Use Technology to Mobilize Your Sales Force (Without Overwhelming Anyone)

The biggest challenge is getting salespeople to adapt to new technologies and finding tools that tackle tedious tasks and make time for more deals. Where there’s WiFi, there’s a way to capture and input data, and communicate with clients professionally and personally.

January 10 2012 by John Hand


Mobility, intuitive cloud-based tools, iPads, iPhones, and social media have forever transformed the sales ecosystem. Salespeople are no longer chained to a desk, and managers and executives say integrated technology makes selling more efficient. The biggest challenge is getting salespeople to adapt to new technologies and finding tools that tackle tedious tasks and make time for more deals. Where there’s WiFi, there’s a way to capture and input data, and communicate with clients professionally and personally. But salespeople want tools that eliminate the burden of re-entering the same information. Most sales managers believe that a deal is owned by both the client and the salesperson, but there’s mixed opinion when it comes to monitoring employees, though most see it as accountability. Today’s salespeople spend so much time on social media or other tools that reveal their whereabouts anyway. At the end of the day, it’s all about selling and choosing the best tools to help, not hinder, the process.

Finding the most effective, intuitive technology and encouraging your salesforce to use it was the top concern among sales managers and executives who spoke with the MobilePro team at Salesforce Cloudforce New York 2011 on Nov. 30. “Most important is making sure the sales guys can sell,” said Rob Rose, Principal at Deloitte Consulting. “Our studies show 30 percent to 50 percent of time is spent on non-productive activities, and that’s a disaster,” he said. Nearly all executives our team spoke with mentioned the iPad, iPhone and apps as the best biggest advancements in sales. The last thing a salesperson wants is another gadget to haul around. Tools that work on the iPad make it easier for those who don’t want to waste time learning how to navigate a new format.

Alex Correa, sales operations specialist at AppNexus, is most concerned with “making sure (salespeople) use tools without being overwhelmed.” “I would like them to have more technology because we want them to spend more time selling,” he said. The challenge for Ryan Dodds, account executive at Assistly, is “not having enough technology without using too much technology.” Technology that helps your sales team “keep customers as successful and happy as possible, and maintain ongoing relationships,” is paramount for James C. Brzusek, Regional Sales Director for Workday. “The challenge is enabling them on the new technology,” said Ron Papas, General Manager of Informatica’s On Demand Business Unit. “Salespeople don’t change, they know how to optimize time.” Ron Urbanski, Account Executive for Dell Bomi, said it’s about “capturing the right information and not getting too much information.”

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff noted in his keynote that “we’ve been born cloud at Salesforce.com, but we’ve been reborn social.” Urbanski noted how Twitter is essentially replacing email. Kimberly M. Mendonca, management consultant at Accenture, said “the biggest advantage (of social media) is the ability to reach into customers’ (lives) beyond the 9-to-5 perspective, look at their habits outside work and relate to how they live outside of work.” Rose noted it’s critical to “merge social media with intuitive capabilities.” He said you can “Tweet to lead; Tweet to opportunity. You need to be proactive, listen to social media so you know what the problems are and can prevent them before you meet the client.”

Social media can also help employers monitor their employees. It has become more controversial and prevalent as technology provides more cost-effective and simple ways to track workers. The 2007 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey from American Management Association found that 83 percent of employers inform workers that they are monitoring content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard; 84 percent let employees know the company reviews computer activity; and 71 percent alert employees to email monitoring. More than 82 percent of companies use social media to find out information about their competitors, according to a 2010 Forrester Research survey of more than 150 companies.

When asked if monitoring is spying, Urbanski declared “No!” Mendonca agreed. “There certainly need to be limits on peoples’ privacy,” she said. “The trick to inheriting data is to manage integrity.” Correa justified it, saying “managers need to know what’s going on.” Brzusek and Doug Heckman, Account Executive at Bluewolf, say it’s OK. “If you work for a company, you have loyalty to that company,” said Heckman. Papas said it “depends on company culture,” while Dodds noted “there are boundaries that management has to keep.”

Social media and technology compels employees to work more, as it’s easier to close a deal with the right tools. The need for speedy data collection and client response is paramount. “Customers expect immediate response,” said Papas. “If you don’t get back to them immediately, they’re gone.” Urbanski said the key is “finding the right amount of information you need without burden.”