There are only so many times that you can use the metaphor of "drinking from the firehose" before the metaphor "runs out of steam". And yet in the past week, another of my B2B sales friends has spontaneously used the phrase to describe his working environment.
But if we are to escape from the deluge of emails and tweets and video conferences and more, we'll need some great tools to help us. And not only do we want "secretarial" or logistical help in organizing the deluge, we'd also like some help making sense from" too much".
So, is there a secret to building great tools to manage human communications? And especially for that most overloaded of professions, the B2B sales person, is there a foundation for software that will help ensure that communications are seen as "valuable" as opposed to "overwhelming"?
There are two objectives for any sales and marketing system, one logistical and one related to meaning. A good sales and marketing system should:
(1) Organize Communications Logistics: Any sales technology effort is by definition a "force multiplier", in other words helping you handle more sales engagements more successfully. Therefore, by definition, a sales and marketing system will generate more sales logistics. If your system is based on a good model that enables you organize sales communications logistics well, you'll be ahead of the game. A poorly modeled system however may actually generate confusion!
(2) Facilitate The Realization Of Sales Meaning: Logistics are necessary, but insufficient. You have to understand what all those data points mean! A good system will help you turn those communications into actionable, manageable "stories" or "narratives", which is the higher purpose for which any communication is initiated.
On the two criteria listed here, how do today's sales and marketing systems measure up? After 20 years of CRM systems development, are B2B sales people better served in terms of information management or logistics, and in terms of "story management"?
While we now have much more powerful sales and marketing systems than 20 years ago, at the same time the bar is much higher. And there are exciting new communications channels and social networking opportunities, "all the better to overwhelm us"!
Where communications logistics are concerned, for a million dollars (especially if you count the net present value of a mutli-year commitment), you can acquire a powerful sales and marketing system. And if you have good business analysts and sales managers, you could probably manage your sales and marketing communications logistics well.
However, in practice good sales communications management is rarely achieved; it is more than likely that your system will not yet be integrated across your organization and especially across all your important channels of communications.
But if the "logistics story" is mediocre, the "narrative story" is downright depressing.
Instead of building sales and company stories, most of today's sales and marketing systems don't deliver "story management". Rather they could better be described as "narrative fragmentation machines". Sales is about story telling with a purpose. And software is supposed to help sales reps manage more stories. Don't forget, if you can't tell the story, you can't close the deal!
On the bright side, these failures mean there is a huge upside for those who can "figure it out". If you are looking to get a leg up on your sales competition, the next blog item provides more details about the universal model that underlies any good sales and marketing system. This is the model that will help you manage both your logistics and your stories!