It has been the case that many sales tools have been unapproachable for smaller and SMB sales teams due to the financial investment as well as the time and expertise to get some tools in place. In addition to the tool investment itself, some things (think CRM, for example) need a part-or full-time analyst on staff working with the sales team to set up and then support the activities necessary for results.
Just think how many SMBs have no CRM system in place – there are hundreds of thousands of companies in this position – still creating reports in Excel and passing them along. One classic report is the “Hot Prospects Report” – or any other name you’d call it which a rep turns in each month, quite often, showing what exactly they will focus some of their time on. These monthly reports are almost always out of date, inaccurate, and become a futile exercise thrown together by busy sales reps who feel that some of their prospect knowledge is none of the company’s business. The sales leader usually doesn't go over "actual" versus "planned" and continues to use "gut" feeling on whether the reps are working productively and if they are valuable to the organization.
Does that ring a bell with anyone?
All you have to do is look at LinkedIn's new stat of 200 million users - CRM users probably don't reach half of that number.
The Good News - Tools Can be Easy to Try Out and Implement
We are now in a time where a smaller company can minimize disruption and find reasonably priced tools which are more simple to get up to speed on and that offer quick wins. Some even offer immediate results. The element of change is not as difficult in these cases because sales team members see results. When they see results in the form of new revenues from more closed business, they really get it, and they support it.
New technologies need not be intrusive and they do not have steep learning curves in many cases, as long as it is understood that different people warm up to change and adoption at different speeds.
For the longest time I had trouble with a very simple tool that many other people use daily. It is a social tool, and I talk to sales people about social tools all the time. Even though I paid for this tool, it sat and never got used due to my stress around trying to figure it out and master it. Eventually I called a good friend who knows this tool well, and they took me through it step by step – exactly what I needed.
But I was embarrassed at first for not figuring it out on my own. That cost me a lot of time and it wasted some dollars too. Companies do this all the time. Just think about what tools you have at your disposal that you are not utilizing.
Here are 3 tools, for starters that you can and should look at which are simple, easy, and effective. All are easy to try out.
Setting Up Meetings Easily – TimeTrade
A tried-and-true tool for SMB (as well as larger companies), TimeTrade is our choice for online appointment scheduling systems. They have recently released a new interface which makes it even easier to use. One of the best productivity tools out there to help SMBs save time scheduling meetings, demos, and other events that need to have people’s time coordinated together.
Field Reps Needing Mobile Tools – Salespod
Salespod calls itself a “Swiss Army Knife” for your mobile workforce. Sales reps can be armed with forms, data sheets, and anything else they need while on the road meeting with clients.An order is created on a tablet in the field and gets entered into the ERP system at the home office. I like Salespod’s work time management system so that anyone on the road can easily enter start and end times of assignments. A GPS tracking feature helps reps speed up reporting and show accountability.
Curating Information and Resources for Clients - Postwire
Simplicity and value are what make apps useable by sales. I continue to work with Postwire because they give me a curation platform for training clients, and for educating prospects in a visual and simple manner. Postwire estimates that there are at least 25 million client-facing professionals in the U.S. managing 1 billion relationships. Through their interface, you can easily do things like setting up a welcome page for new clients or a password-protected area for new hire training. In the manner that images are in Pinterest – video, images, and documents all present nicely on a page for easy and simple access.
Tools are great, but they do not take the place of relationships. Use tools for what they are – tools that can enhance productivity but not replace human contact. Keep a focus on relationship building which should include regular phone calls, messaging, or personal email. This alone can make the difference between growing buyer and customer relationships and killing them.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips.