“There’s nothing new under the sun.”
It’s taken me more than 25 years to fully understand the meaning of this proverb: Nothing is truly “new” — just repurposed, retooled, reinvented, or repositioned. In sales operations, understanding the origins of some of the technologies we use now and how they were used before helps us avoid past mistakes and, more importantly, get the most out of today’s capabilities and predict future applications.
One of my early job roles was managing a call center, with the goal of helping the call center transition to a contact center and from a cost center to a profit center. In addition to being responsible for the day-to-day operational goals of the call center, answering customer service questions, and completing transactional customer tasks, I was also tasked with creating a sales culture and turning the center into the hub of the customer experience (retention and expansion). I understood how the combination of people, process, and technology affected each customer’s sales and service experience, but it was technology that gave me the advantage. Technology allowed me to enable our people and processes to be our market differentiator.
Using technology to differentiate the business internally and externally was possible because new and enhanced technologies were entering the market at a feverish pace. We implemented workforce management and call monitoring software, skills-based routing, computer telephony integration, and knowledge management tools, all in an effort to understand, maximize, and leverage the customer journey while increasing efficiencies and productivity. Because we had a consolidated workforce and operated in a heavily regulated industry, we could refine processes and skills using the data and insights provided by this technology — but frankly, we had more data than the time and expertise required to synthesize it. We were just beginning to learn the technology, data, and insights dance, and we all seemed to have two left feet. As I moved into a sales career, I began to see the adoption of certain contact center technologies become more prevalent within sales and, specifically, sales operations — enabled and empowered by the application of AI.
There’s one key difference, however, between sales talent and contact center talent: the willingness of that talent to be monitored and managed. This characteristic helps explain the sometimes-longer adoption cycles of some of these technologies within the sales realm. This same characteristic continues to dilute the effectiveness of sales force automation implementations and contributes to the input of “bad” data from sales reps. But as a new generation of sellers emerges, the willingness to use technology — specifically, technology that once existed mainly in the contact center — has increased from a rep and sales leader perspective. Millennials and Generation Z are accustomed to their every email, call, chat, text, web search, and website interaction being captured, analyzed, and leveraged. This trait bodes well for sales operations’ ability to use technology to enable sales reps through the data we capture; the insights we glean; and the resulting strategies we create for sales and, potentially, across the revenue engine.
These repurposed technologies, emboldened with AI, have evolved call monitoring into conversational intelligence and analytics. By monitoring each interaction and intelligently matching customer attributes to sales rep attributes — from knowledge to location to experience to linguistic patterns — these technologies greatly enhance the customer experience, in turn increasing the likelihood that a deal is won. Knowledge management systems have evolved into complex content management systems, including intricate sales engagement platforms that monitor every customer interaction and orchestrate what content to send, when, and to whom to increase the likelihood of closing the sale. Finally, technologies focused on the top of the funnel can score opportunity types for relevance, forecast opportunities on the basis of associated buyer motions, evaluate pipeline performance against predetermined criteria, and create dashboards and reports ready to be analyzed and acted on — all without the rep intentionally participating.
The intertwinement of revenue intelligence, revenue operations, and sales engagement platforms has become a powerful potion. These technologies, many of which were developed within other industries such as contact centers, have effectively been repurposed, retooled, reinvented, and repositioned to equip sales operations for transition from a cost center to a profit center. Perhaps there is something new under the sun!