Digital Revolution: 14 Tips to Increase Sales With Technology

by Linda P. Kester July/August 2016
Technology has changed the game for everyone in equipment finance, including sales people. While the digital age has provided advancements, it has also ushered in an obsession with data. Linda Kester shares 14 tips that utilize technology to improve sales without getting lost in the CRM system.

The lights in the hotel meeting room are dimmed. I’m standing in front of 27 equipment finance professionals, ready to launch into a PowerPoint presentation about doubling sales volume. I press the play button on the remote control of the projector. Nothing happens. I press “play” again and hold my breath, still nothing. I’m starting to sweat. My thumb is frantically pressing the remote like it’s a morphine pump, but the screen is empty. Finally, I walk across the room, turn on the bright lights and commence the workshop with no multi-media.

We are living in truly extraordinary times. Exponential leaps in digital technology have changed the way we buy and sell. Accessing knowledge and
information has never been easier. Through the growth of mobile devices, lessees and salespeople can reach each other anywhere and anytime. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are advancing efficiency, forecasting and transparency in our businesses.

Unfortunately, the expanding digital revolution has given sales managers an unquenchable thirst for data. Sales representatives are becoming bogged down trying to fill in every blank space of their company’s CRM system. What happened to all the time we were supposed to be saving by using technology?

Many CRM systems are a burden to work with. They end up penalizing reps by labeling something a “lost sale” when the rep was simply trying to capture the customer’s basic information and there was never a “sale” to begin with.

The challenge is to figure out how to input and extract useful information and not drown in meaningless, mind-numbing data entry.

14 Tips to Increase Sales With Technology

  1. Use software. Examine phone records with software and listen to calls to identify ways to improve vendor targeting and the lessee sales process execution. Determine emerging customer or market trends like cloud-based applications and new mobile technologies.
  2. Eliminate distractions. Turn off email update alerts for social media accounts. Look at the updates when you proactively go on the social media site. Protect your time.
  3. Get social media feedback. Ask for customer feedback on social media. This helps refine and shape your message and sales tactics to ensure greater success in the future.
  4. Block your time. If you aren’t careful, “learning” a new CRM can quickly turn into work avoidance.
  5. Evaluate the usefulness of new technology. Ask yourself, “Will this help me connect with and serve the people who are most important to me and to my business?”
  6. Stop hiding behind email. Don’t use email when you have to give existing customers bad news, like informing a lessee of a decline. Pick up the phone and call the person. If someone has called you, call him or her back. It is disconcerting when I call someone and they email me back. Respond to a call with a call, and respond to email with email.
  7. Timing is everything. Lessees are increasingly reluctant to interact with a sales rep unless the rep can discuss solutions to problems that he is having at that very moment. Provide your sales reps with access to data that will enable them to have relevant conversations with prospects at the right time.
  8. To track or not to track? Just because you can track something doesn’t mean that you should. Peter Drucker once said that efficiency is doing things right, but effectiveness is doing the right things. Identify and eliminate fields on the CRM system that irritate your salesforce.
  9. Technology without people is meaningless. Armed with the right information, sales teams are better equipped to act as expert advisors. If you understand your vendors’ business, you can suggest solutions that differentiate you from the competition. Ask questions like, “Do you know what’s helping your top performers close more transactions?” or, “Are they using social networks to research prospects and start conversations?” These questions open floodgates of information.
  10. Utilize sales intelligence. Make sure your sales intelligence answers specific issues that your sales force encounters. What are the obstacles your sales reps encounter when they talk to people in specific equipment industries? For example, do the folks in the restaurant equipment industry need documents with electronic signatures? Once you know the hot buttons, you can take action and start creating new opportunities to win business.
  11. Know what drives your company. Make your CRM system work for you. I’ve seen companies acquire CRMs, intending to improve volume projections, thinking they’ll get better visibility into the sales pipeline. Unfortunately, once the system is in place, it works against them. For example, a sales manager panics because she looks at her backlog and thinks her team is not going to achieve its monthly goal, so she tells her reps to get applications in the door, any applications — even ones that they know won’t close. They do. Now the number of approvals is inflated and the credit department has put time and energy into deals that won’t close. The pipeline looks full, but it’s just an illusion.
  12. CRMs for individual goals. Help your sales team members understand how the CRM will help them achieve their individual goals, not just how a CRM will help achieve management’s goals.
  13. Call, Email and Send LinkedIn Requests. It is easy for prospects to push emails aside. If you are working a new list of leads and you want to increase your backlog and shorten the sales cycle, pick up the phone and call the prospect for the initial contact. Then follow up immediately with email and a LinkedIn connection request. They may not respond, but I’ve found that three touches within three minutes will deliver a better response rate than just an email.
  14. Time your sales calls. Once you know the average time of a call, try your best to streamline it. Today’s vendors and lessees are impatient. They are more informed. Many of them want to spend less time interacting with sales people. Top reps can intuitively feel when the customer wants a quick transaction. Respect the customer’s time, and they will respect your time with a quickly booked deal.

The seminar that I delivered without the help of PowerPoint received my highest evaluation ratings to date. I walked out into the audience, looked people in the eye and gave a relaxed and spontaneous presentation. The audience was pleased to experience an interactive and engaging seminar. I was glad I didn’t have a heart attack when the technology failed.

Technology is an exciting and continually evolving tool, but it doesn’t conduct meetings or think through problems — people do. The beauty and magic of equipment finance typically happens in conversations with vendors and lessees. The proper combination of people, technology and capital is the future of our industry.

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