CRM was originally started in order to share notes about what was happening in Sales Calls. The deployment of minicomputers and then the adoption of personal computers gave the sales reps an inexpensive tool to keep their notes of what was happening on their deals.
This early vision of a “Customer” “Relationship” “Management” system was highjacked into a system that was done “for the sales managers and CEO’s” to help them keep their jobs by consistently delivering on their forecasted revenues. This focus on “making my forecast” meant deals exceeding what was needed to make this quarter’s forecast were often held over to the next quarter to assure that next number’s forecast was made. It is no secret that Wall Street values dependability even more importantly than maximizing results over several quarters through unsteady sales growth quarter over quarter.
A sales manager in a big company described to me what he referred to as the “Sunday Night Funnies”, where “the sales reps were frantically updating the CRM on Sunday night with what they remember from their calls and what they want management to know about their pipeline in preparation for their Monday Morning Deal Review.’
Here we are all these years later and reps still struggle with the same problems, but we have added even more difficulty to the situation because of the displacement of the office environment. This shift has turned traditional sales models on their heads, leading to the following changes:
The Internet displaced the sales rep as the broker of information on a company’s product. Most studies say the buyer is 70% through their purchase process (now called the Buyer’s Journey) before they will even talk to a sales rep.
The prospects have probably looked at your competitors before they take your first call . . . there is no such thing as a “quiet deal” anymore. They expect you to be more knowledgeable than they are.
The new “educated prospect” has turned traditional discovery on its head! “Can I have 15 minutes to understand your needs” is no longer a good opening statement. Your opening statement needs to be highly personalized to address how your product will specifically benefit this prospect. Most reps will need AI to pull together “the right thing to say” in an opening statement.
Because less than 20% of the people called will answer the rep’s calls, the reps need AI to do the research to create personalized opening statements Reps don’t have the time to do the research required when only 20% of their calls will be answered.
Reps will love having Agent Assisted dialing to increase the actual discussions they have per day. And the blended cost of connected calls will be considerably less using the combination of outsourced Agent Assisted Dialing and the BDR Salary.
Virtual Calls are substantially shorter than traditional face to face meetings used to be, so there is now little time for rapport building. The prospect’s confidence and trust are now built on the rep’s effectiveness in showing a fit to the prospect’s needs.
So, what is the answer? I believe we will start to see an industry shift to the following solutions:
Access to a Google-like searchable knowledge repositories of product and competitive information will replace the flood of internal emails that are being sent to the sales team now to keep informed of new features and the key changes to existing products. Until the data is searchable with a Google-like search, the info is of extremely limited value to the entire sales team – because email is not such a great “knowledge repository for reps to have info at their fingertips” to handle prospect questions and objections.
Real time alerts when prospects look at videos, proposals, etc. will allow reps to follow up on prospect activity quickly and easily when the prospect is thinking about your product.
Your cell phone will become the window to a complete Story-So-Far as your real time follow up when prospects show interest, rather than waiting until you are back at your desk.
Coaching will be more effective – and better received by the reps you are coaching – because you will be showing them the actual processes being followed by the reps who are the leading producers. Comparing what top reps d0 compared to another is the best way to demonstrate Best Practices that really work! Reps like comparisons to their peers rather than hearing sales managers telling them “when I was a rep, I used to . . .”.
A virtual Call Map (the Story-So-Far), which shows where important (by keyword) and meaningful (by duration of the discussion) topics were discussed will make listening to just the important parts of important calls easy, efficient, and productive.
Traditional Playbooks will be replaced by AI generated TalkTraks or PlannedDialogues. Playbooks by definition have too much irrelevant information in them because they must include “what to say” to any question or objection, rather than AI TalkTraks that are generated specifically for each call to this prospect. The discussion points – and their suggested sequence – is personalized even down to the different personality type of the prospect.
These AI “PlannedDialogues” will evolve during the call based upon the subject discussed and the duration points are discussed. AI initially establishes and then maintains the reps Relevance to the prospect based upon the discussion.
AI generated follow up emails are going to dramatically improve the effectiveness of sales calls because the AI engine will draft an email that is: far better than a new BDR would know how to write, more detailed than an experienced rep would take the time to write, and in the best sequence to elicit the desired next action.
We all know that change is painful, so I do not expect to see this happen overnight. However, as companies continue to move forward, they will need to find the right solution for their pain points, which I have more than likely outlined here. A solution that can bring an end to unnecessary problems by making their CRM work FOR them not AGAINST them.