With Covid restrictions remaining a fact of commercial life for the foreseeable future, the pressure remains on manufacturing and distribution businesses to realize maximum gains from their sales operations to keep cashflow ticking over.
Many players have turned to technology over the course of the pandemic to optimize the efficiency and productivity of their key functions, but especially so to support the sales process. Indeed, recent research shows as many as three quarters of sales professionals use sales technology to close more deals. There’s a huge range of sales technology options available but knowing which solutions to consider and how to integrate them isn’t always easy, especially for smaller players with limited resources.
What do we mean by sales technology?
Broadly, sales technology helps businesses accelerate and enhance sales productivity by enabling sales teams to use their time and customer intelligence as effectively and efficiently as possible. It typically comes in the form of software as a service (SaaS) that assists with a myriad of everyday tasks such as data entry, emailing prospects and customers, scheduling calls, prospecting, enriching leads, creating compelling reports and managing proposals.
What are the benefits?
Of course, specifying sales technology requires financial investment, something that is not always easy to justify when customer demand is muted and wider economic conditions are challenging. That said, smart tech adoption should always pay for itself and typically will lead to an improvement in overall business health. Businesses using our sales enablement software platform for example can expect to see an increase in total sales volume of as much as 20% alongside increases in average invoice value and the number of spending customers.
In essence, when specified appropriately, sales technology should help your sales team to work smarter by minimizing time-consuming tasks and leaving sales reps free and, crucially, better informed to focus on the all-important business of getting deals over the line.
Understanding the five sales-tech pillars
With more and more sales tech solutions coming onto the market all the time, appreciating which solutions are likely to be most appropriate for your business and the differences between them is key. Here we identify the five key sales tech pillars of significant value to manufacturers and distributors right now.
An increasingly popular and evolving discipline, marketing automation tools can be some of the most useful solutions in a salesperson’s arsenal, allowing them to simplify and streamline every part of the sales process. According to Techopedia, it revolves around “the use of software and web-based services to execute, manage and automate marketing tasks and processes. It replaces manual and repetitive marketing processes such as emails, social media and certain website actions with purpose-built software and applications geared toward performance.”
Research shows that companies that use automation to manage their leads can expect a 10% or more increase in revenue within as little as 6-9 months, alongside improved customer relations and retention and better alignment between company sales and marketing functions.
Put simply, e-commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services over the internet. While not immediately appropriate for all manufacturers and distributors, the advent of the Covid crisis has seen a widescale shift to e-commerce across business and industry as companies sought to maximize sales with many of their traditional routes to market cut off. And with good reason. Within two decades, it is expected that 95% of all purchases will be via ecommerce. Establishing an e-commerce presence needn’t cost the earth and will be particularly appropriate for businesses that sell a wide range of products, want to market to a larger audience and already have a website that attracts significant traffic. Conversely, the solution will be less appropriate for companies who aren’t equipped to deal with volume orders or who only want to target a small geographical territory.
Arguably the most important sales technology tool in any organization’s armoury, CRM performs as an all-in-one platform where businesses store and manage their lead and customer information, essentially acting as a central hub that sales enablement software can be built around. A hardworking CRM system will allow a business to hold customer and prospect contact information, identify sales opportunities, record service issues, and manage marketing campaigns. Crucially, it will make information about every customer interaction available to anyone within the business who may need it. There are many theories about what makes a good CRM system but essentially, it should be built in line with your individual sales process, be easy to use, accessible remotely, can synch all your tools and provide real time, easily digestible reports.
Getting CRM right can be a real challenge for businesses of all sizes, with as many as a third of all projects destined to fail to live up to expectations, due to coming in over budget, being technologically limited or delivering insufficient ROI. As with any technology investment, getting the right solution requires careful consideration of the options and an understanding of what challenges it can realistically solve, being mindful of budget and timeframe limitations.
Analytics & reporting
The devil typically lies in the detail when it comes to optimizing most key business functions, but especially so for sales. So many manufacturing and distribution businesses hold swathes of data and metrics on their customer relationships and sales processes yet fail to store or analyse it adequately to inform better sales practices. Analytics and reporting tools that collate and summarize key metrics automatically, once again take the hard work out of this process, giving sales professionals hard insights to enable them to do the job better.
Sales process management determines the steps an organization follows as it guides prospects from initial contact to purchase. Any organization that has a documented sales process management procedure can add it to their CRM software so that each customer account is assigned to a stage at all times. This enables sales professionals to run reports and measure progress against goals to improve the overall sales management process and ultimately, maximize sales team output.
Specifying the right sales tech to suit any business is as much of an art as it is a science. What works for one business may not be appropriate for another and some budgets simply preclude wide-scale adoption of comprehensive tools and capabilities. What’s more a one size fits all approach to tech specification is rarely appropriate or possible and many businesses find they need multiple integrated tools working in harmony to deliver results. Either way, by understanding their options and considering what are the most pressing sales strategy challenges they are looking to address over the short, medium and longer term, manufacturers and distributors can put themselves in the best position to specify the right mix of tech solutions for their own unique needs.