(Part 1 of 2)
Technology continues to evolve rapidly, and demographic shifts among your employees and clients are changing buying and selling behaviors and preferences. Many of these innovations impact the areas of sales force effectiveness and learning and development (L&D).
Here are the first four of nine trends to watch and get on board with in 2013 in the areas of sales force effectiveness and L&D.
1) Mobile (Smartphones and Tablets)
Tablet computers (both iPads and Android-based tablets) are fast becoming the tool of choice among sales reps. It’s hard to deny the cool factor and lure of portability; they are picking up where netbooks left off in helping to lighten the load of road warriors. However, we haven’t yet reached the point where sales reps can completely abandon their laptops.
Platforms and vendors such as Salesforce.com are pushing mobile computing and will continue adding functionality to give sales reps options for use when traveling or meeting with clients and prospects.
M-learning (Mobile Learning) is happening but hasn’t been perfected yet. E-learning programs were designed for desktop and laptop consumption. But to be effective, those longer modules need to be further adapted for viewing on smaller devices and in shorter “chunks.” (See #6 on Bite-sizing.) And depending upon the age of your “current” modules, perhaps rather than simply converting them, you should take this opportunity to refresh the content as well as how it is delivered.
Is your content in a format that is accessible for your clients? If you’re really “old school,” you may want to invest in an upgrade. Tablet- and smartphone-enabled tutorials are growing in number but still have issues to be resolved (e.g., network connectivity, streaming, buffering, resolution, formatting). One sticking point has been Adobe Flash, which has been the standard for creating videos for desktop viewing but is not compatible with Apple devices. However, the latest version of coding language for the web (HTML5) will resolve those issues by enabling audio and video playback on all platforms (for now!).
Mobile apps are also growing in number and popularity. Salesforce.com and Revegy have been working to make their app integration seamless for users who rely on their programs for productivity.
Think about how your sales reps and clients work and access data and information. In an increasingly mobile world, make sure you stay connected.
No one should need convincing that social media has become a dominant force in people’s lives, both as individuals and as employees. How do you encourage sharing and networking within your company? Do you block access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or do you encourage your staff to leverage these tools for your (and their) business success?
What are your colleagues working on? How do you share institutional knowledge and get quick answer and updates when you need them?
No one wants to receive or read any more e-mails. Platforms such as Chatter enable collaboration and reduce the need for e-mails and waiting for status reports. (“Create a free, private, and secure social network just for your business. Get auto updates on the people, projects, and files that you care about most.”) Similarly, Yammer bills itself as “a private social network for your company,” allowing colleagues to safely ask and share customer and competitive knowledge, data, and insights.
Help facilitate internal networking and information sharing so that sales reps can stay in touch and on top of sales and projects.
Not that long ago, each computer had local versions of business software installed for their use. Any time an update was required, it would takes days, weeks, or longer to complete the process depending on how many people the IT staff needed to service throughout the company.
That process improved significantly when applications were designed to be housed centrally on servers, allowing one update to be made that all users would receive simultaneously. This was a win for employees and clients alike. However, data and applications still needed to reside somewhere and be managed by internal IT staff.
The newer model is cloud computing, in which applications and data storage are web-based. Salesforce.com is a great example of a cloud-based company. Their SaaS (Software as a Service) platform allows users to access the data they need without having to store it on hard drives and servers locally or worry about being updated.
Tech heavyweights Google, Apple, and Amazon are helping to further expand the possibilities of cloud computing into everyday life. Vendors of business software now sell access to their products through individual or bulk licenses as opposed to physical installations of their software.
The other change to note in the evolution to SaaS is that the buyers have changed. When selling software installations, the CIO was often the target buyer. However, sellers of SaaS platforms can now target business unit managers who ultimately use the programs.
4) Big Data and Metrics
In 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was quoted as saying that “every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.” So there’s clearly no shortage of data. If anything, you’re likely drowning in it. We have so much data, but now we have the computer processing power to be able to leverage it. Figure out what pieces of data are important to your business, your customers, and your ability to meet your strategic objectives, and begin to measure it.
Google is probably the best at analyzing its users’ queries and serving up relevant search results as well as relevant ads and promotions. Amazon has similarly perfected the “you may also like” feature to suggest other products. Facebook users will have noticed ads based on their likes and those in their network.
We have the ability to capture, track, measure, and analyze data – and then make decisions based on it. In short: measure, analyze, and monetize everything! Those in the c-suite have taken notice and have come to expect input based on big data. It’s hard to ignore numbers and trends.
Take a moment and digest these first four trends. Is your company already leveraging and embracing these trends, or are you lagging behind? What can you do to catch up? Do you have the personnel, budget, and other resources to pull it off?
If they could be categorized as a group, these trends could be viewed as external forces and influences on your business and employees’ behaviors. They are also areas that will continue to evolve long into the future in ways that we haven’t imagined.
Part two of this post will cover the remaining five trends to watch and plan for in 2013: Millennials, bite-sizing, the flipped classroom, gamification, and performance support.
Don’t get left behind. If you haven’t already started, consider how your sales organization can leverage some of these trends in sales force effectiveness and L&D to enhance your business.