Post-Dreamforce Report: New Tech for Sales Operations

This was my first time attending Dreamforce. Everyone told me how big and overwhelming it was going to be, and it didn’t disappoint. But, in the midst of all the scheduled meetings, keynote presentations, and expo wanderings, something terrific happened. I found some new tech not just solving productivity problems but leap-frogging them.

Their appearance suggests to me that we really are on the cusp of a new age of sales automation, intelligence, and effectiveness. So, as a long-time sales enablement and operations practitioner, let me share with you what is so exciting about this.

The Merger of Predictive Analytics, Machine Learning and Sales Guidance

Over the last couple years, predictive analytic technologies have gained steam as more and more use cases have been generated that show the potential power of their intelligence. For example, existing applications have added predictive metrics leveraging data that their app generates as part of their reporting capabilities, BI tools have begun to connect with data scientist communities to share how their technology can be used to visualize predictive models, and many sales enablement vendors have introduced ways to leverage Artificial Intelligence to enhance sales forecasting.

What’s new here, though, are platforms that can leverage machine learning that “goes back in time,” reviewing past data – all of the activities, content, meetings, and people involved in their historical deals. These tools then generate predictive probabilities associated with current opportunities that can then be turned into real-time recommendations for salespeople.

What this means to us is that people are beginning to think about how they can simplify the complexity of predictive analytics to serve the salesperson at the level of detail associated with each unique opportunity. Sellers (and marketers) will be able to visualize optimum engagement paths for prospects at a much more tailored level that encompasses deeper industry, deal size, solution type, and engagement team specifics that can’t be easily captured or analyzed today without this technology. And they can provide these insights in an adaptive, dynamic way that continues to improve with every deal won or lost.

Intuitive Mobile CRM Automation

There were 180,000 fervent supporters and customers of Salesforce who attended Dreamforce, and all of them had a professional interest in improving seller productivity. Over the last few years, simplifying how a salesperson can interact with the Salesforce application has been the focus of many vendors and, of course, Salesforce themselves. But the truth is: salespeople don’t want to “live” in their CRM – they want to spend their time engaging with customers.

The next generation of CRM interface merges Salesforce with email, calendar, notes and content and delivers it intuitively via the seller’s mobile device. CRM and calendar functions are minimized and streamlined in a seller-specific way. The seller receives precisely the prompts and key information they need based on their daily schedule and impending sales activities. Nothing is irrelevant.

This means salespeople can interact with their CRM more like a texting partner and less like a mandatory “system of record.” I am confident that this type of technology will greatly improve the data accuracy and seller adoption of Salesforce itself.

Sales Resource Planning

AI-based sales forecasting is trending right now. Sales leaders are always under pressure to bring steady, “managed” performance to their executives and shareholders. Delivering accurate forecasts and dependable revenue are very important, and both require a lot of intense organizational focus on a quarterly basis.

The challenge is the process tends to focus on the current quarter plus one. Successful sales leaders know they need to look beyond a two quarter time horizon and think more strategically about their business and that includes their biggest asset: their sales force.

One of the biggest impediments to consistent, long-term revenue performance is under-appreciating the drawn-out effects of hiring and turnover. And yet, hiring and turnover are among the few things that sales leaders can directly control. So, this is where sales leaders have a chance to lift their heads out of their tactical view of quarter-over-quarter pipeline health and think about whether they’re on track to build their organization at the pace they need to meet their long-term revenue goals.

To support this, new “sales resource planning” solutions, designed for sales leaders, are emerging that combine forecasting analytics with long-term planning. These tools allow them to make sure they are hiring new sellers at the right cadence to meet future revenue goals; to compare quarterly revenue attainment with their overall capacity to identify where teams are falling short; and to address territory coverage and alignment issues before the fiscal year (or quarter) is complete.

As more sales leaders recognize that speed-to-ramp may be less important than lifetime value of a seller, sales resource planning tools become more critical for managing the true sales capacity of their organization beyond the current quarter or fiscal year.

Review

Whether chugging through the records of your CRM to learn the tactics, people, content and meetings that influenced your closed deal, or making your interactions with your CRM altogether easier than a writing a text message, or creating a better way for sales leaders to ensure they have their eyes on the long-term prize, these new solutions are evolving our space.

What other new technologies have you seen that you think have the potential to transform sales productivity? Please let me know about them in your comments below!

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