As many of us prepare to descend on Dreamforce 2016, I look at it with some trepidation. Not the event, it’s fantastic, I see a lot of old friends, meet new people, and learn a huge amount.

It seems Dreamforce has become the magnet for all the sales and marketing automation suppliers to trot out their shiny new toys and releases, enticing us to buy. I have dozens of people reaching out, wanting to introduce me to their latest greatest technologies oriented at helping sales and marketing professionals.

The goal of all these systems is, theoretically, to help sales and marketing professionals. They help us be more productive, more efficient, more effective, more informed, manage our time better……

People will talk endlessly about the sales stack (all the tools we are providing sales people to “help” them), or the marketing stack.

Each vendor will make their case–at their booths, in sessions at Dreamforce, or the dozens of “private sessions” that surround the event.

They’ll present compelling data: “81% of top performers use our tools,” making you think the reason they are top performers is because they use the tools. Other data points will be, “Increase quota performance….” “Increase customer engagement…” “Increase velocity/volume…” “Be better informed…” “Provide deeper insights….” “Fill your pipelines…” “Compress your cycles…..” “Win more….” on and on. They are always supported by compelling data and they are want to convince us this tool added to our sales and marketing stacks will be the tool that enables each of us to make our and exceed our numbers.

There will be a lot of chest puffing and strutting in discussions about “sales and marketing stacks.” Basically these are versions of “mine is bigger than yours.” We all know bigger is better ( I keep trying to argue size doesn’t matter…..but that’s another thing).

These discussions should strike fear, and perhaps loathing, in the hearts and minds of sales/marketing management and professionals.

In the spirit of “helping,” think of what we are inflicting on our people and organizations.

A “modern” sales stack will probably have a CRM system as the core system of record. It will have all it’s own modules and tools to supplement the core functions. But then we layer endless tools on top of the CRM system or as a complement to them:

I’ll just provide a short list:

  • Marketing automation and content management
  • Lead gen, demand gen, lead management
  • Email and messaging
  • Research tools, company, market, industry, individual reasearch and preparation
  • Dialers, call management, call recording, call monitoring, reporting
  • Scripting tools
  • Proposal generation
  • Configuration management/pricing
  • Meeting management, web conferencing, video, webinar, podcasting
  • Collaboration
  • Contracting and e-signature
  • Sales enablement, elearning, ecoaching
  • Demo
  • Note taking
  • Time management
  • Route/Travel planning
  • Pipeline management
  • Account and territory management
  • Presentation
  • Prospecting
  • Referral
  • Customer survey/feedback
  • Analysis and planning tools
  • Tools that measure things
  • Reporting, Dashboards to fit every application and need.
  • Storytelling
  • Expense management
  • Contest/gamification/compensation management
  • Diagramming/process flow/project management
  • Cloud based storage tools
  • Workflow management
  • List building, data scrubbing, data cleansing, de-duplication
  • Social media and networking, blogging, authoring
  • Security/networking/VPN
  • Intranet/”the J disk”/internal websites/microsites
  • Order entry/management/tracking
  • And let’s not forget the Microsoft (or equivalent) foundation of Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

The “Martech” stack alone has 3874 marketing technology solutions in close to 50 categories! Sales people have to deal with Martech, Sales, and other stacks.

We can’t forget there are mobile, web, and premise based combinations and permutations of all of this.

And all of these are aimed at making sales and marketing professionals more effective!!!

The joke used to be, “We are here from corporate and we want to help.” Now it’s, “We have great technology solutions and we are here to help!”

Then layer on top of all this the fact that since we have invested in these tools, since we want to leverage their ability to “help” sales people, we now start paying attention to compliance. So we start measuring people on the use of these tools.

Don’t get me wrong. In reality I’m a geek. I love technology and leverage it as much as I can—as long as it helps. I look at the tools that people present to me, each is fascinating and most can provide huge benefit.

But think about the poor sales or marketing professional suffering under this load. Think of all the different systems they need to learn, all the different functions. Imagine them trying to remember, “Which tool do I use for this, and which do I use for that?” Or, “I have to enter some of the data here, and more data there.”

With the average number of tools being inflicted on our sales people, it’s no wonder sales people are overwhelmed, overloaded, and confused. While these tools are supposed to free up time for people to sell, it’s not surprising to see time available for selling plummeting. (It’s also not surprising to see people using the tools as an excuse not to get in front of customers.)

Sales operations, sales enablement, and sales management need to be very attentive to the cognitive overload and the unintended consequences that are happening with these ever increasing and more specialized applications. We need to seriously consider that possibly less is more. Perhaps we free up time and brain power to let sales people think and execute.

The concept of the sales and marketing stack should inspire fear, concern, and perhaps loathing in every sales professional. We need to start getting back to basics, we need to make sure our people understand and consistently execute the basics, we need to radically simplify, giving people the time and freedom to do their jobs.

Yes, automation and technology can be very powerful. But in too many cases, we have passed the point where the unintended consequences of continuing to build the sales and marketing stacks are actually reducing productivity and effectiveness.

On that note, for those of you attending, enjoy Dreamforce. I’ll be among the crowds and will be looking at the new technologies, but very cautiously.