Over the last couple of months, we have spent a lot of time on talking to people from customer-oriented teams – first and foremost with Sales. One thing in particular stands out. Sales representatives spend up to 50% of their time on documentation. That seems a lot at first, but becomes plausible when you think about it more closely. As they speak with different customers, selling, collecting feedback on many deals in parallel, documentation effort arises naturally. And it is important. Not only for the sales manager himself to stay up to date and prepare for follow-up meetings, but also to share valuable information with the rest of their company – be it C-level, customer success or product development. Especially in B2B, the sales department is a crucial channel to the outside world.
As we took a closer look at the many different workflows of sales managers dealing with that challenge, it becomes clear that technology may help individual sales managers save time on repetitive tasks. Instead they can spend their newfound time on the things that really matter - driving revenue. However, despite dozens of tools available, the right means to reduce the documentation burden has yet to be found.
It’s no secret that time management is key for succeeding in sales and that sales managers should spend as much of their valuable time as possible on selling. Unfortunately, that's not the case. A study by forbes discovers that they spend two thirds of their time on non-revenue generating purposes . No wonder many of our interviewees lack time to push things forward on the customer-facing end. As a sales manager’s day is typically organized around a lot of meetings, there is often not enough time for sufficient preparation and especially postprocessing. It seems to be a vicious cycle – note-taking is crucial, but is often not practiced enough due to time constraints. Only to be confronted again later with a lot of overhead due to update meetings or long preparation times. Additionally in B2B, the sales team is a company’s point of contact to customers and users. Here, other departments rely on sales to get information, be it feedback on product features or general sentiment. Sales managers need to take up information they do not need for their own day-to-day work, but is important for the entire company to move forward. A conflict of interests arises.
Given the importance of note taking for the entire company and the heavy workload faced by the individual sales manager, it is all the more surprising that in a world where almost all repetitive work is automated, documenting customer conversations isn’t. Talking to sales representatives, we see a wide variety of different workflows and different extends to which new technologies are adopted.
Usually, note taking is conducted during or after calls manually via tools like Evernote, OneNote or Notion. Such tools do not offer appropriate possibilities to filter for required information afterwards. To summarize and highlight the most important insights and to share information with the right stakeholders and in the right tools is crucial, but often there is just not enough time to do it manually. As a result, valuable information often remains stored locally and is never seen again. Sometimes, even two people attend the same call to face that challenge. One of them conducts the sales conversation, the other takes notes. Even though this possibly increases the quality of documentation, it is obviously a waste of resources.
Our contacts confirm that they receive a lot of information that is crucial also for others. Usually, CRM tools are used to share information with the team. Sometimes they rely on cloud solutions such as Google Sheets or paste their notes into Slack channels – one for each customer. However, pasting their initial notes makes it hard for others to take away the most important information. This results in tedious update meetings and calls.
In order to keep track of several deals running in parallel, many write reminders or even emails to themselves to be able to look up the right information when needed. Sales managers often spend a lot of time picking out notes from past meetings to reconstruct a common thread. To simplify this, software solutions to track past communication are used – which calls take place, when and with whom? However, connecting this with the content that is discussed in the calls remains a challenge.
Hoping to avoid the added burden of documentation, a growing number of sales professionals are turning to software solutions for call tracking. By recording calls and making them available to the entire company, stakeholders can review the recordings and filter on what the client said. However, since stakeholders have to listen to and evaluate the calls manually, this does not reduce the time required for information gathering and processing much.
How can you minimize the time spent on gathering information and still make valuable information accessible to your entire organization? Even after more than 50 interviews, we haven’t found the perfect tool or workflow to cope with this problem.
The vast majority of our interviewees are longing for a tool that automates note taking and are really excited about a solution to summarize and share protracted meetings as they struggle with the enormous time commitment involved. But obviously that is easier said than done. It’s a lot to ask from an algorithm to extract the most important information from hour-long conversations, maintain the basic sentiment, and still allow each stakeholder to take away every detail. Although software solutions to record calls already exist, these do not necessarily ease the documentation burden, but are much more relevant for training and onboarding purposes. Analyzing content and sentiment of the last touchpoints by manually recapitulating call recordings is not sufficient in a world where time is money.
To sum it up – after hours of discussions with sales employees from various industries, one thing becomes clear. New technologies have indeed managed to make sales more and more data-driven. But with a multitude of tools, nothing really helps individual sales reps to free up time from repetitive documentation tasks to set the focus on where it makes a difference. We at bliro are tackling exactly that problem. We are working together with sales and customer success managers to build a product that finally decreases their manual documentation effort and enables them to focus on what really counts: Their customers.
Do you feel like you're overwhelmed by documentation tasks? How do you tackle these challenges? Feel free to shoot us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org and help us to build a software that backs you up.