Sales is as old as business itself–it is business, in most cases. Yet nothing remains static forever. The world is changing and so is the way we do business.
While the core of sales may have remained the same, the way sales are conducted has evolved. It’s no longer just about a rolodex and a company car. It’s about data, analytics, and technology. Sales teams are looking for more firepower that will help them be more efficient and more effective.
With better–and sometimes more–technology, they can unlock more deals and more revenue.
For IT directors working with sales operations, this can present an exciting challenge: the opportunity to provide as much technology and support as possible to enable sales. But blindly install and deploy new software at will is, of course, not the way to go. You need a way to work with the sales team to understand their needs, define a tactical plan, and allocate the right resources.
You need a sales technology strategy.
For this process to work you first need to understand what technology exists and how it fits together. There are a million tools on the market, but which ones fit together and what role do they play in the overall sales process?
This guide is an overview of current sales tools and how they’re being used by sales teams. Although each segment serves a different purpose, at their core they are meant to enable sales teams, improve sales operations, and drive more revenue—while also fitting into your current technology ecosystem.
1. Sales Engagement Technology
At the top of the sales process is the need for the team to contact and engage prospective buyers. Many types of tools and technology are aimed at bridging the gap between marketing and sales.
Depending on your team’s sales structure, different tools will come in handy. Some teams may be focused on outbound prospecting and need technology to build or clean lists of leads. Other teams might be strictly inbound--they need a solution for distributing leads and automating email campaigns.
Types of sales engagement tools include:
- Online meeting and sharing
- Email tools and sales dialers
- Lead distribution and call management
- Social engagement and lead scoring technology
- Mobile and field sales engagement
- Call tracking and sales activity logging
These tools should generally integrate with sales productivity/enablement tools to automate outreach, prospecting, and activity tracking. And they need to integrate with the CRM or pipeline management software to move leads and contacts into the sales process.
2. Sales Productivity and Enablement Tools
This category of tools is focused on enabling SDRs and business development professionals to focus more on selling and less on individual tasks.
This includes everything from proposal and contract tools to appointment scheduling software.
For all of this technology, the goal is to help the sales team be more efficient. Some tools like content sharing and enablement software provide relevant resources to contacts throughout the deal’s life cycle–saving time and hopefully building trust and rapport on autopilot. Other tools are strictly tactical but allow the team to book meetings or send documents without a bunch of back and forth.
Sales productivity and enablement technology includes:
- Content enablement and sharing
- Multichannel management software
- Scheduling and appointment setting
- Quote, proposal, contract, and eSignature tools (Psst... Learn "How Sales Teams Use eSignatures to Sell Smarter" here)
- Sales gamification platforms
- Partner management and channel enablement
Because they’re primarily used to allows SDRs to push and pull data from the CRM, these tools should be tightly integrated with that software. They also likely will need to integrate with third-party services like email and social media.
3. Sales Intelligence Platforms
Sales is often about relationships. Intelligence tools are designed to provide data and insights for sales teams that allow them to identify sales leads, understand the needs of prospective buyers, and align their messages to to those specific needs.
More sophisticated software will mine data from multiple sources and develop in-depth reports on individual contacts and accounts.
These types of tools include:
- Database and list services
- Company intelligence
- Buyer insights
- Web and social prospecting
- Account-based planning tools
From a technology perspective, it’s important for these tools to integrate directly with sales pipeline or CRM software, providing on-demand data and customer profiles. The point of having technology dedicated to sales intelligence is to allow teams to gather and use that data at scale. If they’re forced to manually import or collect the data, it creates a bottleneck and slows down sales.
4. Pipeline and Analytics Software
Central to every sales process is the pipeline of potential business. This type of technology allows teams to view and manage opportunities and also measure the effectiveness of the overall sales program.
These technologies are often traditionally part of the CRM:
- Pipeline management software
- Forecasting, data visualization, and performance management
- Predictive analytics
- Price optimization and revenue management
In many cases, a CRM like Salesforce will offer a suite of integrations that make it easier to understand and manage opportunities throughout the sales cycle. In other cases, third-party tools tap into the CRM to provide additional data or insights about dealflow.
Sales analytics can track metrics across the entire sales process and often provides person-specific metrics on performance.
The CRM or pipeline management software is likely to live at the heart of the sales tech stack. Pretty much all of the other tools will need to integrate in some capacity – either through native integrations or through an API or automation platform.
5. People Management Tools
Tools for managing a sales force become increasingly important as a business scales. Large companies often need dedicated tools and technology that allow them to assess performance, provide coaching, and onboard new employees at scale.
This set of tools may be tied directly into the CRM or analytics platform:
- Onboarding and training
- Sales coaching platforms
- Sales appraisal tools
- Incentives and commissions tracking software
- Territory and quota management
These tools will use data from both the CRM and/or analytics platforms to help managers grow and monitor the team’s performance.
6. Workflow and Automation Technology
Automated workflows are often the connecting piece of the entire sales tech stack.
Automated workflows facilitate the transactional part of sales – automating contracts, onboarding, and other paperwork that would traditionally be done on paper or PDF. When these traditionally manual portions are fully automated, companies can increase speed to revenue and pump up the volume as a result.
Here's a great example.
Brokermint installed an automated online signature workflow into their platform and saw their sales conversion rate jump by 23% as a result. Another good example is seen with Instacart. They integrated an automated workflow into their contractor onboarding flow and increased applicant completion rate to 91%, a huge scaling win for their contractor-driven business (read more of their case study here). These showcase very real and very measurable results led by workflow automation.
The possibilities are endless here and the pieces together can be a challenge. But it’s important to approach sales technology as a strategy – one that requires analysis from both a technical and business perspective.
Rather than chasing the latest tech that the sales team sees and wants, the technology director should have a full understanding of the landscape and make informed decisions about which products are integral to each part of the sales process, how those pieces fit together (or don’t), and how the technology stack can grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of the team.
Think Systems, Not Tools
Ultimately, sales technology isn’t about just sales or just tech – it’s about the intersection of the two. And that means it requires understanding and insight from both sides of the table.
When the right sales strategy meets the right technology strategy, amazing things can happen.