#custom applications

Earlier this week, I was catching up with a buddy of mine and we started talking about some of the custom workflow tools we’d built for his sales team. From an engineering perspective, these tools are fairly straightforward – things like scrapers, browser extensions, and simple crawlers. What was interesting, was listening to how much of an impact simple tools like this were having on my friend’s sales team. From decreasing “grunt work” to helping them surface high quality leads, it started to become clear that the tools were generating high business value relative to their development costs. As we were chatting, I started to synthesize what seemed like the three key reasons the sales guys loved the tools.

Cut down on “grunt work”

Most people hate grunt work, but salespeople have a special disdain for it. They would much rather be on the phone selling rather than scraping data off a website, entering it in Excel, and then seeing if some formula decided they had a worthwhile prospect. Apart from being a waste of time, repetitive menial work kills morale and artificially limits sales bandwidth. By building tools to automate these processes, we had unknowingly helped keep the team motivated while also letting them do more selling and less bitch work.

Help reduce information asymmetry

As a naivete observer, my impression is that in many instances high volume sales people enter the sales process with imperfect or incomplete information. Often times, the information they don’t readily have is public but they lack tools to make the data easily available. From straightforward examples like knowing an employee headcount to more technical ones like knowing what hosting provider a prospect uses, these data points can often help shape the pitch to ultimately win the sale. After chatting with my friend, custom tools effectively fill this space since they’d offer unique insights compared to off the shelf solutions.

Nurture experimentation

Stagnation is a common problem across every job function. Once processes are set, it becomes the same daily grind and its difficult to justify any need for change. However, in my experience introducing new tools gives the organization the impetus to try out new things and hopefully pushes the envelop forward. There is clear precedent for this in software development and I’d argue the same holds true for both sales and marketing. Given new tools and room to explore, motivated people will buck the norm and try something new.

At a high level, I think developing custom tools for any job function is a worthwhile investment and it sounds like some of our sales tools have had a measurable impact which is awesome. I’m now off down the Quora rabbit hole in search of additional insights and anecdotes….

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