Every year, sales technology usage (and spend) goes up. And every year, sales performance heads the other direction.
That’s the point Andy Paul made at the start of a recent episode of the Sales Enablement podcast, to which he invited me as a guest. Also joining us was Danielle Mulvey, an internationally known speaker and the CEO of Membrain customer ALL IN.
How is it that we keep spending more and more on technology, while our actual sales effectiveness grows weaker?
Danielle kicked off the response to Paul’s point by saying that most sales organizations are “casting too wide a net for automation.” We’re expecting automation to solve all our problems, when instead it could be helping us to “be smarter and increase connections.”
I agree. The problem, as I see it, is that we expect technology to do our job for us. We think–and tech marketing encourages us to think this way–that if we buy the tech, we’ll suddenly get more orders. But that’s not how it works, especially in complex b2b sales.
Buyers are being asked to change something in their business, to take risks, to spend time and money. You can’t automate your way to the level of trust and confidence your prospects need to have in order to earn their willingness to do that. You have to connect with them as humans for that.
“Technology is being used to automate processes without being used to help sellers create better experiences for the buyers,” says Andy during the podcast. “And in the process of automating things, we engage in behaviors that buyers find disturbing. Just because the tech enables you to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.”
If you’re a VC-backed start-up with a potential user base of the whole world, you may find that automated email sequences allow you to get the 1,000 first customers you need to get to please your investors. You aren’t worried about the 10,000 people you piss off in the meantime with your spam, because the whole world is your marketplace.
But if you’re a b2b firm with a potential user base of perhaps 10,000 companies, you can’t afford to burn bridges and make people angry. Which is exactly what automated spam sequences do. They create problems with the very humans we’re trying to cultivate as customers.
Sales technology can be an important and valuable tool in helping your salespeople to actually be more human–and more effective–with your prospects.
Danielle suggests, for instance, using the tech to customize sales experience based on the person’s style. Her company uses a Membrain plug-in that enables salespeople to see the DISC profile of each contact and to tailor their interactions according to that person’s preferred communication styles.
Selling is about helping buyers make a decision that benefits them.
“We also use Membrain to give a visual view of our pipeline and our numbers,” she says, “and to have different views based on where prospects are in the sales process.”
These visuals enable salespeople on her team to customize communications and conversations to each contact’s individual needs.
Can Tech Help Sellers Become “The Best Version of Themselves”?
During the podcast episode, Andy asked us if we were using tech to help sellers become the best version of themselves. I thought this was a great question, and one that we definitely have a solid answer for at Membrain.
Our mission is elevating the sales profession, and that means helping salespeople become their best version.
You can use automation in a good way, and you can use it in a bad way. Selling is about helping buyers make a decision that benefits them. The Membrain platform helps you guide salespeople through a process that enables them to become more effective coaches to buyers, to provide them with the guidance they need to make those decisions.
This helps them establish trust and gain the confidence of buyers so that they can make more sales to the right buyers.
Of course, there’s no shortcut for this. Salespeople still need to be knowledgeable, not just about the product, but also about the customer’s problems, their sought-after outcomes, and how to build and maintain trust.
Technology can automate simple tasks to relieve salespeople of routine work, and remind them via checklists and notifications when it’s time to complete a more complex task that requires their knowledge and skills.
It can help them remember not to skip steps, and to include the personal touches that build rapport with customers.
It can also serve up training and coaching content, and provide sales coaches with insights to help them coach the salespeople in stronger skills.
“Maybe the focus should be on helping sellers learn human skills that connect and help buyers make decisions,” says Andy. “Rather than, hey, let’s send a million emails.”
I couldn’t agree more. The best investment any organization can make is in upskilling both salespeople and managers.
Technology should be used to support skills and abilities of salespeople, not to replace them. When we start relying on automated sequences and AI-generated copy to communicate with customers, we lose the human connection and trust that is so critical to helping them make complex and risk-involved decisions.
“If you put in the work to differentiate yourself from the competition, but you’re still doing what everyone else is doing,” says Danielle, “Then you’re just average, you’re ho-hum or worse.”
It’s in the “5-star” experience for the potential client that you gain the edge and increase your win rates.
As an example from our own experience, we used to have an issue with our salespeople not wanting to talk to tech experts at our prospect companies. It’s intimidating for a non-technical person to speak to a technical person about a piece of software. They didn’t know how to connect with the buyer and answer their questions.
So we invested in training and upskilling our salespeople to gain the technical knowledge they needed and to learn to engage with these important stakeholders. As a result, we experienced a 3x win rate increase.
“People want to feel significant,” says Danielle. “You make them feel significant when you personalize the experience and make it a true, genuine connection. When you make them feel special, then they will typically reward you with the reciprocity of giving you time and attention.”
This final point speaks to the dangers of automated email sequences and AI-run prospecting. Most buyers won’t give you a 15-minute discovery call just because you dumped an automated email into their inbox. More likely, they’ll ignore you. Worst case, they’ll blacklist you.
But if you use automation to find prospects, and use technology to guide salespeople through your process, then salespeople can use their time and skills to research and craft individual emails that make the recipient feel special, make them feel significant, and make them want to reciprocate with those precious 15 minutes.
And that’s how you use technology to help you solve your sales problems: By understanding that sales problems are actually human problems.
Listen to the full podcast here.
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. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn