Building the Right Tech Stack

Let’s compare two different companies. One starkly successful firm that buys best-in-class software to meet every possible technology challenge.

They have Microsoft 365, Teams, and SharePoint, for filesharing and communication, Zoom for video conferencing, Vonage for telephony and their call centres, Salesforce ultimate licence for their CRM and they bought pretty much every bell and whistle that their CTO thought they might need. The employees really appreciate the technology-forward approach. But at the end of the day, there has been some inconsistent adoption of every single feature of the technologies they use.
Secondly, looking at Nimble, a fast-growing startup that uses G-Suite for everything it can. (E-mail teleconferencing and file sharing). They use Slack for internal messaging, Zoho as a CRM, and Twilio for calls and texts. This startup has only had a seed round of funding so far. So their CTO has taken a much more bootstrapped approach to their tech stack. Even though it’s pretty lean, they have built it around what the salespeople have told her that makes their customers really happy.

So which company do you think has built a text app that will ultimately make their sales team more efficient?

Digital transformation should focus more on the people first, and technology second and it doesn’t matter what your budget is. Your tech stack is only as valuable as the people who use it.
Let’s see how technology is potentially dangerous if you don’t get buy-in Secondly, let’s talk about the methodology for making sales a long-term stakeholder in the tech stack itself.

Digital Transformation

To kick things off, I want to stress not how necessary but how simultaneously dangerous and expensive digital transformation can be.

In 2019,  North Carolina State University’s Enterprise Risk Management Institute partnered with a management consulting firm called Proto Vt to release results from a survey they conduct annually about the state of risk in business, they interviewed about 1000 C-level technology executives, and they found out that digital transformation just last year had skyrocketed to the number one perceived risk for companies up from a position of about 10.
Back in 2018, existing operations and legacy technology infrastructure pose a potential risk to companies that can’t transform quickly to compete again, against companies that were born digital. A Wall Street Journal article that references this study. “Digital transformation efforts largely failed”. McKinsey also released the report last year in 2020, suggesting that out of the $1.3 trillion invested in digital transformation initiatives, as much as $900 million went to waste or did not meet their targets.
These numbers are pretty incredible when we’re talking about a 30% success rate by the company’s own admission, implementing and adopting new technology.

This happens all the time and looking at a professional example, I work with an awesome company which has a global presence, I absolutely love their product and their brand.

When I had the opportunity to meet and hang out with the CEO at Dreamforce a couple of years ago, and I was absolutely elated to find out that they had purchased Salesforce as a CRM. I was not involved in their actual CRM implementation but they did ask me to help roll out a training plan as their technical requirements changed without any input from sales, or their customers.  It started out as a two-week training session, changed to a one-day set-in-a-class teaching session, to an hour-long video session. By the time Salesforce was actually deployed last year, everyone on the sales side was pretty frustrated by the project and adoption was almost doomed, coming in about a year after they had announced that they would go live.

The CEO of the company stated that “I’m not going to invest one more dollar in software until that software started making the company money”. It says so much about the state of tech efficiency and it looks like a pretty cautionary tale.

But I think it’s an all too frequent example of how technology can be incredibly costly and dangerous. If you only think about the tool, delivering something of value, not focusing on how it can help the people and the customers. We’ve all made, software purchases that may not be an absolute need, or didn’t wind up delivering as much value. But, the marketing or the account rep. said it would. So let’s look at how you should go about the tech you do need, and especially those considerations that will drive long-term efficiency for sales.
After introducing new tools to professionals, it’s always a challenge to bring new tech to salespeople, especially if they’ve been successful in the past. Even more challenging if they happen to have made a lot of money without some sort of prescriptive sales methodology, or any supplementary,
But as a CTO, CIO or sales manager, You need to take a massive step back before you think about products or platforms immediately and consider these three fundamental aspects about your business

How do we envision the Customer Journey?

So we’re gonna start with the customer, as I think this consideration is something that is considered outside of the purview of information technology. I think the salespersons’ knowledge of customers often forgot throughout the entire solution process and all too often specific tools are chosen to solve siloed challenges and opportunities. Although the underlying goal, might be to drive sales, it’s really imperative that you start with a question, what do we want our buyer’s journey to be? Additional questions that might help frame this question are, Who are our customers? Who are they? Where do they live? How do they consume information? Where do they work? What are their challenges and objections? and how they currently interact with our brands and our salespeople. If you don’t have that intel, you need to have that conversation with sales.

We’ve heard more and more about customer-centric companies, especially over the last five years and we hear more and more about this every day. According to Gartner, 89% of companies now expect to compete largely on the basis of customer service.
Bain and Company released a report showing that companies that excelled in customer service outgrew their market share by four to 8% annually.

Companies that use customer journey maps, reduce their costs of service by 15 to 20%, on average, said another report by McKinsey.
It’s just becoming much more imperative that we examine that as the first fundamental question about using any platform.

How do you achieve that customer journey in your sales process?

I’ve never met a salesperson who did not think that they were very unique. But I’ve also never met an incredibly successful salesperson that didn’t work a process over and over again. Every sales process is reducible to a series of steps that can be quantified. But understanding and articulating what’s the most effective to drive, not necessarily sales, but customer success will be crucial to choosing what technology salespeople need to do their jobs and communicate effectively with prospects. Long-term growth will really be dictated by your customer experience, not the short-term revenue of monthly sales only after asking the first two questions about customer journeys and sales processes that achieved them. 

When we are in the evaluation phase, we need to flesh out a few things. How will this product impact prospecting? How will it enable salespeople to do their job better? and how do we measure both of those results so that we can optimise the strategy over time?
The next thing to consider is how will this product enable a salesperson to do their job. and how will the firm onboard and continue to measure adoption?

Choose the right sales tools for the sales processes 

Recently, came across an article with a headline based on an Ipsos market research study that read small businesses like new technology but doesn’t use it and I think this is a major weakness at many different firms that lack training, lack of process and product documentation. A wiki for best practices or education on why using a certain platform in a specific way is actually beneficial to the industry.

Because unless technology itself creates a value add in salespersons, day to day, they’re probably not going to be totally on board. While everyone implicitly understands the long-term value of a CRM, there’s always going to be pushback doing data entry. So it’s absolutely essential that the product is mapped to being or possibly even required to use to execute that sales process. For example, if you are an account executive at Salesforce, and you don’t actually log what’s going on in the platform, you won’t get credit on the deals that close and you won’t get paid. From a technology standpoint, there’s always a delicate balance between education, inspiration, incentivization, and enforcement. But enabling adoption is critical to that product’s success and just to drive that point home, Forbes insights released a report a couple of years ago, showing that three-quarters of firms that outpaced their revenue goals, had a clearly defined sales enablement function identified within their business. 

Finally, before making that purchase, I think it’s important to define the KPIs to measure your pipeline and enablement and iteratively measure the impact the solution is having on both prospecting and how comprehensively the sales team is actually using it. 

It was almost a decade ago that Marc Andreessen said, Software is eating the world. And that quote was attributed to sort of a massive challenge to traditional companies, traditionally non-tech companies to start behaving a little bit more like tech companies. Today, SaaS tools exist to support just about every single business function.

Especially in the enterprise world, those shiny tools rarely come cheap. If you just think about the function of the tool itself, and not about the people who use them, and who will benefit. Find out how much a particular product has been adopted within your org, then measure its impact on progressing deals throughout a pipeline.

Then consider if an alternative solution would outweigh the benefit of simply adopting the product more and figure out how to get there instead.