In some ways, speed and progress have become synonymous.

We as humans are always pushing ourselves to simplify processes, be more productive, and move faster. Particularly in sales, "more" and "faster" have become something of a mantra. The drive to move quickly is a wonderful thing, but speed without control can be dangerous.

Sales and marketing technologies have focused on generating more activity in less time. Unfortunately for most sales organizations, simply driving more activity is not enough to make increase conversions. As sales leaders, it's critical to examine how we can take back control, ensuring the increased activity being driven is producing the desired results.

The Sales Race

If sales is an engine that's gunning too quickly, what's pushing the gas? What's driving sales into this state of chaos?

In the past five years, there have been major developments in ad tech, social media, and marketing automation. Marketing automation in particular has become key to how companies operate, pulling in massive amounts of new leads and customer data.

At the same time, social media has fundamentally changed the way buyers shop. Buyers today take care of their due diligence well before connecting with a sales rep--they research online, read through reviews, turn to their social networks for referrals, and more. It's not surprising then that 57 percent of a typical purchase decision is done before a customer even talks with sales, according to a study by CEB.

That means salespeople are under pressure to please more people in less time. The resulting business environment is a desperate sprint to process leads and lock in customers, without much room for strategy or thought.

Adding Method to the Madness

How can sales leaders deal with the breakneck pace of this sales environment? Many sales teams are turning to an emerging category of technology called sales acceleration. Unfortunately most sales acceleration tools available today don't do enough. Instead of driving efficiency, they increase chaos.

For example, many businesses today use CRM systems to manage the influx of new leads. CRM systems do a good job of aggregating data, logging and filtering contacts, but ultimately leave the "who to follow up with next" and communication cadence to the discretion of each individual sales rep. As a result, there is no consistency or opportunity for sales leaders to optimize the sales process.

Automated dialers are another go-to sales acceleration tool. While a dialer might help you make more calls, if you aren't calling the right prospects at the right time, your sales team will be doing a lot more busy work without a lot to show for it.

To add to the chaos there are dozens of different point solutions from gamification to email tracking tools each addressing a different aspect of the sales process. The result is more administrative headaches and confusion for sales teams.

Keep the Wheel Steady as You Step on the Gas

You can't have speed without control. Forcing employees into a high-velocity sales environment without the right structure will ultimately leave them disengaged and frustrated.

Sales acceleration should be about working smarter, not harder, by driving more of the right activities:

  • It's automating your sales processes based on what you as a sales leader know are the best practices--not relying entirely on black box algorithms
  • It's getting the right leads into the hands of the right reps at every stage of the sales cycle
  • It's prioritizing the highest value sales activities for your reps at any given time--no more guesswork
  • It's building prospecting right into your CRM tool, so contact information is automatically synced with existing data
  • It's calling new high-priority inbound leads fast, within seconds or minutes not hours or days
  • It's leveraging local calling numbers when prospecting or responding to inbound leads to increase speed-to-contact
  • It's making six call attempts to a lead, instead of just one
  • It's motivating your reps through rewardification to follow the ideal sales process with more and better leads, not just electronic badges and trophies
  • It's leveraging interesting moments from marketing automation and social media to accelerate speed to prep, and drive smarter sales calls
  • It's utilizing sales activity insights to continuously optimize every stage of the sales process

In today's fast-paced business environment, sales looks more and more like a race. But if you apply control as well as speed, it's a race you can win.

Published on: Sep 2, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.