I’ve written a lot about how SaaS technologies are shaping the future of marketing. My latest post on Conversion XL deeply explains the reasons why modern companies are flocking from the traditional all-in-one solutions software to a marketing stack approach. Before I get into SaaS sales technology, allow me to provide some more context.
Modern companies well understand that the perfect combination of different SaaS products with subject matter expertise (and specific features) not only reduces costs, but also assures a more scalable approach.
This gives them the ability they need to change the building blocks of their stack on the flight with no engineering overhead and data loss.
It is no surprise why all modern marketing teams are following this new approach.
In my previous analysis, I dissected the SaaS landscape from a marketing perspective but I never explained how things are moving from a SaaS sales standpoint.
Well, buckle up, because here it comes.
The Next SaaS Sales Wave is Coming
The marketing ecosystem has changed dramatically over the last 5 years.
Scott Brinker from Chief Marketing Tech wrote a lot about the explosion of SaaS tools in the marketing landscape.
Here’s a snapshot of how the scenario has evolved over the course of six years:
And here is a more detailed picture of the current year (2017):
This year there was a total of 5,381 marketing solutions; 39% more than last year, provided by 4,891 companies, up 40% from last year.
If we now look at the sales landscape, it looks very different and less crowded.
But what we are seeing today in the SaaS sales landscape looks very similar to what we saw happening in the marketing landscape 5 years ago.
I’m talking about when the market was dominated by fewer vendors with a bigger market share.
The graph below represents the marketing curve in red and the sales curve in yellow.
While in marketing we’re seeing what Brinker defines as the long tail marketing curve (where there are a few giants with huge market share and dozen of thousands of small providers), in sales we still can see only a few big players.
Every year emerging sales tools come into the mix, but the market didn’t yet reach the fragmentation level that we’re seeing right now in marketing.
What we might expect in the sales landscape is a smooth transition to the marketing landscape configuration. Much more variegated and much more crowded.
Before we go deeper in our analysis let’s understand how SaaS sales technologies are broken down:
1. CRM Products
Your choice on the CRM will have a significant impact on your ability to measure the performance of your sales team. Salesforce is the standard for CRMs.
2. Inbound Sales Products
Salespeople who are lagging with inbound lead generation can bolster their sales with Inbound Sales product.
Hubspot literally owns the name Inbound and is the leading product in the market.
3. Lead Generation Products
Manual prospecting is still one the most time-consuming operations salespeople have to do. Those who need more leads should embedded third-party lead-generation tools into their sales stacks.
Popular tools used today include Datanyze, ZoomInfo and InsideView.
4. Profile Enrichment Products
When it comes down to collecting data of potential leads, your team has to build and optimize forms on your website, connect those forms to the CRM database and let a marketing automation platform update the CRM when there are new changes.
And yet a lot of your data is still incorrect, outdated, or duplicated.
This is where profile enrichment technologies come in. These products are able to go beyond the emails to understand the lead’s actual position and responsibilities at a company.
5. Outbound Sales Products
Salespeople who aren’t generating enough outbound leads can strengthen their sales stack by incorporating in their stack outbound sales product like Yesware, ToutApp and Outreach.io.
6. Predictive Scoring Products
Predictive analytics are increasingly important to businesses as they bring a more scientific in the sales processes.
Predictive tools allow sales and marketing teams to apply historical data to future events to boost efficiency and drive sales.
7. Sales Analytics Products
Just like marketing needs to have a view at 360 degrees for each customer, Sales needs to deeply understand how their funnels are performing.
All the products that aim to get a better understanding of your sales machine from an analytics standpoint fall into this category.
8. Meeting and Demo Products
This category includes all the software that aim to deliver better product demo: UberConference, and join.me are great examples.
Adopting one of these technologies not only can assure you to collect better quality data but can save you and your team a huge amount of time.
Where we’re heading?
Just like it’s happening in marketing, the rise of Artificial Intelligence will enhance existing sales products and then will allow the demand of new vertical sales products able to supply needs that can’t be can’t be met without AI.
We will transition from pure Sales Enablement Software products to AI enhanced products. Well known consumer companies like Netflix, Amazon and Google are all already using AI techniques to improve their products.
In the last stage we’ll see the rise of sales companies where the Artificial Intelligence components is the actual core value.
This is where new vertical sales AI products will unlock entirely new opportunities rather than just optimizing existing products.
So the question is, why sales and marketing people should care about this? What impact will have this on their daily job?
The answer to this question breaks down in three ways:
The ability to understand technologies
The ability to orchestrate technologies
The ability to understand data
1. The Ability to Understand Technology
Back to early 2000s, the situation was totally different and understanding whether or not an external piece of software was suitable to be integrated in the company existent infrastructure was was part of the CIO daily job.
Back to those days, the CIO would have served up on a plate all you needed to do your job as a salespeople, as a marketing manager or a software engineer.
Nowadays, the rise of the cloud and the proliferation of SaaS products, has dramatically changed this equation.
The access to software and technology is not centralized anymore and adopting an additional SaaS sales product in your stack has never been easier.
This brings us to a new major challenge: whether you work in software engineering, in marketing or sales, you need the ability to understand the impact of new customer-facing technologies.
Understanding the technology doesn’t mean being able to write software; it means being able to evaluate what software or what specific technology you or your company can use to solve a given problem.
In a world where everyone have access to technology, being able to pick up the right software for your business is nothing short than a competitive advantage.
2. The Ability to Orchestrate Different Technologies
The ability to pick up the right software will probably be not enough. Your sales machine will only work when all the pieces will be integrated in a meaningful way.
This mean that knowing what’s the right SaaS product to solve a given problem is only the 50% of your job.
The other 50% is about making sure that your new SaaS product is well connected with the rest of your stack and you’re not missing any sort of opportunities for the products that you’re paying for.
Just like an engineering manager needs to understand how he can use the IaaS building blocks provided by cloud providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, in the very same way, salespeople and marketers needs to know how to integrate different SaaS sales and marketing vendors. The need to be aware of the benefits and the drawbacks different sales and marketing stack configurations.
SaaS orchestrators like PlainFlow (full disclosure: I’m one the founders) will help companies to adopt new technologies without engineering or integrations cost.
Marketers and Salespeople will be able to design advanced customer’s journeys by orchestrating the technologies they’re already using in their stack in a meaningful way.
The more are the technologies in your stack the more are the building blocks available to you and the more are the chances for you to deliver a unique customer experience.
Tomorrow’s marketers and sales managers who will be able to pick up and use the right technologies are the ones who will stay ahead the game and will have a serious impact on their business.
3. The Ability to Understand Data
Each SaaS product in your stack that interacts at any level with your business is generating data. How big is that data-hole? It depends on how many technologies you’re using in your stack.
Most of salespeople still fail at data; and whether you like it or not, data has become an integral part of sales.
Whether you work in small company or in a big organization, in order to be a successful marketer or salesperson, you need to learn how to leverage data to make more informed decisions.
By utilizing data in your sales funnel, you will be able to understand which activities are working and which aren’t.
The perfect combination of instincts and data-backed insights with experience and intuition is what’s required for the salesperson of tomorrow.
A. The Sales landscape that we know today will change soon in favor of a more variegated market populated by thousands of small sales enabler product.
B. The rise of Artificial Intelligence will help the proliferation of a new generation of SaaS sales products.
C. To stay ahead of the game salespeople not only will need the ability to understand the benefits of new emerging technologies, they will also have to know how to successfully orchestrate them and interpret the data they produce.