The role of IT in sales management is very simple; it’s designed to make the life of you and your field sales team easier while increasing productivity and performance. Every piece of software from mobile CRM to ERP, email to Smartphone is built to serve that purpose.
And it’s very good at it too.
Field sales teams that employ the help of technology see an increase in revenue by up to (58%) sales opportunities by (54%) deal sizes (44%) and conversion rates up by (38%). That’s not to mention noted improvements in opportunity pipeline management, territory management and customer onboarding.
With this level of ROI it should come as no surprise then that enterprise companies in the US pay up to $3000 per field sales rep just to implement this software and who can blame them?
Sales is arguably the fastest-paced, most competitively driven arm of any business forcing sales managers to turn to technology for an edge.
What we are going to look at in this article is why the role of IT in sales management has grown into the necessity, and the specific technologies used to aid each step of the sales management process.
The Role of IT in Sales Management Broken Down
There are many roles of IT in sales management but the 4 key areas we are going focus on today are:
- Salesforce Automation
- Data Quality
- Making Better Business Decisions
- Going Online
All major sales technologies serve at least one of these purposes.
Sales Force Automation
As a sales manager it’s your job to ensure your team sells enough to hit target. That’s what you are measured against. And getting your team to work as efficiently and productively as possible WILL lead to higher sales.
So the question becomes how.
How can we get our team working to this level of efficiency?
One way is to alleviate them of unnecessary tasks; those that do little towards helping them sell, such as:
- Recording sales calls and emails
- Scheduling appointments
- Arranging follow-up visits
- Updating the CRM
This is all pure admin work and field reps spend hours completing this stuff. That’s not say it’s not important, as it should be done and done well, but the role of IT in sales management is to take this burden away from your team leaving them to focus on sales-driving tasks.
IT sales software such as a mobile CRM with reverse reporting capabilities automatically records activity your team has with clients.
Every email sent, phone call made and deal struck is immediately updated into the system. This means the individual rep isn’t required to record this information down on a notepad or forced to recall it at the end of the week, when the details are a little hazy and probably less accurate.
It’s recorded and updated in real time.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Sales force automation is also carried out under the guise of AI.
Now you may normally associate the term with the analyses of streams of uncharted data. While this is certainly true of the majority of AI sales systems, there are some specifically designed to aid in the recording of data for reps working out in the field.
Personal sales assistant apps such as Cognitive work like digital PA’s, sat next to the driver between visits. Using natural language processing (NLP) field sales reps are able to communicate safely with the device while driving, asking it to pull up information regarding an upcoming visit, what was discussed previously, leave a comment on a past visit or even prompt the device to send an email or call.
This comes in especially handy considering drivers in the US alone we spend on average 17,600 minutes a year driving. That equates to roughly 300 hours (or 12 days).
But the crazy thing is that’s your regular american driver – what about field sales reps?
They’re practically glued to the wheel.
Again, the role of IT in sales management is to make the lives of you and your sales team that much easier while increasing productivity. By converting these lost hours into sales-driving work, IT plays a massive role in preparing reps for their upcoming visits without eating into precious working hours.
Another area where the role of IT in sales management is unmistakable is via the use of geolocation technology.
Some mobile CRM software is able to plot sales opportunities on a localized map, based on the day’s agenda and then suggest the quickest, most efficient route the rep should take.
Not only does this save the rep from having to jump from several different apps within their smartphone, but it optimizes their time between visits. Time management is such an underutilized tactic in sales management for maximizing the efficiency of field sales teams.
It’s not just route optimization that can be extracted from geolocation technology, but also the contextual information a sales rep will see on their CRM dashboards.
Using the rep’s real-time location the system pulls up what it considers the most relevant information.
For example, if it detects the rep is close to an account or opportunity it might inform them of any recent issues they’ve had with the company. Likewise, it could be that it’s been several weeks since they were last contacted, therefore recommending the field rep makes a brief stop between scheduled visits.
It’s little details like this that make a big difference in not just sales efficiency, but increasing customer satisfaction too, demonstrating just how important the role of IT in sales management has become.
In field sales the quality of data collected can be somewhat, debatable.
Because of the nature of their work, field reps spend most of their time on the move travelling between sales calls.
The information they record is therefore done on the fly. When there’s an opportune moment to jot down on a notepad the meeting’s details, they might do it. Though it’s highly likely it will be stored to memory for recording later on (cough* cough*).
The problem is that this data is not only now scattered on various notes, scrawlings and maybe the odd spreadsheet, but if it’s being uploaded to the CRM at the end of the week, then it’s accuracy (especially if being recalled from memory) is going to be seriously questionable.
Just try recalling what you had for breakfast a couple of days ago, it’s tough!
The role of IT in sales management is to digitize this process and make it as transparent and visible as possible.
It achieves this by providing field reps with a tool they can use when directly in front of a client or prospect.
All data can therefore be collected in real time.
For example, if a client wishes to make a new purchase order it can be dialled into the mobile CRM app in seconds. Likewise if they’re unhappy about the latest product delivery the sales rep can enter that information straight into the system and immediately inform the customer success team. They can then process the new order as quickly possible.
With a sales management system based around pen and paper this would be decidedly more difficult to achieve.
Data quality can also be increased simply by improving user adoption rates.
Paying out for a sales management system won’t automatically solve your data quality issues. It will, however, make it a damned sight better! But if the system is shunned because it’s too difficult to use, a common issue for field sales teams, then the ROI will be minimal.
If they are not using the system, then there is no quality data left to analyze.
That’s why mobile CRM designers dedicate their time to building a product that field reps want to use. Small details such as how they navigate the app, the colors, fonts, layouts, feature positioning are all taken into account to maximize its usability.
Remember, the role of IT in sales management is to maximize efficiency by making their lives (and yours) as easy as possible, not the other way around!
Make Better Business Decisions
Now that we’ve established how sales technology can deliver you quality data, it’s time to do something with it.
There are several functions of a sales executive that require the analysis of data in order to make accurate business decisions
And the first, and probably most important of those is sales forecasting.
Why is it so important?
Because it’s tied to almost every single aspect of the business. Everything from the share price, stock count, marketing/financial/operations planning, and manufacturing process are affected by its accuracy.
Not to mention the impact it has on your sales team; the sales goals you set are directly affected by your forecasted predictions and your reps would be none too happy if you’ve got them shooting at some impossible targets.
The whole sales forecasting process is built around the usage of accurate data; every single quantitative method of sales forecasting needs it in order to turn out any reasonably useful insight.
So if you don’t have it, it becomes a case of garbage in, garbage out.
Feed the forecast inaccurate data and it will produce equally inaccurate forecasts.
This also holds true for sales reports.
The information you receive weekly from your CRM, that guides your decisions around strategy and areas of focus is based purely on the data entered by your field sales team. So again, if the data is of poor quality, entered as an afterthought by a team member at the end of the week the decisions you make off the back of it are going to be of equally poor quality, too.
Nothing highlights the importance and role of IT in sales management more so than its ability to maximize the accuracy of data collected from the field.
The final role of IT in sales management we will look at is the one it plays when delving into sales online.
With the unrelenting rise of the internet, word-of-mouth has gone online. Forums, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other digital media have become the playground for consumers to comment and share their experiences about your business.
People now have access to uncut, unedited reviews directly from their desktop or mobile devices to help aid them with their buying choice. They don’t even need to move off the couch.
What’s more, the growth of online and social media usage has completely altered the course of a traditional buyer’s journey. Instead of picking up the phone and relying on the salesperson to guide them through product inventory, there are now several interactions or “digital touchpoints” experienced prior to their visit.
By the time a consumer has reached you it’s likely they’ve googled your brand site, visited a forum, listened to a colleagues opinion, searched for a realistic quote as well as read a professional publication review.
All these processes will have carved a perception of your brand prior to engaging you in any form of sales activity as the social conversation gets under way.
So in order to remain relevant, you and your sales team must be ready to engage clients online.
Even field sales reps are required to do their own prospecting every now and again and one of the most powerful online tools available is LinkedIn Navigator
The great thing about LinkedIn is that it’s a social media channel designed for doing business. It’s not frowned upon to build connections and contact them directly if you see a mutually beneficial relationship.
Now the navigator tool essentially gives you access to this giant database and allows you to filter almost at will, segmenting by targeted sector, business size, age – whatever it might be that interests your business.
And the more targeted your search is, the more successful your social selling strategy will be.
Once you’ve organized these contacts into lists, based upon your initial search, you can then reach out to see if your product or service is a good fit.
As you can see, the role of IT in sales management is vast. Everything from sales force automation to online customer engagement is supported by some type of digital sales technology. But perhaps the most important role it plays, especially for field sales, is that of accurate data collection. By increasing the user-adoption rates of front-line technology used by field reps it simultaneously increases the amount of real-time data managers have with which to make accurate business decisions.
And it’s those business decisions which determine how successful you will be as a sales manager.