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In Search of the Perfect Sales Technology: What’s Working Today

Built the Perfect Sales Tech

Wondering how other sales teams are working their magic? More specifically, what kind of sales tech are they using in their stack?

Sure, their processes and talent have something to do with their success, but so does their sales tech. So what’s going on behind the curtain?

Yeah, we’ve been thinking about that too. Namely…

What does the perfect sales stack look like? And is it possible to leverage technology for a better pipeline and bigger deals?

To find the answer, we reached out to top sales tech companies to learn more about the tools they’re using.

Lucky for us, several companies shared what’s in their stack, so we could explore what’s working today — and what could be the model for your winning sales tech stack.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

  1. What is a Sales Tech Stack?
  2. Sales Technology Is Part of the Revenue Stack
  3. 5 Key Activities that Can Be Optimized with Tech
  4. How Sales Tech Supports Important Sales Activities
  5. Sales Tech: A Top Priority for Sales Enablement
  6. Unveiling the Sales Tech of the Sales Stars
  7. What Are the Best Sales Process Tools?
  8. How Do You Create a Sales Stack?
  9. Your Sales Process Is Unique; So Is Your Stack
  10. The Bottom Line

Before we dive in…

What is a Sales Tech Stack?

The sales tech stack, AKA sales stack, is what we call the collection of sales software that a sales organization uses to do their job and achieve peak results. The stack is built to make the sales process more efficient and effective at all levels, which means it includes sales tools for all key sales activities.

Why should you care?

Of course you want to stay apprised of sales innovation and keep an eye on new entrants. But a bigger issue around connecting sales applications and assembling effective sales technologies has been looming.

Modern selling relies on technology and the ability to execute at scale depends completely on it. Sure, you might be able to start your tech sales career with minimal sales tech experience, but you’ll never thrive without mastering how these systems work.

In the early days, it was easy to try and buy applications. I know of a few organizations where individual sales reps could buy the software they wanted and expense it on their credit cards.

The rapid development of this industry led to a proliferation of solutions, poorly integrated and often underutilized.

I have vivid memories of a well-known company sharing at an American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) meeting that its inside sales department was using more applications than having people!

Sales Technology Is Part of the Revenue Stack

Many organizations recognize that adopting a consistent sales methodology or playbook hinges on a well-architected and integrated stack.

CFOs have put an end to this “wild west” buy-what-you-need period. Sales leaders have established or reinforced sales operations groups. They tasked them with putting order into the software used and ensuring it gets integrated with the other enterprise applications.

Many of the new sales technologies helping engage with buyers are playing a central role. This engagement starts at the juncture of marketing and sales, making these applications crucial to align these two functions.

Leading organizations are no longer looking at their sales and marketing software in isolation but as part of the “revenue stack”. It acts as the backbone for various departments to work together along the buyer’s journey. It also provides the instrumentation to track and improve sales processes.

5 Key Activities that Can Be Optimized with Tech

Most sales teams depend on 5 key activities to succeed:

Intelligence: Sales intelligence refers to technologies, applications, and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of information to help salespeople find, monitor and understand data that provides insights into prospects’ and existing clients’ daily business. (Wikipedia)

Enablement: Sales Enablement is centered around getting the right people in the right conversations with the right decision-makers in the right way. You can break the complexity of sales enablement into practical ideas through scalable and repeatable practices that will lead to increased revenue. (Roderick Jefferson)

Engagement: Called “the next communication revolution,” sales engagement combines the best capabilities of human sellers and artificial intelligence, making it easier and faster for businesses to reach customers at the right moment, on the right channel, and to engage them with the right message. As a result, it makes it possible to humanize sales at scale. (Sales Engagement, by Manny Medina, Max Altschuler, and Mark Kosoglow)

Pipeline, Analytics, Measurement: This is all about optimization. And the rule of thumb in optimization is this: If you don’t measure it, it didn’t happen. As prospects move from awareness to consideration to decision, it’s critical that you track the sales metrics that matter most.

Management, Coaching: Sales management is the development of a sales force, coordinating sales operations, and sales techniques that help a business consistently meet and beat its sales targets. Coaching (including pipeline reviews and role play exercises) helps sales reps do their part.

How Sales Tech Supports Important Sales Activities

Sales tech sometimes gets a bad rap. Take this stat, for instance…

A study by CSO Insights reports that salespeople spend 35.9% of their time selling, with the rest of their week consumed by other tasks. That’s only about a third of their time!

And yeah, I know you’ve seen that stat already. But have you noticed this: Every time it’s quoted, those “other tasks” include admin activities, such as managing the tech tools that help reps do their job.

That makes it sound like tech is the bad guy — and nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s the tech we use that keeps our top priorities at the top of mind. It’s the tech we use that helps us make a call at the push of a button. And it’s tech that helps us manage more activities in less time.

In short, the right sales tech can make the difference between hitting or missing quota — not just individually but as a team.

Need proof? Take a look at this…

Sales Tech: A Top Priority for Sales Enablement

sales stack sales enablement priority

The #2 service that Sales Enablement provides is Sales Tools — beating out process improvements, coaching, competitive analysis, and even proposal development.

In short, having the right sales technology for the job matters.

Unveiling the Sales Tech of the Sales Stars

Having good tools in your stack isn’t enough. Your tools need to play nice with one another and adapt to your team’s sales process. They should NOT dictate what you do and how you do it. After all, it’s the human element that makes you successful.

How the sales technology landscape is changing

Categories Are Morphing

We are still in the early inning of the market and numerous emerging categories have been evolving.

Predictive Analytics remains fluid. Several sales tech companies have been acquired or acqui-hired. The remaining participants are increasingly focused on assembling comprehensive customer datasets upon which one can run powerful predictive models. These models are becoming very important for planning and prioritizing sales activities.

Chat is being redefined by Drift. The category sits at the crossroads with conversation marketing, better addressing the promise of proactive engagement, leveraging bots and persistent contexts to eradicate the long and unpredictable wait times of legacy chat.

Forecasting remains mysterious to me. It has been a core capability of CRM for Sales since the beginning. Nevertheless, a plethora of applications has blossomed over the years to provide more accurate forecasts. The latest wave, exemplified by the likes of Clari, People.ai, and SalesDirector.ai, leverages automated activity capture across email, meetings, and calendars together with AI to gather a much broader set of signals on which powerful forecasting models can be built.

The market has chosen the name Sales Engagement for what I used to call Sales Orchestration. I had chosen the term thinking we would see three types of technologies blossoming:

  1. Orchestration of prospects engagement across email, voice, and other channels
  2. Orchestration account-based pursuits
  3. Orchestration of SBRs and BDRs workflow across multiple applications

Sales Engagement enables multi-channel and multi-touch cadences. The leading vendors offer APIs and already integrate many applications into the desktop of sales reps. It seems to be the approach the market is choosing to simplify workflows.

Offering sales-rep-centric experiences, sales engagement software is starting to enjoy adoption beyond inside sales departments. These platforms provide a rich set of analytics and are assembling rich datasets, paving the way for AI optimization.

One area remains nascent: account-based pursuit. Account-based motions are still mostly coordinated and tracked manually. I expect this to change, though.

New Categories Are Emerging

Several new categories are included.

The sales intelligence layer now shows separately Intent Data and Relationship Intelligence providers. They were previously lumped into Account Intelligence and Buyer Insights respectively.

Intent Data has become a critical element of account-based approaches and to help prioritize sales efforts. Its inclusion as a specific category of the landscape was overdue:

sales tech intent data

While social selling continues to rise in importance, most sellers struggle doing it. LinkedIn inboxes are clogged with irrelevant invitations to connect from strangers. The industry is rediscovering the power of an introduction through a common acquaintance. This trend is giving a new youth to Relationship Intelligence solutions:

sales tech relationship intelligence

Automation is another new category. Someone mentioned to me once that Sales Force Automation was a great misnomer. Indeed sales reps have consistently complained about the effort required to either input data or navigate through several screens of those applications. The cloud has democratized automation, offering new options to practitioners

sales tech automation

Eventually, we are seeing a growing number of Sales Guidance & Recommendations software. With capabilities present in many sales enablement software, the category is hard to delineate.

In particular, most Content & Collaboration or Onboarding and Training applications are either built around a specific sales methodology or let you implement the solution around one. I expect the category to further blossom, driven by the need to help sellers handle growing sales complexity and better enable buyers. We should also expect AI to make recommendations much more specific to a project context and stage:

Sales Guidance and Recommendations providers

The last two new categories have too few vendors to be carved out and I had to lump them in a “miscellaneous” group.

The industry has come around and rediscovered the power of Direct Mail to send a personalized note or gift. It can often be the extra step that can get you an appointment. It can now be automated at scale using solutions like Sendoso or PFL.

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and similar emerging regulations outside Europe have led to Data Privacy Compliance providers like Datagrail or Odaseva helping you deal with these complex privacy obligations.

What Are the Best Sales Process Tools?

Here’s what we gathered:

Ambition

sales stack ambition

Why Is Your Stack Built That Way?

This stack is very practical for our team of SDRs + AEs. We don’t have any fluff. All tools are used daily by our team, and if I took one out, I’d have a fight on my hands.

Chorus

sales stack chorus

Why Is Your Stack Built That Way?

Our Sales team embraces a wide variety of technologies, especially as new sales tools become available. Our tech stack is built this way to strengthen the B2B sales and marketing process. Using smart tools allows us to operate with more insight, and help our customers and clients be better at what they do best.

Clari

sale stack clari

Why Is Your Stack Built That Way?

Our sales tech stack is unique because it’s connected.

Engagement with prospects in Outreach, call recordings from Gong, content shared via Highspot, chat conversation via Intercom — these are all automatically captured and presented in Clari, providing complete visibility into all the various interactions between reps and prospects throughout the sales cycle.

So the secret sauce is not just to get great, best-of-breed tools for engagement, enablement, forecasting, pipeline management, analytics, etc., but to integrate them in a way that allows our go-to-market team to proactively manage the pipeline, identify risk and forecast the business more accurately.

DocSend

sales stack docsend

Why Is Your Stack Built That Way?

The goal with this stack was to keep it lightweight and simple. There is a cost to every tool (beyond money) that you add to a stack, so we’re careful about piling them on. Our stack is amazing because it is simple, clean, and it works!

We focus heavily on DocSend for three reasons:

  1. It allows us to organize documents so it’s easy to find the right content at the right time.
  2. We get deep insights into how people interact with the content we send.
  3. And of course, we eat our own dog food.

Intercom

sales stack intercom

Why Is Your Stack Built That Way?

At Intercom, we believe that sales tools should support and improve our sales process, not replace our ability to perform mission critical tasks like training a new sales rep or closing a tough deal. In our eyes, just adding technology doesn’t equate to progress.

Our sales tech is designed with this mind. Each tool is chosen to enable a simpler, more efficient workflow for our sales motion — and our sales reps. For a new tool to be incorporated into our stack, it must do at least one of these things:

  • automate repetitive tasks
  • accelerate our sales cycle
  • assist our sales reps in the buying process
  • eliminate low-value work

Our own product, Intercom, helps sales teams do all four of these things. Our sales reps use our live chat to proactively engage, qualify, and convert high-value leads in real time, shortening the time-to-close and enabling greater productivity.

We also use Custom Bots, our chatbots for sales, to automate the repetitive parts of the sales process, such as asking for demographic information, assessing initial intent and scheduling follow-up meetings.

Ultimately, we like to think of our sales tech as a growth stack — a system of tools that unlocks new ways of selling and better customer relationships.

Nutshell

nutshell sales stack

Why Is Your Stack Built That Way?

The sales stack at Nutshell accomplishes three critical goals.

  1. We are, of course, evangelists for our own product, so Nutshell plays a central role in our stack across all our teams and using it heavily (not that we would choose any other tool in its place) helps our entire team better service our customers.
  2. Each aspect of our sales tech has been chosen to help support our sales teams’ ability to deliver unique and customized experiences for each potential customer. That means tracking and understanding their behavior and bubbling that information up through our CRM so each Nutshell expert can quickly understand and support our customers’ individual needs and objectives.
  3. Last, but not least, our stack is designed to keep us focused on the “Disney World” or Northstar metrics that drive our growth. We track everything, but the tools we use distill that information into actionable insights we leverage every day to make improvements the overall strategy and tactics across our funnel. (If you’re curious about how we define the difference between a sales pipeline vs. a sales funnel, you can check this out.)

The best part about the tech stack, as opposed to the single point solution, is the flexibility it gives our (and your) team to adapt and evolve as needed.

Outreach

outreach.io sales stack

Why Is Your Stack Built That Way?

Each element of our stack addresses a specific need for our team — and it changes frequently! We regularly audit all technologies to check for redundancy, utilization, and value. As we’ve grown, we have grown into and out of certain elements of our stack and have adjusted accordingly.

How Do You Create a Sales Stack?

What are the tools you should be considering for your sales stack?

The short answer: whatever works for you.

Notice in the companies we talked to, some had big stacks, with specialized tools for all the tasks they do on a regular basis. Others consolidated to the point they only had a few tools in their stack. Your choices will depend on your sales process, your budget, and multiple other factors.

Just remember, your stack doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. The key really is to find what works for you.

NEED AN OVERVIEW OF THE TOP SALES TOOLS? Read Best 150+ Sales Tools: The Complete List

To help you make your choices, let’s look at how 7 companies we talked to broke their stacks down.

Intelligence Tools

When it comes to intelligence tools, there are only two resounding winners:

  • ZoomInfo
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator

sales stack intelligence tools

ZoomInfo makes sense. A comprehensive B2B database, they provide contact and the account information you need to quickly find the right company and right people to get in touch with. It also lets you filter data by industry, location, company size, revenue, job title, job function, so you can quickly build targeted lists.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is another no-brainer. It helps you find people and companies faster, but it also helps you connect and engage with the people on your list.

There are a lot of other tools you can use for intelligence — and the people we talked to report using a wide range of them. In fact, most of them use 6 different tools for this one activity.

OUR TIP: You need intelligence tools that:

  • Give you accurate data quickly
  • Allow you to filter results, so you don’t waste time pursuing dead-end leads
  • Let you engage with prospects through email, in-app, and push messaging, so you can streamline your efforts

So how do you use these sales intelligence tools?

Sales Intelligence: 4 Steps to Pick Vendors

1. Find matching target segments

Start by choosing a list provider “of record” for your target segments. Early-stage companies might find enough prospects with a web and social prospecting solution. This is usually cheaper. For most, you need to pick the best vendor(s) covering your target segment (s).

Coverage and taxonomy are crucial. Many businesses need to sharpen their segmentation and depend on granular industry definitions.

2. Drill down on data assessment

Then dig down into their data selection, aggregation, and cleansing methods. You want to understand where the data is coming from and how it is processed and maintained. You can assess the data by testing two samples. One matching data you already have and trust to evaluate its quality.

The second for data you don’t have to assess the potential addition. This evaluation will not prevent you from having to try the solution to confirm its value.

3. Evaluate data augmentation/enrichment

Eventually, decide if you can or should enrich the data. You should select data augmentation vendors based on the specific data elements you might miss or want to double-source. It should leverage the understanding of how your vendors of reference are building their datasets. Larger companies might consider using a data consolidation and cleansing platform.

4. Follow an iterative approach to optimize your sales stack

I’m a proponent of managing your providers using a portfolio approach. Decide on many vendors you need and can manage. Evaluate from time to time new options. Replace incumbents, if you find a better alternative. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the IDC both predict that the available inventory in marketing databases will shrink by 40% have made data an issue no organization can ignore!

Enablement Tools

Interestingly, each person we talked to uses a different set of enablement tools, and most use 3 different tools.

sales stack enablement tools

For an effective sales enablement program, you need to help sales reps stay buyer-centric, so you can deliver the best buyer experience possible. That may include tools for demos, conversations, and data.

You also need learning management technology, so you can easily onboard, train, and coach reps.

OUR TIP: Think about the different enablement tasks you do regularly: sales readiness, sales asset management, and sales engagement. Then find tools that help you streamline and scale.

Engagement Tools

Sales Engagement is emerging as a category. Its definition remains fluid, mostly shaped up by the feature sets of Outreach, an early leader in the category, and Salesloft.

While the category name suggests solutions able to manage all sales communications, they remain email-centric. Many vendors offer the ability to call prospects but dialers are usually purchased independently. Also, inbound and outbound activities are often handled separately.

We need to simplify the sales rep working environment

The tools fragmentation across channels and the number—120—of email and dialer vendors puzzle me. It can be explained by the specialization of sales reps and the desire to get best of breed applications.

However, it makes the workflow of sales reps challenging, sometimes offsetting the benefits of using technology. I’m hearing more complaints about the number of tools and applications to juggle.

Moreover, companies adopting an account-based strategy need to coordinate their prospecting effort across each company. I will discuss orchestration gaps across touches, accounts, and activities in a future article.

The category is still in its early stages. New models are appearing. Cliently, Growbots, Growlabs, ZenProspect and to some extent Affinity are now combining prospect sourcing and reach out. Drift is reinventing proactive engagement by combining chat, visitor intelligence, appointment setting, and email follow up in a streamlined experience.

However, two Sales Engagement tools stood out as clear winners:

  • Outreach (used by 5 companies)
  • Yesware (used by 4 companies)

sales stack engagement tools

Outreach is the winner. Designed to drive efficient growth with every interaction, Outreach personalizes, prioritizes, and analyzes sales activities. By integrating all your SalesTech stack, reps have just one tool to navigate. So they spend less time navigating tech and more time selling.

In a close second comes Yesware. It gives you email automation and sales prospecting with campaigns — including metrics that tell you what happens after you click send.

Most companies use 3 or 4 different engagement tools to integrate their CRM, automate outreach, and manage productivity.

OUR TIP: The best engagement tools will help you:

  • Integrate all the tools you use for engagement, so reps have a streamlined workflow
  • Automate outreach, so nothing falls through the cracks
  • Boosts productivity
  • Makes it easy to manage your pipeline

Pipeline / Analytics / Measurement Tools

The #1 tool for pipeline management is Salesforce. As the #1 CRM platform, nothing else comes close.

sales stack pipeline analytics measurement tools

No sales team can do its job without a reliable, scalable CRM. Salesforce leads the industry with a platform that’s easy to customize and upgrade without anything breaking. So your CRM can grow with your business.

That said, most companies use Salesforce and maybe one or two other tools for pipeline, analytics, and measurement.

  • Clari stands out for full-funnel accountability across sales, marketing, and customer success.
  • Tableau lets you combine data from different areas, so you can see what’s really going on in your business.

A new breed of sales analytics

The plethora of applications is making the instrumentation of sales stacks much more challenging. Each solution comes with its own set of analytics. Many organizations are trying to log sales activities into Salesforce or their CRM to consolidate reporting. This approach has shortcomings though—also paving the way for two new types of solutions.

Tools for insights from sales conversations and activities

AI is enabling call recording and transcription at scale and with precision. Additional analytics can be layered on top of these conversation details to give unique feedback on sales interactions. Chorus.ai and Gong.io are spearheading a new Conversation Intelligence category. Gong.io’s recent acquisition of Ondigo shows an appetite for broadening data sources and providing deeper insights.

Companies such as Clari, Collective[i], People.ai, SalesDirector.ai, and TopOPPS are leveraging AI differently. They use it to gather not only transactional data from systems but also unstructured data from emails and calendars. They can then build a holistic view of opportunities and account pursuits and provide enhanced forecasting and pipeline analytics.

Management / Coaching Tools

There was no clear consensus for management tools, but 3 are used by more than one of the companies we talked to:

  • Gong
  • Chorus.ai
  • Ambition

sales stack management consulting tools

Gong gives you visibility into your customer conversations — essentially conversation intelligence.

Chorus.ai is a conversation cloud that captures, stores, and analyzes your team’s calls and meetings. Your CRM stores customer data. Chorus stores your conversations.

Ambition is a true management platform, giving you dashboards, scorecards, goals, gamification, and more.

OUR TIP: Pick a tool that gives you a big picture of what’s going on, and is smart enough to do its job without a lot of “busy work” from you or your team. Before making your decision, evaluate:

  • Automation: Does it let you automate tasks, so you can scale your efforts and be more productive?
  • AI: Can it automatically pick up on the activities you’re doing throughout the day, then update and sync to minimize admin work?
  • Integrations: Does it work with the other tools in your stack and/or the ONE tool your team can’t live without?

Your Sales Process Is Unique; So Is Your Sales Tech Stack

We’ve shown your 7 sales tech stacks from companies that KNOW sales. But as you can see, no two are alike. So bottom line, you can build a sales stack that’s uniquely you — as simple or as bundled as you like.

Keep in mind, though, the more complicated your stack, the more things can break. So we recommend the Goldilocks Approach: make it as big as it needs to be, but no bigger, so your stack is just right for you.

When you’re ready to build (or refine) your sales tech stack, look for tools that work together and fit your existing sales process.

3 Ways to Use the Sales Technology Landscape

I’m a big believer in being able to visualize things to make sense of complexity. I enjoy discovering Martech stacks. I created a blueprint many years ago and kept on honing it to map sales tech companies and find new options.

To download or view the full image, click here.

Sales Technology Landscape: Blueprint

It’s time to manage the sales stack as a portfolio of systems of record and systems of innovation.

  1. Use the blueprint to build a global view of your applications.
  2. Identify the functions that are foundational. Try to streamline these elements to simplify your reps’ workflow and your pipeline instrumentation.
  3. Explore innovations and additions based on your sales process. Harness technology to either address remaining gaps or find new ways to optimize critical steps.

Bottom Line

Today, sales technology have become so intertwined, and the needs for efficiency and teamwork so important, you don’t want to use just any old tools.

You know from experience that not all bright shiny tech tools are winners. Some deliver. Some don’t.

So be intentional. Look hard at what’s working for other sales teams, so you have an idea of what might work for you before investing time and money to set it up and train your team.

But realize that you will need to experiment.

Don’t be afraid to test new products and integrations to see if they fit your needs. And don’t be afraid to ditch tools that don’t give you the results you need.

Bottom line: Who cares what everyone else is doing?

All that matters is that your stack helps you sell more, so your tech pays for itself many times over.

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