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When you think about your annual sales planning process, where does sales tech come into play? It’s most likely towards the tail end of the process, when you have your CRM admin update your CRM with the new fiscal year territory and account assignments. Or it might be part of your budgeting exercise with finance and IT. In most cases, when it comes to planning for sales tech, it tends to be in a reactive manner.
Sales organizations continue to experience sales tech adoption challenges, including CRM adoption, yet we continue to manage sales tech as an afterthought.
It’s no wonder that according to Korn Ferry Research 78% of respondents indicated that their sales tech stack doesn’t address their selling challenges!
Let’s take a look at why you want to be more proactive when planning for sales tech and what you can do to get there.
First, some clarification on the reference to sales tech being an “afterthought.” There’s a difference between being an afterthought and planning after something else.
When sales tech is an afterthought, you’re planning for it reactively — most commonly in response to someone’s need or a significant organizational challenge that requires you to do something that wasn’t planned for. If it’s not planned for, you’re simply reacting after the fact.
In contrast, when you plan for sales tech after you’ve defined your go-to-market strategies or after you’ve established your sales process, you’re able to better align your sales tech decisions to your sales strategy and processes.
Rather than being a parallel (yet often separate) annual budgeting exercise with finance and IT, sales tech planning needs to be a component of your overall sales planning process. It should be one of the key outputs during the latter half of your process, after you’ve defined your go-to-market strategies.
Here are three things that you can do now to be more proactive and prepared to include sales tech planning as part of your annual planning discussions.
The first step is to be aware of what you know and what you don’t know. While it’s important to know where you’re headed, it’s just as important to know where you are today (i.e., your current state). Start with an inventory of your sales tech. You also should inventory the business processes that your sales tech supports.
Take your CRM, for example. If you have one in place, what business processes does it support? Asked another way, in what business processes do you reference your CRM or data extracted from your CRM? Account and contact engagement, marketing campaigns, opportunity planning, forecast reviews and contract reviews are a few examples. Knowing when and how you’re using your current sales tech will help you identify the business processes it touches. Knowing where you are now is critical to determining what it will take to get to the future state.
Yes, you read that right: gather feedback from your sales team. The intent is not to end up creating a wish list of all the cool sales tech they want; rather, the intent is to find out what your sales team’s experience is — inclusive of sales tech or not. Find out what’s working as well as areas that could be improved — with a focus on productivity. Their productivity challenges will differ depending on their sales role. So, first, make sure you’re clear on what their expected role scope is. Then, within that context, find out how productive they are (or aren’t). There may be some pearls of wisdom in their feedback.
You shouldn’t look at sales tech in a siloed manner. What sales does, including processes and technologies, affects other functions, especially marketing and customer success. We most commonly look at marketing as “upstream” or an “input” into the sales realm, with customer success as “downstream” or an “output” from sales.
But these days, it’s more common for customers (prospects and clients) to engage in a more nonlinear and nonsequential manner. They may engage any of the three listed functions at any time. Therefore, ensuring alignment across people, process and technology as well as messaging is crucial.
Reach out to marketing and customer success proactively. Share your sales tech plan with them, and ask them to share their plans with you. You might find that their plans are connected to yours. And if you collaborate with IT to manage your sales tech planning, make sure your IT business partners are part of those discussions as well.
If you’re thinking this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. Being proactive requires time, effort and planning. It may feel like it’s easier to manage on an ad-hoc basis, but when was the last time being ad hoc was easy? When you’re reactive, you end up spending more time and effort on things that were not planned.
Make it a point to reprioritize what you’re doing and make time to take the steps necessary to be more proactive about your sales tech planning. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you’re including sales tech as part of your annual planning because you’re ready to discuss what needs to be discussed—proactively, not reactively.
For further information about pairing selling technology with methodology, contact us here.