Many sales directors have an uneasy relationship with technology. On the one hand, there is a seductive appeal to dashboards, CRMs, analytics, pipeline management and coaching software. On the other hand, sales organisations are littered with poor implementation, unused knowledge databases and frustrated sales people who rarely experience technology as wholly positive.
John has fully embraced a wide range of technologies in his own sales team at Bausch & Lomb and his no-nonsense approach to extracting value from them serves as a great example to others wrestling with the ICT demon.
Not just a highly driven sales director, but also a world class yachtsman: Where do you get all the energy from??!
I like to keep busy and learn new skills and I like to win, but this something I would like to do more. The great thing about yacht racing is that it’s so absorbing that it helps me unwind and gives me a real balance to my life.
What has made you so positive towards technology?
People fear technology as they not sure how it works; I look at things in a different way. What are we or our customers doing every day or week that we should automate? I then start looking for the solution.
Our biggest successes across the EMEA region are when we have done this as it addresses the need and/or saves people time. This helps people to give things a go as there is a benefit for them.
You clearly believe technology is serving customer needs. In what way?
We have moved to using the iPad for sales presentations, across the whole of EMEA. We agreed to do this for the following reasons:
1) Our customers want lots of information but only on the topics that interest them, now the sales person and buyer / Doctor agrees on the key areas to discuss and we give them the level of data they want.
2) Like you, our customers have less time to spend on training or discussing new ideas, so with highly technical topics we can run a video in any language that can impart high level of detail in a tenth of the time of a discussion with the sales person. Of course, the sales teams still need a high level of product knowledge.
3) We can carry all our sales aids / tools to every call so if a customer raises a topic we can try to address their needs in the call and agree the next steps to move the selling process on, in the same call. This reduces the number of meetings for us and the customer
I notice that you are using salesforce.com chatter. How is that helping you?
Salesforce Chatter is like Facebook, but only for the company employees. I was a real champion of this for the sales force, as it allows information to flow quickly around the company and people can collaborate with each other rather than sending emails.
Now a sales person can see something in the field, take a picture and send it to the whole company in 20 seconds. If they want feedback all they have to do is ask. I have seen Territory Managers in theUSand EMEA sharing data and helping each other from one single picture. It’s like having a water cooler conversation while you are 7,000 miles apart.
We have also reduced the number of emails by 34% which allows our sales people to increase the number of customer visits each day.
You have been very successful with facilitating communication from the field back to the HQ. How have you achieved that?
Chatter has been one of the biggest winners. We have a Chatter group called competitor intelligence. We get 6-10 new topics added every day and what’s great is the whole company can see the information if they want. So we have changed from ‘Why did you not tell me about this’ to, ‘thanks for the post can you tell me ….’
In addition our CRM metrics give people high level data on what’s happening and what needs to be improved. The key is that simple metrics, aligned to the company goals are seen by all and can be inspected by people’s managers quickly and easily
What would be your advice to organisations thinking of bringing in new technology to field forces?
1) Keep it simple, if people cannot learn how to use something in the field then it will probably fail.
2) Communicate why are we doing it, how will the customer and the sales person benefit, before your declare how the company benefits
3) If you want sales people to use something give them no other way to work. All our communications, (chatter) sales tools and sales data come through ourCRMsystem. This way they have to use the system or fail.
4) Never force people to embrace technology, instead, focus on rewarding the right behaviours: 10% will drive the change you want, 40% will work with the 10% to make it a success. The last 50% will follow the others eventually, resulting in 100% adoption.
Any famous last words?
In Selling, Sailing or IT, if you want to double your success rate, first you double your failure rate. And enjoy the learning curve!