Sales technology is everywhere. Apps are available for almost any task for an organisation these days. The sales tech landscape is right behind marketing as a fast growing industry. Vast amounts of money is invested [and wasted] in apps, solutions and platforms, and they often fail to deliver the expected results for buyers. Why is this?

There are two possible reasons why sales technology procurement’s fail to deliver the expected value. Before I go on though, disclosure. I have a SaaS business and we sell sales applications. I have witnessed companies using apps as a huge enabler for sales consistency, discipline and insight.

Why is it that some fail whilst others succeed? What is it that the successful companies do differently?


Reason #1 for failure – Unethical Selling

The behaviour of some AE’s in the SaaS industry is tarnishing the perception of buyers for the rest. This is not everyone. If you are one of the sellers who does this right – well done you!

Technology is positioned by some [unethical] sales people as a silver bullet to fix ALL of a prospect’s issues. Poor discovery means that neither the seller or buyer truly understand the root cause of problems. Marketing messages big-up the app’s proposition and stretch the bounds of reality. Maybe it is conceivable that every app that tracks email usage isn’t really a ‘Customer Experience’ solution.

Buyers play a role in the failure of the procurement process too. They demand a demo from a vendor, rather than investing time to diagnose their issues together. Maybe they don’t trust the vendor to be objective? I guess I understand that if a vendor has only one answer – the “I have one of these, do you want one?” selling approach. That said, the buyer should force themselves to consider their needs fully. 

This buying issue is further encouraged by the commercial model for SaaS. These solutions are easy to download and are therefore perceived as no or low risk. Whilst there are some consequences associated with failure, some time and a small cost for a few months service, these are not enough to stop poor implementation. As a result, I find that companies who merely ‘have a go’  will often fail to find the answers they seek.

I have to say that writing this blog has been a cathartic process for me, taking time to reflect on how Outside In can offer more value to prospective customers by engaging with them differently. Going forward I have some changes planned but more on those another time.


Reason #2 for failure – Poor implementation

Truth time:  technology ALONE does not often improve performance.

Companies maybe claim that “the app didn’t work” or “users didn’t like it and/or use it”. But, often they need to look closer to home and accept that to realise value from a tech investment, they need to change.

After all, a tool is just a tool. If you want to impact performance you must embed a tool into the user’s behaviour and operational process.

A tool is just a tool. If you want to impact performance you must embed a tool into the user's behaviour and operational process. Click To Tweet

Any company who just downloads and installs an app, expecting it to transform results, and then throws it over the wall to users without changing anything in their business will often be disappointed. Our apps are on the Salesforce AppExchange and this is an amazing distribution platform. The majority of people who benefit from solutions such as ours need to make other changes to their approach to selling, sales management, L&D and commercial operations. It’s rare that customers are successful when downloading and try to run without any conversation.

I often use the following Adoption Accelerator model with prospective customers to broaden our implementation discussions. This makes a shift from technology to other adjacent issues related to their sales approach. I find that more effort invested here delivers better results.


A worked example

Let me use a sales related example to illustrate my point. Imagine the following scenario.

The outcome you want is to improve the quality of your pipeline and win rates. You implement an application (such as our DealSheet application) so that the sales team can to use this to qualify and build closure plans for key deals. Here’s a couple of questions for you consider …

  1. If I embed the application into Salesforce and email the sales team to tell them to use it, how effective will this likely be in increasing adoption and results?
  2. I then run a few workshops to train sales people on the why and how to use the application, will this fix the issue and results flow?
  3. Some change to the business process will ensure that the app output is used in the governance process for deal approvals, will this totally fix the issue?
  4. If sales managers use the data to understand key pipeline opportunities and risks, then use this to coach the sales team will this help to drive adoption and improve decision making?
  5. If sales leaders also talk about the tool data in business reviews, will this encourage sales managers to coach more consistently?
  6. If the commercial operations team build reports and dashboards to share, analyse and roll up the data from the pipeline for sales people, managers and leaders so they can easily access data to understand their situation, will this help to improve the quality of decision making?
  7. If you do all of these, how much more likely is it that the results will improve?

Exactly! Results are more likely to improve through consistent and disciplined application of the insights generated by the applications you use.


Final thoughts: 

So why is it that companies who invest [loads of money] in tools, do not follow this up with the investment of effort required to implement this properly? Why do they avoid taking responsibility for the changes they need to make?

Sometimes they move on to another app without making the necessary changes. This is merely throwing good money after bad in the hope that things will be better next time. What is it they say about those that do the same things over an over, then expecting a different outcome?

Lack of funds is not a valid reason to not focus on doing the right things right by the way. If this is a valid challenge for you, and you cannot find a business case to justify the tru investment, then don’t bother buying the app at all. Stand ALONE it is unlikely to impact your performance.

Truth: There are no silver bullets. Apps, great as they are, will not help you lift performance on their own unless the people and process changes occur too.

There are no silver bullets. Apps, great as they are, will not help you lift performance on their own unless the people and process changes occur too. Click To Tweet

Buyers of apps, platform and other technology solutions must accept the responsibility for change within their company. if they want their investment to deliver the desired returns.

Sellers of such solutions… please take the time to understand the broader changes required in your prospect. Educate and help them work through a robust implementation plan. Only then can they can realise value from your solutions. Remember, this will deliver customer success and make your solution more sticky –  Win-Win!