Is Sales Tech an Afterthought in Your Planning Process?

When you think about your annual sales planning process, where does sales tech come into play? It’s most likely toward the tail end of the process, when you have your CRM admin update CRM with the new fiscal year territory and account assignments. Or it might be part of your budgeting exercise with finance and IT. In most cases, when it comes to planning for sales tech, it tends to be in a reactive manner.

Sales organizations continue to experience sales tech adoption challenges, including CRM adoption, yet we continue to manage sales tech as an afterthought.

It’s no wonder that 78% of respondents in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study indicated their sales tech stack does not address their selling challenges! (Click to tweet)

Proactive Planning Is Key

Let’s take a look at why you want to be more proactive when planning for sales tech… and what you can do to get there.

First, let me clarify the reference to sales tech being an “afterthought.” There’s a difference between being an afterthought and planning after something else.

When sales tech is an afterthought, you are planning for it reactively – most commonly in response to someone’s need or a significant organizational challenge that requires you to do something that wasn’t planned for. If it’s not planned for, you are simply reacting after the fact.

In contrast, when you plan for sales tech after your go-to-market strategies are defined or after your sales process is in place, you are able to better align your sales tech decisions to your sales strategy and processes.

Rather than being a parallel (yet often separate) annual budgeting exercise with finance and IT, sales tech planning needs to be a component of your overall sales planning process. (Click to tweet) It should be one of the key outputs during the latter half of your process, after your go-to-market strategies are defined.

Here are three things sales operations can do now to be more proactive and prepared to include sales tech planning as part of your annual planning discussions:

#1. Become familiar with your current state. (Click to tweet) The first step is to be aware of what you know and what you don’t know. While it’s important to know where you are headed, it’s just as important to know where you are today (i.e., your current state). Start with an inventory of your sales tech. You also should inventory the business processes your sales tech supports.

Take CRM, for example. If you have one in place, what business processes does it support? Asked another way, in what business processes do you reference CRM or data extracted from CRM? Account and contact engagement, marketing campaigns, opportunity planning, forecast reviews and contract reviews are a few examples. Knowing when and how you are using your current sales tech will help you identify the business processes it touches. Knowing where you are now is critical to determining what it will take to get to the future state.

#2. Gather feedback from your sales team. (Click to tweet) Yes, you read that right: Gather feedback from your sales team. The intent is not to end up creating a wish list of all the “cool” sales tech they want; rather, the intent is to find out what your sales team’s experience is – inclusive of sales tech or not. Find out what’s working as well as areas that could be improved – with a focus on productivity. Their productivity challenges will differ depending on their sales role. So first make sure you are clear on what their expected role scope is. Then, within that context, find out how productive they are (or aren’t). There may be some “pearls of wisdom” in their feedback.

#3. Don’t forget the others – such as marketing, service and customer success. (Click to tweet) As we’ve previously discussed, sales tech should not be looked at in a siloed manner. What sales does, including our processes and technologies, impacts other functions, especially marketing and customer success. We most commonly look at marketing as “upstream” or an “input” into sales’ realm, with customer success as “downstream” or an “output” from sales.

But these days, it’s more common for customers (prospects and clients) to engage in a more nonlinear and nonsequential manner. They may engage any of the three functions at any time. Therefore, ensuring alignment across people, process and technology as well as messaging is crucial.

Reach out to marketing and customer success proactively. Share your sales tech plan with them, and ask them to share their plans with you. You might find that their plans are connected to yours. And if you collaborate with IT to manage your sales tech planning, make sure your IT business partners are part of those discussions as well.

 

If you’re thinking this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. Being proactive requires time, effort and planning. It may feel like it’s easier to manage on an ad-hoc basis, but when was the last time being ad hoc was easy? When you are reactive, you end up spending more time and effort on things that were not planned.

Make it a point to re-prioritize what you are doing, and make time to take the steps to being more proactive about your sales tech planning. (Click to tweet) Doing so ensures you are including sales tech as part of your annual planning because you are ready to discuss what needs to be discussed – proactively, not reactively.

 

Questions for you:

  • Is sales tech planning part of your annual sales planning discussions, or is it just part of the finance budgeting exercise?
  • Do you know what sales tech you currently have? Are there any sales tech that is being used that you might not be aware of?
  • When was the last time you gathered sales tech experience feedback – from your sales organization, marketing, or customer success teams?

 

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4 Comments
  • Anonymous
    Posted at 20:31h, 08 October

    Very helpful. We actually just went through this exercise and uncovered a lot of room for efficiencies! Thanks for sharing.

  • Yuri Dekiba
    Posted at 11:21h, 14 October

    Glad to hear it was helpful. Annual sales planning is alot of work, but taking action NOW you can be better prepared to include sales tech planning discussions appropriately.

  • Leo Krikmann
    Posted at 02:08h, 15 October

    Excellent summation of this important topic.. So often not enough planning goes into getting the sequence of events right. Consequently, the outcomes tend to be less than satisfactory.
    Well done in getting the message out so clearly.

  • Yuri Dekiba
    Posted at 14:22h, 15 October

    Leo, thanks for your comments. I’m glad you found it useful and clear. We know planning makes a difference, but don’t make time to do so. It starts by acknowledging we need to plan ahead, scheduling time for it (instead of putting it off) and putting a plan together. Then we can execute on the plan – which is the next critical step.

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