Sales Tech's Forgotten Byproduct: Employee Happiness

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Why do companies invest in CRM, sales performance management software, business intelligence, and every other component of the customer-facing technology stack? The obvious response is that they pay returns on the investments.

CRM paid back US$8.71 for every dollar invested in it, Nucleus Research reported way back in 2014.

Business analytics applications were delivering $13.01 in value for every buck spent on them.

Rewards for users of CPQ, sales enablement and sales coaching technologies included increased deal sizes, productivity gains and close rates.

The numbers justify the contracts, but they aren't the sole reason these technologies are important for modern customer-facing organizations. There's a simpler reason: Their presence makes the people who use them happier.

You might dismiss the happiness factor as something warm and fuzzy, but flaky -- but before you emit an audible scoff, let me stop you.

Unhappiness is expensive. It leads to people leaving the company -- and when those people are in sales, the costs can be quite significant.

The acquisition costs for new sales employees plus training costs and replacement costs, including lost time in territory, can be staggering.

What is there to be unhappy about, you might ask? Well, there are the usual human factors -- bad management, poorly drawn territories, difficulties with product decisions and so on. Yet even when all those issues and more are tackled, work for sales people, sales ops pros and marketers can be tough.

Meeting goals becomes harder every year. For example, 94.5 percent of sales executives polled planned on increasing revenue targets, even as quota attainment had plummeted by 10 percentage points in a three-year period, according to CSO Insights' 2015 Sales Performance Insights study.

In other words, if you're a sales person fighting to keep your head above water, your sales manager is planning to "help out" by putting several large rocks in your pockets.

At the same time, new ways of understanding the market have opened the floodgates for a deluge of data -- not information, data. Without the tools to extract knowledge and insights from that data, it's impossible to harness it. In fact, its presence, and the knowledge that the insights are in there, only increases the pressure.

Businesses don't exist in a vacuum. They face pressures from competitors -- arguably, greater competition than ever before.

Put that all together, and it's a rather disheartening mix -- or at least, it would be, were it not for technology. Although people might grumble about entering data, CRM and sales technology ultimately save sales and marketing a tremendous amount of time, which they can devote to really important tasks. For sales, that's selling -- and it's the reason managers can justify increased quotas.

Analytics tools are cracking the code on data and making it possible for front-line sales and marketing people to use it to discover insights crucial to their jobs. The need for the analytics guru is slowly disappearing, and soon everyone in the organization will have the power to dig into data for information that gives them a competitive advantage.

With the right tools, sales people sell more, are happier, and are much less likely to seek out other opportunities, which leads to a stronger and more expert sales force over time.

The impact of technology on revenue numbers is important and hard to overstate -- but don't lose sight of the fact that the use of technology can create a more manageable, lucrative and personally rewarding environment for individual employees, who will pay that satisfaction back over the long haul.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is director, content marketing, for CallidusCloud and a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years, focusing on CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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