Joachim Meyn worked in sales for many years and reports here on his experiences and learnings about the introduction and acceptance of new technologies in this area.

From the title, one could now deduce that sales has a problem with the acceptance of new technologies. But, new technologies and innovations are not accepted differently in sales than in other areas of the company.

In general, however, it must be considered here that Germany – like Austria – generally belongs to the so-called “late adopters.” In other words, new ideas and/or technologies/innovation are generally adopted more slowly and later than, for example, in the Anglo-Saxon countries. One can also say “when the whole thing has matured”.

Of course, not all companies belong to this category. There is definitely a certain percentage of companies in Germany as well who adopt new ideas/technologies/innovations very early, so-called “early adopters”, sometimes also called trendsetters. This situation can be seen very nicely now in the rather sluggish introduction and acceptance of 5G mobile communications.

Nevertheless, there is always resistance to the introduction of new technologies, especially in sales, and there in particular in the field service.

How Can You Achieve Better and Faster Acceptance in These Cases?

From years of working in sales, as a sales manager, I know the problems from my own experience.

To find a solution, you first have to ask yourself the following: “why are these problems there in the first place?”

Many are under the impression that sales has more freedom than other departments:

– Even before Corona, salespeople often worked from home offices.
– They also work off-site when visiting customers, seemingly removing them from any monitoring of working hours.
– They receive (sometimes) high expenses, especially when visiting customers abroad.
– They seem to have great freedom, as they are rarely in the office.

The reality is usually quite different. Sales is one of the most monitored and controlled areas in most companies.

In some cases, there is even special sales controlling, in addition to normal controlling. Through variable salary components, there is a strong pressure to perform, which does not exist in most other departments. Or do you know an accountant or controller whose salary depends 40 to 60 percent on the results of his work?

In addition, many sales representatives who experience those new technologies are often used for additional control or to increase the pressure to perform. There are even situations in which new technologies are more of a hindrance. Think of CRM or ordering systems on a laptop where the laptop screen acts as a wall between the sales representative and the customer. Fortunately, with the ever-increasing use of tablets, this has increasingly evaporated into thin air. Nevertheless, the sales representative is always busy with his technology as well.

Real Feedback from Sales People in the Field

During my professional career, I have collected quite a bit of feedback during and after the implementation of CRM systems in sales.

The following are some exemplary parade phrases:

– “I’m not giving the company my know-how about the customer after all.”
– “After all, the CRM system only serves to make sales controlling monitor even more what I do on the road.”
– “The CRM system is designed to be used by controlling and/or marketing.”
– “The systems are far too complicated to use.”
– “When I’m with the customer, I’m more concerned with operating the system than with the customer.”
– “With the additional data collection, I have more work instead of less.”
– “With the introduction of the systems, I was assigned more customers, but the promised relief did not materialize.”
– “The CRM system is only populated by sales; other employees’ conversations with customers don’t show up there.”
– “There was never any proper training.”
– “The implementation is intended to reduce the number of sales representatives.”
– “Most of the data I am supposed to/must collect from the customer is irrelevant to my work.”

You will also experience comparable resistance and statements when introducing other technologies in sales.
Backgrounds in many cases are:

– Negative experiences with the introduction of new technologies.
– Disruptions in the relationship with the customer, resulting in fewer sales and thus less commission.
– Additional burden.
– The Big Brother feeling of constant surveillance.
– Fear of being made redundant by new technologies.

What are Solutions for such (Acceptance) Problems?

Now, here we come back to the title of the article “How do I achieve acceptance of new technologies in sales?”

Essentially, the problems are in the areas of trust and communication. Trust has to be earned and is lost very quickly, especially if there are bad experiences from the past.

Sales and management as well as IT are challenged here, since most cases of introducing new technologies today are about IT systems.

Trust can be built or regained through open and honest communication. This then includes:

– Informing sales early on, preferably before a final decision has been made.
– Involving sales and the affected employees in the decision.
– Involving the sales department and the affected employees in the design, operation, and layout of the new system.
– Involvement of the sales department and the affected employees in the implementation.
– Taking up and considering ideas and suggestions from the sales staff.
– Open and honest communication about the tasks of the new systems and whether and if so, what additional monitoring will take place.
– Correct presentation of whether the new system makes work easier or places an additional burden on it.
– If additional burden is involved, how will it be compensated.
– Showing what benefits the new system has for the sales department and for the company.
– Clearly communicate what is expected of the new system and the sales force.
– Consider the impact of the new system on income. The introduction of a new ERP system has no impact on the accountant’s income. In contrast, the introduction of, for example, a CRM system can have a massive impact on the income of the sales representative.


How to Achieve Acceptance of New Technologies in Sales? – Conclusion

In my experience, the acceptance of new technologies in sales depends less on the technology and more on the trust and communication of superiors.

As in other areas, early involvement of employees and listening to their concerns as well as their suggestions is essential for acceptance. Simply introducing a new technology from above, without any preparation or training, will always meet with resistance – even in sales.