Revenue Operations Sales Execution

Why Sales Teams Fail Digital Transformation Projects—and How to Succeed, Anyway

Headshot photograph of Venkat Rangan

Venkat Rangan
CTO, Clari



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Photograph of two sales leaders discussing digital transformation in front of a computer
Photograph of two sales leaders discussing digital transformation in front of a computer

The traditional IT approach to sales and revenue operations transformation often forgets an important takeaway from behavioral design: You can’t make people do something they don’t want to do. To torture the old proverb, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink, especially when the horse has more important things to do.

More often than not, imposing top down technology mandates doesn’t work, let alone stick. This is particularly true for digital transformation projects that involve the sales and revenue operations teams. Technology drives efficiencies, which in turn, drives growth—but only if everyone is both bought in and uses it in the way the transformation requires. That means the change has to give teams an immediate benefit. For sales people, that payoff needs to be instant. Selling time is just too precious. 

I see sales teams and IT routinely at odds over implementing a new piece of the tech stack. IT can make the C-suite fall in love with the digital transformation promises of a CRM system, only to have a shiny new technology fall flat because the salespeople and customer success teams on the front line don’t gain value from feeding and caring for it. 

The numbers underscore the challenge. Only 18% of global participants in a Gartner survey were willing to adopt processes and products that delivered new ways of working. Sellers report that they can only spend about a third of their time selling, so they are among the groups least likely to dedicate time to adopting a new tool that doesn’t deliver immediate gain. While that assessment may have changed during COVID-19, it’s unlikely that it increased radically.  

When it comes to CRM adoption, are salespeople really to blame? From their perspective, where’s the value in adding another time-consuming impediment to their process, filling out every data point in a CRM system, when that’s time they could have been spending on actively selling? 

This disconnect frustrates me, especially as we spend so much time working to eliminate friction for the customer. Yes, we need to make it easier for the customer to buy. But things would be a lot better—more revenue, more employee satisfaction, and ultimately happier customers—if we also made it easier for the salesperson to sell.

A more supportive approach to revenue operations

The answer to this problem lies in the fundamentals of how we approach capturing data for the systems we deploy. Instead of pushing out solutions that require more work for sales and customer success teams, we designed Clari to automate this critical aspect. 

Clari was built on the premise that there’s analytical gold hiding in everyday revenue-generating processes, such as emails and calendars. Clari’s low-touch approach doesn’t straitjacket sales into doing chores they’d rather not do, but instead harvests data from all those processes and automatically captures and updates that critical business data.

We make the “what’s in it for me” question easy to answer. It’s one thing for the chief information officer to fall in love with a tech solution. It’s another to translate that enthusiasm to in-the-trenches adoption. 

What’s in Clari for salespeople? We do the grunt work behind revenue generation so you reach your sales goals faster. Even better, sales teams don't have to reboot their processes. They don’t have to perform additional labor to realize rewards. Clari’s tech fits to their needs, rather than the other way around.

As a result, Clari isn’t just user-friendly. It creates instant user value, a critical factor for tech adoption. Clari’s commitment to behavioral design borders on fanatical. Since our very first version, we have continuously incorporated the lessons from user behavior data into our product to streamline its design and delight our users. We don’t demand that salespeople change their ways. We work around existing processes and dig out the nuggets of gold where they’re hidden to provide a smarter and less intrusive way of driving revenue. 

At Clari, we understand that a salesperson’s biggest strength lies in their ability to develop relationships—and to sell. They may tolerate (to a point) filling out paperwork and entering CRM data fields as the cost of doing business and getting paid, but time spent on data entry is time not selling. 

The future of revenue operations tech

The future of revenue operations is changing. Most of the 2,000 companies surveyed for a 2020 McKinsey report, said that digital sales interactions will be two to three times more important than their traditional equivalent. This is all well and good, but from what I see, digital is a nebulous word. A blind buy-in of CRM packages and a tech stack might not deliver all the promised riches. To get sales to truly love your tech stack, you have to help them reach their goals: more sales with no added effort.

I am proud to say that Clari’s revenue operations AI data platform is C-suite friendly—and salespeople approved. A true win-win for all.

To learn more about Clari’s revenue operations platform, book a demo.

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