We recently had the chance to sit down and chat with sales thought leader and founder of Smart Selling Tools Nancy Nardin. As we talked, Nancy shared her opinions around CRM versus sales productivity tools, how to choose the right sales technology for your business and more.
Q: Tell us a little bit about what you do at Smart Selling Tools.
A: We provide free resources for sales, sales operations and sales enablement practitioners to learn about technology that can really have an impact on their revenue growth. We do that because there’s so much going on in the sales industry, and it’s hard for everyone to stay up to date, understand where the technologies fit and know what works for their organizations. We also work with both practitioners and vendors by providing consulting around the best technology paths and what the market is looking for.
Q: The term CRM is often misused as a catch-all for sales tools. Can you define that term for us and talk a little bit about how sales force automation is actually something completely different?
A: To this day many companies still don’t realize that CRM can’t do everything. They think CRM is all they need and the reason why it can’t do everything is because they aren’t using it to its full potential. However, that’s not my view. CRM is absolutely critical, but it’s not all you need. CRM is like having the framework of a house – you need that, but it’s not all you need. It’s good you have plumbing to the kitchen, but you still need a sink, a stove, a fridge, etc.
You want to have that CRM platform and then you also want to be able to augment that system of record with specific tools that help improve sales productivity. I don’t consider CRM to be a sales productivity tool. It’s something that is needed so that there is a place for all activity to sync to, so that you have the data that you need. But it’s not a productivity tool.
Q: There are so many sales tools out there. What are some of your tips and best practices to really make sure that you’re being smart about the sales tools that you bring on board?
A: I would recommend two things. First, understand what is keeping you from growing revenue. If I step back and think, “How can I really transform my sales org and elevate their performance?” what we’re really looking to do is sell more in less time. How do we do that? What’s getting in our way?
One example of a place to start is that we know 35% of a sales person’s time is spent interacting with customers in some form. So what are they doing the other 65% of the time? What activities could we be eliminating or assigning to others to save time? Those are the inflection points we should look at to determine how we can sell more in less time.
Step two is to take a look at your org structure, because most companies are not set up in a way to support this goal of transforming sales. If you think about it, we have sales management, and they have their own traditional roles and responsibilities. Then you have sales ops, which does reporting, administrative tasks, etc. Then you have sales enablement, which does training and certification. But there is no one who is mandated and responsible for how to use technology as a strategic differentiator, and that really has to change.
Because of this, we end up being reactive and going to conferences or taking a phone call one day and stumbling upon random technologies and then going down these paths. I really encourage people to not be reactive like this. What you really want to do is systematically look at what your first level of priority should be, and select solutions that support these goals. We actually have a framework that can help with this exercise, which we call the Revenue Hierarchy.
Q: AI is sort of the shiny new object in sales technology. How do you see AI changing the sales landscape as we know it?
A: AI has huge potential. It’s not there yet, but we’re getting there. People are starting to tune into AI. There is still some skepticism because it kind of seems a little bit like black magic. Reps aren’t sure you can tell them more with AI than they already instinctively know, but that’s not true. AI isn’t perfected yet but once it is it can transform the industry. Because we really aren’t doing much to automate sales. CRM doesn’t automate a lot; it gives you a platform to keep track of things, but it’s not really automating a lot. And that’s where AI can really come in.
For more information around how next-generation sales leaders like Nancy are managing sales processes, pipelines and performance, check out The 2017 Guide for Next-Generation Sales Leaders.