It’s an Intuitive, Integrated, Cloudy, Mobile World

Mobility, intuitive cloud-based tools, iPads, iPhones, and social media have forever transformed the sales ecosystem. Across all industries and sectors, salespeople are no longer chained to a desk or landline, and managers and executives agree that integrated technology makes selling more efficient. The biggest challenge is getting salespeople to adapt to new technologies and finding tools that tackle tedious tasks and make time for more deals.

Where there’s WiFi, there’s a way to communicate with and learn about clients both professionally and personally, and capture and input data. However, salespeople want tools that eliminate the burden of re-entering the same information. Most sales managers believe that a deal is owned by both the client and the salesperson, but there’s mixed opinion when it comes to monitoring employees. Some say it’s spying, while others see it as accountability, and most salespeople spend a good deal of time on social media or other tools that reveal their whereabouts anyway. At the end of the day, it’s all about selling — and choosing the best tools to help, not hinder, the process. Often, simple and single-source is best.

Top Concern at Cloudforce

Finding the most effective, intuitive technology and encouraging your salesforce to use it was the top concern among sales managers and executives who spoke with the MobilePro team at Salesforce Cloudforce New York 2011 in late November.

“Most important is making sure the sales guys can sell,” said Rob Rose, principal at Deloitte Consulting. “Our studies show 30 percent to 50 percent of time is spent on nonproductive activities, and that’s a disaster. A good sales guy wants to sell, but [salespeople] also hate all technology.”

Nearly all executives our team spoke with mentioned the iPad, iPhone and apps as among the best biggest advancements in sales, as well as the top technologies they use today. The last thing a salesperson wants is another gadget to haul around. Tools that work on the iPad make it easier for those who don’t want to waste time learning how to navigate a new format.

“The technology explosion has had an immense impact.” Ron Urbanski, account executive for Dell Boomi.

Armed with iPhones and iPads, salespeople are no longer “tied to a phone or a desk,” and can input and share data anytime and anywhere, said Kimberly M. Mendonca, management consultant at Accenture.

Deloitte’s Rose pointed to the convergence of “mobile, social and analytics,” along with “the simplicity of building apps in the cloud” as the biggest advancements.

Alex Correa, sales operations specialist at AppNexus, was most concerned with “making sure [salespeople] use tools without being overwhelmed. I would like them to have more technology because we want them to spend more time selling.”

The challenge for Ryan Dodds, account executive at Assistly, was “not having enough technology without using too much technology.”

Technology that helps your sales team “keep customers as successful and happy as possible, and maintain ongoing relationships” was paramount for James C. Brzusek, regional sales director for human resource management at Workday.

Ron Papas, general manager of enterprise data integration software company Informatica’s on-demand business unit, pointed to personality and behavior.

“Salespeople don’t change, they know how to optimize time,” said Papas. “The challenge is enabling them on the new technology.”

There can also be technological overload. “Are we capturing the right information and not getting too much information?” asked Dell Boomi’s Urbanski.

Beware the False Cloud

In a trademark epic keynote, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff warned of the “social divide” pitting the early adopters at the conference with those who have yet to seize “the social revolution.”

“We’ve been born cloud at, but we’ve been reborn social,” he told the crowd. He offered no real predictions, but warned to “beware of the false cloud.”

“New, proprietary mainframes are the false cloud. We’ve got the cloud,” he said. “If it’s about more hardware, it’s not about the cloud. If it’s about another software update, it’s not about the cloud.”

“Intuitive” and “integrated” were the big buzz words among the executives who spoke with MobilePro’s team at Cloudforce.

Salesforce’s suite of tools was popular across the board. Deloitte’s Rose and Informatica’s Papas cited Salesforce’s, a private and secure social network just for business, as one of the best new tools. “

Opportunities Chatter me, and now even objects can Chatter each other,” said Rose. “Anywhere I have WiFi, I can add new pieces of information and report in on the fly. If you’re not on Chatter, you’re almost telling [your sales manager] you are nowhere to be found.”

Social media has had a tremendous impact on sales in general, boosting everything from getting deals done to keeping tabs on your own employees.

“Using Facebook and Twitter to connect with customers is key,” said Dell Boomi’s Urbanski. “With Twitter, you can connect almost instantly without email. I use Twitter for press releases, for everything. In the last year, there has been less and less email.”

For Accenture’s Mendonca, “the biggest advantage [of social media] is the ability to reach into customers’ [lives] beyond the 9-to-5 perspective, look at their habits outside work, and relate to how they live outside of work.”

Workday’s Brzusek is an avid user of LinkedIn.

“Social networking allows us to link to people from our past and present,” he said.

Deloitte’s Rose said it’s critical to “merge social media with intuitive capabilities. … If I can follow conversations people have, I can figure out what to do with information. … Tweet to lead; tweet to opportunity. Then look at how do we turn that into a sales opportunity? You need to be proactive, listen to social media so you know what the problems are and can prevent them before you meet the client.”

Proactive Monitoring

Social media can also help employers proactively monitor their employees, especially as communication shifts away from email and into the cloud. Monitoring employees is nothing new, but has become more controversial and prevalent as technology provides so many more cost-effective and simple ways to track workers.

More than 82 percent of companies use social media to find out information about their competitors, according to a 2010 Forrester Research survey of more than 150 companies. Even old-school investigators who still take secret snapshots and pore through tomes of criminal files, do more and more sleuthing online.

According to the 2007 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey from American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute, of the 43 percent of companies that monitor email, 73 percent use technology tools to automatically monitor email and 40 percent assign an individual to manually read and review email.

“Concern over litigation and the role electronic evidence plays in lawsuits and regulatory investigations has spurred more employers to monitor online activity. Data security and employee productivity concerns also motivate employers to monitor web and email use and content,” said Nancy Flynn, executive director of The ePolicy Institute. The 2007 study, the latest one published, found that 83 percet of employers inform workers that they are monitoring content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard; 84 percent let employees know the company reviews computer activity; and 71 percent alert employees to email monitoring.

Social media and technology often lead to employees working more, not less, since it’s so much easier to close a deal with the right tools and move quickly to the next one.

“You don’t have to spy because [good salespeople] should be motivated to not hide,” said Rose. “The right people who are team-based and happy are motivated, so there is no need to spy. I believe in culture and coaching.”

When asked if monitoring employees is spying, Urbanski declared “No!” Though “I’m based in the office,” he added, so he’s easy to track.

Mendonca agreed. “It’s not spying,” she said. “It depends on the end purposes. There certainly need to be limits on people’s privacy. The trick to inheriting data is to manage integrity. It’s a growing challenge.”

AppNexus’ Correa said he “doesn’t like to think of it as spying. … Managers need to know what’s going on. That’s why we have so many analytical tools.”

Workday’s Brzusek and Doug Heckman, account executive at Bluewolf, also say monitoring employees isn’t spying. “If you work for a company, you have loyalty to that company,” said Heckman.

Informatica’s Papas noted that it “depends on company culture” and “it’s a lot easier now.”

Assistly’s Dodds said monitoring is “a little” like spying, noting “there are boundaries that management has to keep.”

Customers Expect Immediate Response

The executives MobilePro spoke with at Cloudforce gave props to specific tools, with Rose noting cloud-based virtual call centers and field service providers, and Urbanski citing the speed and efficiency of electronic document signing and transfer. But most were reluctant to note any tools that failed to make the selling process easier.

AppNexus’ Correa’s only gripe was with prospecting tool Jigsaw, “because it’s too much like Wikipedia, where anyone can submit information.”

All agreed that the need for speedy data collection and client response was paramount.

“The biggest developments are the iPhone and BlackBerry, which allow for customer responsiveness,” said Papas. “Customers expect immediate response. If you don’t get back to them immediately, they’re gone. … People in the cloud, the new ecosystem, are most savvy.”

Even in the nonprofit world, where it’s more about client relationships than sales, the same technology is essential.

“Our partner tools help with projects and customer relations,” said Hugh Dwyer, director of development information and operations for the International Rescue Committee, who came to the conference in search of the same savvy as a salesman.

Urbanski summed it up well when he said the key is “finding the right amount of information you need without burden.”

John Hand is CEO of MobilePro.

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