Embracing Technology in Sales – Why Now?

Recently, we’ve written a lot about how technology companies are transforming the way we sell. It’s pretty clear that big changes in sales have already been set in motion, and that’s exciting. The big question is Why Now?

What makes now the perfect time for sales teams to embrace and adopt new technologies, developers to build them, and VCs to invest in them? Why are orgs investing in sales more than ever before? Why is now the time to build for salespeople?

There are many different opinions on why now is the right time. I personally believe it starts with data. Data has never been this inexpensive and more easily uncovered then in previous years. To the modern Sales Hacker, this data is a salesperson’s best friend.

I found this topic so interesting that I asked our LinkedIn Sales Hacker Community about it and here are some of our favorite points. Feel free to Join the Community and Add Your Opinion.

Gary Swart, VC & Partner at Polaris Partners believes it’s a shift in how buyers buy:

“It could be a combination of the economy and the change of how customers buy, combined with the talent war for good sales resources.

I believe that prospects are harder to reach these days and traditional sales techniques are not working like they used to. Customers are inundated with “solutions” and it is also harder to find sales talent with the skills for prospecting and developing needs.

Good products are bought not sold and companies cannot afford to have a sales force that is not selling. With this in mind, companies are looking for leverage from technology to identify both interested and qualified prospects much earlier in the process and to increase the capability of their sales teams.”

Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft considers this the perfect storm:

“- Products are getting cheaper to sell and don’t require such extensive sales cycles (yielding higher efficiency opportunities).

- The buyer is more heavily online meaning sales tools can be used more effectively to motivate them. They are in their inbox and on social.

- Sales pro millennials are more talented with tech allowing them to push the industry forward.

- Sales leadership is starting to realize there is a better way than air travel, golf trips, and wining and dining.

- The browser itself has become more valuable and social media has opened up a sea of information on our prospect communities.

This is all happening at the same time. It’s created the powerful inside sales industry and now the specialized sales development industry.

But that’s not enough to serve this market successfully.

Vendors must have the right level of empathy for the sellers they serve. When they blend this with world-class engineering, and strong core values, they can experience huge upside helping this emerging sales world do more faster with the best technologies in the world.”

Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach.io brings to light two different seismic shifts:

“Sales productivity is starting to decrease. A study by Accenture and CSO insights called ‘Powering Profitable Sales Growth—Five Imperatives’ found that ‘just six in 10 (59%) sales representatives are expected to achieve his/her quota, down from 67% in 2013.’ Concluding that whatever gains were had from moving to an on-line CRM are now hitting a ceiling and a void in productivity has been created that Sales Automation tools will need to fill in. The study goes as far as recommending sales teams to go out there and try a bunch of new tools! As these findings become internalized and more commonplace, the expectation is that sales teams will become more receptive to adopting sales automation tools.

- New technologies + cheap processing power = sales acceleration magic. New technologies that were conceived less than 10 years ago are now just hitting the market in commercial form (Nosql, hadoop, mahout, etc.) and developers are starting to marry these techs with increasingly cheaper processing power to create sales acceleration magic. Tricks like RelatIQ or Outreach interpreting email to figure out next steps for a prospect or Connectifier’s identity assignment to figure out a person’s correct email or twitter account were a lot harder to do a few years ago. They are quickly becoming table stakes (PersistIQ is doing, etc) and will become part of the day-to-day sales process in 5 years.

As the business void created by the former conflates with the solutions created by the latter a new wave in sales efficiencies will hit the market and in the process make everyone’s life better.”

John Barrows compares it to the recent shift in the Marketing industry:

“To add a piece to this puzzle I think we need to take a look at what happened with Marketing over the past 5 years. Marketing used to be more artistically focused and has now become completely science oriented which has been able to drive consistent, measurable results and taken the entire industry to a completely new level. There was an article that came out recently titled ‘IDC Predicts CMOs Will Drive $32.3B In Marketing Technology Spending By 2018.’ Companies and tools that focused on the science of Marketing were rewarded heavily over the past few years with huge evaluations, IPOs and big acquisitions.

Sales historically has been seen or thought of as an art form (you either have it or you don’t), which is why there are very few colleges where you can get your degree in Sales. Now with all the technology and tools out there, coupled with the obvious benefit the scientific approach provided to Marketing, Sales has become the focus since it is actually a much larger market at the end of the day. Not only are there more people in Sales than Marketing but Sales focuses on all aspects of the sales process (open to close) where Marketing tends to mainly focus on the front end. This is why there is so much more opportunity for sales tools to make an impact.

The interesting thing to watch in my opinion is how may of these tools are aiming to help Sales reps sell more effectively versus automating the process and taking the Sales rep out of the equation entirely. With the amount of Sales and Marketing tools out there I think the average sales professional is going to die a painful death in the next few years. The only ones who are going to survive are the ones who learn how to use the tools to put themselves in a better position to add value. The ones who continue to send out template e-mails and make generic calls will either be replaced or become salaried with no commissions.”

Ryan Buckley, COO of Scripted blames the sinking costs on software development and easy access to accurate data:

“My opinion is the access to and proliferation of consumer data is the key to the “why now?” question. Sales and technology met a long time ago, but it’s only been in the last few years that data was added to the equation. As software development costs have fallen, so too, but much more quietly, has the cost of high quality data.

“Sales hacking” is where the two meet in a sales context. In other words, sales tech + consumer data => sales hacking. Just a few years ago it wasn’t possible to match things like titles, interests, and age to an email address without expensive contracts with major data providers. Today anyone with a credit card can sign up for a service that provides this info for less than $100/mo.

This access opens the floodgates both for companies to develop internal or external products that solve real sales funnel problems. As John and Kyle said, the net effect is more efficient sales and competition among reps to the most sales in the least amount of time. It’s an exciting time to be in it.”

Eric Bohren, VP of Business Development at Conversica sees artificial intelligence playing a big role:

“What I see, particularly in high tech B2B sales, is the emergence of a Sales technology stack that did not exist a few years ago (referring to Max’s post from last week). After having Marketing dominate the selection and use of technology for sales, I am seeing Sales take ownership of its own stack.

For conversion of leads into opportunities, one major shift has been the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to engage in natural 2-way email conversations with prospects to identify those that are ready to speak to a sales rep. This has been enabled by the speed and accuracy of natural language processing to understand responses from the prospects. I am also seeing AI in mobile marketing, customer support, underscoring how this breakthrough is replacing human-driven activities in multiple use cases.”

I think there are many different answers here, and I’m excited to see what people can come up with. The good news is, our time is here and our time is now. What’s still uncertain is why, and how long will it last for?

Check Out the Other Answers in the Group and Feel Free to Join the Conversation

We’ll be turning the best discussions into articles to share on SalesHacker.com. It’s the best way to make your voice heard and build a personal brand in the space. So please Join Us!

*This discussion was inspired by a conversation I recently had with Jay Weintraub of Grow.co. Thanks Jay!

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