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Talking about sales tech: No tool should strangle you

Sales can be magical. If done right and with the right tools to support you. We invited top sales leaders to talk sales tech, if there’s a limit to how much we can automate, and must-have skills in top-performing sales teams.

No less than 80 people had signed up for the second Oneflow Community meetup of the year. This time, we had turned the spotlight on sales – and to be specific – sales tech and the necessary skillsets sales reps should have. 

The conversations, led by Charlotta Hartzell, our Customer Onboarding Manager, moved between thoughts, learnings, and tips from the generous panelists Jiyan Duran, Sales Director at Karma, Emma Ekdahl, Sales Director at Storykit, and Jonas Olofsson, CEO, and founder of Adviser Partner. And we’ve gathered the key takeaways from the evening for you.

What’s in your sales tech stack?

The question everyone was dying to know: what types of tools do these high-performing companies use to become better? The panelists mentioned CRMs and e-signing tools. Emma from Storykit described their CRM as their bible and said, “Get a CRM you trust and insert everything you do – every task, every email, every note. And measure everything.”

Prospecting tools were also brought to the table and something you might not consider as part of the sales tech stack (but oh-so-important) – the sales playbook.

“We live by our sales playbook. That’s a big part of how we work at Karma. We create it as a team every half year because we’re moving so fast as a startup,” Jiyan said.

Embrace tradition, but don’t reject modernity

The only constant is change – especially in tech. What worked two years ago may not work today, and what works today probably won’t work two years from now. Lead generation is constantly evolving, and you need to keep up with the times.

“When I started at Storykit three years ago, sequences was the shit. It’s not as hot anymore. But when combining sequences with phone calls, we increase our conversion rates. And add to that LinkedIn posts, videos, etc.” said Emma.

With that said, you shouldn’t reject tradition altogether. One lead gen tool that never goes out of style is the telephone. Jonas said:

“For most of our clients, nothing beats the telephone. If you don’t use the phone, you’ll miss opportunities. It’s a good way of learning how to handle objections. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t automate, it’s personality.”

Jiyan Duran, Sales Director at Karma

Can sales tech replace humans?

As digital transformation picks up speed and finds its way into every aspect of our lives, it’s only natural to reflect on tech vs. people. What’s left when we have automized nearly everything in our everyday job? Do we even need sales reps for cold calling? Or a well-forged sales strategy?

According to Jonas, you need to start at the bottom to understand your work. And define your sales process. After this, you can apply technology to support the structure of your sales process.

“Many buy a CRM that doesn’t support their work and have to push how they work through their structure. And that can be a big problem.”

One person who learned this the hard way is Jiyan. For a long time, her team paid for a CRM they didn’t use. Now they pinpoint their needs before deciding on a sales tool.

“I didn’t use our CRM as a source of truth. It was too hard to navigate and wasn’t beneficial to my team UX-wise,” Jiyan said.

Automate the boring stuff

Prospecting and booking meetings can sometimes be a numbers game. So finding tech tools that can help you increase efficiency and up the numbers is key.

“We have eight or nine hours of work per day, and we need to make the best of it. So if the tool doesn’t support you – throw it out,” Emma said.

No tool should strangle you

The panel was strikingly agreed when you’re better off without sales tech. Jiyan brought up an example where her team had lost a big opportunity due to a couple of data fields in their CRM missing information. The sales reps hadn’t bothered to fill those fields simply because they didn’t understand their purpose.

“When it comes to CRM workflows, I think managers often stand by their point just for the sake of it. But I think it’s important to say, ‘I was wrong. You’re the one who lives by this tool, not me’. And then we just remove the non-value adding fields,” Jiyan said.

Her team at Karma learned that this is the easiest way for the sales team to understand the value of entering the data. And now it gets done.

“I don’t have to tell them to enter the data anymore. I don’t want to have a job where I treat my team as children – it’s not fun for me, and it’s not fun for them,” Jiyan said.

Don’t try to fix a symptom

Even though sales tech can be a massive help in your sales process, it can’t magically fix a broken strategy. Suppose something’s not working as it should, whether performance, collaboration, or missing results, it’s usually a symptom of a much bigger problem. Jonas stressed the importance of not seeing sales tech as a quick fix:

“You can’t fix a symptom. It will only come back over and over again. You have to go to the root of the problem.”

Emma Ekdahl, Sales Director at Storykit

What skills should sales reps have?

The second topic of the evening was the ever-so-relevant question about what to look for when hiring sales reps. 

Willingness to work hard

When listening to the panelists, there seems to be one quality you can’t compromise on: the willingness to work hard. 

“There’s no substitute for the willingness to work hard. And to be honest, there are too many lazy sales reps out there. You have to measure them by phone calls, meetings booked, etc. A LOT and not apologize for doing that. It’s super important,” Jonas said.

Emma agreed and added:

“At Storykit, we have a ramp evaluation score card. Since we’ve grown so fast, we need to make sure the sales reps do as they should. If they go by the recipe we know works, they will succeed. If they’re still behind after three months, they will not make it. It’s easy to see who’s motivated, has the discipline, and trusts our strategy.”

Good relationship with failure

How you handle failure says a lot about you as a seller. When recruiting sales reps to her team, that’s one question Emma makes sure to ask.

“You might have a bad week or a bad month. The capability of picking yourself up and making the next one better shows maturity. You’re a short-time hero in sales,” Emma said.

Drive to learn

You’re no better than your last big sale. So how do you become better? By analyzing, evaluating, and acquiring knowledge, of course. Jiyan said:

“What I miss a lot with sales reps is the willingness to study. Ask yourself ‘What did I do wrong, and what can I do better?’. Many sales reps are too comfortable.”

And she went on to say:

“You need to implement the things you learn. I can support you, but it has to come from you. You have to take responsibility for your job.”

Self-leadership 

You can’t underestimate the importance of self-leadership. Success comes from pushing yourself and taking ownership of your objectives.

“You’re not here to execute my plan. I don’t own the KPIs, my team does. I discuss this with my team. I give them ownership. My job is to formulate the budget into a vision,” Jiyan said.

Turning motivation into discipline

You can’t count on being motivated all the time. The winners will always be the ones who are persistent enough to keep going when running into speed bumps.

“Motivation is overrated. You need discipline, and when you have that, you’ll have joy,” Jonas said.

But with that said, finding what every sales rep is motivated by is key for sales leaders. Then discipline will follow.

“Everyone is different. One sales rep might be driven by anxiety and another by encouragement. You have to adapt the management to different people,” Emma said.

To sum it up

The evening resulted in insightful discussions with the panel and the engaged audience. When asked to leave the audience with one final takeaway, here’s what they said:

Jiyan’s advice:

“Hire sales reps that are smart. I need sales reps that in a meeting can understand the person’s challenges and can deliver an answer. They will run the company for you.”

Emma’s advice:

“Get a manager that you trust and like.”

Jonas’ advice:

“Hire sales reps that want to work hard. That will solve a lot of problems.”

Oh, and don’t forget discipline, discipline, discipline!

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