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Whether you like it or not, technology is playing a big part in our lives. It’s infiltrating and impacting our business practices, purchasing behavior and expectations. As a direct sales executive you need to be constantly asking yourself how you can stay ahead of this overwhelming movement. We’ve reached a stage in business where it’s no longer possible to ignore technology or steadfastly stick to old-fashioned ways of working. Technology innovation is here to stay, and those who don’t prepare to embrace it are only preparing to fail.
This trend is clear to see even in our everyday buying behaviors. Purchasing behavior continues to evolve, and it’s rare for buying decisions to be made without prior online research taking place first. These newly evolved savvy-shoppers are ultimately your potential customers, so in order to keep up with the fast-paced nature of online activities and stay aligned to human behaviors you need to be using technology to your advantage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it’s been estimated that the U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the fourth quarter of 2012 was $59.5 billion, an increase of 4.4 percent from the third quarter of 2012. Not only is that a significant figure in itself, but the steep increase indicates further, on a broad scale, where the sales industry is headed.
I regularly come across direct selling professionals missing a trick with technology due to their fear of the unknown and reluctance to adopt potentially beneficial and innovative technology. The typical concerns expressed are understandable and include: “Technology is advancing so quickly, how do I stay on top of it?”; “How do I know I’m on the right track?”; “How do I realize the benefits?”; “What’s the ROI?”—all valid questions. However, there is another, and I believe more positive and engaging, way of looking at the future.
Technology disruption should be embraced. In the realm of direct selling, executives should be looking at their existing tools and practices with a view to using technology as a solution—one that can improve efficiency as well as productivity. Regarding technology adoption as a supporting tool that enhances the way you do your job tends to induce much less anxiety around the subject.
Training is a vital part of successful direct selling in the corporate world, and this is a particular area where technology can help executives thrive. A vast amount of money is spent on training courses to immerse executives in proven sales training methodologies, but what happens next? How often do you honestly believe workbooks are referred to as a reminder of successful processes? To achieve real ROI on training, technology needs to be incorporated at every step. Embedding technology within Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that are used every day is the only surefire way to make certain that knowledge is reinforced and therefore retained. If a sales methodology is integrated into genuinely user-friendly systems, then workflow is streamlined and productivity increases. Such integrations remove the need for excess research and admin by collating all the relevant material and presenting it in a way that works for executives out in their territories.
Developing a digital strategy to sit comfortably within existing practices works on a number of levels, not least to ease the anxiety associated with technology adoption. Tangible results and the ability to track success and failure is gold dust in selling. Knowledge about what’s working, and what’s not, can dramatically impact a bottom line, which at the end of the day is what we’re all working toward. Technology can be seamlessly embedded into CRM systems to make this information readily available, which is vital to gauge the ROI from training. This is one of the many reasons why I’m so passionate that technology is not something to shy away from—but something to be welcomed with enthusiasm.
Gary White, CEO of U.K.-based White Springs, has 10 years of experience in delivering technology to businesses. With a background in accountancy, sales and software implementation for global organizations, White is passionate about the use of technology to drive sales transformations and regularly speaks on the topic. White Springs is a technology provider that transforms training from an event into a continuous learning process. It enables sales training companies to maximize the benefits of their intellectual property by offering clients the ability to use the training methods within their existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.