Paul Black drills down into the biggest concerns of sales reps and discusses how the right technology can ease the pressure.
A good salesperson is often also a good actor. They have to appear calm, composed, and in control at all times; to show too much hesitancy could put off a prospective client and negatively affect potential revenue. It’s a great performance, but sometimes it’s a little too convincing.
As unflappable as many of them seem, the profession is not without its frustrations: in fact, it’s one of the most stressful jobs out there. Monthly targets loom, and if these are not met, it can result in lost commission and self confidence. Unnecessarily awkward processes only compound these pressures, but these concerns won’t always be raised internally; and consequently, they won’t be fixed.
In an attempt to figure out what really nags at modern sales reps, my company recently conducted a survey about the biggest issues and difficulties they face on a daily basis. The results highlighted some issues facing the trade in 2016. The truly interesting part, though, is how easily some of these problems can be solved.
One of the more obvious areas of frustration for sales professionals is the amount of time they spend on non-sales related tasks. Our study found that 17.3 per cent found manual data entry to be their biggest daily hurdle, while 11 per cent struggled with compiling reports and organising themselves for internal or client-facing meetings.
Too often, salespeople are unwillingly thrust into the role of administrative assistant. Not only do admin tasks prevent them from doing what they do best – winning new business, upselling to existing clients, and boosting their commission payment – they also have an impact on revenue. If you can’t afford administrative staff, however, it can seem somewhat unavoidable.
Fortunately, this is an easily-solved problem. Advances in technology can reduce or eradicate the administrative burden on small businesses and let your best people concentrate on activities that will increase their commission payments. Sales performance software can automate reports and prepare pertinent information in advance of a client or prospect meeting. When you have a lot of information to keep straight, and the potential risk of embarrassing or alienating someone potentially valuable to your company, the value of this is difficult to overstate. Not only does the technology reduce their administrative workload, it gives them the hard facts to back up their confidence. You’ll have happier, more productive employees, and higher revenues to show for it.
On the road
You don’t join a sales team to stay in one place. Roving from place to place isn’t just part of the profession; it practically IS the profession.
Consequently, it came as a surprise that our report indicated many salespeople feel underequipped whenever they’re working outside the office. Some 11 per cent said that they could not access all of the information they needed while doing their job remotely, and 33.6 per cent claimed they have insufficient access to relevant, timely data. On a more personal level, the old 9-5 way of working has rapidly become outmoded, and many employees in every department expect the right to work flexibly or from home.
Happily, technology can facilitate this, and empowers employees on the road with every benefit they’d have in the comfort of the office. Whatever their device, whatever their apps, wherever they are, it’s possible for them to have access to everything they need whenever they need it.
How do you make an important decision? The average person will assess the evidence, weigh up the pros and cons, and make a call grounded in facts and statistical probability. Salespeople are a little different.
Again, because the nature of the profession mandates that they project absolute self confidence, salespeople can’t be seen to ‘hem’ and/or ‘haw’ about anything. They frequently go with how they ‘feel’ about things; sometimes to their benefit, sometimes to their great disadvantage. Two fifths (40 per cent) of those we queried said they make decisions based on their relationships with customers; 6 per cent said they went with their ‘gut feelings’.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that 49.5 per cent of salespeople claim they have trouble pinpointing new opportunities, or knowing which customers are falling in sales. Business arrangements are frequently more fragile and non-reciprocal than they appear: being good to your clients will not always assure their loyalty, particularly when financial realities intrude on the relationship. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with trusting your gut, but it should not be trusted at the expense of facts, or substituted in their absence.
The right technology can provide meaningful, actionable information supported by verifiable data. It can gather information about trends over long and short periods of time; a specific client’s behaviour over the course of your relationship, or overall consumer activity in a particular season. These trends can be analysed and quantified, and turned into an opportunity for upselling or cross selling. For example, if you run an office supplies company and notice a seasonal uptick in pen sales, technology might inform you of an opportunity to sell a discounted bulk package to certain customers, or a chance to upsell them pencils and paper.
Of course, software is not in itself the solution to every problem ailing a sales team or a small business. The one variable that makes a real difference is attitude. Sales professionals need to admit weakness, and that using technology where it counts can only sharpen their winning edge.
Paul Black is CEO of sales-i.
Further reading on technology in business
- Boost Sales Productivity – Get More from Your Sales Team [pdf Download]