2016 is the Year We Shut Off the Bullshit in Sales

2016 is the year we drop the bullshit in sales technology and move to data-driven, no-bullshit execution. 

And it's about time. 

Sales matters. It’s hard and makes companies grow. But even though we spend millions on sales technology, it’s not doing its job.  And when technology isn’t working, sales teams struggle. That’s where the bullshit comes in. How can it be OK that data science picks movies for me and cloud analytics and mobile deliver a car in minutes almost anywhere in the world, but our sales teams feel like they win in spite of their tech, not because of it? 

Maybe it's already obvious, but sales is my obsession. In our previous company, we grew to a $100 million run rate, but the tech tools we had smelled like being on an open pasture. Our team got back together to fix that.

So my (no bullshit) 2016 predictions focus on three groups who are about to up their game ... because their tech investments will finally start working as hard as they do:

  1. First line managers
  2. Sales software vendors
  3. IT departments supporting sales

Year of the First Line Manager

First-line managers make or break the success of their reps. And 2016 is when sales managers are finally armed for their daily battle.

Every manager was once a rep. They were told to record everything in the CRM. Most forecasted by submitting their portion of a giant spreadsheet. They also got a mix of so-called productivity tools and a couple of days training on what the corporate team thought were best practices. Then they busted their butt and hit their number anyway.

Then they got promoted.

As newly minted managers, did they get new tools? Nope — as reps, they didn’t particularly like the CRM. It was a sales database demanding lots of data entry without helping them sell. And now, as managers, they’re supposed to use the CRM to run their business?

But they soldier on. They know what they need. And they believe the CRM should be their sales management tool. But even at best, it’s a database with a list of accounts and sales stages. It doesn’t give them insight into what’s happening out in the field and they need help from other people to create key reports. No predictive technology to help them pressure-test critical deals. No analysis of calendars and emails for visibility into rep activity and whether customers were engaged … or checked out. No trend analysis. No sales manager joy. And the forecast call is in an hour. This is outrageous. And unfair to first line managers.

Sales Managers Need More: In 2016, multiple tools and platforms will hit the mainstream to give first line managers new visibility and insight — into rep activity, customer engagement, deal progress, the likelihood deals will close as wins, and more.

For example, fixing 1:1s is an immediate win. Today, 1:1s are hours of play-by-play — “I called my champion,” “The VP didn’t show for the meeting,” “The contract redlines came back yesterday.” Where’s the time for coaching and strategy? That changes in 2016 as new technology analyze reps’ real sources of truth — email and calendar — to reveal rep activity and customer engagement. When first-line managers know deal progress at a glance, the conversation moves to how to get more wins.

Forecasting is another priority. Managers are accountable every day, but whether they’re using the CRM, the last wave of spreadsheets, or their last rep call, they’re forecasting in the rearview mirror. When managers use a tool like Clari, for example, they instantly know which deals pushed to next quarter or will come in at a different amount. And a data science score signals whether a deal will close as a win, why … and how to improve the odds. Starting in 2016, managers turn guesses into confidence.

I see 2016 bringing mainstream adoption of tools to make first-line managers more effective. And when those first-line managers can step up, every one of their reps gets better. Sales organizations who don’t empower their first-line managers are leaving money on the table quarter after quarter.

Year of Out-of-the-Box Value

We live in the age of now. Amazon Prime is beating their own overnight shipping with same-day delivery. I know multiple Uber users who went from initial app download to the clean back seat of a Prius in about seven minutes flat. Vendors — especially those in enterprise SaaS — need to learn that lesson. In 2016, I believe any vendor who cannot prove immediate value (e.g. in < 2 minutes) will look and feel like a dinosaur.

Pre-SaaS enterprise systems took 6-12+ months to implement. Agonizing. SaaS was supposed to be the savior. And sure, it makes access easier and cuts datacenter hardware costs. But early SaaS companies just took traditional enterprise software and put it in the cloud. So SaaS proved delivery could be easier, but didn’t prove anything about solving the business problem. Configuration, custom views, training, etc. were all the same. So even a Salesforce.com deployment can feel like forever.

I’ve seen newer firms get better, but their bar is still way too low. We’ve heard other sales analytics and forecasting vendors speak proudly of the 6 weeks it takes them to implement. 6 weeks? Seriously? That doesn’t sound very Uber-ish.  

A quick, true story shows how expectations will rise. A prospect recently sent us a detailed forecasting and sales analytics RFP. They wrote, “When you demo, use our data if possible.” “If possible?” If a demo doesn’t use your own data, you’re seeing a canned view the vendor wants you to see. At this point, you can imagine what I think of that. For you to evaluate, you need to see your own data. If a vendor pushes back and says it’s not possible to demo on your own data, you can be sure of two things: (1) the demo will run on tailor-made data to make it look good and (2) get ready to wait way-too-long for deployment and initial value.

Every one of us needs value in minutes, not weeks or months: With Clari, we use your data (protected of course by our ISO 27001 certified service) and give execs and managers new visibility into deals in about two minutes. Your data. In two minutes. This should be the new normal. Lots of people tell us they don’t believe it’s possible. If you’re one of those people, make us prove it.

IT Becomes the Strategic Partner for Sales

In my experience, people don’t go into IT dreaming of “break/fix.” They don’t even go into IT to make colleagues 10% faster or 10% more accurate. They go into IT because they believe technology can help colleagues blow past their expectations. They see the chance to do things in totally new ... unexpected … powerful ways.

They can’t do this alone. IT teams aren’t software developers — and don’t want to be. Their goal is to stabilize existing systems, escape the break/fix cycle, and then look for the best available technology to help their line-of-business colleagues.

Sounds like a colleague you want on your side, right?

But when options are slim, projects are incremental. Tools like online spreadsheets to help manage multiple forecasting versions. Or mobile access to the CRM by cramming complex laptop views onto small screens — enough to check off “mobile access” on the to-do list. But not enough to actually helping the sales team. It doesn’t move the needle and it’s the definition of technology bullshit.

We’ve entered a new era for IT working with Sales. In 2016, IT teams will explore deploying revenue-accelerating tech like predictive analytics, automatic data collection, deal activity tracking, new forms of messaging and bot technology, and of course, mobile.

But options aren’t solutions. For IT to know which developments will move the needle and which are shiny distractions, 2016 is also a year to ratchet up conversation and partnership between sales and IT leaders. What’s needed? What’s possible? What actually works?

All of this is a hot topic at Clari, because we build for people wanting to put distance between themselves and competitors. Our customers — whether in sales or IT — know “more of the same” means falling behind. So when we show deal changes in real time, which customers are responding to your reps’ efforts, and how many (and which group) of your Best Case deals you will need to hit your number this quarter, it’s not about being 10% better. It’s about getting on a new revenue growth path. Sure, we make existing processes wildly more efficient, but that alone isn’t enough. Strong IT people know this in their bones.

2016: Cut the Bullshit and Help Your Team Step Up              

In 2015, tools for sales execs and reps got the most buzz. And rightfully so. In last week’s post, I opened the kimono about how customers pushed us throughout 2015 to build a whole new kind of forecasting and analytics system sales leaders are using to run their entire sales team. (In case you aren’t already using — or at least testing — that sort of new approach to sales management, your competitors probably are. Just saying....)

Looking ahead, 2016 will be the year first-line managers, software vendors, and IT teams step up to support sales growth. As a team, execs will forecast with confidence, managers will coach with insight, and reps will spend more time selling and less on admin.

If you’re ready to cut bullshit sales tech that sucks up time and budget without driving revenue … if you agree it’s time for simple, transformative, data-driven sales management, let’s talk. At a speed no one else can match, you’ll be running your team differently and you and I will be toasting your more successful, prosperous new year!

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