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Sales in a Digital Age - How Can We All Sell with More Certainty?

According to new research commissioned by Pipedrive into the challenges faced by 1,000 sales professionals, we found the following three alarming problems the sales industry needs to address:

  • 74% sales pros say they are under pressure to raise their current performance
  • 1 in 3 need to improve their sales time efficiency
  • Only 23% of salespeople feel like their sales team is well motivated

Bottom line:

Salespeople have to hit quotas. The pressure is fierce.

But even with all of the new technology available to sales teams in the digital age, we’re still struggling to sell with more certainty.

How Can Sales Tech Help to Ease the Pressure on Salespeople?

Britain’s 5.7 million SMBs are calling out for help with sales. The results of this research illustrate that a huge portion of salespeople are still extremely busy, anxious and stressed - even with new technology available to their business.

As part of London Tech Week, Pipedrive hosted a “Sales in the Digital Age” session dedicated to exploring this challenge.

We assembled a collection of the most experienced and inspirational minds in the sales profession to provide a deep dive into all the issues and technologies shaping sales activity today.

Those lucky enough to score a seat at our Tug Life IV: Sales In The Digital Age event on Tuesday 12th June, in Shoreditch, London were treated to a fiercely passionate series of presentations and discussions from a group of inspiring sales leaders.

But for those of you outside London, we want to share the lessons, inspiration and light bulb moments shared at the event.

One of the first (and most important) questions to be tackled is something nagging away at many of these anxious sales professionals.

Will Sales Technology Make Salespeople Redundant in the Digital Age?

This is a scary, serious and significant question that almost every sales rep on the planet has lurking in the back of their mind.

And it makes for a juicy headline.

But we’re not one for annoying clickbait, so here’s the long and short of it, straight up:

Short answer:

No - sales tech won’t make all salespeople redundant.

Yes - sales tech might make some lower skilled salespeople redundant.

Long answer:

It’s complicated. But we’re prepared to make a serious and significant statement to answer this scary question:

Humans are better than technology at developing relationships, so the best salespeople will only become more important in the future of the digital age.

Surprisingly, all of our sales, SaaS, marketing and business strategy experts came to an almost identical conclusion on this question dividing thought across the tech industry.

Great Salespeople Will Become More Important (and Make Sales Tech 10x Better)

Those salespeople lacking in skills, experience, and empathy might not be so lucky.

If your job can be automated, it will be and it should be.

A portion of retail salespeople has been replaced by more efficient tech. The ecommerce industry serves as the perfect warning siren for salespeople in industries outside retail. The likes of Amazon, Net-a-Porter and Alibaba have proved that a carefully designed, customer-focused online user experience can generate so much more revenue than the average sales assistant.

But as Pipedrive co-founder and CEO, Timo Rein explained:

“The heart of the sale is still a decision.”

The decision of buying a new pair of trainers might be solved by technology that enables a beautiful ecommerce customer experience.

But the decision to select a ticketing software system for an airline brand is a very different scenario. Timo pointed to the relationship development skills required to influence complex buying decisions as an invaluable advantage that humans still hold over machines:

“Tools and habits are changing - we can buy many things from our bed, but not all things. Complex problems and solutions are not wiped out by technology. Work remains for people in sales who can understand the specific complex problems of a prospect and communicate the value offered by their solution.”

If you sell a complex product or service with a long buying decision process - a brilliant salesperson will always be an invaluable competitive advantage.

But the right technology can provide such significant support to help skilled salespeople manage their pipeline and develop those all-important relationships.

Technology is a Must-Use Enabler for Your Sales Team

Quality relationship management is dependent on superior emotional intelligence and genuine empathy.

But selling at scale demands more than soft skills.

Sustainable growth requires a structured sales process to turn more and more relationships into revenue.

This scalable sales process needs to be supported by simple, easy-to-use technology to optimize results. Otherwise the people responsible for selling end up spending more time managing admin than actually selling (or worse - neglecting hot leads and letting sales slip away).

So much of the technology available to salespeople adds time, complexity and distraction to their work day. Katrina Douglas is a UK marketing consultant and author of Momentum: 90 Days of Marketing Tips and Motivation to Kick-Start Your Business. Katrina stresses the importance of finding tools that are designed to help the reps doing the selling (rather than adding an administrative burden to their workload):

"It's time that technology worked for us as salespeople. Simplicity is the ultimate for any sales tool."

Without simple, supportive sales technology, salespeople are prone to that crushing pressure and anxiety reflecting in our recent research.

Results will suffer. Morale drops. Salespeople are left to manage this crushing stress with every distraction taking their focus away from selling.

Karina advised the London Tech Week audience to seek out technological support that does what you need - and nothing more:

"Sales tech doesn't have to be fancy. Just simple and reliable."

The Criteria You Should Use When Selecting Supportive Sales Tech

All of the sales experts agreed that sales technology needs to simplify a salesperson’s job and allow them to focus on selling.

You can’t afford to select a tool that complicates a salesperson’s role or adds stress, frustration or time to their job.

Each of the expert panelists pointed to one the following five critical support mechanisms that smart tech should provide for the salespeople working on the front line:

  • Enable sustained focus
  • Simplify a sales process
  • Prioritize activities to maximize results
  • Automate admin to retain focus on selling
  • Provide accuracy in reports & forecasts

Adam Graham, co-founder of agency sales consultancy, Kiwi Gray, summarized the importance of avoiding adding an extra burden to selling by selecting tools that salespeople actually enjoy using:

"Lots of tools are made by people who aren't good at sales. That's why I love Pipedrive. It's a tool made for selling, not just to automate. It just gives salespeople what they need."

Technology Impacts Every Single Purchase in the Digital Age

Anyone responsible for driving growth within their business cannot ignore some game-changing new market conditions.

Sales in the digital age means the internet impacts every purchase decision in some way:

  • Information is now widely available about your product, your brand, and your competitors
  • Information about your prospect is also widely available
  • Competitive alternatives can now come from 5 doors down or 5,000 miles away
  • Parts of your work can be automated with tech

But there was one critical change to sales in the digital age that every one of our sales experts kept coming back to focus on.

And it’s a problem specific to the sales profession that you almost never hear about…

The Sales Problem Technology has Created That New Sales Pro’s Need to Overcome

Before the internet, salespeople grew up without phones, computers or cat memes.

Just imagine how much time a 20-year-old salesperson has spent looking at some sort of device during their life.

In 2018, so much communication is reliant on technology. Younger people entering new sales roles are used to texting, posting, snapping, swiping, DM-ing and Whatsapp-ing.

The sales professionals of tomorrow have developed so much more of their interpersonal skills in solitude.

Yet relationship development and empathy are the critical foundations of any good salesperson. Paul Blair, Sales Coach and Institute of Sales Management Fellow, points to our industry’s current weakness at educating inexperienced sales reps to improve their soft skills:

"Younger generations need more help developing their communication skills. We need to teach our new sales reps how to become experts."

Sure, the next generation of sales professionals will understand the technical side of the tools they are using. But our industry needs to improve our capability to teach sales pro’s how to use sales tech in combination with superior relationship development skills if we want to reduce the pressure and anxiety felt by so many young sales teams

Andy Matthews, Account Development Manager at Siemens sums up the importance of empathy used in collaboration with new digital technology:

"We need to understand the customer better than our competitor. We can have all the tools in the world but we need to know what's driving the person opposite you at the table"

The Fundamentals of Sales Will Never Change

High conversion with high consistency will always be a strategic business goal and this is something highly skilled salespeople are best positioned to achieve.

Emotional intelligence is the engine of any great salesperson.

Internal drive will always be the best fuel.

Matt Celuszak, co-founder and CEO of Crowd Emotion, explains why soft skills are still the most important for any salesperson:

“The fun part about sales is that people buy people. Create a common bond. That's the biggest key to turn your empathy into more sales. You need to think about your relationships holistically. You have so much more than a transaction to manage."

Learning to do three key things really well is a must for any entrepreneur or professional salesperson:

  • Focus on driving home wins, and withstanding setbacks
  • Perform key activities at a measured quantity and high quality
  • Understand your customers problems and passionately convey your product’s relevant benefits

The best salespeople are exponentially better than average salespeople. They are fiercely internally motivated. They have an outstandingly high mastery of the basics. But most importantly - the best salespeople are easily trusted by their prospects & clients.

This relationship development excellence is what transforms potential into performance.

Be Proud to call yourself a salesperson

Salespeople are the machines behind our business growth.

Selling is such a challenge. To be a skilled and effective salesperson is to be a highly emotionally intelligent person.

Every entrepreneur has to be a salesperson if they intend to successfully grow their business. Your business will not sell itself. You need to convince your prospects of the value of your offering. You need to use your empathy to develop their trust.

Adam Graham urges all business owners to think of themselves as a salesperson.

"If you're in any entrepreneurial business - you need to sell. Tap into your own beliefs and use your passion to tell your story."

We all have the capacity to create a genuine connection with another person. You don’t realize it, but you practice your sales skills each and every day.

"Everybody is a salesperson. If you want a pizza on a Sunday night, you've gotta know how to push your agenda to your partner. Tap into your passion and you'll be able to sell."

Each and every sales expert that took the stage at our London Tech Week 2018 event urged our audience to take back the pride in selling.

Relationship development is an invaluable skill to practice, refine and improve to help you succeed in business (and life). If you can find a way to show how your business can help your prospects achieve their dreams - you have the foundation for business growth.

You’ll face setbacks, rejections and failure. But you have the chance to genuinely make a difference to the lives of your potential customers. Embrace this opportunity, find your passion for selling and be proud to call yourself a sales pro.

We’ll leave it to Timo to encourage you to sell with pride and passion:

"Salespeople sometimes feel like a living billboard. But you need to understand that you have an ability to create a serious connection and make a real genuine difference for your customer. You need to learn that and own this opportunity."

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