HSMAI Special Section: Sales Technology Lifecycle

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April 04, 2016
HSMAI
J. Scott Duty

Impressive name, but what does it really mean?

THE STL
Drop the phrase sales technology lifecycle (STL) around your sales staff, and they'll probably ask if it's time to buy new software. Actually, STL is a philosophy, and its followers know that every once in a while, you need to check all the tools in the sales toolkit for relevance, potential obsolescence, security compliance, data portability and cost impact.
Why? If you pair the right tools with the right people, you can build a world-class sales team, make it easier for customers to choose your product and – at the end of the day – beat the competition.

SALES TOOLS
With all of the demands of running a business, when was the last time you closely examined your current sales tools? The results might turn up programs you’re no longer using and systems you don’t remember why you needed in the first place. You’ll most likely find that some products are cloud based, others run on local computers and there’s at least one that still runs on DOS. How many of your systems are actually PCI compliant or have the security level today’s interactions require?
Effective tools are an integral part of the sales culture and process. But if team members don’t have them, or can’t use them, you’ll never maximize the return on investment (ROI) or the return on objective (ROO) that went into acquiring these powerful products.
Some projects have direct ROI expectations with clear measurable outcomes, success metrics and profitability hopes. Others are based on less tangible results like improved guest satisfaction, brand differentiation or sales philosophy.
No matter the expected outcomes, the sales technology lifecycle encompasses both and can provide the analysis required for making better business decisions.

PROJECT PURPOSE AND SCOPE
Too often, leaders focus on implementing the project without fully exploring how the new system will fit into the overall technology roadmap. Don’t make this mistake. Take time to think about factors like:

  • What database values are shared amongst multiple systems
  • What data elements cascade across other platforms

When you’re planning a project like this, it’s important to build cross-functional teams and people them with subject matter experts (SME) who have the knowledge, imagination and understanding to help determine database values, reports and analysis required to ensure project success.
Can we rely on vendors to solve the business process gap between system capabilities and usage standards defined by leadership? Unfortunately, in most instances no. Most vendors only teach you how to fill in the blank for each data element and provide instruction on general usage of the tool.
This isn’t their fault. They simply  aren’t familiar enough with your overall sales philosophy, your technology roadmap and other system constraints. Real customization and maximization requires experience, determination of best practices and integration with other sales systems.
If you’re lucky there’s someone in-house who can do this for you, but many times an outside SME is the best path to success. As a temp who’s just there to get the job done, she won’t get caught up in office politics and departmental agendas.
One of the biggest challenges in implementing or maximizing these technologies is training the user group to:

  •  Use the tool according to corporate standards
  •  Update usage expectations
  •  To do their old job in the new system
GOING ROGUE AND COMING BACK
Users  who’ve worked with the technology for years often have their own way of doing things.  They may be following standards learned at other jobs last or gaming the system so it works best for them. I call these rogue users. Their behavior can be hard to change, but with clear expectations, proper training, data audits and recognition, it can be done. Keep in mind that their usage habits won’t change if you don’t insist. Set clear expectations on the proper use of sales tools and follow up with feedback. You might consider making it part of the annual review process.
Modern technology makes it easy to provide users with dynamic, up to date and consistent training. With a learning management system (LMS), training can be attached to the employees file. Gone are the days of the static manual that gathers dust on a shelf, e-learning systems offer customizable training courses with skills assessments and individual topic-driven training curricula.
The trick is to make sure that slick new training you just spent thousands of dollars – and six months – developing does the trick. Today’s workforce is multigenerational. Each group has a different work style, learning style and attention span for training. The sales technology lifecycle must include training for all ages and learning styles. That means a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. It will require additional planning, resources, capacity and maintenance, but the results of having a properly trained team will more than justify the effort.

BRING IT ALL TOGETHER
One of the best benefits from HTNG (Hotel Technology Next Generation) has been standardization around databases and open architecture. Previous to this initiative, most systems were closed, limiting direct access your data, much less move it to another system. You were held hostage by the vendor.
With today’s programs, you’re only limited by your imagination. Whether you’re using business intelligence (BI) or dashboard reporting, you can integrate data and information from multiple systems with a 360-degree view of your customer. Reporting has evolved from group and transient reporting to a more holistic reporting concept.
Better business analysis yields better business decisions. Better business decisions yield higher profitability. If your current technology lives on a closed platform, your organization could be leaving money on the table. The cost of an upgrade, platform change or staff retraining doesn’t seem so high when you’re losing out to the competition.
The STL can be as simple or multifaceted as you want to make it. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, the cadre of participants can include senior leaders across multiple function areas, plus outside consultants. You must always include end users from every affected business area. Don’t forget the customer.

NEXT STEPS TO GET IT DONE
Start with an honest comparison between the current state and desired state.
Ensure all the necessary tools in the tool kit have:

  • Appropriate security in place
  • An open platform
  • Clearly defined usage standards and audits
  • Customized training for all user types
  • A dynamic business intelligence system with dashboards
  • Looked at all customer facing technology through the eyes of the customer
  • The right consultants and subject matter experts
  • And most of all some imagination!

Blend all that together and you have a sales technology lifecycle.

J. SCOTT DUTY president and CMO of Soluna Solutions (www.soluna.solutions), has more than 25 years hospitality industry experience. He began his  career as a catering assistant for the Sheraton BWI and ultimately worked his way up to senior executive for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., LLC. After seeing how the sales lifecycle intersects and impacts with emerging technology, he draws on his unique perspective and experience level to provide customers with solutions that solve any challenge.

©2016 Hospitality Upgrade
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