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Sales Technology in 2015 – Adoption Challenges Persist

Last week, we hosted a webinar on sales technology – Sales Technology in 2015: The New Stack. The event provided analysis of the sales tech market, covering topics such as market drivers and macro trends. But the hottest discussion revolved around how to ensure successful adoption of technology in the sales organization. That’s because adoption sales reps remains the number one challenge when it comes sales technology.

Sales technology adoption has always been a major issue for companies looking to use CRM and other sales technologies. Consider these statistics:

  • Only 15% of sales technology purchases result in increased revenue;
  • Only 40% of sales reps are satisfied with their CRM; and
  • Only 50% of sales reps use the CRM once purchased.

Sales technology adoption challenges

Much of this can be attributed to the cultural and organizational attributes of the sales function. Traditionally, sales organizations have focused on “hitting the number”. The question of how to hit the number in a scalable, repeatable manner received very little attention. To the extent sales leaders considered design principles at all, they focused on hiring good reps with a history of quota achievement and designing comp plans that incented (seemingly) the right behavior. As a result, most sales teams consisted of highly individualistic reps who did things their own way, including deciding on their own whether technology could help them or not.

At the same time, we believe that sales technology adoption rates are improving thanks to a few changing technology dynamics. First, many sales reps are now native technologists – they not only expect to use technology on the job, but also understand how it benefits the creation of pipeline and revenue. Second, technology itself is becoming more useable, driven by SaaS and quantum leaps in software user experiences. Third, a lot of sales technology now runs “behind the scenes”, requiring very little use by frontline sales reps.

But the most important change in sales technology adoption has nothing to do with technology. It’s a new mindset emerging among sales leaders – one that shows a commitment to modernizing the sales function by focusing on a repeatable sales process, standard plays, and organizational design. In these sales organizations, technology is a foundational building block of the sales organization and there’s a commitment to enabling that technology.

The Sales Technology Adoption Framework

To help our clients drive sales technology adoption, the TOPO Analyst Team developed the following five point framework:

  1. Put process and plays before sales technology.
  2. Identify revenue-critical points in the aforementioned process/plays.
  3. Evaluate vendors using a three point framework.
  4. Drive sales technology adoption with holistic enablement.
  5. Measure and optimize revenue impact and operational usage.


Put process and plays before sales technology – Many sales organizations make the critical mistake of purchasing technology prior to understanding how that technology will support their core sales process or the tactical plays that reps run on the frontlines. It’s critical that you use technology as an enabler of your sales process and plays. To do this, you need to have a well-designed sales process and standardized plays that technology can actually support.

Identify revenue-critical points in process/plays – Within your sales process, then identify the critical points where technology can have the biggest impact on revenue. To do this, answer three questions. First, Where can tech have the biggest impact on revenue growth? Where will technology adoption be most successful? At that specific point, what benefit will technology deliver?

Evaluate vendors using a three point framework – Once you’ve identified a point in your sales process where technology can improve operating and/or revenue metrics, you should use a simple three point framework to evaluate relevant vendors. This framework focuses on:

  1. The potential revenue impact that product or service can have.
  2. Whether the offering meets your specific feature requirements.
  3. How usable the product or service is.

There are, of course, many situation-specific details that drive these three criteria sets, but the general idea is to compare, shortlist, and select vendors that satisfy your requirements and objectives in each of these areas.

Drive sales technology adoption with holistic enablement – The hard work really begins once you’ve selected a vendor and are ready to roll the technology out in the sales org. You can use a few simple enablement hacks to do this. First, involve early adopter/influencer-type sales reps during requirements gathering and vendor evaluations. Second, always spend time piloting the product with a smaller team. Third, use concise training formats when driving adoption into the larger sales organization.

Measure revenue impact and operational usage – Finally, make sure that you measure and optimize the impact that your sales technology investment is having. Generally speaking, look for impact in two areas – either operating metrics such as increased activity or revenue metrics such as pipeline opportunity created. If you’re not seeing the results you anticipated, look for areas to optimize such as the underlying process/plays, technology features, or usage.

About the author:  Scott Albro is the CEO and founder of TOPO. TOPO is a research and advisory firm that helps sales and marketing grow faster. We do this by identifying the patterns, plays, and behaviors that drive exceptional revenue growth. It’s this data that helps our clients (some of the world’s fastest growing companies) enable their sales teams to drive more leads, higher conversion rates, larger average deal sizes, shorter sales cycles, and lower churn rates. The result? Our clients grow 2X faster than the competition.

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