Technology is constantly evolving and is crucial in running a business efficiently and competitively. Here are a few of the ways in which technology has helped to streamline the sales process in many organisations; helping them to drive productivity, profitability, and competitive advantage.
Big Data – using numbers to manage and plan for the future
In today’s sales environment, competitive advantage depends largely on successfully capturing, managing and analysing huge amounts of customer data that contains insights such as customer behaviours and buying habits. Using data analytics tools, sales teams now have clearer direction through identifying, managing and predicting with prospective customers and leads are likely to become clients, which give sales teams clearer direction. They also give organisations knowledge on who to target and more importantly which buyers are most likely to respond to different messages or offers.
Sales Force Automation Systems (SFA) – freeing up time to actually speak to people
Selling requires a number of tedious, time-consuming and repetitive tasks, such as scheduling sales appointments and sending follow-up emails. It is estimated that sales reps spend around one-third of their time on actual selling activities while the rest is dedicated to office/paperwork. SFA technology solutions automate these tasks, freeing up sales employees to focus on activities that generate more sales. Additionally, it allows managers to have instant access to activities, sales figures and the prospective contacts of separate sales employees to determine individual and team success. This extensive up-to-date knowledge means that managers can take immediate action or adjustments to optimise sales revenue.
Cloud-based CRM Technology - recording and accessing real-time client information
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are impressive tools that allow a holistic view of the customer relationship by integrating marketing, sales and customer support. Being stored in the cloud means information can be accessed directly from anywhere and at any time. It allows salespeople to get fast and accurate insights on customer behaviour and how best to target them. Thanks to the cloud, organisations are now able to invest in software packages that integrate SFA and CRM into a single, cost-effective solution.
This wealth of information allows salespeople to effortlessly engage with more customers, more frequently and with more accuracy. Simple features such as automatic reminders of customers' milestones, such as birthdays, like birthdays can help keep you front of mind.
Social Media Platforms – social selling is becoming more important
The explosion of social media in the past decade has given rise to many platforms for attracting and engaging with prospecting customers; a vital step in guiding a customer to and through the sales funnel. Social engagement makes it possible to connect with millions of people, who are already interested in your products and services across the globe in one single message.
Because of this, customers are becoming smarter and information is not only easier to find, but available in greater detail than ever before. Customers can research products, prices, and opinions allowing for conversations, recommendations and reviews to take place on social media. This wealth of shared knowledge has become increasingly important during a customer’s product research, with product feedback being more accessible than ever. Although with potential limitations, customer feedback can also help businesses refine and shape their marketing messages and sales tactics to ensure greater success in the future.
Studies suggest that 78% of sales professionals who use social media consistently outsell their peers who don’t (Forbes, 2013). Additionally, organisations following customers' digital footprints online can better target potential customers at just the right point in the decision-making process.
Mobile technology – the use of mobile is more important than ever
The wide-spread use of mobile devices, not only smartphones, but also tablets and e-readers has impacted many aspects of the selling process.
There's a great opportunity to gain competitive advantage through combining cloud-based CRM with data tracking. Employees have easy, immediate and remote access to critical customer and opportunity data. Mobile technology not only gives salespeople instant access to product specs and other important documents, but mobile communication also enables field employees to update and edit customer and prospect information in real-time rather than waiting until they return to the office.
Organisations have learnt to fully capitalise on the power of mobile by adopting ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) practices. This eliminates the substantial costs associated with purchasing personal mobile devices for sales teams and means individual salespeople are already comfortable with their own devices to easily access resources, facilitating effective collaboration with colleagues and customers.
Virtual Reality – is VR the future?
VR technology has exploded in the last few years and has now presented the opportunity to offer salespeople virtual content for training and coaching. This technology can enable sales managers to train salespeople more often, especially those that work remotely. Additionally, certain innovations can allow salespeople to practise upcoming sales pitches through simulated virtual conversations. With more development VR technology may even be capable of providing feedback ensuring prospects receive an exceptional sales experience.
Two-dimensional content is old news now that buyers are able to virtually engage with content, products and ideas. Salespeople can now sell a story that prospects can not only hear but could also see, through virtual simulations which evoke powerful emotions. Animation 1 (2015) reported this to be a much more immersive experience that has been proven to accelerate the sales cycle as buyers have been found to be personally attached to the offering within the first thirty seconds.
What does the future hold?
Looking ahead, only organisations that fully utilise the abundance of opportunities that modern technology presents, will remain profitable and competitive.
As we progress further into the digital age, we need to recognise the universal effect that technology is having on our businesses to ensure we're not left behind. The capabilities of technology will continue constantly improving, the key to keeping up is the willingness to improve with it.
Fidelman, M. (2013). Forbes. Study: 78% Of Salespeople Using Social Media Outsell Their Peers.
Martin, S. (2013). The Harvard Business Review. The trend that is changing sales.
Animation1. (2015). 4 ways Augmented Reality can turn real estate sales into gold.