Sales vision—what image does that present in your mind? Piles of cash? Lots of serious people with iPads and briefcases? Perhaps a group of salespeople frolicking in the surf at some exotic locale hosting their 100 percent club celebration?
Those may be images of Sales daydreams or fantasies, but they really aren’t sales vision images in terms of what the Sales organization should see for the future. For that, we need to know more about what the future sales vision is for the company as a whole. Without the corporate vision, we can’t effectively create or determine the individual-unit visions.
Sales should derive its vision from the vision of the organization as a whole. Once that is accomplished and accepted by all, the fun starts with trying to make that vision a reality. Sales directors should know that part of the vision to the reality process is going to include technology—the technology needed to turn mission into action and ultimately the achievement of the vision. Sales directors should also know they have some valuable allies in that process.
IT is uniquely positioned to help Sales understand, define and achieve both visions and mission.
Sales, Meet IT; IT, Meet Sales
The selling process can involve a little technology or a lot of technology. The size of the operation, the complexity of the selling organization, the spread of geographical territories and the complexity of the product line will all impact the kind of technology best suited and applicable to a specific organization.
IT is the ideal place to start the technology discussion since it has experience in dealing with vendors, implementation, systems maintenance, education and tailoring systems to meet the unique needs of the organization.
IT has a vision as well. IT occupies a central point in the organization that affords a unique view of the corporate sales vision and the individual unit visions as well as how those visions all interrelate. IT has the mission of enabling the collective visions of the enterprise through technology.
For sales, technology abounds for each phase of the selling/buying process. For our purposes, let’s look at technology and selling in terms of planning, prospecting, campaigning, contact communications, demos, collateral use, negotiation, contracts, order entry, after-sale follow-up and customer care.
IT can help Sales prioritize needs for each of these processes. IT can review, evaluate and recommend solutions as well, but more than that, IT knows how to maximize the positive effects these technologies produce.
IT Builds the Sales Vision by Building the Selling Infrastructure
The notion that IT enables selling may be foreign to some people. But, as is the case with almost any other discipline, Sales with the technological edge will do better. A recent Aberdeen report shows better numbers for sales teams that are technologically enabled as opposed to their manual-process brethren.
The report shows that tech-enabled organizations have a 15 percent uptick in proposal-generating efficiency. Error reductions and effective mobilization are both positively impacted as well. When combining CPQ and ERP, Aberdeen reports an average 12 percent reduction in operating costs.
For selling organizations, operating cost reductions are magnified in margin percentages, so 12 percent is not chump change.
This is where IT gets it done. Interfacing, CPQ and ERP along with other critical portions of the Sales infrastructure is how they deliver immediate value.
IT should not be discouraged by skepticism or lack of initial enthusiasm from Sales. Sales will have ideas about what they need and what they want. They will see value in CRM, ERP and CPQ, but, they may not see the three technologies as mutually supporting structures with necessary interactions and dependencies. They certainly will not see the unified synergistic effect of these individual tools.
That is why the IT vision must be sold to Sales. IT has to have intimate knowledge of the individual technologies so that it can visualize and share with Sales the unified selling system.
Sounds like a Lot of Effort … Effort Spent Not Selling?
Most folks I know who make their livings selling or managing the sales process almost never complain about not having enough to do. Idle time is not a problem for sales folks.
So, when we ask a sales director to spend some time evaluating this or that technology solution, or even worse, ask them to have their reps participate in the evaluation, we know right away what the reaction will be. Eye-rolling, whispered oaths, clenched fists, and ultimately the word NO will be heard loud and clear.
But, to my overworked sales-directing friends, I am happy to tell you that help is available. You do not have to do it all yourselves.
Your friendly IT group is there for you. They are adept at reviewing, evaluating, deploying and supporting all manner of technology-based solutions to operational problems throughout the organization.
They are able to not only see the individual system, its value and issues, they can also see it as a part of the much larger technological edifice of the enterprise.
Sales Is Part of the Corporate Team
A chair at the corporate table, that is. Sales needs to see itself as a part of the whole corporate team. Too many sales organizations are content to sit out on the periphery of the organization and wait for quota and compensation packages to be presented. IT cannot be expected to just hand sales out-of-the-box, ready-to-go technology.
Sales should be involved in the high-level vision discussion—the forecasting and tactical planning for the year. Sales has the unique point of view and experience of interacting with customers and prospects on a regular basis. Any planning that ignores this has to be of questionable value.
Properly equipped, Sales can produce the documented evidence or data related to those experiences to be seen as a credible participant in the planning discussion. Opinions are fine and offer value, but, conclusions, explanations and recommendations backed up by data are far more valuable and immediately useful than gut-feeling opinion.
Once again, Sales needs technology. IT needs to step up and guide the technology journey for Sales.
IT and Sales – a Partnership
When Sales and IT collaborate, good things will happen. Sales becomes a real team member in corporate management. The voice of the customer through Sales will be heard and respected.
IT is the technological focus point of the enterprise. IT builds an infrastructure that is the fertile ground required for the success of the selling organization to ultimately grow the business and fulfill its vision.