A few weeks back, I attended a SalesForce seminar in the local Cleveland area. I have been familiarizing myself with SalesForce for about a year now. Still, attending the conference was very enlightening. As with everything in life, I discovered that the more I learned about SalesForce, the more I learned how much I didn’t know. In this particular instance, it also brought up memories of Tom Peters’ book, Re-Imagine.

In this book, Tom Peters wrote how technology was making complex tasks easier to do. How these tasks required fewer people to execute them and took less time in the process. To underscore his point, he used the example of a timber ship unloading at a dock. He said that 30 years ago, when one of these ships pulled into the dock, it took 108 men 5 days to unload it. Today, after the advent of containerization, it takes 8 men only 1 day to do the same amount of work. Yet, no one seems surprised about this advancement. In fact, we’ve come to expect this kind of advancement in efficiency. He outlines that the forklift did the same thing for the distribution centers. And robotics did the same for the automobile factory. Now, software is doing the same thing for white-collar office work.

This is exactly what SalesForce and sales force automation is doing in the arena in sales.

SalesForce is Restructuring the Sales Workforce

At this SalesForce conference, one of the panel speakers said that he used SalesForce to replace all the spreadsheets his people were using. He wanted his people to move away from owning isolated pockets of information. Instead, he wanted all the information to be in SalesForce. He could then pull a report in real time when he needed it. He could see which clients needed attention, which sales reps were performing and where he should allocate corporate resources. This move also made his sales team more effective with their time and work effort. They weren’t wasting it trying to organize various scraps of paper for the next sales review.

In our organization, we use SalesForce to perform tasks like real-time data analysis, on-demand report creation, schedule coordination, as well as enhancing our collaborative sales efforts. Since implementing SalesForce, our team has had time to enhance their communication skills and business acumen, giving additional value to our clients.

In other words, our team has had time to focus on the activities and skills that the company cannot automate.

Traditionally, sales people have spent a large part of their time creating reports, writing introduction letters, and writing follow up letters to potential leads. They relied on a sales support staff to handle some of this work and to organize their schedule. Today, many businesses are automating much of this activity through SalesForce and other advanced CRM applications.

Sales Rep Are Living Tom Peters Prediction of  Workforce Automation

So what does this mean for the sales reps accustomed to doing all of this by hand?

Well, I think two camps will emerge. One camp will look upon this as an opportunity to achieve something new. They’ll see this as a chance to contact additional people and establish stronger relationships. They’ll also be able to work on developing additional skills and bring more value to their relationships.

The other camp will see this as a loss. They will look upon this development as an effort by the company to replace them with a machine.

With more advanced applications performing these routine sales tasks, the answer to the two questions above resides with us, the sales rep. So, I’m here to tell you that you need to determine where you should focus your attention. You have to take another look at what it means to be a sales rep in this hi-tech, hyper-connected world. You’ll have to identify your current skills and talents, and determine the skills you should focus on developing. That way, you can bring real value to your clients, as opposed to a catalogue and a thank you card.

In his book, The Accidental Salesperson, Chris Lytle wrote that our biggest investment is not the car, the house or the 401K. The biggest investment we will make is in ourselves. Because without our own growth, there can be no career advancement. And with no career growth, there is no income increase to buy the car, the house, or the 401k investment.

It’s time for some of us sales dogs to learn some new tricks, or let the competition take our business.