The Case for Simpler Sales Enablement Software

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There are three things that stand out to me as peak 00’s - dial-up internet, fast food, and home gyms. Every teenager of that era spent at least one-afternoon eating french fries on their friend’s dad’s Bowflex while attempting to log onto instant messenger (the home gym was always close to the computer). 

Since then, internet access has evolved, fast food has given way to slow-food, and home gym equipment has become a legacy. 

That isn’t to say that people don’t buy workout equipment - sales are booming. However, what people are buying has changed. The most popular equipment used to be the “kitchen sink gym” that could do any combination of exercises possible. This came after the 90s craze of hyper-specialized equipment - a different tool for every muscle. Thankfully the pendulum has balanced, for the time being, the best equipment focuses on usefulness, not just functionality. 

This same journey has been happening in software, and in particular the sales enablement space. Twenty years ago every tool a company bought had a hyper-specific purpose (a tool for holding your client contracts, a tool for sending an electronic invoice to clients, a tool for collecting payment from your clients, a tool for emailing them happy birthday, etc). This decade has seen the explosion of fully-integrated platforms - think QuickBooks or Salesforce. These platforms let you perform any possible correlated activity and offer deep customization. They’ve been a game changer for the enterprise - who, no surprise, still struggle for connectivity solutions across their varied departments and workforce. 

Unfortunately, since the enterprise has the biggest wallet, they get the most attention. Nowhere is this truer than in sales and marketing platforms - after all, that’s where the money is born. So as software companies race to gain fortune 500 favor they drag the midmarket (and SMB) along with them. This results in companies wrestling with tools and functionality that was never made for them. 

This all comes to a head with demand gen teams. They are important enough to get powerful software but not important enough to get dedicated admins for that software (which would make the tool wildly expensive). These teams end up spending hours a day working as system administrators instead of salespeople. This isn’t just a jab at the big hitters in the sales space. 

The truth is that plenty of sales tools offer power, but most companies don’t need a million features. Salespeople need software that makes it easier to sell, not software that makes it harder to work.

So what’s the answer? Are we left with no choice but to destroy the printer/copier/fax machine with a baseball bat? Thankfully, there are many companies stepping up to the plate to deliver value in the form of product usefulness over product density. 

3 tips for evaluating tools for your sales team.

Here are three things you should look for when evaluating sales tools:

  1. Automation over Augmentation

Don’t get me wrong, both are great. Here’s the thing, you will get a bigger impact from your sales teams (AEs, SDRs, OPs, etc) by giving them more time than you will by enhancing their workflow. They are professionals that are in their seat because they have some track record of performance. The biggest hurdles they face are: time and focus. You know what the biggest time and focus suck is - having to spend even more time in a new tool. Give your teams more time and they will create the revenue that you can use to experiment with augmentation. 

2. Visibility over Indivisibility

You’re probably seeing that keeping things simple is my biggest takeaway, but here’s my exception. You will get farther faster by integrating the right stack of tools for your current team than forcing them into a “single source platform” built for “ultimate connectivity”. Focus instead on corralling all of your separate data sources instead of force marching a single tool. 

3. Direction over Depth

The Holy Grail for any executive, team leader, or even individual contributor is to have a single dashboard that offers every compelling data point related to their end goals - leading, lagging, retrospective and introspective indicators. Here’s the wrinkle - that imaginary dashboard would have to change its metrics every quarter (if not every month depending on your growth). The answer instead is that you and your teams should be focused on directional data - extrapolating your short-term future from your present state (emphasis on short term). You don’t need to know your reply rate 6 months from now and you don’t need to know your hold rate 6 years ago. Find tools that cut through the noise (even if it’s the noise you've grown accustomed to).

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and opt to follow the popular convention when investigating sales enablement tools. But if you’re not careful you’ll end up with a basement full of agro-gym-fit-o-matic’s, one-off sales tools, and a pile of missed revenue targets.

TJ Macke