Smart Selling Tools (SST) released its 2019 sales technology benchmark survey recently*, with data comparisons against 2017. Much of the report validates what we already know about sales tech: That it continues to grow at a breath-taking rate. But the details of the report should give us all pause as we reflect on the future of the sales industry.
Here are 6 stats that reveal the scope of technology growth, and why this might be cause for concern.
The average number of sales tools used by survey respondents has gone up to 4.9 from 4.2 in 2017. But that does not tell the whole story. The median number of sales tools (i.e., the number of tools used by the largest number of respondents) was 9.
Nine sales tools is a lot of tools for salespeople and managers to navigate. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, the proliferation of point solutions and increasing technology complexity threatens to decrease effectiveness.
Each year, certain types of sales tools are reported consistently across the majority of respondents. In 2017, two types of tools were used by most organizations: CRM and online meeting tools. By 2019, that number had risen to 6: CRM, online meetings, leads list/database, social selling, account targeting, and skills training & recruiting.
While I’m encouraged to see that organizations are paying attention to a wider range of opportunities to leverage technology, the increase in the number of tool types is cause for concern, as it indicates increasing technology complexity.
In 2017, 2/3 of survey respondents reported that they spent less than $150/user/month. In 2019, that number flipped, and now 2/3 report that they spend more than $150/user/month. My perception is that these numbers are much higher in reality. Companies lack the cost control, as they're being purchased by different people, across different teams, without a coordinated effort and goal.
Additionally, 97% of respondents said that they have no intention of decreasing their technology spend this year. 47% said they will spend more, while 50% report that they will spend the same amount.
This is a troubling trend in an environment where actual sales effectiveness continues to be a challenge. Increasing spend on technology over the past ten years has failed to be met by a corresponding effectiveness increase.
Without an effective plan for investing wisely in technology, most companies will continue to spend more without improving results.
CRM usage went down slightly from 2017, an interesting trend in an industry where CRM has traditionally been considered the central technology. Meanwhile, compared to other sales technologies, CRM provides the second-lowest levels of satisfaction and perceived value.
What is going on here? The truth is that CRM has failed to keep pace with the needs of sales organizations. It has remained a glorified rolodex. Attempts to make it more useful have largely backfired, as companies fall prey to the Hydra problem.
While CRM holds barely steady with a slight decline, sales enablement tools (primarily content management tools) have gone up in usage by 567%, from 6% to 40%. This is the largest increase in technology type. Simultaneously, account management tools have gone up in usage, from less than 20% to roughly 50%.
On one level, this is good news. Organizations are beginning to pay attention to sales enablement and account management in record numbers. The bad news is that since CRM usage is still high, this represents new technologies stacked on top of old technologies… leading to the point pollution and Hydra problems already mentioned.
Aside from sales enablement and account management, other tool types substantially on the rise include management and reporting tools, and skills and reinforcement tools.
I’m glad to see so much attention being paid to these critical functions and the ways that technology can support them. However, I’m concerned by the proliferation of tool types and the number of tools that organizations are stacking on top of each other.
With technology spend on the rise, we can expect to see this proliferation of complexity and stacking of tools on top of each other continue to rise. Unfortunately, history tells us that increased complexity does NOT lead to increased productivity and effectiveness.
The problem is that the industry still continues to look at the problem through the lens of point solutions to specific problems. Instead of a holistic approach, most companies are caught in the cycle of plugging new technologies into old ones in an attempt to keep up with changes in the environment.
We’re building Membrain and our global network of sales development experts to free sales organizations from the tyranny of point pollution and many-headed Hydras. Membrain is a CRM with sales enablement built directly inside. It includes all the key training and reinforcement capabilities that every b2b sales organization needs, along with process-building and reinforcement tools, reporting and analysis, and a content hub to deliver the content your people need, when they need it. Our partners add the expertise needed to improve your strategy, process, and skills, and some even provide templated playbooks to help you get started quickly. Strategy alone is not enough. Nor is training or technology by itself. You need to get all of these components right and then orchestrate the execution well, and with discipline!
I would love to show you the simplicity and beauty of Membrain, and introduce you to one of our partners, and how we can help you sail away from complexity while saving you money and increasing effectiveness. Contact us today.
* Here's a link to SST's benchmark survey report.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.