From managing existing customers to sales consulting and social selling, the use of technology within sales organisations has an important function. Indeed, in the 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, CSO Insights identified technology as being one of the keys to a successful sales enablement strategy.
Yet, while technology can be of great value to businesses, it is vital that companies to not rely too heavily on it and neglect other, more traditional sales strategies and methods. In actual fact, when sales organisations over-utilise technology or rely on it too heavily, it can have a detrimental effect on their overall business results.
Technology and Sales Results
In the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Study, one of the most noticeable trends highlighted was a decline in the number of salespeople attaining quota in recent times. Between 2012 and 2015, the percentage achieving quota fell from 63 percent to 57.1 percent, with a decline in the number every single year.
Meanwhile, in roughly the same time period, there has been a considerable switch away from traditional face-to-face sales, towards telephone and internet-based methods. According to the Harvard Business Review, between 2011 and 2013, 46 percent of sales vice presidents reported a shift away from a traditional field sales approach, towards an inside sales model. By comparison, just 21 percent of VPs reported a shift in the other direction.
These two pieces of research neatly highlight two current trends within the sales world. Businesses are increasingly relying on technology for sales prospecting, sales consulting and sales negotiations, while at the same time, the number of salespeople making quota is slowly but steadily declining year on year. Of course there are other factors impacting sales results such as increasingly savy buyers and a more competitive global landscape. However, it is also important to look at technology and understand its effects on sales effectiveness to strike the right balance.
The Appeal of Inside Sales
One thing that needs to be understood is that the increased adoption of inside sales techniques in place of more traditional face-to-face sales meetings is not happening on a whim. On the contrary, inside sales methods appeal to so many organisations because they offer numerous tangible benefits.
The aforementioned research from the HBR found that 84 percent of VPs believe inside sales models make onboarding easier, while 78 percent cited increased call activity and selling volume as plus points. Furthermore, 60 percent stated their transition towards inside sales was led by new technological advances.
“The latest sales software arms sales professionals with the ability to contact and nurture leads in bulk,” says Steli Efti, writing for the Close.io blog. “The development of CRM software with integrated calling has been a game changer… Sales reps never have to worry about missing an opportunity or struggling to make an awkward transfer.”
Efti’s blog post also makes reference to research from Demand Gen on the average cost of a B2B sales call, comparing outside and inside sales methods. The study found that outside B2B sales calls cost somewhere in the region of $215 to $400, while inside sales calls can cost as little as $25.
Moreover, additional advantages include a superior ability to track sales calls and the fact that inside sales is more in line with modern consumer trends, such as the rise of online shopping and mobile commerce.
Finding the Perfect Balance
What this clearly shows is that the implementation of new technology and the shift towards inside sales both offer numerous advantages to sales organisations. However, it cannot be ignored that at the same time this shift has occurred, overall sales results within organisations have been on the decline.
One of the interesting things to emerge from the HBR research was the fact that most sales leaders are of the opinion that outside sales staff have superior sales skills to inside sales staff. One possible conclusion to draw from this is that inside sales organisations rely on technology too much, at the expense of developing sales skills.
CSO Insights’ 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Study highlights an important correlation between the declining performance of sales reps in achieving quota, and the declining performance of businesses in revenue plan attainment. This makes it abundantly clear that sales reps directly impact upon company performance.
In order to reverse this trend, it is important for sales companies to strike the right balance. While new technology does offer many advantages and inside sales models can be of great benefit, businesses need to think of technology as the ‘enabler’ rather than the end solution. Alongside the use of new technology, traditional face-to-face meetings still have a huge part to play and it remains important to invest in high-quality training to develop the core sales skills of your teams.
Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global customer experience and sales training company. It specialises in providing exceptional sales training courses to provide organisations with sales ready solutions for their employees. She enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts to develop better sales and customer service skills in sales people.