For a salesperson information is power.
I like to think about sales information on two different levels. One is information about your customer or buyer. We’ll call this external information. Any seller can tell you about knowledge they would love to have about their prospect at every stage in the sales process. Do they have pain that my product can solve? What is their budget? What are their key decision criteria? Who will be involved in the decision making process? Who are my competitors on this sale? And so on.
On the other front, is internal information. This is the “inside the company” or information I need to know about my product or service to be a productive and successful seller. Does my product support a specific customer need? Is my product a fit for a certain use case? Who can help me put together a custom pricing quote? Which of our customers can be a good reference? Who can help me with this specific legal or contract issue? How long will it take to get this customer implemented based on our current customer backlog?
As sellers we’re constantly working to get information both internally and externally to win and make quota. As Sales leaders, we are constantly trying to improve the productivity of our sales teams by directing and coaching them on finding both internal and external information.
If I asked a hundred sellers what information is more difficult to get, I’m sure 80% would say the external information. This makes sense because it’s not directly under our control. Because of that, ideally 90+% of my time is focused externally. But I bet those same sellers would tell you that the more frustrating is the internal information. It's a productivity killer because anytime I spend hunting down internal information, or dealing with some internal system, that’s time I’m not closing sales. Salesforce’s 2018 State of Sales report, for example, found that sales reps spend a mere “34% of their time actually selling, while the majority of their time is spent on other duties”. Administrative tasks took the largest amount of sales reps time (14.8% or 5.9 hours per week). This means dealing with product issues, approvals, internal policies, paperwork, etc. When I talk to salespeople and sales leaders I hear these 5 challenges related to internal information hurting sales productivity:
- Product questions: The customer has asked me if my product does something a certain way or handles a certain problem. We have hundreds of product managers and marketers in 5 different countries. Who can give me the answer I need now?
- Internal system problems: <insert system name here> is not working and I’m not getting what I need. Who can help me solve the problem? No surprise, but sitting on hold on an internal customer support line is an absolute nightmare for a sales rep...and his manager who’s now bleeding sales productivity.
- Finding or remembering <insert name here>: “You know, the system engineer that spoke at our sales training last year? Remember him?” “He worked out of the U.K. office, he built the darn thing, he’d know the answer”. “I think he reported to Ellen Smith right? Oh man, what was his name? Bill?”...maybe Ben? “Maybe I have his email somewhere?”... as I spend the next 15 minutes digging through old emails.
- Reference calls: Every enterprise seller has lived this one. I need a customer to do a reference call for a deal I’m near closing. Who can I call that can help me find out who would be a good reference? Who owns that account and would help line up a reference call? Who has to sign off before I can even ask them if they are referenceable?
- Multiple experts required: According to Salesforce, 52% of salespeople report an increase in pipeline through collaborative selling. Sometimes the answer to a problem will take collaboration from multiple sources, with different skills or specialized knowledge to get the right answer. As a seller, this is like herding cats, if you can even find the right cats to herd! Once I needed a java expert, an ASP.net coder, and someone who has experience working on Workday’s API to get a professional services deal quoted. Finding the right virtual team to help on that project took nearly a week of my time.
For larger companies this problem is even more amplified by:
- More products
- More people in the company
- More cross functional teams and informal ad-hoc teams formed and quickly disbanded to address projects/issues
So, how do you allow your salespeople to access the internal information they need?
A lot of what I just identified comes down to knowing who you can go to for the information you need? Who do I need to go to to answer this sales question? Who can help me with this software or who’s an expert that I can interface with on a problem?
Sift takes the information and makes it accessible with deep, customizable employee profiles that outline the skills, experience, and knowledge that every one of your team members has. And our comprehensive employee directory search allows you search for anything and quickly find the right people who can help you get the job done.
Knowing this information is critical for your salespeople because it will ultimately help you accelerate your sales process, get answers, and increase collaboration.
The interesting part is that most employees want to help sales be successful because they know sales is the driver behind revenue and that’s what helps them keep their job. Most growth oriented companies cement this “drop what you're doing and help sales” culture in the business. We know today’s modern collaboration tools (thinks Microsoft Team or Slack) provide more connectivity than ever to quickly engage people you find that can help. If that’s true, and you're still leaking productivity, maybe the answer is the lag between your sellers and getting to the people that can help them. Productivity killers like the list above. Solve for that lag, and across an enterprise of hundreds, maybe thousands of sellers, and you have an opportunity to impact the bottom line of the business.