Six Keys To Improving The Adoption And Utilization Of Your Selling Tools.

The adoption of selling systems, processes, and motions has emerged as a particularly important issue for a variety of reasons. Selling has become a digital, data-driven and capital intensive team sport.  Digitally enabled customers have more information than sellers. They demand fast and complete answers and expertise from sellers.  Front line revenue teams are struggling to keep up.

In response, organizations are looking to digital technology to level the playing field. The average organization is investing in dozens of selling tools to help their sellers operate at faster cadences, increase face time with customers, and add more value when they engage with them.

It’s an arms race of sorts.  Selling organizations are making large and increasingly complex investments in selling technology. The average organization has over 25 enablement, engagement, and readiness tools to help front line employees perform better. Recent research by the Revenue Enablement Institute forecasts organization will soon be spending upwards of $10,000 a rep on tools and services to help front line sellers when you add it all up.

These tools are useful, necessary, and potentially powerful.  However very few organizations have been able to tap into their full power to accelerate sales growth and improve the performance of front line revenue teams.  For example, most CRM implementations are characterized by lower than acceptable return on investment, less than satisfactory user adoption, and lots of unrealized potential, according to research by the Sales Management Association.  And despite this proliferation of selling tools, the amount of time customers spend not selling to the right customers remains fixed at many organizations.

Why? It’s all about the economics of adoption and utilization. In their zeal to bring in the best tools and compete, sales operations and enablement executives can lose sight of the fact that sales tools only create value if sellers adopt them.  You can have a sales tech stack filled with best-of-breed enablement, readiness and engagement tools. But in my experience, the tools won’t create any value or performance improvements unless salespeople adopt them.

In most cases they don’t. The notion of universal adoption of sales tools is vastly overstated.  In practice, most sales reps don’t use the tools we give them on a regular basis. Fifty percent adoption of CRM is considered good. Other enablement and readiness tools have even lower levels of adoption in my experience.

The economics of poor field adoption of selling tools are becoming a big issue as organizations spend thousands of dollars per rep on them when you add it all up. Low adoption means low returns on investment and inconsistent seller performance.

This has managers focused on finding ways to generate better returns on their investment their large, increasingly complex, and under-performing investments in selling technology.

Investing in more tools is not the answer. Sales operations and enablement leaders tell us that the more they invest in tools to help sellers work better, the most it feels like sellers are working “for” the tools. The proliferation of sales technology has made most sales technology “stacks” so complex they are creating more friction and work for reps instead of eliminating it. Sellers complain about having to learn and use too many different systems, look up too much information, and spend too much time logging call reports. “The relationship between the number of selling tools you have, and the quality of the seller experience, and as a byproduct the customer experience, is inverted,” says Greg Munster. Lynne Doherty reinforces this point. “Managing the sales technology portfolio is a balancing act, the more you invest in sales enablement tools, the more complex and expensive the sales technology portfolio gets,” says Lynne Doherty. “At some point, every organization reaches the point of diminishing returns where the cost and complexity of technology outweighs the benefits, and your sellers don’t use them consistently.”

Many Revenue Operations leaders tell us it’s a skill problem. That selling has become more data-driven and complex. There is no doubt that modern selling has become more data-driven and complex. Most sales organizations are trying to solve the problem by changing their hiring profile to bring in people with more analytical acumen and big data skills. That is an important step. But data scientists are in short supply, and even the most data-savvy seller will struggle to adopt a complex and difficult to use tools. So making things simpler is a common denominator that pays off. And there is still a role for EQ and relationship building skills in selling. So making things simpler makes it easier for everyone on the revenue team to leverage data.

The most practical, effective and financially sound move is to focus more effort on finding ways to improve the usability and adoption of selling tools by frontline revenue teams. These efforts will pay off by reducing costs, eliminating waste, improving the return on expensive commercial assets, and generating more consistent growth from the entire revenue team. Any investment that can improve user satisfaction and engagement and minimize activities that don’t involve engaging the customer will allow you to help sellers reach their full potential. In my experience, there are six keys to improving the adoption and utilization of your selling tools.

  1. Identify and eliminate the key points of friction in the selling process.  One of the biggest problem in sales productivity is there is no 80/20 rule in selling.  Rather, the productivity of front line sellers is “nibbled to death by ducks” –  dozens of small time wasters embedded in the sales process. Less than ten percent of seller time is used in any given task – finding content, prioritizing leads, logging calls – so there is not single culprit to focus on when looking for ways to improve seller productivity. Rather, managers have to find many small and incremental ways to eliminate friction in the day to day seller workflow.The most progressive growth leaders are “knitting together” the various pieces of their sales technology portfolios to build digital selling platforms that automate, simplify, and speed up selling by addressing the major hot spots in the selling process. It’s possible and practical to eliminate most of the key points of failure, friction, and manual labor in the day-to-day seller workflow by connecting the dots across CRM, sales enablement, sales readiness and digital asset management solutions – which are managed in silos in most B2B organizations. This can dramatically improve the productivity and experience of sales reps.
  2. Measure  and manage where the selling tools and systems are being adopted.  Every organization measures many things about their sellers – quota attainment, activity, and pipeline. Most of these are outputs that cannot be actively managed on a day to day basis.  Few organizations measure whether their sellers are adopting the critical selling processes and tools they have been given that can effect those outcomes. This is information you can get from Digital Adoption Software that monitors adoption across your portfolio. These insights will quickly tell you what software is being uses, when and how. Where users struggle. When they drop off. All this information can help you identify and systematically eliminate or at least mitigate the key impediments to adoption.
  3. Create one consistent day-to-day selling workflow for sellers to follow.  Like the famous Green Bay Packer sweep in the 1960’s, you can create all sorts of variations off this motion, but you cannot ask your sellers to follow ten different motions. The best organizations are knitting together the different pieces of tehri commercial technology portfolio to support the fundamentals of day to day selling.  In my experience at Cisco, Hitachi, and WalkMe there is tremendous leverage in connecting the dots across the systems that provide training, content, competitive intelligence, RFP and the core CRM systems that sellers rely upon daily.
  4. Simplify the seller experience.  The reality of the sales technology industry is most tools are designed for sales managers not the sellers that use them. Why? Because sales managers are the economic buyers and administrators prioritize features, reporting, and administration economies over seller experience. The result is many best-of-breed systems that are disconnected, or hard to use.  Progressive managers are taking a page from consumer applications and making simplifying the seller experience the design point for their sales technology deployments. “Sales operations and enablement leaders need to focus less on best of breed functionality and focus more on achieving an Apple like experience, Amazon like ease of use, Uber like workflow and Facebook levels of adoption as they design, select and deploy their commercial technology”, says Greg Munster, of Canonical. As evidence of this simple truth, ease of use (95%), ease of data input (93%),and usefulness in managing the sales pipeline (93%) the top three factors that are critical to the successful implementation of CRM and sales technology overall – according to a survey of sales managers by the SMA. A big part of the answer it to simplify the selling systems to improve seller adoption. “The key to getting the most out of technology is to simplify the day-to-day selling workflow and ensure the tools you invest in get adopted consistently by all sellers,” says Lynne Doherty, the President of Field Operations at Sumo Logic. “We work hard to make sure the portfolio of tools we utilize help us to simplify selling by automating tasks, improving access to critical customer intelligence, and helping sellers predict which opportunities to emphasize and allocate effort to.”
  5. Push vs. Pull information: There is a big move to “push” critical information to sellers in the moments that matter rather than have them hunt for information from many places before or after a sales call.  The best sales enablement deployments are using AI to proactively guide sellers through the process in the moment rather than ask them to go to five different “panes of glass” to find the information they need before they are on a customer call. “The more sophisticated our selling model becomes, the more resources our sellers need to find or pull to prepare for or follow up on sales calls,” says Jill Billhorn, the SVP of Corporate Sales at CDW. “You’ve got to gather many things – plays, references, case studies, industry expertise, customer intelligence, facts – and it can be exhausting. To solve the problem, Billhorn wants to fundamentally change the way sellers operate by intelligently pushing relevant and useful information , insights and tools to them. “We are moving from an environment where account managers must “pull” resources, intelligence, information, and content to prepare for and execute calls, to one where those things are “pushed to them. We know everything about our customers and the solutions we are recommending. It’s a matter of using that informational intelligence to ship to a seller so they can let them do what they do. So we spend a lot of time thinking about this as push instead of a pull. It would be a game changer.”
  6. Build confidence through repetition and success.  In sports, coaches will make players run plays hundreds of time to build “muscle memory” that ensures consistent execution in the moments that do matter.  They start with the fundamentals – basic blocking and tackling. And then build towards more complex plays as players get confidence in the plays, the system and the results they can attain by practicing. Likewise, sales managers should focus on getting sellers to execute a few motions consistency as a way of building confidence in the process and the tools.

Digital adoption software can be a big part of the answer because it applies across any of these six drivers. If you are you’re going to have a tech that people are going to interface with. You need to be able to measure what’s working. What’s not. And if you’re going to change out a process or change out a tool, the way to drive this is to catch people in the real time of what they’re doing and make sure they’re using that tool to the best of its capabilities.

You can learn more about ways to improve adoption and utilization of your sales by reading our new book Revenue Operations – a New Way to Align Sales and Marketing, Monetize Data, and Ignite Growth.

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