Why digital can, but is not empowering sales as it should

Despite the abundance of digital tools, turnover rates of sales reps are rising and 60% sales representative lack confidence in meeting their targets. At the root of this dichotomy appears to be a disconnect between the Chief Sales Officers (CSOs) who design and implement the tools and the reps who use them, a latest study by Accenture found.

According to the study, Global 2000 firms spending an astounding $2.4 trillion on digital sales channels and tools, yet despite the increased investment in automation and the growing sophistication of tools, companies have yet to maximise their potential.

The study titled, “Empowering Your Sales Force: It’s Not Just Automation, It’s Personal,” conducted by Accenture Interactive, found organisations have a tremendous opportunity to rethink their approach to sales enablement by aligning digital tools to the evolving needs of today’s sales representatives and their customers.

The global study surveyed more than 800 sales professionals across seven countries and seven industries regarding the challenges faced in meeting sales objectives, satisfaction with job areas, availability and usage of sales tools, opinions on tool usage and expectations of tools. It combined the insights with data from theCSO Insights: 2015 Sales Performance Optimisation Study to gain a holistic understanding of sales tools usage and perceptions.

It found that 80% of companies have adopted a CRM system and a large majority have deployed tools across the entire sales process yet the transformation isn’t seamless.

Misaligned Objectives

The disconnect begins with expectations. For example, CSOs cite “capturing new accounts” as their number one objective (58%), while sales reps cite “improving customer satisfaction” (36%).

This reflects an underlying shift in the reps’ approach, which has evolved toward a pull-based, collaborative, guided selling approach that values lasting customer relationships beyond the transaction, according to the study.

The result is a disconnect between the tools sales leadership are providing – even mandating – versus what sales reps actually need to be successful and feel empowered.

“As companies strive to improve sales effectiveness, they need to fundamentally rethink their approach to digital within their sales organisations,” Jose Goncalves, MD and global digital sales lead, Accenture Interactive, said.

“Rather than a top-down, enterprise approach, companies need to take a people-first approach that listens to the sales force and marries their needs with tools that deliver data-driven, flexible and personalised omni-channel experiences that help them sell smarter and drive the bottom line.”

Opportunities to maximise adoption and usage

While sales tools grow increasingly sophisticated, customisable and flexible – packed with enhanced features and functionality -- only 13% of sales professionals utilise their full capabilities. Almost 75% acknowledge the sales tools provided are an important part of the sales process, but more than half find them more an “obstacle than a facilitator to their sales performance.”


  • 59% reported they are required to use too many tools
  • 58% felt tools are used more to monitor performance than to increase performance (trust)
  • 56% felt tools are not customised to their needs

Making it personal: A service-design approach

To address this gap, Accenture proposes rethinking sales tools through the lens of service design. Today’s sales reps expect their tools to deliver the same simple, seamless and personalised experiences they’re accustomed to as consumers, when and wherever they are -- on web, smartphones or tablets.

When designed through the eyes of the rep, sales tools can match the way salespeople sell and engage in customer dialogue – no longer just providing reporting and tracking features, but ones that are as personalised and easy to use as the services reps are using in their daily lives.

The challenge facing sales organisations is to take advantage of the technological sophistication and flexibility available by implementing tools that are customised to the evolved way sales reps engage customers and nurture relationships.


According to Accenture, sales organisations must shift away from a top-down approach designed from an enterprise lens. Instead, organisations should adopt a service design lens that puts salespeople first and adheres to three principals:

  1. Follow human-centreddesign
    2. Identify critical data to measurably improve the guided selling experience
    3. Leverage the highly flexible technology platforms available

“Organisations stand to benefit by amplifying sales talent, creating engaged customer conversations and boosting team performance. Research shows that improving sales team performance can deliver a 5-10% lift in a company’s sales or revenues,” the study said.

Image: www.shutterstock.com