The role of tech in the future of sales? It’s even bigger than you think…

This is the sixth of a six article series on the future of sales that I wrote for the Adobe Document Cloud Blog. You can check it out there along with content from other great authors

Conventional wisdom says the primary role of technology in sales today is to make us more efficient. But what does that really mean?

Efficiency is no longer just doing the same things we used to do, only faster. The impact of technology on a business’s ability to boost sales is deeper than that.

I work with sales leaders across the globe, studying their winning habits. Technology  influences everyone’s outcomes—especially top performers. This shift has a massive impact in two places: expectations and opportunities.

Growing expectations

Of the two shifts, this one is immediately evident in your workplace. As I covered in earlier articles, you need to be a master of technology because it controls your career success.

Why? Because businesses of all sizes have made the same link that the manufacturing sector did:  smarter technology, greater output. They’re spending buckets of cash to develop and refine mobile and social selling tools. They’ve changed workplace rules to allow for greater flexibility on how, when and where technology and electronic sales enablement is used.

They have every right to expect to see a substantial return on their investment. Now.

Technology is no longer optional in sales. Veteran salespeople can adopt, adapt and thrive, or they can resist and be shown the door.

Opportunities become a range of new choices

The second technology-driven shift in sales is more subtle, revealing itself fully with time.

Greater efficiency doesn’t just mean selling more. It means uncovering opportunities to do many things differently than before and getting exponentially greater results—often in ways that weren’t previously anticipated.

Best-selling author Robert Greene talks about how experiences are divided into alive time and dead time. He’s right. And it applies just as much to our work in sales as in other professions.

In sales, alive time is every moment where we’re able to improve our sales velocity. You calculate that by taking the number of deals in your pipeline multiplied by the value of deals and the win rate, divided by the number of days it takes to close new business. More alive time means greater velocity.

In sales, every moment you can’t positively influence that velocity equation is dead time. New technology—when we use it right—creates more opportunities for alive time and minimizes dead time.

The benefit of more alive time

The first time I witnessed how could transform work and create more alive time was back in the 1970s. My dad was a field seller and his employer gave him a beeper (later upgraded to a pager). Today, we consider such devices as laughably crude and outdated. But look at how this changed his work. It created hours out of thin air every day, adding to what my father could conceivably accomplish both as a seller and a parent. He no longer had to go to the office in the middle of his day to collect his messages. He could return calls from the road. He could see up to two more customers every day.

For him and for other sellers, this was instrumental in boosting output by more than 20%. It also became the foundation for a complete transformation in how productivity is measured. More alive time—less dead time—equals more opportunities to sell in ways that were previously unimagined.

The risk of dead time

Whether we choose to adopt it or choose to resist it, technology reveals just how much dead time occupies our work flow.

Consider the experience of a hard-working seller I know who works for a large medical-device company that chooses to not invest in technology for their sales team. She spends some eight hours a day on the road daily to complete a minimum of seven face-to-face meetings. That’s up 10% from last year. And her targets just went up by 20%! No CRM or contracts authorizations, on the road, pricing authorizations are done by an unreliable VPN connection. All paperwork is in hard copy, requiring manual signatures.

Without technology, each transaction is riddled with speedbumps—dead time—where she’s unable to add anything to her sales velocity. The risks are huge: high staff turnover, low morale and a questionable level of loyalty from customers who eventually discover they can get a better experience from tech-enabled competitors.

Do not underestimate the influence that technology is already having on sales. It has passed the threshold of being an essential component of how business is done. It’s not an option anymore. The important part of technology’s influence on this profession is a story is still being written. It’s transforming expectations and our opportunities, creating more alive time and diminishing dead time. These are changes that we must welcome, embrace and foster everywhere. Welcome to the future of sales.