Anthony Iannarino | The Sales Blog

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How to Think About Technology in Sales

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The Gist:

  • We live in a day and age in which technology is eating the world.
  • Technology has allowed us to make our work and lives easier in many ways.
  • Technology, however, is not a replacement for human beings when it comes to creating and winning deals in sales.

Those who study the effectiveness of technology in warfare have suggested that “technology” is a poor predictor of victory (above the level of the individual), and they love their technology. What then do we make of the fact that the military doesn’t view technology as a predictor of victory while still spending enormous amounts of money on technology?

The First Factor

In organizations where people are highly skilled, you will notice that they invest their time and energy, and resources in building mastery, mainly the fundamentals. They do this by providing people with the experiences they need to gain competency over time. In short, they prioritize the development of individuals and teams.

Organizations that believe that human beings are the key to their success recognize that the people wandering their halls are the organization. If you want a better company and better results, you invest in building the individuals that make that outcome a reality.

To believe this is true, all one needs to do is look at how hard Google works to acquire the talent they think they need to reach their incredibly lofty goals. They believe that “the people they hire” is the first factor when it comes to success. Or, if you’re not convinced, start with Jim Collins well-researched book, From Good to Great, which suggests the first thing one must do to travel the terrain Collins outlines is to “get the right people on the bus,” to which I would add, “and help those on the bus to grow and develop.”

The Second Factor

In an increasingly complex world, human beings must make good decisions. In business, there are potentially devastating consequences for bad decisions. People charged with producing results must have the knowledge, experience, and values to make those decisions.

Technology provides the data and information necessary to make good decisions, even when the data is incomplete. Our technological tools are unaware that the information is incomplete, something that an individual recognizes by the gut feeling that something is missing and searching for it.

Every organization is a collection of individuals, all of whom make countless decisions every day. These decisions are what lead a company to success or causes them to struggle.

The Third Factor

Technology is not a strategy; it’s tools. When well considered and deployed, tools can help execute specific tasks. Your plan for creating and winning new deals has little to do with technology, even if you have an incredible sales stack.

Let’s assume your strategy is to create greater value than your competitors. To deliver that value, you charge your clients a higher price than they would pay any of your rivals. No matter what tools make up your sales stack, nothing your find there will replace the sales conversation that allows your prospective client to recognize the greater value you create and agree to pay a premium to acquire it.

Strategy is not the domain of technology, even when technology is as pervasive as it is now, and especially when it is mistakenly believed to be the strategy. To check your beliefs about whether this is true think back to the last spam call you received on your smartphone. The outcome the spammers pursued was the acquisition of a new client (or sucker, as the case may be) with as little effort and expense as possible.

Did the technology that automatically dials a phone number improve the value they created for you? Did you feel that the technology created the kind of value that would cause you to buy a new warranty for your automobile? Did the technology enable the outcome? Or did it just complete a simple task?

The Fourth Factor

What follows can be challenging to understand. But it’s critically important to your success in sales.

The value that your solution provides your client is only available to them after they decide to buy from you. That value is unavailable to your prospective client unless and until they buy whatever it is that you sell. The more time you spend pointing to the value that is unavailable to your client within the sales conversation, the less value you create.

The value you create in the sales conversation is only found in helping them make a good decision for their business. When you believe this is true, you recognize why technology is not a good predictor of victory in sales.

No technology provides the experience of a conversation with a person who is helping you to understand the decision you are making, recognizing all the factors you might need to consider, and ensuring you make the right decision, including the right decision for their business, the right solution for the outcomes they need, and the right partner to help them achieve their objectives.

You can’t replace the skills and competencies of a consultative salesperson trained and developed to create value in the sales conversation. However, you can provide them with technologies that help them do some of the tasks outside of the sales conversation.

Technology’s Role

Technology is important, even if it comes after the human beings that are infinitely more important. The more one recognizes the value and the areas where technology enables the consultative salesperson to do good work and where it is inadequate to your strategy and your objective, the more you allow good selling.

There are two approaches to technological solutions. The first is to replace human beings altogether, which results in automated prospecting by marketing who, while excellent at differentiating the company and their solutions, often lack the knowledge and experience to help with the sales conversation. The second approach enables the salesperson to be more efficient without trying to replace them.

Here is an example of the second approach: Robin Dunbar’s research suggests that one can only manage about one-hundred and fifty relationships. A good CRM can increase that number, especially if it reminds you to communicate and invest in certain relationships. The CRM may allow you to double or triple Dunbar’s number.

Here is another example: A good prospecting sequence allows the salesperson to communicate while providing them with the ability to control and customize their communication, preventing the “brute force” approach to prospecting by helping the salesperson know what action to take next.

As John Boyd stated: “People. Ideas. Technology. In that order.”

Do Good Work:

  • Spend more time working with salespeople than technology, and direct them to do the same.
  • Act on the idea that sales effectiveness is the conversation between the client and the salesperson.
  • Keep your priorities in the order Boyd suggested.

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