Research among UK field sales reps found that over a third feel technology hurts rather than helps their selling efforts. Choosing the right technology helps reps overcome the resistance resulting from bad experiences with the wrong sales tools
Who brings a knife to a gunfight?
Over a third (38%) of field sales reps believe technology is “more of a hinderance than a help”, according to new research we conducted in the UK. This perspective is creating huge resistance to any new technology in the sales environment, fuelled by the bad experiences reps have had using the tools deployed by their organisation.
Could it be that the wrong tools are expected to do the right job?
In our survey, we found that sales organisations are placing a high reliance on ‘low-tech’ such as Excel spreadsheets (48%), and email and instant messaging (41%) for day-to-day updates. Many of these spreadsheets and emails are printed onto paper and used as the basis for formal reporting. A further 7% admit they rely purely on paper-based filing and handwritten notebooks.
On top of this, almost half (43%) of sales reps are required to use more sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, often alongside enterprise resource planning (ERP) software/accounting packages in addition to their sales reporting tools – be they paper, excel or email.
Entering data into multiple systems means that errors and inconsistencies inevitably creep in, especially where on-the-road access isn’t available to reps. Relying on memory and note-taking alone during these instances results in incomplete and incorrect data.
Using a disjointed mix of tools that aren’t designed for use in the sales field sets both reps and managers up for failure. Not only does it breed distrust in field data but also mass resistance towards any field sales management software and mobile sales apps, even those which have the potential to help sales teams sell more.
“Problems experienced with technology in the field sales environment are rarely due to any fault of the technology itself and more due to the way it is being deployed in conjunction with other tools.”
Choosing the right tools for the job: mobile solutions
“For salespeople on the road it’s really no wonder that they find technology a hinderance. In so many cases the wrong tools are implemented. Field sales reps need an app designed specifically for use on a mobile device and that supports the unique set of tasks they perform while on the road,” says Brian Howe, Alliances Director at Skynamo, who sympathises with the uphill battle faced by field reps.
“Massive advances in technology provide us with all the components needed to make it easier for salespeople to gather and have access to high quality data – but this isn’t happening – because experience has taught reps and their manager that tech just makes it more difficult, not easier,” says Howe. “But this isn’t true. The right technology can make all the difference.”
Mobile technology designed to support field sales reps shows a drastic decline in time spent on admin, freeing reps to spend more time in front of customers building relationships and selling. A single, user-friendly interface which fits in their pockets, provides them with access to accurate information about products and customers, the latest pricing and stock information, and the ability to act on that data will improve their sales performance. They will have all the functionality they need to do their jobs well!
But how do we overcome the massive resistance that stands between struggling sales reps and the technology that will empower them to sell better?
Overcoming resistance, adopting mobile solutions
1. Transparency is key
When adopting any technology, especially tech that sales reps are already suspicious of or have a negative bias towards, it is crucial to be transparent and involve the whole sales team at every stage of the adoption process.
Transparency communicates trust and respect from management and invites trust and respect from employees in turn. This way, everyone is treated as a stakeholder and this inclusion will lead to a more open attitude to adopting the technology.
2. Highlight the benefits
Help your sales team understand how a mobile sales app will transform both office-based and field sales activities for the better. Case studies reveal that field sales reps who use the right sales technology spend less time in an office or doing on-the-road admin, enjoying more face time with customers, which leads to more and better sales.
Accurate and readily available customer history and product information empowers reps to be sales consultants, able to provide each customer with unique solutions to their business challenges. On top of this, simplified order taking and report writing processes have proved to help field sales reps work productively, freeing them up to enjoy more downtime.
3. Measure and communicate results
It is only once your sales team experience the benefits for themselves that they will become full comfortable using new technology.
Be sure to keep track of changes as the new technology is being employed. Communicate these visually to help reinforce the positive results. Compile graphs to compare before and after time spent on admin, hours needed to reach weekly targets, number of weekly visits completed, and any other metric that will show the value added by newly adopted technology.
4. Encourage feedback
Any new system requires tweaking and getting used to before it runs optimally. Sales team feedback is of crucial importance to a successful adoption and setup process. It is their user experience that will determine, not only how willingly they adopt new technology, but also how much the entire business benefits from their ability to utilise new tools.
5. Provide (regular) training
Provide your sales team with all the support they need to use the tools they’re given. Tech resistance is sadly, too often, the result of managers simply throwing sales tools at their sales team and expecting them to do wonders with it without providing the right resources and training to make the tech work.
Most technology companies offer training for users, either online or in person. For instance, Skynamo offers regular training and refresher sessions to their users to ensure that field sales reps enjoy the full benefits provided by their sales tool. Make use of these training offers to help sales reps improve their proficiency in the field.
Field reps who reject sales technology do so because they believe it hinders rather than helps their selling efforts. This results from using technology that wasn’t developed for field sales work in the first place. Adopting mobile field sales technology and managing the adoption process well, sees field reps welcome new technology as it transforms their selling experience.