How Technology Is Changing Sales Relationships for Better (or Worse?)

By Henry Canaday

There are more than 6,000 sales and marketing technologies on the market – most aimed at both cutting sales costs and making sales reps more effective. Somehow, though, reps are finding it harder to get through on phones to qualify opportunities or engage prospects. What gives?

Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling, thinks sales technologies can be double-edged swords. Sure, these technologies have been proven to improve engagement with clients and prospects. Misused or overused, however, they can also damage important sales relationships.

On the plus side, “technology often provides good data, information, and insights about potential buyers,” Thomas says. “That allows us to create communications that will resonate more with the buyer.”

Thomas instances an email she received about an interview she was about to conduct. Since her email service is integrated with LinkedIn, she could invite the contact to connect on the social site. “It gives a good introduction – much better than a cold call with someone you never met. And you don’t have to search.”

Other modern technologies are also highly useful. Video conferencing and Web meetings can build relationships much more efficiently than was possible before these tools existed. And CRM systems can track relationships very efficiently if they are used correctly.

On the negative side, Thomas says overuse of automatic dialers and email blasts without any customization can hurt the reputation of sales organizations and their reps. “It makes you seem tone- deaf to customer needs.”

Technologies must be used to give customers what they want and need – not simply what sales managers would like. And “prospects want an easy and frictionless buying process,” Thomas says. “Like Amazon, they want it tomorrow.”

Along with digital interactions, Thomas says buyers seek to talk to reps if they want, when they want, and how they want. Use modern technology to meet those desires and it will help sell. Use it promiscuously, and it can make the sales rep seem like a stalker. “It’s not what the rep wants that counts; it’s what the customer wants.”

The extreme form of damaging modern communication is the auto-dialers that hit both homes and offices all day long. But any un-personalized or unwanted communication can also do damage. “It’s the lack of personalization that damages the reputation of the salesperson.”

Social media is another modern tool that can be very useful in sales – but, oddly, not directly for selling. Thomas says social media should be used to connect, listen, and respond. “Give them content; establish your reputation so they will think of you and can call when they have a need.”

The aim of sales technology should be to boost the sales productivity of reps, not swamp prospects with unwanted data.

Based on an interview with Julie Thomas, President and CEO, Value Selling Associates.