How Software and Tech Have—and Haven't—Changed Sales
Software and tech developments in the last few decades have disrupted business models in industries like retail, while vastly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of other areas like health and medicine. Software and tech has become increasingly indispensable in the era of COVID-19, helping many businesses maintain their continuity. That said, it’s often difficult to take a step back and consider how tech and software have impacted the very way these products are sold. Today I’d like to help you consider what has tech and software changed (and what have they not changed) about sales—and yes, though it may be ironic, that also includes software sales. From prospecting to closing a deal, developments in data, cloud, and mobile tech have revamped the sales process and created new opportunities for increased profit—while at the same time, giving a competitive edge to rival companies.
Prospecting with Big Data
Can you imagine being in tech sales before the advent of big data and analytic software? To emphasize the point, let’s go back to the middle of the 20th century and look at one of the most successful salespeople of all time: Colonel Sanders. True, he wasn’t really in tech, but he did drive around the country with a deep fryer in the back of his car, peddling his fried chicken recipe to individual restaurants...until a few decades later, he had a franchise empire. Now can you imagine living by the same door-to-door prospecting process today? It would be miserable. But thankfully salespeople today don’t have to try the pasta approach to prospecting (you know, the one where you throw pasta at the wall and hope that it sticks).
Companies can now leverage huge amounts of nuanced data that can be analyzed to gauge customer habits and behaviors, eliminating much of the guesswork, time, and labor behind traditional prospecting. Put away that rolodex, because analytic software can build models to predict which B2C or B2B leads are most likely to translate into paying customers or clients—which in turn will help you know where to focus your efforts. Software models can even help identity lookalike prospects based on current clients and help pinpoint which messages and processes will work most effectively. Just imagine how much car mileage Colonel Sanders would have saved with these kinds of tools at your disposal...though the story of his cross-country journey would certainly be less epic.
Building a Pipeline with Social Media
Attracting and engaging new clients and customers has always been a part of the sales process. But the way that technology in recent years has facilitated this particular part of the sales process makes you wonder how a salesperson built a pipeline before social media. Businesses today can engage consumers and other businesses in conversations or present useful insights that deepen a relationship and eventually lead to a sale. And unlike the conventional reach of a booth at a trade show, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn make it possible to shake hands with millions of potential customers at once.
But these improvements are somewhat of a double-edged sword for sales. On the flip side of the coin, social media and internet usage in general has placed new emphasis on the importance of peer reviews and recommendations. It’s allowed prospects to do their own research on a product or service before even meeting a salesperson. But once again, companies can position themselves to take advantage of these trends, as can individual salespeople with the power of brand building, or using social media to create a positive image. In fact, some studies suggest that salespeople who use social media may outsell their peers by as much as almost 80%.
Freedom with Automation and Cloud
Can you imagine scheduling sales calls in the olden days of selling? If you didn’t have a secretary, you’d have to open up a little pocket planner and juggle around several different variables to schedule your meetings. Then you’d have to work other items into your schedule, like follow-up calls, mailers, or emails—which of course means more juggling. The tedious, time-consuming, and often mind-numbingly repetitive tasks associated with sales can take up huge amounts of time and energy...but not for businesses who leverage a CRM tool.
These automated tools can schedule appointments, follow-up calls or emails, locate opportunities, and factor customer feedback into a performance plan, along with providing a holistic view on each customer relationship. CRM becomes even more potent when it’s cloud-based, allowing software sales professionals access realtime data anywhere, at any time. Armed with the most recent and relevant information, software sales professionals on the go are better equipped with the most effective insights on a prospect before they even meet them—which in turn will help them get better positioned to close a sale.
Sales Still Needs its Human Element
Even with all these incredible software and tech, there are still some things that haven’t changed about sales. The most effective sales people, at the end of the day, are always the ones with powerful skill sets in relationship building and active listening. You could give a salesperson all the bells and whistles of ERP and CRM and all the other acronyms in the toolbox...but if they don’t have the right skill sets, those tools won’t mean anything. In fact, with all the competition that tech has facilitated in the past few decades, the human element of the sales process has come even more to the forefront of a successful sales process. Communication, storytelling, social proof, empathy, and objection handling are just as important as they ever were, and even more crucial today in terms of setting yourself apart from all the other software salespeople on Facebook.
With over four decades of experience as a software sales headhunter, I’ve seen a lot of changes in software sales. But some things about selling will always be the same. With the sizable amount of opportunities out there today, both for job seekers and employers, it can be difficult to locate the best opportunity or best talent without the help of a software sales recruiter. If you’re looking for your next role or for someone to fill a role, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about what you’re looking for.