Sales leaders are driving significant change in how their sales people go to market. Much of this change is labeled “Sales Enablement." The focus is on automating the sales process and equipping salespeople with the right tools at the right time. In other words, developing a sales playbook. There are three significant problems with this approach:
1. Premature Automation
Automation only works well when the processes being automated are well understood. According to Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Business, knowledge comes into an organization through a knowledge funnel that has three stages.
- Initially, it’s a mystery and we have more questions than answers.
- Eventually, we begin to figure things out and we develop rules of thumb. We don’t fully understand it, but experts develop sufficient experience that enables them to apply good judgment.
- Over time, we have so much experience that we can now create algorithms to address every eventuality. It is only at this stage that we are ready to automate. Automation attempts prior to this stage will result in disaster because we are bound to encounter something we haven’t anticipated, and therefore, the automation is not prepared to deal with.
In the world of complex sales, we are not ready for automation. While closing a complex deal may no longer be a mystery, we require experts with experience who can apply good judgment. Our prospects and customers are human and do not fit into neat boxes. Conversations and interactions with humans at the level of true engagement cannot be automated. Much of the sales automation on the market today, at best, discounts the intelligence and judgment of salespeople, and at worst, overrides it.