The solution for sales teams that hate sales technology systems

Tech usage rates among sales teams have plummeted. Here's how to improve your digital efforts.

Sales teams are typically not the biggest fans of sales solutions. Companies are throwing away tens of thousands of dollars on sales technology that their sales teams aren't using, according to the 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group.

One of the most popular sales technologies on the market is customer relationship management (CRM) systems, which our sister site CNET describes as "a database of customer interactions that businesses use to help their sales teams and service reps increase sales and improve customer service." Some of the most popular CRM systems on the market are Salesforce, HubSpot, and Microsoft Dynamics, which all aim to help track and foster sales operations.

SEE: Hiring kit: Salesforce developer (Tech Pro Research)

"If you open up Salesforce.com today and you look at that user interface, it's a list of data you have to fill out. Are you trying to sell this thing? Who are you trying to sell it to? How much are you trying to sell it? What products are you selling? And you begin telling all this information in this system because your sales operations leader or your sales leader is trying to find a pipeline," said Byron Matthews, president and CEO of Miller Heiman Group. "It provides this transparency, which is great for the leaders of the company."

While organizations reported that 75% of salespeople use a CRM daily, only 25% say it contributes to seller productivity, according to the study. Which means, on the flipside, that about 75% of organizations agreed that CRM systems do not contribute to seller productivity—a startling statistic, Matthews said.

Current CRM systems, like Salesforce, are essentially a tool to organize information. However, organizing and tracking sales habits is only benefiting the sales leader. "It was all about operations and forecasting and pipeline. It wasn't ever built for the actual salesperson. It wasn't built to make them productive," said Matthews. No wonder salespeople don't find CRM systems productive—they aren't directly benefiting from them.

So how do we make these sales solutions useful to salespeople? "With a completely new CRM vision," said Matthews. "Where the CRM is no longer a data repository. It's no longer based on just spilling out a record so people can get transparency. It's actually built for the salesperson. It's AI-driven and methodology-based."

A methodology in this case would be a framework or process that dictates how a company sells, said Matthews. Methodology fuels behavior, which then drives results, making this especially important to salespeople.

"What if your CRM system was fully architected and built based on methodology?" asked Matthews. "Then all of a sudden, the way I think and behave is the way I interact with my system. I'm no longer interacting with my system only to fill out a record so that my sales leader knows my pipeline or my forecast. That's not value-added to me. But what if I filled out a record so I could understand what my next move should be? And as a byproduct of that, sure it also provided the forecast."

Matthews calls this idea CRM 4.0, the artificial intelligence (AI)-driven, methodology-based, purposeful, sales solution. And AI gives the system a whole new kick. The more a salesperson puts information into CRM 4.0, the more the system can help the user. Over time, the system learns how the salesperson sells, said Matthews. "So now, it actually helps you think. It augments behavior. And that is a game-changer," he added.

If an organization doesn't have a methodology, then they won't have the data needed to use the AI-intelligent system. However, in today's selling environment, a methodology is a must-have. "Sales is way too complex now. It's gotten so much harder," said Matthews. "Buyers are getting better at buying, way faster than sellers are getting better at selling. A methodology is a circuit-breaker in today's world. That is the new normal."

The main barrier for companies is going to be adapting to the technology. But in an enterprise flooded with digital transformation projects, the time to hop on the tech train is now or never. If your company might have issues adopting an AI-driven system, then Matthews suggested embedding the technology in standard processes, and then training per usage.

Click here for more tips on how to kick-start a digital transformation in your organization.

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By Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.