We all realize that there are a lot of technology tools to help sales teams manage their accounts, learn about new products, scope out prospective customers, get quick access to SDS and labels, find a cross-reference to a competitor’s product, and so much more. But is your sales team actually putting technology to proper use?

I’m not talking about accepting meeting invitations on a mobile calendar and being able to email with a smartphone. Jan/san manufacturers have developed mobile web sites, web tools, iOS apps, and more to help their distributors. And yet, tech adoption is…well, it’s in the toilet. Of the hundreds of distributor sales reps I have personally worked with over the last 17 years, I would say I’ve encountered 15 or so who actively use technology. Last year I was asked to present distributor candidates for a panel on this topic at a trade show and I was almost stumped.

So how can we help our teams become more efficient utilizing the free tech available?

Of course there are certain distributors that excel in technology adoption and usage. In my experience these are almost always not only mandated from the top down, but the leadership sets the tone by using the technology themselves as well. Remember the old adage: “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself?”

So a good start in enabling technology with your team is still to “lead by example.” Why do sales managers spend time with their teams in the field? I hope it isn’t just to check on the big accounts or to gather fodder for the occasional performance evaluation. The primary goal is to mentor the team and help them work smarter. And yet, most ride-alongs do not address technology. Sales teams look up to managers and counts on them to give them more than just sales quotas; they need guidance on professional development — and that includes technology.

The key is to show them without showing them up. The next time a sales manager is in the field, be sure there’s time on the agenda for hands-on demonstrations of:

• How to present workloading or quality assurance programs;
• How to use the company CRM (or a free CRM tool) to track progression in the sales process, a prospect’s hot-buttons, the date the account will go out for bid, who has the current business, the customer’s industry associations, and other tidbits that enhance the relationship and present a professional sales approach;
• Who to follow on social media to stay ahead of the curve and in the know;
• How to use key supplier tools.

If you are in a leadership role and you are not ready to lead technology usage, now may be a great time to consider getting a mentor of your own.

Tina Serio, I.C.E., MBA, is president of SonicTrain, LLC, creators of The Arena gamification platform, and owner of xSell360 Consulting. She is an industry leader in marketing technologies and has led development from concept to execution on numerous sales tools. Serio provides training workshops, strategic management consulting and marketing implementation around the country. Her insight comes from over 17 years industry management experience. You may contact her at 419-297-0822 or tina@sonictrain.com.