According to the 251 UK field sales professionals my company surveyed in October 2018 more than a third (38%) agreed that technology is “more of a hinderance than a help” in their job
Given how pervasive technology has become in our professional lives, let’s take a moment to take in just how staggeringly high a percentage that is. And it gets worse!
All this technology hindrance is breeding a dangerous culture of technophobia in the sales environment and that’s ultimately contributing to the poor and inaccurate data that 47% of the reps we surveyed believe is actively preventing them from doing their job well.
Which tech is the guilty party?
When we dug into the types of technology sales organisations are using we found a heavy reliance on comparatively ‘low-tech’ tools such as Excel spreadsheets (48%), email, and instant messaging (41%) for day-to-day updates. Many of these spreadsheets and emails are also printed onto paper and used as the basis for formal reporting. The lack of trust in technology is so great, that even in this day and age, 7% admitted to still relying purely on paper-based filing and handwritten notebooks.
On the flipside, just under half of sales reps (43%) are required to use more sophisticated and professional customer relationship management (CRM) platforms from vendors such as Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics and Zoho. A further 29% also have to use enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and accounting packages. And here lies the nub of the problem.
Low trust in technology breeds low trust in sales data
The disjointed nature of all these tools is contributing to distrust in the data that field sales reps and their managers are using to make informed sales decisions. The stipulation to enter data into multiple systems means inconsistences are rife — especially as these tools can’t always be accessed easily while reps are out on the road (which is where they spend most of their time).
One in five of the reps we surveyed specifically stated that cumbersome technology directly impacts their ability to enter work-related data accurately. 89% admit to flaws in the accuracy of the data they themselves record in notes, meeting reports and their company’s CRM system. As a result, more than a quarter (28%) don’t trust their company’s CRM data.
Bridging the gap between CRM and ERP
The reality, of course, is that most of the problems being experienced with technology in the field sales environment isn’t a fault with the CRM and/or ERP technology itself, but rather the way it is being deployed in conjunction with other tools and systems. Nearly one in five (18%) of the reps we surveyed cited being forced to use the wrong technology for the task as a key reason for data accuracy flaws.
It’s really no wonder that salespeople find technology a hinderance when they’re forced to use an application that isn’t designed specifically for use on a mobile device, on the road, to support their unique set of tasks.
Field sales reps need a single interface they can use to access data and functionality in both CRM and ERP systems instead of jumping between two different applications on their mobile device. Rather than replacing either system, a mobile sales app that easily integrates with a company’s ERP and/or CRM systems can bridge the gap between the two.
This supplementary solution increases the quality and volume of data captured. It gives field sales reps access to accurate product and customer information, pricing, and inventory information, and allows them to take orders and submit them for approval in real time while on the road.
The scale of the problem
With more than 20% of the UK population employed in sales it’s jaw dropping to think that more than a third of these men and women are being let down by technology.
Cloud computing, mobile phones and the internet give us all the essential components to make it easier for salespeople to access everything they need to present and update accurate information — but this isn’t happening.
For field sales reps to sell effectively they need access to accurate information about products and customers, the latest pricing and stock information, and the ability to act on that data. Improving the technology available to support reps selling in the field, rather than forcing broken systems and processes on them, reduces idle time and hours spent on admin — so they can spend more time in front of customers building relationships and selling.
When technology is trusted, mobile-first and field sales focused by design, it is easier to get sales reps to adopt. Human relationships will always be central to the sales process, but easy access to the right technology and data empowers sales professionals with more time and information to be successful in nurturing those relationships and bringing in the sales that keeps their company in business.
About the Author
Brian Howe is Alliances Director at Skynamo. We launched Skynamo (formerly Honeybee) in 2012 with the objective of providing the market with a mobile-first sales app that would dramatically increase sales performance by changing the conversation between sales managers and sales reps from “Are you doing your job?” to “How can we improve sales performance?”For further insights download Skynamo’s Bridging the Trust Gap that’s sabotaging UK Field Sales report.