Are there top-performing sales reps who exceed their sales quotas using only a CRM? Probably not. Whatever sales goals sales managers set, they need a comprehensive sales technology stack to automate repetitive tasks, create efficient workflows, provide quick search options, and accelerate their sales cycles.
Technology goes beyond CRM software these days. Sales professionals who want to excel at what they do must supplement their hard and soft skills with technological advancements.
As much as we outsource our memories, calculations, and note-taking activities to external devices to make our daily life easier, modern sales teams get more dependent on technology to sell better.
Even if the sales process is streamlined at your company, the sales toolset needs revision and uplift from time to time. The world of technology is constantly evolving. You hardly picked and integrated a sales stack before there are hundreds of new tools that are more efficient and better functioning.
Belkins suggests that you examine the thirteen essential sales software categories and think about what can become a new addition to your toolkit.
What are sales tools?
Any digital tool that sales teams use to make their routine and creative tasks easier belongs to a certain sales software category. Digital tools help sales professionals process and analyze large amounts of data, generate and manage B2B sales leads, gamify the sales process, store and handle information, and, of course, automate tasks and sales processes.
What types of sales tools are out there?
- customer relationship management (CRM);
- marketing automation;
- sales intelligence;
- sales acceleration;
- sales gamification;
- sales analytics;
- account-based marketing;
- video conferencing;
- customer service software;
- project management;
- sales demo;
- sales reporting.
The right sales tools help sales reps spend less time on getting ready for sales and be more efficient in actually selling. Just think about how much time goes into administrative tasks, lead research, outreach personalization, and data processing!
Furthermore, an increasing number of sales professionals ditch conservative approaches to sales. Sales tech is a must for those who want to win more deals. A new sales tool can be the X factor for enabling more sales for you!
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
In contrast to popular perception, customer relationship management software is not just an expensive telephone & address book with contact data of past and present clients. As the lifeblood system, a CRM has multiple functions:
- keeping track of leads and existing clientele;
- automating calling, emailing, and messaging;
- identifying sales opportunities and giving a complete customer view;
- improving customer retention and enhancing customer relationships;
- managing marketing campaigns and sales efforts;
- recording service issues.
With a CRM providing a cloud-based centralized platform for all customer data, no longer do sales managers have to worry that members on their teamwork with the disorganized customer and lead information. Every sales rep accesses a single data source.
So anyone from growth hackers to closers can see who the prospect spoke to last and what stage of the sales process they are on.
CRMs are expensive but their complex and multifunctional support is difficult to overstate. New generations of CRM software provide advanced lead scoring, real-time updates, and detailed reporting.
A CRM can be installed on-premise but these days more companies prefer to use their customer relationship management solution as a cloud-based SaaS platform with per-user pricing. Pay a monthly fee and access a CRM from your Internet browser. For companies with a set number of users, a flat monthly fee is possible. Any additional numbers and custom-made packages are charged extra.
How to choose?
Sales companies are different, so CRM solutions should reflect their differences. A CRM that works perfectly well for a startup is not necessarily a good solution for an enterprise. On the one hand, you can’t go amiss with a big vendor like Hubspot, Microsoft Dynamics, or Salesforce. On the other hand, your business may have niche needs, and then opting for less obvious choices, like Pipedrive, Zoho One, or Close.io, will work out for you.
Our Top 3 CRM solutions include:
- HubSpot CRM. Offering a free CRM for unlimited users Hubspot strikes a terrible blow to all the other vendors. Easy-to-use and 100% free, Hubspot CMR has lots of integrated options, project management, data storage and management, process automation, deal pipelines, and so on. However, technical limitations include email integration, limited custom reporting, import of notes, etc.
- Salesforce. As an enterprise-level CRM, Salesforce has steep pricing compensated by vast functionality. A robust CRM has many integrations with other apps, allows collaborations, and has a high degree of customization. Is supplemented with sales intelligence and sales productivity tools.
- Pipedrive. Best fit for small sales teams, Pipedrive allows team collaboration, email synchronization, and detailed analytics and reporting. This CRM’s elegant UI provides excellent visualization of your pipeline and prompts what to do next.
As the name suggests, marketing automation is used to automate typical marketing activities: sending out bulk emails, creating social media posts and landing pages, scoring and managing leads, and measuring ROI and metrics. What about sales activities? Marketing automation turns out to be excellent at aligning sales and marketing teams.
By giving insights into prospects’ behavior, marketing automation enables personalization and tailored content and enhances lead conversion rates in sales pipelines.
As a sales automation tool, marketing automation encourages vendors to find their potential clients. First of all, this type of software automates repetitive marketing and lead generation tasks, helping marketers and SDRs send email sequences, personalize email copy, post social media campaigns, and gather lead data from the website. Once a lead converts and leaves their contact information, the marketing tool adds them to a lead database and then qualifies and scores them. Lead nurturing functions are also possible in marketing automation software.
The list of automation software functions is long. In addition to workflow automation, social media management, retargeting, and optimization, a good marketing automation tool should have analytics features to measure and quantify marketing campaigns. Detailed dashboards and reports inform sales and marketing teams of their KPIs and campaign ROI. Knowing the impact of campaigns on company revenue allows sales and marketing to understand what works and what doesn’t.
How to choose?
Marketing automation is a powerful addition to a CRM. That is why large vendors like HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho, Pipedrive, and others integrate sales and marketing into their core CRM.
Before making one of the biggest sales technology purchases, know your goals. Whether you want to increase upsell and cross-sell or optimize conversion rates or enhance inbound marketing, request a demo and check out if the features will help you reach your objectives.
Integration with the rest of the company’s MarTech is essential too. See these integrations in action when you’re taking a product demo. Check out product reviews online.
Here are our marketing automation software suggestions.
- HubSpot. As a comprehensive sales and marketing automation platform, HubSpot provides a built-in CRM system for free and almost any marketing tool sales professionals need. Streamline your sales workflows and increase conversions by using marketing software. Fill up your pipelines using lead generation features. Personalize outreach using SEO recommendations. HubSpot’s focus is lead generation.
- Pardot. An all-in-one marketing automation platform by Salesforce, Pardot uses automation to bring you all the required functions, such as form building and automated form filling, page view tracking, standard email marketing functionality, and advanced email analytics. The integration with Google Ads tracks ROI and keyword performance. Pardot’s focus is lead generation and engagement.
Sales intelligence for prospecting and lead generation
It’s not enough to have high-quality data. You need software to analyze and provide context for data. If an SDR pulls out a phone number and email from the company’s CRM, how much time he or she will spend on searching the lead’s past purchase history and buying behavior. A robust CRM provides firmographics data points, but sales prospecting tools include digital footprints and business goals for each B2B lead.
Sales intelligence is a general term for a category of sales tech solutions that accelerate sales cycles by providing accurate data quicker and making customer intent more visible. It’s common for a sales rep to get in contact with more than one or two decision-makers before a deal goes through. What was it like in the past?
A sales rep would manually find and review each decision-maker, looking for insights to personalize their email or phone call. Now, top sales tools are so smart that SDRs get notifications if there are any organizational changes, new decision-makers, or new sales opportunities.
As a result, sales professionals make fewer touchpoints in vain. Thanks to sales intelligence, modern salespeople know who to reach out to and when and how each touchpoint should be done.
Used for sales prospecting, sales intelligence software cannot substitute lead generation activities though. SDRs keep running social media campaigns, blasting email outreach sequences, using SEO and paid ads, and whatnot. Leveraging a good sales intelligence tool, however, helps SDRs generate high-quality leads quickly and maintain a consistent pipeline breaming with fresh leads all year long.
Some companies use only their customer relationship management CRM for prospecting and lead generation, adding functionality through email finder tools and lead databases. However, standalone sales intelligence software will give you more data and better leads together with forecasts to upcoming deals, data enrichment, lead prioritization, and so much more.
How to choose?
When choosing a sales intelligence tool, there’s a critical nuance. Make sure datasets match your needs geographically. If you work on local markets, check out if a tool has local data. If you work on international markets, see if the provider updates their databases regularly.
Use Capterra, a comparison platform, to study several sales intelligence providers. Request a demo and test a tool before buying it to make sure the provider has plenty of data for your geographical location and industry.
Overall, sales intelligence software is constantly evolving. For example, buying intent data, vehicle information, and credit ratings are recent features.
Our Top 3 sales intelligence software tools for prospecting and lead generation include:
- Datanyze. As an effective sales intelligence platform for finding and connecting high-quality leads, Datanyze provides comprehensive and accurate information like website visitors, technologies leads are using, key contacts to reach out for business proposals. The tool has many integrations and data export directly from Google Chrome.
- Vainu. Vainu is a sales intelligence platform that provides SDRs with insights based on accurate lead data and high-degree personalization. Data enrichment, automated workflows, and sales trigger alerts are among the platform’s most popular features.
- Artesian. Use Artesian, a sales intelligence solution, when you want to increase your average deal size and upsell and cross-sell the product, in addition to lead list building, sales insights, and triggers, and data management.
Sales acceleration/sales engagement
Sales acceleration is a problematic concept because any technology used to shorten the sales cycle can be referred to as the category of sales acceleration tools. Are you using an email finder or accessing a lead database? You’re accelerating your sales. Have you found a tool to analyze a large quantity of data and give you predictions and suggestions? Now you will close more deals faster.
Some people go as far as saying that all tools that enable sales professionals to find the leads, find the ways to approach them and find the words to reach out to them belong to sales acceleration technology. Others argue that blurring the lines between categories will do us no good.
If we go into the intricacies of the definitions, we’ll find out that sales acceleration software works with the entire sales ecosystem, helping salespeople organize their pipelines and engage prospects more efficiently, whereas sales enablement technology is used to help salespeople access anything they need to sell easier (educational materials, case studies, quotes, best practices, etc.). Given the subtle differences between the two, many use the terms interchangeably.
Supporting a multichannel approach to sales outreach is the major aspect of sales acceleration/sales enablement tools. As using traditional methods to find and engage with leads is working less and less, technology is getting more complex to help salespeople with automated tasks and minimize efforts.
How to choose?
The broadness of the term suggests a broad variety of features within a single software solution. When looking for a sales acceleration/sales enablement tool, decide on your priorities. Depending on how you are looking for new leads and what features you need, you will want to have more emphasis on company research features, or audience targeting, or data visualization, and so on. The best tools have all those features but some of them are more pronounced than others.
- SalesLoft. This sales acceleration technology is a leader among sales engagement platforms. Helping sales teams organize their own sales strategy and sales patterns through phone, email, and social, SalesLoft is a single app SDRs need to use throughout the day. Cold calling, sending SMS, sliding into DMs, Salesloft allows sales professionals to reach out to prospects through whatever channel they prefer in response to their buying signals. From lead generation to close, SaleLoft works perfectly well with your CRM and other sales tools due to more than 35 integrations with other sales software vendors.
- Outreach. As the other leader in the field, Outreach is also a sales acceleration tool and a sales engagement platform. Meeting the needs of its users better than any CRM, Outreach also scales workflows across communication channels, tracks customer engagement activity, reports on sales performance, and whatnot. Whereas Salesloft sets up, carries out, and tracks communication cadences, Outreach takes task management to the next level. With alerts, reminders, and task sorting features, Outreach identifies sales opportunities and proactively guides a company’s growth.
Sales gamification is a growing trend where business owners and leaders come to the realization that games and interactive features can boost sales performance and increase motivation in sales reps. From stack-ranked leaderboards to achievement recognition with rewards and gifts, tools that bring the element of the game to sales encourage the competitive spirit in employees.
Tapping into its performance-boosting power, sales gamification software allows sales managers to establish the ‘rules of the game,’ i.e. metrics for sales reps and teams, while participants engage in competition and follow the ‘rules,’ aiming to achieve the metrics. Sales teams run competitions and see their results in real-time on ranking screens. Tracking their metrics in real-time encourages SDRs to perform better. In addition to sales team competitions, there are one-on-one games and activities to hone a particular skill or achieve a specific goal.
How to choose?
Many sales leaders already use occasional competition or two to encourage their sales reps to put more work into sales tasks. Gamification platforms expand their focus, adding coaching and learning elements that can be used in onboarding and sales training.
Depending on needs and team size, some companies can make do with their CRM systems for gamification elements. Salesforce and Zoho have competition features to motivate teams’ sales performance through their platforms.
Here are our suggestions of the most popular sales gamification apps:
- Spinify. A performance motivation platform, Spinify creates fun competitive games with rewards and gifts (digital gift cards, sports tickets, vacations).
- Hoopla. A full-stack performance management platform, Hoopla adds elements of interactivity and gamification by using visualized metrics and dynamic leaderboards.
- SalesScreen. A simple gamification tool, SalesScreen enables team competitions with interactive displays.
- Qstream. As a microlearning solution, Qstream focuses on leadership, equipping sales managers with qualitative and quantitative insights. By using gamification elements, Qstream engages employees into learning and training programs teaching them to sell right and act efficiently.
- ThinkSmartOne. As an incentive and rewards platform, ThinkSmartOne uses gamification to reinforce the right sales behavior in employees and accustom them to winning performance.
Business Intelligence software includes various types of sales analytics platforms, tools, and systems. BI tools use existing data from CRMs to provide comprehensive reporting, predict trends and results, and suggest insights for sales activities.
With big data becoming a competitive advantage, companies cannot make proper use of BI analytics and boost their sales if they have no robust data infrastructure.
Once a sales organization is strong in data analytics, however, it can expect to have better sales outcomes due to a better understanding of leads’ needs and improved decision-making.
Sales analytics has always been used in B2B selling, but what used to involve spreadsheets and manual number punching has now transformed into analytics software. It’s not sales reps who painstakingly analyze each bit of information to guess what to do next. Now BI tools and systems break down every piece of the sales cycle to point out the best-performing and need-to-be-improved parts of sales.
Furthermore, data analysis and reporting have recently been singled out into a sales operations role.
How to choose?
All BI tools analyze and report on raw data using automation and visualization. The most complex ones, however, are able to provide deep sales insights, augmenting decision-making and following precise business requirements. Pricing differs accordingly.
When choosing a sales analytics tool, first think about whether it will be used by data teams or sales teams. Although BI analytics can work well for anyone, there are some specifics in use. Sales professionals require cleaner user interfaces and simpler functionality. In contrast, analyst-focused software is more technologically and functionally complex.
- Tableau. A sales analytics tool for salespeople, Tableau boasts robust data visualization, an easy-to-use interface, and is good for mid-size companies.
- Periscope Data. Suitable for data analysts, this data science tool has multiple visualization layers, complex functionality, and data coaching.
- Mode. A heavy-lifter in the field of sales analytics, Mode has rich visualization, ample technical capacity, and custom interactive analytics.
When the concept of account-based marketing began to spread in the 1990s, most sales organizations would approach marketing and sales in a similar manner. Focusing on individual potential clients, marketing is focused on demand generation and lead nurturing while sales are busy with existing clients, aiming to sell them more products. In this environment, marketing automation software meets all marketing and sales needs.
However, when the selling mindset shifted from individual leads to accounts, a need for top-performing ABM software became evident. Sales teams were sold on the idea of adopting a target account strategy very quickly, but was there a technology to support account-based marketing? Not really. As teams struggled with a lack of ABM solutions, they had to build up their sales tech stacks with individual tools. Although they would achieve their goals and nurture accounts into deals, the bulk of their work was manual, which is a shame when everything was getting automated.
To be successful at targeting accounts, sales professionals need account-based marketing software that has the right combination of sales tools and is inherently account-based.
If we shift our focus from generating a slew of leads to reaching out to highly targeted accounts, we need a tool to help us manage those accounts and fix our workflow issues. If sales teams address their challenges on their own and their ABM tool is of no help, it’s just another piece of software that unnecessarily overburdens your MarTech.
How to choose?
To choose among ABM platforms, identify your preferred method of work. Some vendors expect you to bring your own list of accounts they will enrich, while others assist their clients in identifying accounts that fit their target audience profile.
Look for tools with a single source of truth (SSOT) data management. Data silos are problematic for marketing and sales teams because only when all team members have the same clear picture they can adequately assist targeted accounts to move along their lifecycles.
Keep in mind, however, AMB software works best for B2B businesses and high-ticket products with month-long lead nurturing and a high degree of personalization. Businesses that work with smaller order values and shorter sales cycles will find marketing automation tools, rather than ABM software, meeting all their requirements.
- Engagio. AI-empowered, Engagio uses real-time data and accelerates sales cycles, helping sales teams engage with targeted accounts.
- Jambo. Specialized in a specific industry, Jabmo offers an AMB solution for manufacturing and life sciences.
A quick rundown of other sales tools
Any aspect of business can be streamlined by digital marketing sales tools. The software solutions examined earlier are the foundation of effective marketing practices and a robust sales process. With a CRM being the primary investment, any sales organization will supplement its sales tech stack with marketing automation, gamification elements, sales enablement, and BI analytics. However, what about the tools that never get into the limelight but are nonetheless essential to keep the show running?
Many teams prefer to have a stand-alone tool for such tasks as doing video calls, securing electronic identification, streamlining project management, and nailing sales demo. Let’s see when you should look for these sales tools.
Video conferencing and remote sales
Many salespeople probably remember times when video calls had a choppy connection and poor audio and video quality. These days the number of video conferencing tools is growing and the quality of their service is exponentially improving as well.
Not only are heavy-lifters like Skype, Zoom, or WebEx present on the market. There are many newcomers that have significantly expanded the functionality, catering to varying needs and preferences. From screen sharing to business data syncing, video conferencing software is indispensable when remote work has become the new norm.
At times when professionals are unable to travel far and wide, a well-chosen video conferencing tool provides options for online presentations, large conference calls, and check-ins. At that, what is so similar at the first glance differs greatly at its core.
Apart from universals like Zoom and Skype, many organizations use options suggested by their CRMs and popular SaaS-based infrastructure services like G Suite, Zoho, Adobe, Microsoft, and others. As for less obvious solutions, here’s what you can consider.
If you aim for simplicity, use a no-download video conferencing tool like UberConference. UberConference also provides full meeting transcriptions and custom hold music.
For those who have a tendency to work on the go and need a tool with a robust mobile interface, opt for GoToMeeting.
Internal team communication is effective with Slack Video Conferencing. Known as an internal messaging board, Slack has a built-in video conferencing option.
A focus on personalization is available with Join.me where users can easily share custom URLs and customize meeting backgrounds.
E-signature and document tracking
If salespeople can hold face-to-face sales meetings online, they need apps to enable electronically sending and signing important documents like sales contracts. Being able to sign an electronic document remotely eliminates or reduces paper use. More and more offices drift towards electronic records.
Lately, however, electronic signature software has expanded its functionality to include other administrative tasks. Document tracking features enable document drafters to get notifications when senders open a proposal or a contract. The GDPR restrictions make document tracking problematic within the EU, but other countries peruse it without requesting permission for any tracking feature.
What else is available in modern e-signature and document tracking software?
- Notifications for deadlines and cut-off dates.
- Templates, tools, and features to create and store documents.
- Integrations with CRMs.
- Chat and messaging right in the document.
- Predictive analytics.
- Strong security protocols.
What used to be the prerogative of large enterprises with a busy workload in terms of customer inquiries, has now become a tool for companies with any number of customers.
No longer should companies rely only on email and landlines for customer service.
Recent technological advancements create customer service solutions that combine complaint management, live chat, bots, and help desk in a single sales platform. Company size, scale, and industry can be different, but an ability to track all customer requests and use built-in analytics functions is good across the board. Thanks to a centralized ticketing system, customer service employees manage and track customer services, accessing analytic dashboards, messaging apps, call-routing, and other tools, when needed.
Leaders on the market blend customer service and customer success, providing data-driven contextualized personalization. FreshDesk and ZenDesk provide sophisticated yet simple customer support software solutions for enterprise companies, SMBs, and startups alike. Clients who are in favor of external knowledge base software can use HelpDoc that enables customers to find answers on their own. Among live chat support tools, Olark and LiveAgent are the best, offering immediate support with less resource-intensive options. Zoho Desk is for sales-focused teams with chat and AI-empowered self-service among its premium features.
Project management software provides a single space for participants to keep track of tasks and projects, schedule events and calls, share files, and do other project-related activities. Can project managers make do with a to-do list? Some probably can, but most projects go beyond checklists and require proper planning even though a project is short and simple.
To make sure every participant gets notified of an impending deadline and confirms an assigned task, project managers use tools that make assigning, delegating, and qualifying much easier.
If you don’t need much reporting and time-tracking options, use Trello, a leading online project management platform. Medium-sized teams often choose Zoho Projects as a project management tool to complement Zoho CRM. Companies with multiple teams (sales, marketing, customer service, softdev) find Wrike efficient with its overwhelming number of features and a real-time newsfeed.
Sales demo software is extremely helpful in the context of remote work. All sales teams need a suite of tools to help them in a live demonstration as much as in discovery. All sales demo tools have screen-sharing functionalities, multiple integrations, and top-quality video and audio. But what else?
If you need to conduct effective discovery, use discovery demo tools to create a framework for leads to follow. Microsoft Visio’s snippets, and Lucidchart are examples of diagramming tools with useful templates that will guide your sales conversations with prospects.
If the creation of a personalized environment is a prerequisite for your demo, use demo environment tools to have access to the right data. Mockaroo and GenerateData are data generation solutions to populate your demo environment.
Although many sales tools like CRMs and marketing automation have a built-in reporting function, sometimes there’s a practical point in using standalone sales and retorting tools. Given the sheer number of tools in your MarTech, it is highly desirable to have all that data analyzed by a single reporting tool.
Salesforce and HubSpot have multiple integrations and a robust sales reporting function, allowing sales teams to know the most effective lead generation methods, the most convertible leads, and the most productive sales reps. Pipedrive not only reports on conversion rates, sales per lead, and revenue per sales but also has a “deal rotting” feature timely informing SDRs about a missed sales opportunity.
What goes into your sales tech stack?
Technology streamlined marketing and sales in multiple ways. Not only social platforms are at our service, but big data and machine learning are also harnessed to enhance our ability to sell and available options to personalize outreach. Yet, it isn’t enough to pull up random sales automation tools. Your MarTech has to be well-chosen and well-integrated so that each piece of automation can have its purpose and contribute to the overall sales performance.
With each sales process being unique, start building up your technology stack from a CRM, piecing each next tool based on your needs, scale, and resources. Use free trial periods and demos to ensure a tool will integrate well and work out for your team.
When experimenting, don’t be afraid to ditch what isn’t working and keep trying new tools until you find the best fit.