When I think about time, a slippery eel comes to mind.

The year is 1998, and I had recently arrived in the United Kingdom from Australia. I needed to establish myself quickly as a successful sales professional.

Being new to the country, I had few local business contacts. I needed to identify key stakeholders in my accounts who could help me close deals and had to rely on printed business directories and other analog tools. These were the very early days of the Internet, Google was three years old, and there was only limited corporate information online from the very largest companies. 

The process of preparing for sales meetings and recording information about those meetings was just as labor intensive. This, added to the 300 to 400 miles of travel I had on many days, left me little time for family or other personal pursuits.

This is when I became passionate about fusing technology with innovative business processes.

Fast forward to 2011, when I can check social media sites like LinkedIn for new contacts and manage customer information using advanced CRM technologies. I can carry most of my business data on my smartphone and use mobile enterprise technology to access the information I need when and how I want it, wherever I happen to be.

But, because I compete with other sales warriors using the same high-tech support, I must find innovative ways to mesh these capabilities and gain a competitive edge.

Sales in the Digital Age

Sales have become far more complex in the 21st Century. There are more competitors, both local and foreign, all battling for the same deals. Buying centers are enlarging, with decision makers and other influencers spread across geographies in many cases. Sales organizations are also being asked to pitch an ever-expanding range of products and services while facing a customer base that has become increasingly well informed.  

The same technology that gives me greater insight into my prospects also connects those prospects with my competition and my existing customers. I no longer can simply rely on carefully nurtured personal relationships to drive sales. I must go into meetings armed with in-depth information that demonstrates the specific value my solutions bring to the enterprise and the stakeholders with whom I am working. I must gather information as quickly as possible and craft pitches that deliver meaningful impact.

Used intelligently, today’s technology delivers powerful insights and makes us more efficient. All too often, however, sales teams operate with poorly designed business processes built on a patchwork of CRM systems, sales methodologies, and enablement tools. To be effective, sales teams need business processes that are well designed and innovative. These processes must also provide an integrated view of the customer and align with a unified sales management strategy.

Supporting Today’s 21st Century Sales Warrior

To maximize support for the 21st Century sales warrior, an enterprise must build on the following four pillars.

Insight. In my experience, there are few companies that truly know who their most profitable customers are and which deals offer the best opportunities. Today, a wide range of analytical solutions can provide these and other insights, by drawing on information that comes from within my enterprise or from third-party sources. This information can help me better understand my customers and the industry trends that affect them. It can help me craft a compelling story about how my products and services can resolve their most important business challenges.

Collaboration. The days of the lone sales wolf are long gone. In the 21st Century, sales teams need tools that help them harness the collective genius within and outside of their organizations to craft and execute powerful customer engagements.

Agility. Today I can leave the office and literally have “the enterprise in my pocket.” Marketing managers can send me leads while I’m on the road, letting me set up and prepare for appointments on the fly. I can then report the results in real time.

Impact. Unless I deliver a powerful experience that wows my customers, I will not stand out from the crowd. CRM technologies bring me a clear, integrated view of their past, current, and future needs and foster the insight, collaboration, and agility necessary to maximize the customer experience.

Together, these pillars make me more productive and effective. I can achieve my goals with less stress than sales warriors of the past. I can tame the slippery eel and reclaim the time I need both to prepare effectively for the next sales drive and pursue my personal passions.

Author: Nicholas Kontopoulos is in Global Solution Marketing at SAP for LOB Sales. He has over 18 years of experience working across a broad range of Industry Verticals in roles ranging from Business development, Sales and Marketing. Prior to joining SAP in 2007, Nicholas worked as a Sales Management Director within The Capita group who are the United Kingdom’s market leader in providing BPO services. During the course of his career, Nicholas has passionately pursued business strategies that harness and intelligently exploit the power of CRM technologies, both within the businesses he has worked and those clients he has served.