Historically, many sales tools—CRM systems in particular—have been designed to benefit managers, but require extra steps or workflow changes for reps. This has made it hard to drive adoption, and it becomes difficult for managers to achieve ROI when rep adoption is inconsistent.
Aiming to solve the problem by providing more value to reps, a newer generation of sales tools emerged. Most of these products are (or were at some point) positioned as “rep productivity” solutions. They automate certain repetitive elements of the sales process, such as formatting, data entry, etc., allowing reps to be more efficient. Productivity tools benefit reps by enabling them to make touches faster and spend time focusing on more strategic, relationship-based selling activities. Although managers may not be the primary users of these tools, managers benefit in two ways:
1) Reps make more touches on more deals. Improving these soft-skill performance indicators is a goal for most managers.
2) Often, productivity tools track reps’ activities and success rates (such as emails sent, emails opened, dials made, etc.), providing visibility for management into activity-based KPIs. Some solutions also include team performance analytics, aggregating activity data from a group of reps who are all using the platform.
However, the impact of productivity tools on the bottom line may not be as clear to sales tech buyers in senior leadership positions, since the day-to-day benefit is experienced by end-users. While managers are not the primary beneficiaries, they will have some visibility into the impact of the tools. However, the ROI gets harder to see for the VP of Sales, Director of Sales, and other key decision makers who oversee managers and are focused on high-level reporting about the pipeline.
How are experts and early investors thinking about the ROI of their sales stack?
Based on her research into B2B sales operations and sales technology market trends, expert Nancy Nardin said she believes these tools can offer a high ROI, provided sales organizations look closely at the activities that make up their sales process. Nardin commented, “It’s time for companies to look beyond what managers need and look for solutions that answer the question ‘What’s in it for me as a salesperson?’ Reducing the non-selling tasks from the average of 65% of a rep’s time to 50% will increase revenue by 42.85%.”
Nardin and others believe these technologies will deliver measurable value partly because they’re likely to get adopted in the first place. Still, even platforms that make tasks easier for reps involve a degree of change management. Craig Rosenberg, co-founder and chief analyst at TOPO, recommends starting deployment slowly, with one or two power users who can champion the tool and show other reps how it’s helping them meet goals more efficiently. Rosenberg said: “The biggest roadblock to ROI is lack of adoption. There’s a big difference here between MarTech and Sales Tech. In marketing, once a buyer invests in a new tool, their team implements it. In sales, all 150 reps view themselves as independent operators, to some extent, and since they are focused on making quota—they’re not going to band together to implement new software. The best organizations have figured out how to do the slow roll, creating internal success stories with sales technology so that other salespeople want to start using the tool.”
Indeed, for early investors in sales tech, adoption and productivity have emerged as major considerations in measuring the success of their sales tech investments. Efficiency, productivity and user adoption are three of the most-discussed indicators of ROI for sales tools in general, based on reviewer feedback across different sales tech categories. (Other common metrics are conversion rate, data quality and quality of presentations/communications.) Here are some comments from managers, leaders and sales tech experts about the ways in which end-user adoption and productivity contribute to the ROI of sales tools:
ROI on Quosal purchase, according to a VP of Operations (including Sales Ops) at a Broadcast Media company:
- ”The most important metric is our adoption of the solution. We struggled at first, but our reps love it now.
- We have increased efficiency due to the ease of use and flexibility.
- We were able to provide our teams a much more flexible and easy-to-use solution. We now have increased user adoption to other departments that were not possible with our previous solution.”
- ”Compared to what other clients have used, Sage CRM increased productivity of the sales team.
- The adoption of a new CRM system was a lot quicker with Sage CRM than I have seen with other products.”
ROI on SteelBrick CPQ purchase, according to a Salesforce Manager at a Mechanical/Industrial Engineering company:
- ”User adoption in quoting is higher than before.
- Removed several steps in our current quote process which led to more efficient employees.”
ROI on Yesware purchase, according to an Office Manager/HR Coordinator at a Consumer Services company:
- ”Absolutely increased employee efficiency through templates saving valuable time!”
ROI on Xactly Incent purchase, according to Managing Partner at an Information Technology and Services company:
- ”Increased sales ops efficiency: Reduces processing time allowing sales ops to concentrate on other tasks, reduces errors dramatically and faster roll-out of new plans/plan changes to the reps. Management will be happy to know they can do more with less in regards to staff.
- Increased productivity from sales reps: Ease of access and review of commission/bonus/MBO results, drill down to transaction order data answering many of their questions without the need to call sales ops. Due to the ease of implementation, system flexibility and what-if capabilities, a company can implement the comp plans they feel will properly motivate and monitor the success of their sales reps.”
Plan for success — drive adoption and measure ROI
So, what should you do to prepare for successful sales tech selection and implementation? First, figure out what specific metrics and activities you hope to improve with the new technology. Having a clear internal definition of success, and syncing your goals across different levels (reps, managers and leadership), as well as with the vendor, will help you figure out what features you need and what changes to track/test to determine ROI for the tool.
Once you’ve established a game plan for success, make sure your end users and their supervisors are sold on how the tool will benefit them personally. If you need to develop internal success stories to convince them, drive adoption incrementally and get your champions involved in the internal sell. You can also incentivize adoption by tying KPIs and goals to use of the tool; make reps accountable by factoring these goals into their quota or their compensation plan. Finally, incorporate tips and best practices into training/coaching sessions.
According to sales development leaders like Julie Drimel of NetSuite and Andrea Hansen of Gainsight, less-seasoned roles such as SDRs and BDRs present a great opportunity for introducing new sales technology. Because they are still learning about sales methodology—and tend to be younger and more comfortable mastering new technologies—they are more likely to adopt the tools, and will champion the tools they find useful as they move up through the organization.
For more information about the different types of sales technology and evaluating products with ROI in mind, read the full report on How to Navigate the Sales Technology Landscape. It includes a visual breakdown of the sales technology space by user role, stage of the sales process and feature set, as well as an in-depth discussion of market trends.