What is Sales Tech? 7 things you will want to know about Sales Tech

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What is Sales Tech? 7 things you will want to know about Sales Tech

With the introduction of ERP packages, the development of SaaS, and the use of social media, IT is becoming more and more important in many aspects of business management. Sales activities are no exception, with new services and tools called "sales tech" being released one after another, and many companies are using them.

As we enter an age of declining birth rates and an aging population, the human resources of companies are unlikely to expand significantly in the future. The future of business management will be about how to increase productivity and achieve more with less. In other words, sales tech will become an indispensable tool for the future of business management.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the current state of sales technology, its future prospects, and what you need to do to prepare yourself for the future.


What is SalesTech? 

SalesTech refers to methods and tools that use IT to increase the productivity and efficiency of sales activities. It is a term coined from the combination of sales (=Sales) and technology (=Technology), and like fintech (Financial + Technology) and agri-tech (Agriculture + Technology), it is a concept that creates new innovations.

In the past, the sales technology market has been mainly focused on Europe and the United States, but in recent years, the market has been gradually expanding in Japan as well. In Japan, the growth of the CRM market has been particularly significant. According to the "Domestic CRM Application Market Forecast" published by research firm IDC Japan K.K. in 2018, the size of the domestic CRM market in 2017 was 105.649 billion yen.

CRM is an acronym for "Customer Relationship Management", which refers to "a management method or tool that aims to build good relationships with customers". This represents an increase of about 10% in the previous year. It is forecasted to continue to grow at a similar pace, albeit at a slightly slower rate, to reach 143,036 million yen by 2022.

a graph on the increasing usage of CRM in japan

Source: Domestic CRM Application Market Forecast


Background of Sales Tech

Salesforce Automation (SFA) is often used to visualize sales activities and improve productivity, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is used to build good relationships with customers.  According to a survey conducted by Yano Research Institute, Inc. on 528 companies in Japan in 2018, the number of companies using sales tech such as CRM and SFA is increasing every year.

*SaaS stands for "Software as a Service" and is a service that allows you to access and use the software in the cloud from anywhere with an internet connection. It also has editing capabilities so that it can be edited and managed by multiple people. In 2012, the adoption rate of CRM/SFA was 22.5%, but it increased to 29.0% in 2014, 29.8% in 2016, and 33.8% in 2018, which is about 1 in 3 companies using CRM/SFA.


What is the difference between CRM and SFA?

We have introduced the meaning of CRM and SFA, but many people are not quite sure what they mean. So, let's have a quick look at what is the difference between CRM and SFA. As we have already mentioned, CRM refers to a 'customer relationship management system' and SFA refers to a 'sales force automation system'. Both of these tools are very useful for improving sales and marketing, but CRM is mainly marketing-oriented and SFA is sales-oriented.

CRM manages a large amount of customer information and, if necessary, analyzes past trends (information) of users, such as "what kind of products and services did the customer buy in the past?

SFA, on the other hand, allows salespeople to manage budgets, record the progress of each deal and manage the sales team. It is a tool designed to help salespeople work as a team, rather than as individuals, to drive more sales.

Increased efficiency through the development of IT

The development of IT has changed the way sales are conducted. In the past, salespeople had to earn their way by foot, and sales skills and know-how had to be personalized so that a small number of super salespeople supported the organization.

In recent years, with the development of IT, sales information has been converted into data, which is then accumulated and treated as Big Data.


What is Big Data?

“Big data is not only a large amount of data, but also unstructured and atypical data that includes various types and formats, and is often referred to as time-series and real-time data that is generated and recorded in huge amounts on a daily basis. By recording, storing, and immediately analyzing such data, which has been overlooked because it is unmanageable until now, we can gain useful knowledge for business and society, and increase the possibility of creating new mechanisms and systems that have never existed before.”

(Source: IT Dictionary)

In other words, all the daily sales activities and inquiries from customers will be accumulated as big data in the company. Sales support activities using AI (Artificial Intelligence) are also in full swing. AI is used to pick up potential customers based on accumulated sales information and to crawl the internet to identify potential customers, contributing to sales growth.

IT has gradually made it possible to carry out tasks that used to rely on human resources. As the use of big data and AI continues to increase in many areas, the gap between companies that use sales tech and those that don't will continue to widen.

A decline in the working population

The labor force in Japan is declining year by year due to the declining birth rate and aging population.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications' 2014 report on the challenges facing the country's working population, the working population is expected to decline significantly from 78.83 million in 2013 to 44.18 million in 2060.

a graph on the declining / aging population in japan

Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, "Challenges in Japan's Working Population"

Even if there is a significant improvement in the birth rate in the future, this figure is unlikely to change significantly. Therefore, there is no effective way for companies to maintain and expand their business in the future, except by recruiting non-working people (NEETs, housewives, elderly people) into the workforce, and by adopting a system that generates higher productivity with a smaller workforce.

Digitization is the key to "more productivity with less labor".

Now that we know that companies should be proactive in using sales tech to improve their productivity, it is time to move to IT. But is there any other way to improve productivity than by using sales tech?

One way to do this is to digitize your operations. There is a wide range of IT tools available today that can be used to meet your company's needs and objectives, reduce costs, and eliminate unnecessary work. Here are some examples: 

Examples: 

  • Electronic signatures for contracts
  • Reduce travel and venue costs by using a web conference system.
  • Data management using cloud systems (web-based payslips, approval documents, expense accounts, etc.)
  • Introduction of RPA (business process automation) to streamline administrative tasks (accounting, recruitment, etc.)
  • New business development for salespeople → In addition to visits, use of online negotiation systems

The seven categories of Sales Tech

There are many other categories of sales tech tools, each with its own unique characteristics to support sales activities. According to a report by CB Insights, there are seven categories of SalesTech, and many companies, particularly in the US and Europe, are entering the field.

seven categories of sales tech

Image credit: Cold Call: 65+ Companies Transforming The Sales Tech Landscape)

Let's take a look at some of the features and examples of each category: 

1. Sales Acceleration Tools

These tools are designed to make your sales activities more efficient and productive. The SFA mentioned above belongs to this category.

These tools have a wide range of features, including the ability to record sales activity, stock daily reports, track sales progress, forecast sales figures, manage deals, manage complaints and share this information between departments.

Typical tools include Senses, which uses cards to categorize sales proposals and color-code them to help check progress; e-Sales Manager, which implements a number of functions such as schedule management and business card management; and UPWARD, which focuses on the travel costs of field sales and supports efficient visits.

These are the most popular categories in the sales tech sector, with some companies increasing their sales performance more than fivefold in the first year of using the tools.

2. Customer Support

The customer support category includes inside sales systems to improve the efficiency of inbound sales. These tools are mainly used by customer inquiry offices in the mail order and service industries.

It can automatically perform a wide variety of sales activities, such as storing customer communications in the text as well as voice and sending email newsletters to customers at the most appropriate time.  Companies that have implemented the tool to respond quickly to customers have seen an increase from 65% of inquiries being dealt with within 24 hours before to 98% after implementation.

3. Intelligence and Analytics

This tool is designed to help you make the most of the data generated by your sales activities.

Many of these tools are highly strategic, supporting next actions through advanced data mining, or extracting customer issues by linking them to big data. They are also equipped with AI to analyze past business negotiations and provide advice on ongoing ones, making it relatively easy to analyze data without specialist knowledge.

4. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The Customer Relationship Management category includes tools for building and managing customer databases, storing promotion history, and making the relationship between a company and its customers visible. CRM is a typical example of this category and can be used in a variety of ways, including sharing data with customer centers and promotions departments and linking to online shopping. They are also highly compatible with the cloud and are particularly popular with BtoC companies.

In the real estate industry, CRM has enabled new salespeople to start selling immediately, even if they did not have any customers.

5. Customer Experience

This category of tools aims to increase sales by adding value through emotional and simulated experiences during the customer's buying process. These tools are often used to increase customer loyalty and build repeat business, and include features such as pop-up displays of desired information for website visitors and push delivery of news releases.

Some companies have improved their CPA by as much as 20% by using these tools, leading to new sales leads.

6. Contact Communications

This is a tool for optimizing inbound communications at the point of contact with customers. The objective is the same as that of customer support: to increase customer satisfaction, but with a special focus on situations where direct contact with the customer is required to facilitate closer communication.

It can be used not only for BtoC but also for BtoB, such as business meetings using a web conference system.

BizReach

biz reach and their scout services

(Image credit: Bizreach Inc.) 

Bizreach's online sales tools have enabled them to meet with clients in remote areas, which would otherwise be difficult to visit.

People Development and Coaching.

This is a tool for training and developing the people who are responsible for your sales activities. This category includes online training systems and applications that can be used to achieve these objectives. These include tools that allow learning on both PC and mobile devices and two-way communication with trainers. Some companies have used these apps to educate their staff, thereby enhancing their brand value and providing a high-quality service.

Kirin Beverage

kirin beverages

(Image credit: Kirin Beverage Company Limited)

Kirin Beverage Company, Limited, which has offices throughout Japan, has created video content for training employees at remote locations. By shifting from group training to online training, the company has succeeded in reducing work hours.


The skills required for the future of sales

 sales tech has been working with a number of companies to introduce a range of sales tech solutions that have proven to be effective. This trend is set to accelerate and the use of IT in sales activities will continue to grow, regardless of the industry sector.

In addition to basic sales skills such as communication and presentation skills, salespeople will also need to be strategic in their use of sales technology.

The ability to make decisions based on numbers

 Even before the introduction of sales tech, it was said that the best salespeople were good with numbers. Salespeople who are obsessed with numbers, such as sales and profits made and the percentage of sales achieved against targets, are excellent. This trend will become even more pronounced in the future, and those salespeople who are able to judge the value generated by their sales activities, including indicators such as labor productivity, will survive.

To put it bluntly, there is a big difference between spending 10 million yen to close a deal worth 100 million yen and spending only 1 million yen to make a contribution to the company.

Sales tech will quantify all kinds of information about sales activities, and sales will be evaluated numerically. This means that our ability to judge what the numbers mean and what we need to do will be put to the test.

Flexible attitude to new tools and methods

Sales tech is changing the way we do business by introducing new concepts that have never existed before. However, the introduction of tools alone is a waste of time and will not lead to improved performance.

In a survey of companies that have introduced SFA, a form of sales technology, the majority of respondents said that SFA was not being used effectively due to the complexity of inputting data and a lack of knowledge, highlighting the current situation where SFA is not being fully utilized in sales activities.

SFA Questionnaire

SFA questionnaire

Source: What do you need to know before implementing SFA to maximize sales results? 

It is people who make the tools work, and salespeople need to have the skills to understand and use the tools correctly. Salespeople need to be able to understand and use the tools that have been introduced.

In the future, the introduction of IT tools will become more and more important, not only for the sales department but also for all other departments in the company, in order to improve productivity. Companies that are not proactive in this area will gradually be left behind in terms of staffing and operational efficiency. If any of you reading this article are considering introducing IT tools to your company, please read "The Basics of Visual Communication". You can download the document free of charge.


Conclusion

 The SalesTech market is growing year on year and the number of companies using it is increasing. As a result of the declining birth rate and the aging population, it will become increasingly difficult to secure human resources, and the introduction of sales tech is an inevitable part of business management.

As more and more companies adopt SalesTech, the gap between the haves and have-nots will widen.