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. 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 docked, it took 108 men 5 days to unload it. Today, with the advent of containerization, it takes 8 men only 1 day to do the same amount of work. And yet, no one seems surprised about this advancement. In fact, 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 and digital automation is doing the same thing for white-collar office work.

This is exactly what SalesForce is doing in sales.

SalesForce brings Digital Automation to the Sales Workforce

At this SalesForce conference, one of the speakers said he used SalesForce to replace the spreadsheets. He wanted his people to move away from owning isolated pockets of information. Instead, he wanted all the information to be centrally located in SalesForce. Then he could 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. They weren’t wasting it trying to organize various scraps of paper for the next sales review.

In our organization, we use SalesForce do real-time data analysis, on-demand report creation, and coordinate our schedules. Since implementing SalesForce, our team has had time to enhance their communication skills and business acumen. The result is  additional value and knowledge to our clients.

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

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

Salespeople Are Living Tom Peters’ Prediction of  Workforce Automation

So what does this mean for the salespeople 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 prospects 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 applications performing these routine sales tasks, the answer to the two questions above resides with 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 being a sales rep means to you in this digitally automated 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 salespeople to learn some new tricks, or let the competition take our business.