Change is a powerful force that brings with it both anticipation and angst. Technology is delivering both to the sales profession and its impact has been extensive, some would argue revolutionary.
My focus in this post is on Business-to-Business sales, though many of these apply to the consumer sales arena as well. Consider some of the changes that have occurred as a result of technology and tools:
Old Rule: It was not too many years ago that one of the key activities of a sales rep was the annual process of requesting a copy of each prospects printed Annual Report. Once they arrived, they would be picked through, looking for keys to the initiatives for the coming year and what areas were to be focused on by the leadership team, along with the financial performance over the past year. It was an annual event, and some would actually request the quarterly reports if they were available from the company.
New Tools: Instant availability of everything imaginable about each prospect. Annual Reports, quarterly financials and much more is available as they occur, delivered instantly to your email. Personnel moves, new hires, competitive positioning and executive presentations are all available to review. LinkedIn, InsideView, SalesLoft and many other sales tools are available for 24 hour monitoring of everything your customers and prospects are doing, and alerting you to these changes the moment they occur.
Old Rule: Do you remember the dance with the gatekeeper? The person whose responsibility it was to keep you from connecting with the decision maker(s). Successfully navigating through or around the gatekeeper could sometimes takes weeks or even months, and was more of an art than a science.
New Tools: Getting a direct phone number and email is now only a speed bump at best. In many cases, the decision maker provides their preferred contact methods for all to see in their LinkedIn profile. Rapportive, ZoomInfo and other tools will provide the phone number, email address, title and more on pretty much anyone in business in the US. Add in social tools like Twitter to follow and connect with your prospects and the hurdles and delays of the Gatekeeper are distant memories.
Preparing Quotes and Proposals
Old Rule: Gather the troops and burn the midnight oil was often the requirement when preparing a proposal for a new prospect. Getting the newest company information, spec sheets, pricing and deliverability schedules required a team of people including executives, marketing, product management, finance and the manufacturing team. Just getting them together to understand the requirement was a daunting task. Then the actual writing of the proposal – if you were lucky you had a Microsoft Word guru available to help with the layout, index, footnotes and overall page layout. If not, the miracle of cut and paste from previous proposals and presentations would be your best bet. And then, after you deliver the proposal, you would notice that you forgot to change the company name or location from that of the one you copied from. Don’t forget the typos.
New Tools: The team approach is still a good one but with tools like Quote Roller to prepare your proposals and quotes, you can do it all online, in a collaborative manner, and create a ‘master’ or ‘source’ document that has links to each departments current, critical data. Once the templates are complete, creating a proposal is a matter of point and click importing of the information necessary for each section of your proposal. The result is a document that is current, looks great and contains the current, freshest information available, representing the best efforts of every part of the company. It can even be delivered electronically and progress tracked right in your Base CRM.
Contracts and Document Signatures
Old Rule: This was always the time for sweaty palms and nervous questioning from the sales manager. “When will we get the contract signed?” The anxiety, and the accompanying time delays if there were multiple signatures and approval required has killed many a quarterly bonus. Who has the contract, what stage is it in, and when will we get it back were constant questions that were difficult to answer.
New Tools: Compare that to today, when tools like DocuSign can deliver a contract to your customer electronically and accept digital signatures, routing it to multiple people along the way for their approval and finally back to you without a hitch. Better yet, you always know who has it, who has signed it, and where the reminder call should go to keep it moving along in the process. No more waiting for the proverbial “contract in the mail”.
I haven’t even touched on two core areas of sales – CRM and Mobile. Each deserves more attention in a future post.
These are just a few of the new tools for old rules in sales. These old rules are still in play, but if you are not embracing the new technology and tools, you are working way too hard and not achieving the success you could have.
Can you think of any other old rules vs. new tools? Share them in the comments section below.