From a simple Google search of sales technology keywords such as CRM, Sales Force Automation and Sales Performance Management, one would think that sales technology is taking over the world. There are dozens upon dozens of companies competing for the technology sale. From internet based programs designed for individual salespeople and small sales teams to mega systems designed for the largest organizations in the world, anyone considering the purchase of a system is faced with a maze of choices.
Naturally, any field that has the volume of activity as sales technology is going to attract attention from academics-and sales technology has certainly attracted its share. Another Google search of keywords relating to research on sales technology generates a gross number of about 350,000 hits. Although a large number of these hits are ancillary to sales technology research, a fair number are directly related to the topic.
Unfortunately, few address the most critical question-does sales technology improve the sales or sales management process?
To date, the study of sales technology has been primarily relegated to how well the technology has been accepted within the sales force. There have been studies at Penn State, a study published in the Journal of Business Research, and others.
However, little has been done in studying what impact the technology has on sales performance. A paper in the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management and reprinted at Allbusiness.com seeks to analyze the impact CRM technology has had on sales performance, but as the authors admit, a great deal of further study is needed.
Yet, within this single paper are indications of both the potential value and the potential pitfalls of sales technology. The study found that there is a point of diminishing returns to the use of CRM technology. Salespeople who 'underused' and those who 'overused' the technology experienced reduced sales while those who were 'optimum' users experienced an increase in sales performance and sales. Unfortunately, there wasn't a uniform standard for the optimum usage. Each company must determine the optimum usage point for themselves-meaning investing a great deal of time and energy into monitoring and training.
Additional studies are underway to examine the real world impact of CRM and SPM systems. Currently, companies must rely on anecdotal tales or their own biased experience to determine the value-or lack thereof-of the technology. It will be very interesting to see the additional data as it become available.
Yet, even without the additional studies, I believe the study referenced above is a strong indication that sales technology if implemented properly will have a very positive impact on salespeople, managers, and companies. The key is the proper implementation, meaning not just training salespeople and managers on the 'how' to use the system, but more importantly, what to do with the information the system produces-and that seems to be the single biggest hurdle to determining whether an investment was wise or whether the company simply has an expensive new toy
The Management Curve is a blog dedicated to discussion and debate about the impact sales metrics programs such as CRM, Sales Performance Management and Sales Force Automation Programs are having and will have on how the sales function is managed. Hosted by Paul McCord, the blog also features articles and commentary by other sales trainers, consultants, product developers, and the sales managers and salespeople who actually use the products.