What Are Sales Reps For?
A popular meme in the software world today is to wear a proud badge of honor and exclaim: “We Don’t Have Any Sales Reps at our company!” This mantra has even permeated the automobile industry where companies are offering “no-haggle” pricing in an attempt to eliminate or reduce the “used-car salesman” effect that turns off buyers. Many blog posts, articles and talks have been given on the topic of “how to succeed without any sales reps” so I won’t recap their messages.
But I would like to ask the question, “What Are Sales Reps For?”
In our modern age of automation, machine-learning and artificial intelligence, is it an inevitability that the sales rep will go the way of the machinist or the assembly-line worker?
Well, perhaps someday in the future the machines will be capable of answering all of our questions and know everything there is to know about everything – but will a robot ever be able to sell? I’m talking about the soft-skills required to start a conversation with a prospect. I’m talking about the posturing and the charisma and the gift-of-gab that are all often attributed to the highest performing sales reps.
We don’t think so – at least not in our lifetimes. So, then, how can we leverage technology to work for us? How can use technology to help our Sales Reps do what we hired them to do…..to sell?
After all, when you hired your sales reps, you interviewed them and screened them on what you perceived to be their “sales skills.”
What were those “sales skills?”
“Data entry skills?”
“How adept are they at updating their CRM?”
Did you hire them on their “Ability to forecast accurately?”
No, you probably hired them for their “Presentation Skills”, their “Professionalism”, their “Quota Attainment History”, their “Ethics and Values” and their ability to follow-up with you after the interview. They probably made you laugh or feel comfortable during the interview. They might have even pitched you on “Why You Should Buy This Pen” and you were impressed.
When you did reference checks on them you probed about their work ethic, their honesty, their integrity and their demeanor with customers.
In other words, you hired them based on the qualities associated with “The Art of the Sale.”
No computer, no robot, no AI can provide you with the soft-skills required to navigate a sale. It is truly an art. This is particularly the case in the Enterprise Sales world – where reps spend a tremendous amount of time corralling, coaxing, herding, hurdling and negotiating with multiple stakeholders throughout the sales cycle. How many times has a deal been “stuck” when your manager asks, “Have you met the prospect in person?” The manager will often encourage the sales rep to meet the prospect face-to-face at the office, at dinner or for a drink – all with the intention of “putting a face to the name.” No computer can share drinks with your prospect’s favorite watering hole.
Sure, there are analytical skills associated with sales – but you hired these reps based on their “art of the sale” skills, for their humanity, not for their “science of the sale” skills.
But today, the average software sales reps spends more than half of their time updating the CRM, managing their forecasts, logging calls, sitting in meetings or getting scolded for not doing enough of what we just listed.
The heart of the matter is that you didn’t hire your sales reps to be data entry monkeys – you hired them to sell. And you should be doing everything in your power to free up their time so that they can focus on selling activities and customer-facing-activities (either on the phone or in person).
Every quarter you should be asking yourself how to automate as much of the non-human activities as you can. Make a list things that can be automated and build a plan around how to implement these tools for your team.
Mundane Activities That Can Be Automated:
All of the tools listed above are ways to free up your sales reps and give them more time.
If you want to learn more about how to automate more of the “science of the sales” so that your reps can focus on the “art of the sale” – let’s talk!