#7 – Sales Tools & Tech (STSF Core Components)

By David Masover

Hi, welcome to episode seven of The Sales Team Success Formula™

The first 10 episodes of the podcast are designed to be like an audiobook version of The Sales Team Success Formula™, but I didn’t actually write the book – I did these podcasts instead!

In other words, if you really want to take a deep dive into exactly what The Sales Team Success Formula™ is, how it works, what the pieces are, and what it’s going to do for you and your team, listen to episodes one through ten.

It’ll take you a couple of hours to get through all ten core content episodes just like an audiobook would, but by the time you’re done, you’re going to have all the details.

You can start with episode one that’s going to give you an overview of the formula and then decide if you want to listen to the rest. 

Here in episode seven, we’ll cover the kinds of tools and tech you need to help your sales team execute well and to help management get the data they need to keep on top of the team and each of the reps in it…

…but, we won’t cover ANY specific tools or pieces of tech!

Instead, we’ll focus on the mistakes most sales orgs make when choosing sales tools, and map out a strategy to set you up for success when approaching this critical and often intimidating question – what sales tools and tech are right for us?

And here is what you will find in the other episodes:

EPISODE 1:  Introducing The Sales Team Success Formula™

EPISODE 2:  Target Client Profiling

EPISODE 3:  Effective Sales Messaging

EPISODE 4:  The Four Level Sales Process™

EPISODE 5:  Personal Sales Plans

EPISODE 6:  KPIs & Metrics

EPISODE 7:  Sales Tools & Tech

EPISODE 8:  Call Reviews

EPISODE 9:  Deal Reviews & Pipeline Reviews

EPISODE 10:  Putting the Formula Into Action

Thanks for your interest in The Sales Team success Formula™ – and here’s to your success!

Transcription

Hi and thanks for being here for this episode of The Sales Team Success Formula podcast, I’m your host David Masover.

In the last episode, we took our first poke at the second corner of our triangle graphic – the one that represented the big pieces of The Sales Team Success Formula.

We moved from the first corner that represents “what reps do” which we explored in episodes two through five, and into the second corner of our triangle where we start taking those things we deeply understand about what reps do in the field and start applying them to management systems like KPIs, metrics, tech and tools.

In the last episode – episode six about KPIs and metrics – I gave a pretty long and impassioned speech about how you need to go deep into really knowing what the reps are doing before you can make good choices about KPIs and metrics, and the same concept applies to tools and tech which we’ll discuss in this episode – but I won’t hit you over the head with another full blown speech like that in this episode, so if you need a reminder please feel free to go back and listen, but I’m going to assume that you got that message and we can build from there – I hope that’s OK for you.

I will say this though – the very common and very flawed approach to tool selection – where choices are made based on assumptions, features and benefits of the tools presented in a vacuum, and without a deep enough understanding of the operational environment in which the tool will be applied – has roots in the same flaw that so many sales organizations make with respect to KPIs and metrics. This is not something new, and it’s something I’ve been talking and writing about for well over a decade. In fact…

There was a time not too long ago when CRM was pretty much the only sales tool that folks were consistently talking about, and back then I was known for pointing out this flawed thinking that came up in the form of one of the most common questions I got as a sales consultant.

“What’s the best CRM”

It’s a flawed question because you can’t know what tool will work best for you until you know what you need that tool to do, and asking which is the best tool without the context of those requirements is a recipe for failure – which is a good way to describe the legacy of CRM.

Now – in the modern sales era – there has been an absolute explosion of sales tools, and so many with powerful technology and huge promises – but the same flawed question and the same flawed approach are still prevalent.

In spite of the massive number of available tools, and in spite the urgency that many sales and company leaders seem to feel around getting the right “tech stack” this is going to be a pretty short episode.

Why?

Here’s the bottom line.

I have no idea what the best tools for you are.

What I do know is that if you have done the work described in this podcast, the work that makes up the core of The Sales Team Success Formula so far, you have established the right basis for making good decisions about tools and tech.

And that is much more valuable than any specific recommendation, anybody can make about any specific tools:

So instead of buying sales tools based on the promises of the vendors, buy them based on your deep understanding of what your salespeople actually do to generate new business.

The magic starts happening when you start asking how a tool might help with what your reps are actually doing in the field and how it fits with the things you and your team are actually working on.

Because if you use sales tools that don’t match the real work that salespeople do to get new business – which is a problem I see in so many sales organizations that go out and buy what’s popular or what some other company uses, or what looks great in the demo or what they think they should for some reason, or what they used at their last company, it’s going to be a source of friction and inefficiency.

On the other hand, if tools are purchased with deep and direct knowledge of what the salespeople really do every day and the tool is brought in to support that, and integrated well into that real work, you’ll have a much better time of it.

Your reps – like most people – will be happy to get help to do what they are already doing, so if you start with what salespeople really do, you are much more likely to choose the right tools.

But – if you choose tools that don’t match what the salespeople really do you’ll create nothing more than inefficiency and resentment.

Inefficiency because using the tool won’t help get the job done as elegantly as it otherwise might, and resentment because you reveal the extent to which you “don’t get it” – a very common perception of company leadership from the front lines, and often well deserved.

So I hope this doesn’t feel unsatisfying to you – that I won’t give you a specific set of tools to deploy – but I promise you, this is better.

What will serve you best with respect to tools and tech is a solid framework for the way to think about the criteria for a good tool based on a detailed understanding of the work your reps do to get new business that you co-created with them and the clarity you have about the metrics and KPIs you need to capture based on the work you did in the previous section.

In other words, proper tool selection and deployment will happen when you have a solid list of criteria for selection, and that is what will come from your sales process and the KPIs you want to keep track of.

Let me share a quick personal story about criteria lists to help make the point.

Many years ago my wife and I set out to buy a house. We had two young and growing children, and we had outgrown our home and needed to expand.

My wife – well, my ex wife now, is the kind of person who becomes very enthusiastic about beautiful things, including architecture and design – so we agreed that before we go out to see any houses we would make a list of criteria.

If memory serves me well, that list included things like:

  • A separate bedroom for each child
  • A separate room for a home office
  • A garden/yard accessible from the ground floor
  • No more than two levels/stories
  • Etc.

So with list in hand, we went out house hunting, and sure enough – my wife fell in love with a number of the houses that we saw – and sure enough, many of them were beautiful, but many of these beautiful houses didn’t meet our criteria list. So we enjoyed the beauty of the houses we saw, and then expeditiously removed many that we otherwise loved from our consideration set because they did not meet the criteria.

As humans, it seems very easy to chase after what we are attracted to, even if it doesn’t meet “the spec.” If you don’t have a solid spec when you go out to buy sales tools, brace yourself for frustration.

It’s a much, much better approach to build the spec – the criteria list – before you choose. You’ll be incredibly happy that you did!

If you don’t, you’ll fall into a very common trap.

Many sales teams buy sales tools based on the promise of what they can deliver without doing the work to establish A) their sales operational processes, B) the KPIs and metrics they want to extract from the tools, and C) a criteria list for what the tool need to deliver.

So they get the demo, see the sexy reports, the flashy analytics, the cool dashboard and go for it – only do be disappointed when they impose it on their sales teams even though it doesn’t fit or support the actual work the team really does in the field, which means that the tool won’t get used to it’s full potential – if at all – management won’t get the data they need, and it won’t meet the criteria that was never clearly defined for success.

So what kinds of questions should you be asking to help you make a criteria list for various tools? Now that’s the right place to start!

You want to ask yourself things like:

  • Based on OUR sales process, how can my reps keep track of the various elements of the sales process as they work through outreach, deal management, and client management where appropriate across a large number of opportunities, prospects, and clients? 
  • How will sales management get the data they need out of the system – which should have been established when you did the work on KPIs and metrics – and what activities will drive those numbers.
  • And the really critical one – how can this tool BOTH help my reps execute and simultaneously generate the metrics and KPIs we want to keep track of
  • What does the front line sales manager need to know or see or have in order to best support and hold reps accountable in call reviews, deal reviews, and pipeline reviews and to the commitments in their Personal Sales Plans.

So those are some of the questions you should be asking to help make your criteria list for tools and tech, all of which will be very easy for you if you’ve done the work to map what your reps do to get new business AND you’ve mapped what metrics and KPIs you want to track to stay on top of that activity.

The Co-created, well-defined, agreed to and bought into answers to those key elements your sales organizations operational environment is what will drive your success with tools and tech and across all of your sales team endeavors.

One last word of caution here – and this is huge, so I’m going to repeat it one last time:

If the tools you choose don’t help your reps do what they really do to get business, it’s going to be almost impossible to get them to use it consistently and effectively and both their execution and your data will suffer for it.

In fact – your goal should be to make the tools so useful for the reps that they are eager to use them, voluntarily. If you have to twist arms to get your reps to use the tools you’ve deployed – you missed something along the way – could be one of a few things – wrong people, wrong process, wrong tool – maybe something else, but something was missed.

That’s the key takeaway here, and it’s huge.

So again – I’m sorry if you were hoping for a specific set of tool recommendations here.

The internet is flooded with suggested tech stacks and tool recommendations so if that’s what you think you need, go for it, but that’s not going to help you until you have your criteria well mapped out.

And that’s the key point here – doing the work in the section about what sales reps should be doing is the point of departure for your selection of tools. If you don’t start there, you’ll botch it. If you do start there, you are much more likely to get it right.

And when you get it more and more right, reps are more and more likely to actually use the tools in the execution of their actual work – which will drive real metrics to capture – which will drive the KPIs you just developed, which of course is the other key consideration around tools.

If the tools and tech you find and deploy support the reps in the execution of their real and effective sales work, and at the same time those same tools and tech help you capture data that will drive the KPIs you’ve carefully and thoughtfully mapped out based on that real sales work and the goals you are trying to reach – this is the path to success here.

If the tools and tech you select can do both – support execution and capture data, you’ve got yourself a winner.

So I hope this has been useful for you.

When I work in person with clients of course we can get into the details of their specific situation, but in this format, this idea of clear criteria based on the actual work your reps do in the field is the most useful thing I can suggest for you.

Next time we’ll keep building and will move onto that third point in our triangle model of your sales team – the front line sales manager, or the person your reps report to. It’s the next logical step after starting with what the reps really do in the field, to the KPIs that you have to gain insight on their work and the tools that assist in that work and capture the data management needs.

The next opportunity is to ask how management can use all of this to help the team improve, and that’s exactly what we’ll get to in the next two episodes.

If you’d like to find out how The Sales Team Success Formula can help your team specifically, given your unique circumstances and challenges, please visit my website at www dot sales team success formula dot com and sign up for a one-on-one consultation and assessment so that we can decide together if this program is the best next step for your team in your quest for more effective sales management, execution, and full team growth.