Chasing leads and closing deals is a part of the human experience that will never get old or run its course. But that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with new ways to get it done, though. The following are five broad categories of technology with the potential to disrupt sales as we understand them.
Being a salesperson can be challenging and exciting, but there are also lots of repetitive tasks involved. There’s enough repetition that your team might feel it’s keeping them away from the most important work: closing deals.
As you might expect, there are multiple software vendors competing to bring you this functionality. What you need to know about the benefits is roughly this:
- Automating your responses to bids can help you capture more business and save your employees time, versus generating new documents every time.
- Automation can make it simple to send out personalized voicemail and email messages in large numbers. Spend more time conceiving content for the sales pipeline and less time on the busywork of getting it out to your audience.
- Automation can also help sales reps automatically score and prioritize prospects as they initiate contact or enter the sales funnel.
As we’ll see shortly, automation gets even more powerful when we incorporate other modern concepts like machine learning.
2. Voice Search
Optimizing the SEO performance of your website to rank well in voice searches means pivoting away from spammy-sounding keywords and phrases to more conversational wording: how somebody would ask a question to their smart speaker, in other words. If you want to capture leads and converts from among people asking questions like, “What’s the fastest-drying driveway patch?” or “Who makes the longest-lasting non-smart-watch?”, you need to answer those questions in plain and helpful language in your website copy, your marketing materials and your company blog.
“CRM” stands for “customer relationship management” system. CRMs are software dashboards that give salespeople all of the tools they need, in one place, to manage each of their leads, converts, lapsed customers and active clients and subscribers, at every step of the sales funnel or customer-brand relationship. Using CRMs to manage sales activities is, first and foremost, a time-saver: companies that spend three hours per month, per salesperson, managing the sales pipeline, could see 11% higher revenue after adopting a CRM.
There are multiple CRMs on the market today, but each has key features in common with the others: organization for notes and contact details, sales forecasting, appraisal and analytics tools, integration with email and social media services, and instant messaging support for easy coordination between salespeople. Until CRMs came into vogue, salespeople had to juggle a ton of tools just to keep closing sales and nurturing existing relationships. A CRM is like the Swiss army knife that holds all those tools together. And thanks to smartphones, it makes them pocket-sized, too.
4. Cloud Collaboration
According to research compiled by HubSpot, companies whose marketing and sales departments have a high degree of collaboration and information-sharing close up to 38% more deals and generate up to 208% more revenue. But what does this mean, and how can modern technology help out?
By now, you may be familiar with some of the benefits and tradeoffs of building a private cloud versus using public cloud services. What we call “the cloud” isn’t breaking news, but it’s still something lots of organizations don’t take full advantage of.
For a start, cloud systems make widely distributed companies as agile as they need to be, and provide new ways for remote workers and mobile representatives to call upon the data, resources and company functionality they need, wherever in the field they find themselves.
That kind of accessibility of resources is a boon to productivity and collaboration, too. Your sales reps probably field lots of common and uncommon questions from prospects during the sales pipeline, which means making your company’s assets, branding materials, product details and technical specifications available from a centralized location could save them considerable time, help them learn your company and its services faster, and cut down on the number of inter-departmental emails required to clear up common issues or answer FAQs for prospective customers.
There are many directions cloud sales tools could take in the very near future, too. Content management systems (CRM) with artificial intelligence (AI) could, for example, help generate content ideas based on consumer trends, interests and other data, or even draw up multiple options to A/B test different design options for greatest campaign success. A system that recognizes natural language would also be a huge help to salespeople — they could type naturally to conduct a content search while prospects are asking questions, to deliver insights in close to real-time.
5. Machine Learning
Above, we mentioned that customer relationship management systems often include analytics tools. When those tools incorporate machine learning for improved intelligence, they leap into a category of their own.
Predictive analytics using machine learning uses data mining to study your company’s databases of sales, client and competitor data to map trends and predict future sales and performance. Machine learning for sales can provide guidance on things like:
- Customer behaviors that signal their likeliness to make a purchase.
- Current and future demand based on sales funnel activity.
- Sales representative tactics and behaviors that lead to success (or don’t).
- Pricing models based on past deals, market fluctuations, current business costs and competitor pricing.
We saved machine learning for last because it’s basically a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to sales. When incorporated into familiar sales software, it’s a way to surface the most relevant and actionable information based on criteria and goals selected by managers, strategists and sales teams, and to tailor future activities around the accumulation and study of in-house and third-party data.
These are just some of the technologies bringing major changes to sales pipelines around the world. The question now is, what are we going to do with them?