groups demand higher quality interactions, these solutions alone are not enough. Top-performing sales organizations harness more innovative technologies designed specifically for sellers.

To deliver efficient, profitable growth in an increasingly complex and volatile world, sales leaders must create and weave together a sophisticated enablement, engagement, and technology strategy. While CRM will continue to play a role as an underlying repository for customer data and marketing automation to continue to drive early cycle awareness, sales leaders must invest in an engagement and intelligence platform with relevant workflows for all revenue team members. With the automatic data capture of key buyer and seller interactions and insights and intelligence derived from these data sets, sellers can deliver more meaningful and personalized experiences, managers can course-correct deals before they are lost, and leaders can forecast confidently.

While the art of selling never completely goes away, sellers, managers, and leaders can now confidently embrace the science of selling.


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