To get a sense of how fast sales technology is accelerating, think about this statistic from Gartner: by 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will use artificial intelligence (AI) to augment at least one of their key sales processes. As we’ve mentioned, machine learning, AI and other advanced technologies are reshaping how sales teams get things done.

With so much change ahead, a big question for sales leadership is how to combine effective technology and processes to boost productivity. We know sales technology and efficient work processes are joined at the hip, but which one should come first? Yes, it’s a classic case of chicken versus egg!

Here’s some thoughts as you carve out the most effective mix of process and technology.

Start with a Plan

Before setting up demos, mapping process flows or re-tooling technology budgets, make sure you have a fly-over view of how work product is created within your sales organization. This is the time to ask the hard questions and further solidify your vision for the best sales process.

While there’s some obvious no-nos in sales — like re-engineering your whole sales process around a vendor’s toolset — there are instances where smaller teams or more discrete sales processes are a good fit to configure inside of a robust platform. We’ve seen a lot of that in the early days of sales software where the 800-pound gorilla pushed firms to configure their workflows to match their offering.

That aside, the first step is to determine where your attention is most needed. There’s a good chance process analysis will take the most time because there’s so many moving parts (tasks, workflows), and reps tend to each have different skill sets. Either way, the goal is to find the gaps in the sales process and decide what will take the most time and resources to solve. If you can quickly identify where sales teams can improve, the next step is to wrapper a technology solution around the process — the one with a demonstrable ROI.

It doesn’t hurt to have vendor discussions happening concurrently as your process discussions materialize. Often vendors provide valuable insight and can kick-start ways to automate processes. If the vendor’s technology is a dead-on fit for your sales team, it’s okay to engineer some of your processes around the tool. Just don’t go overboard. The key is to hone in on the strengths of the application and save the rest of your energy for optimizing your sales process.

Top-Down Adoption and Selling The Vision

After you’ve optimized your processes and have chosen the right sales technology, it’s time to reinforce the vision and plan for a successful deployment. Sales reps are creatures of habit, so it’s important to set examples early and often. Sales leaders should start from the top and work down the organization to establish buy-in. Once the sales team sees executives committed to process and technology improvements, adoption will follow. Even though top-down should prevail, don’t ignore grassroots adoption. Find your early-adopters within the sales group and use them to spur usage. This is also when you should establish a good foundation for both process and technology training. Don’t make any assumptions that everyone knows how things work.

Lastly, make your team accountable and insure visibility remains a priority. The quickest way to kill a new sales initiative is to have no executive sponsorship. If it’s not important to leadership, why should it be important to the sales team?