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Is Your Sales Team Getting the Most out of Sales 2.0 Technology?

23 September 2009

This is post is written by Brent Holloway, sales manager at Verint Systems and coauthor of Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices and Technology.

I realized during a weekly review with one of my team members last month that I needed to do a better job of practicing internally something we preach to our customers: to get the most out of technology such as Sales 2.0 tools, we need to help our sales teams use it more effectively.  How many of our salespeople have not had formal training on the technology they use, and even if they have, are they using it to its full potential?  End user training is an obvious first step, but real world application usage testing is an often missed but important step that closes the gap between potential and results.

At Verint Systems (a leading provider for Workforce Optimization software and services), most of our professional service packages for our software systems include standard product training as well as a brief follow-on engagement with an application consultant which can be performed onsite or remotely.  This follow-on training is intentionally scheduled several weeks after the installation and product training are completed.  This allows the end users to have a little experience and some knowledge about how the product works, but they inevitably have some questions about how to effectively use the product to meet their specific needs.  Our application consultant helps our customers’ users work through a couple of their personal, real world examples.  We have received positive feedback from our customers with this implementation approach and it directly impacts customer success, satisfaction, and revenue.

Similarly, in our roles as sales managers and leaders we can act as an application consultant  to our salespeople (or we can assign a team specialist), giving specific examples or best practices of how to use Sales 2.0 applications and other technologies that support the sales process.  We can also ask our salespeople to give specific examples of how they use each product and share their experiences at team meetings.
Here are a few very basic examples of technologies and practices that are commonly used in sales organizations worldwide. Is your sales team using and applying them as effectively as possible?

1. CRM Systems
Can your salespeople quickly look up contact information for a specific prospect or  list of prospects/customers, research previous orders or quotes to get an historical view of previous discounts offered, confirm who signed the previous orders and on what dates, research the status of a technical support ticket, or get renewal dates and amounts?  Are your salespeople forced to wait on other people internally in your organization to get this type of information?  The productivity potential of CRM systems is very real, assuming the users know how to use it efficiently.

2. Account Research
Many sales organizations offer a tool like Hoovers, Jigsaw or InsideView to enable their salespeople to research a customer or prospect before their next sales call.  At Verint, we use InsideView, a web based system that allows us to identify key contacts and get other important company information about our customers and prospects.  I recently helped one of our field reps build a filter that helped her identify a target list of companies and key contacts with specific titles using a feature that was not covered thoroughly in the basic product training.

3. Spreadsheets
My experience – from starting my career in a startup with 12 people to today, working for a company with 3,000 employees – has been even leading technology companies that use CRM and other sales applications also use spreadsheets for a wide range of sales-related needs. According to Lee Levitt, Program Director of IDC‘s Sales Advisory Service, spreadsheets are still the #1 tool used in sales, in spite of the recent proliferation of advanced, Sales 2.0 applications designed to increase sales productivity and engage prospects. Salespeople who know how to perform at least basic spreadsheet functions like sorting, filtering, or inserting basic calculations and formulas enable themselves to be more productive, such as when they need to analyze a customer list for accounts that fall within a given territory, vertical market, or account size, or to identify a subset that has purchased specific products for an upselling campaign, etc. Pricing and ROI exercises also frequently require spreadsheets.

Performing formal and informal skill assessments of team members is an important part of any sales manager’s role.  My hunch is that most sales managers (myself included) focus more on assessing selling skills and have not yet given enough attention to the assessment of technology usage, which is a relatively easy skill to measure and improve.

Do you assess and train your sales team on technology usage on an ongoing basis?  What programs have you found effective? Have you seen a correlation between technology training and increased sales productivity? Share your experiences!