We hear a lot of sales stories talking to prospects here at InsightSquared. Some are from proud VPs boasting about their team’s successes, but the majority are cautionary tales. One that comes up again and again is the story of a sales tool gone wrong.

The story always goes something like this: Reps were griping about a problem, so the VP talked to a few of her peers and learned that they were using a new, cutting edge tool to solve it.

The VP was impressed with what she saw when she evaluated it for herself, so she went ahead and purchased it for her reps. Now, three months later, no one uses it, and it feels like thousands of dollars got flushed out of her budget for no reason.

Why is this such a common story? What makes sales tools so problematic?

Why Sales Tools Fail

A sales tool that doesn’t get adopted typically suffers from one of these three flaws:

  • It doesn’t solve for the real problem it was meant to solve
  • It has too steep of a learning curve, and distracts reps from selling
  • It doesn’t fit into the company’s existing business process

Savvy sales execs can easily avoid the first problem by asking the right questions. Understanding the root of the problem, not just the consequences it causes, makes all the difference in how effectively you can evaluate a product before purchasing a new tool.

The second and third problems, on the other hand, won’t be resolved without a whole lot of internal wrangling. Sales tools have to gel with your existing business processes before you can get any value out of them.

Even if you find the right sales tool for your team, you get stuck fighting an uphill battle to reorganize the daily routine of your entire sales team if it doesn’t mesh with your sales process. That’s a battle you will almost certainly lose.

The Solution

You should never invest in sales technology unless you have a clear plan for how to use it and you have support from everyone who will use it.

The easy way to guarantee value from sales technology is straightforward — only buy tools that fit your existing sales process. While safe, this approach limits you to tools with a small scope. You can one-off improvements like automating email or implementing click-to-dial software with relative ease, but eliminating more systemic problems is a whole other animal.

Examples of riskier projects are organizing customer and project management into a centralized CRM system or implementing company wide business analytics to replace one off ad-hoc reporting. This type of project has the potential to increase sales performance by a larger margin, but they are also a more costly investment of time and money and will disrupt the daily routines of your sales reps — in short, they’re more likely to fail.

Before you even begin thinking about how to drive adoption of a new tool, you must be willing to adjust incentives (but be careful with monetary compensation) and change your approach to management. Sales technology fails when it is implemented without a clear plan in place for how it’s meant to be used. New technology has to either fit it into your existing management structure or act as a catalyst for the changes you intend to make in the way you manage your sales process.

The secret to getting value from sales tools is to have the endgame planned out before you buy them. The way to do this is to:

  1. Establish a clear vision for what the technology will accomplish
  2. Communicate the value of the process changes that will occur
  3. Line up management and performance incentives with the new technology

By clearly communicating the value of the process changes that will take place and aligning your management structure to support that value, you will garner support for new tools, and ensure they are successfully adopted.

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