Sales Enablement Tools: Back to the Future

Sales Enablement Tools: Back to the FutureIn the days of early moving picture shows, there were gaps between what was on the screen and what was on the street. On the screen, people and their environments were black and white. Even more disconcerting, when they talked, there was no chatter. There was only the lively piano accompaniment and occasional title shots of written dialog to let us know what all the gesturing was about.

In the 1920’s, sound recording technology advanced and it became possible to record a soundtrack and sync it with the film. Talkies were born! And within a very short time, silent film was obsolete and referred to as the “old medium.” Talkies were the disruptive technology that made silent film an outmoded form of entertainment. Film studios that didn’t adapt were out of business.

Disruptive Sales Enablement Shift

We’re witnessing another disruptive shift today, and it falls under the general label of sales enablement. Far more than just the tweaking of a sales program, sales enablement is a broad corporate strategic approach to increase sales. by drawing on resources and knowledge in multiple departments to support sellers and other client-facing employees at every level of the process.

The “old medium” equivalent are sales and marketing departments that don’t talk to each other; paper brochures and verbal descriptions of intricate, hands-on processes; and valuable sales call tips buried in elearning programs or training materials in a binder somewhere. And just as talkies added a new, essential level of communication to the old medium, a sales enablement strategy is rooted in higher-level communication between key departments, in front of the client, and “as needed” access to materials by the sales rep.

In addition to increased communication between key stakeholders, new tools are increasing the effectiveness of the sales force. While new technologies can drive value for the organization, some see these high-tech tools as an obstacle to traditional methods of sales. If management doesn’t have a well-planned strategy for technology adoption, they may just pass it out without measurement or relevance. These are critical questions to answer before adopting a new tool:

  • Who are the users?
  • What’s the context where they’ll be using the tool?
  • How will it help them to become more efficient and effective?

A thoughtfully-designed tool will help sales to seamlessly improve performance.

But what’s the point, if traditional sales methods have worked in the past? Why disrupt the current process and invest in new technology if we already know how to do what we’re doing?

Well, I think we’d all agree that there are gaps between desired and actual performance. Are marketing materials used the way they were designed? Are they even used at all, or do they get stuck in a corner of the rep’s trunk and forgotten? (A recent study showed that 65% of reps can’t find content to send to clients. A frightening statistic, but it rings true, doesn’t it?) What about sales performance? Do the reps have all the assets they need in the moment to close the sale?

And what if the traditional methods are working well, there are no gaps, the sales force is closing sales left and right—but we’re still showing silent films while our competitor down the street has switched to talkies.

A Growing Industry

The reality is that the industry is moving on, and it’s necessary to adopt sales tools that will help us move with it. An important part of this strategy is incorporating mobile device applications into the sales process. Let’s look at medical device as an example.

Medical device companies are getting squeezed from multiple areas: they have a new tax on their bottom line, the industry is becoming even more competitive, and they have a need to differentiate. Sales reps using iPads have an instant uptick in credibility, but the tablet is not enough—the apps need to create a better customer experience. In the medical device arena, sales reps have 2 to 5 minutes to make an impression. Apps have the potential for quality visuals that create a high-value experience for the customer. But that value only comes from carefully-crafted apps that provide immediate value before, during, and after the sales call.

What does that look like? Maybe a better question is who rather than what. Having the right people at the table is critical. The key players come from sales, marketing, training, and IT, with the blessing of senior management. While they have different functions and focus, they have a shared purpose to move sales forward by equipping the sales force with the skills and tools to support success. (A word of caution: IT departments typically don’t have the skill-set to produce a high-quality sales performance app. But they will need to be actively involved with the mobile app developer to resolve technical and security issues).

What could this collaboration produce? Here are a few ideas for content in a sales enablement app based on that traditional sales approach:

  • Account Strategy: training in account strategy considerations and process; ability to create and track plans.
  • Relationship Building: tools in imbedded CRM for recording notes, including personal information, concerns, questions, call reminders, etc.
  • Product Knowledge: product library; objection handling; review; flash cards; quizzes; product comparison information
  • Message Delivery: access internal training examples, videos, and relevant product or service information for review immediately before a call; access client-facing multimedia, product comparison charts, clinical information during a call; immediate email capability from within app to send studies, electronic brochures, and other sales collateral at the moment it is requested
  • Probing: results stored on CRM; “suggestions for probing” section on app
  • Closing: before-call access to closing techniques and video examples; electronic contracts with digital signature capability
  • Follow through: checklists; immediate access to information to email to client; ability to set reminders

The overall advantage to a sales performance app is the instant access to small relevant chunks of information, in the car before a call to review client information and access exactly what will meet their needs; during the call to use high-quality multimedia and relevant information to engage interest and resolve concerns; and after the call to update the CRM and follow through on requests or promises.

Mobile apps will become a necessary tool of the “new medium” because they deliver high value to the sales rep at every step of the sales process. As sales, marketing, training and IT bring their expertise together at the same point of design, apps become an important part of a collaborative sales enablement strategy to move every sale forward.

Meghan Decker

Meghan Decker

Meghan Decker holds a BA and MA from Brigham Young University where she taught analytical writing. Meghan a communication consultant, presentation skills coach, and freelance writer who covers topics ranging from sales enablement to mobile app development. Meghan works with clients to help them find their voice and design, develop, and deliver outstanding presentations.
Meghan Decker

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