The Rhyme and Reason of Sales and Marketing Tech Adoption

Oh, the technology you’ll be equipped with if you are in sales! CRM chock-full of prospect details! Lead management telling you who you should call, And marketing tossing leads over the wall! Even marketing’s in on it too — they’re lead scoring and poring through data for you!They have their own software for scooping up leadsAnd campaigning campaigns to meet your lead needs!But none of this tech is useful at all If adoption rates are abysmally small…

Sorry about that — my computer’s “Seuss Lock” key was stuck for a minute. What I was trying to say before the doggerel got in the way was this: For all the breakthroughs in technology and process, and for the vast amounts of money invested in making sales and marketing both more productive and better aligned, we still face a staggering adoption problem.

Who’s Using Your Tech?

Sales and marketing pros answered a lot of questions in a survey conducted by CallidusCloud, published in January. One of them was this simple query: How much of your sales team has adopted and regularly uses your current solution?

A big chunk of respondents — 37.98 percent, to be precise — said that everyone was on board. However, a quarter of the respondents (25.48 percent) said that less than half used the technology they had been given, and 5.77 percent of this group said no one used the technology.

If you’re a CIO, or a VP of sales, or a CMO, or even a CFO, you had better hope that your company is not part of that 5.77 percent, because that means you’ve invested in what is essentially shelfware, and your sales and marketing teams are completely ignoring the tools you’ve paid dearly for.

If you’re part of the rest of that 25.38 percent, you’ve got troubles too — sales and marketing are half-hearted in their use of technology, and that means they’re probably missing out on deals and failing to maximize the value of the deals they do manage to close.

So how do you avoid having sales and marketing ignore your technology investments?

There are a few steps to it — and many of them start before you even choose the technology.

People and Processes

First, start by choosing the right tools for your team. Any responsible software acquisition process starts with a thorough evaluation of requirements. That evaluation should not be based on what other companies are doing, nor should it even start with a discussion of technology. Initially, it should be based on what your company wants to do, the way your sales team works, and the things about their methods and processes you want to achieve.

Once you’ve determined those things, you can start mapping requirements to them. Doing otherwise takes the technology selection process out of context and turns selection into a features bakeoff that is likely to result in an investment that gets ignored.

Another good way to set the stage for adoption is to get actual users involved in the selection process, which helps in several ways. First, it reinforces the need for context in the selection process. If a technology, or a vendor’s take on that technology, won’t meet sales and marketing’s needs, sales pros and marketers are going to be the first to spot the problem.

Later, it provides the new technology with some internal champions — people who had a stake in its selection and can act as champions for change among their peers. This concept is incredibly important and tremendously useful, noted the head of a very large CRM consultancy — but he added that in his tenure at the company, only one client had bothered to do it.

Seize upon the failure of others and make users part of the selection and evaluation process.

Training Isn’t Optional

Another area where companies implementing sales and marketing technology blow it is in training. You can understand how this might happen. All the talk about applications being “intuitive” has translated into the minds of many as “you can just start clicking and figure it all out.”

For an application as versatile as CRM or marketing automation, that’s true to a point. Beyond that point, however, you really need to know what you’re doing in order to maximize your investment.

However, many CRM deployments include training as an expense, viewed as something to be trimmed from a quote to save money. Just think what would have happened had the Wright Brothers’ clients had that outlook and scrimped on training. There would have been lots of crumpled piles of airplane wreckage and some pretty miserable end users, and not many airplanes in the air. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

Tear Down Those Silos!

If you really want adoption, make sure that the software you select can become indispensable to as many people in the organization as possible. That means avoiding technology that rebuilds data silos. Sales should be able to see marketing automation data, and even use the software for micro-campaigns targeted at already-engaged customers. Marketing should be able to see sales data and use it to sharpen lead definitions, scoring points systems and its own campaigns.

If you have systems that sales and marketing are both depending on, they become mutually dependent. The technology they use, then, can’t be ignored — sales is depending on marketing to use it, and marketing is relying on sales.

Finally, realize that adoption requires you to sell your sales and marketing team on how new technology will benefit them. If marketers don’t understand how it will help them reach their lead goals, and if sales doesn’t see how it will help them make more in commissions, neither will be motivated to change the way they’re working — especially if they’re already meeting their goals.

Relate the benefits of the technology in their terms, not the company’s. Increased visibility for management is not a benefit for the sales and marketing pros who are the real users of technology. Instead, talk about time saved, commissions, lead goals that can be achieved, and other metrics pertinent to the users.

Implementing sales and marketing technology with consideration only for the technology is a move destined to end in disaster. In order to restore rhyme and reason to the process, first understand the way your people work, and the things you need to change.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is content marketing manager for CallidusCloud and a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years, focusing on CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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