image credit: Wright Studio/shutterstock.com
The most important asset to any sales organization is talented salespeople. What’s their most important asset? Time.
When I was in sales, my mentor and boss, Bob Ausfeld, would ask what I was still doing in the building if I was there after 10 a.m. My job was to be in front of clients, building relationships and understanding their day-to-day issues. That simply can’t be done from behind a desk.
Here are four questions to pose internally to your salespeople to help identify opportunities for automation, with the goal of minimizing the time they spend on rote tasks so they can get back out in the field with clients.
1. Can you show me the Excel spreadsheets your sales team uses each day?
This is not an attack on Excel. I love Excel. But when I explain to people who aren’t in the media and marketing business just how much of a $700 billion industry is still tracked through it, their jaws drop.
As an exercise, compile all the Excel files your sales organization regularly produces to track items like inventory, pricing, and advertiser information, and assess how heavily they’re used and what it takes to create and update them. Some of them require the hands-on manipulation Excel allows for, but many definitely don’t. A toolset that serves similar purposes but requires less upkeep will serve you better in many cases.
2. What information does your sales team regularly request from internal colleagues?
Salespeople get a bad rap for not being able to use tools. The fact is, very few tools are built with them in mind. Figure out what kind of information they most often need from internal colleagues, such as app lists, site lists, and inventory metrics, and tap the product team to design simple web interfaces to make the information more readily available.
3. When is the last time a technical employee shadowed you?
Engineers and product people are passionate about problem solving. If you urge them to spend time with their colleagues in sales—with the goal of understanding how the function operates and its pain points—they may come up with solutions you hadn’t even imagined to help streamline your sales team’s workflow.
On a human note, bridging the gap between the “front of the house” sales team and the “back of the house” engineering/product folks is a good practice anyway. It helps cultivate genuine buy-in, understanding, and collaboration.
4. Is your sales team’s proposal management system serving your needs? Like, really serving your needs?
While order management systems are purpose-built to help the trafficking department, they are rarely built to service the needs of sales teams. In order to build meaningful proposals quickly, sales teams need a direct line of sight into true inventory availability and the likelihood their proposal will clear. Unfortunately, many of the systems currently in place in most media companies don’t provide this information.
A bare minimum for ensuring success is to give your salespeople the confidence that the proposals they build can be delivered. Tools that leverage data science and real-time forecasting across your portfolio can make that happen, taking the guesswork out of proposal generation and using automation to speed the process.
None of the above is rocket science; it’s more a reminder of things you already know than a “WHOA” (cue Joey Lawrence voice) moment. Ultimately, think of these questions as a means of uncovering insights and areas where automation can free up your salespeople for the client-facing work they’re passionate about.