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Sales Tech Landscape 2017: Making Sense of 700+ Players

Nicholas de Kouchkovsky

August 1st, 2017

sales tech landscape 2017

I created my first inside sales technology landscape in early 2015. Late 2016, I came to realize that one could longer look at inside sales as an isolated function. Today, I am releasing its fourth edition, expanded to cover the entire sales tech industry, including 32 categories and over 700 participants.

The Sales Tech Landscape 2017 PDF

SalesTech Landscape 2017 PDF <<< Download high quality PDF here.

Salestech Landscape 1

Why Should You Care?

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

Modern selling relies on technology and the ability to execute at scale depends completely on it. 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 ensure 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.

An Incredible Explosion Of Participants

The first release of my inside sales landscape included 300 companies. It kept on flourishing over the past two years, crossing the 400 mark last summer and reaching 460 players this January.

The addition of four new categories, the continued emergence of new startups, and the entry into the space of all the major software players, propelled it to a whooping 715 participants!

While we see the beginning of a market consolidation, innovation shows no sign of slowdown and I expect to continue see new startups being created.

A Sales Tech Map, Please!

Making sense of such a large market requires a map. I thought very important not to just tag the various software but also offer a blueprint providing a global view of all the building blocks.

I could group them in five major sales disciplines:

Engagement – Covers technologies for engaging with prospects and customers using voice, video, or digital communication, or in person.

Enablement & Productivity – Includes the tools helping front-line personnel be more efficient and effective.

Sales Intelligence – Comprises the solutions and database services providing information and insights on companies and buyers.

Pipeline & Analytics – Contains all the software for managing and instrumenting the sales pipeline and measuring performance.

People – Encompasses all the applications for managing and developing sales personnel, from on-boarding to compensation.

Salestech Landscape 2

It is not possible to discuss every category and I would like to focus on three themes driving most of the recent innovations:

  1. Account-based approaches
  2. Playbooks and methodologies
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Account-Based Approaches & Playbooks

I initially thought account-based approaches would lead to the creation a new product category. Instead, I am finding account-based capabilities being baked into existing categories.

For example, a growing number of engagement software lets you coordinate communications with the various stakeholders of an account.

Unfortunately, not all vendors have the same definition of what makes up an account, and this is adding a layer of complexity.

It is shifting the responsibility of defining a consistent data model to practitioners who are already battling with the nuances of leads and contacts.

The time has come for our industry to move on from the lead-opportunity-contact-account model.

Playbooks are playing a more important role whether companies use account or person based sales motions. This is a particularly vibrant area. Many methodologies are getting implemented in different tools.

Also, vendors are being asked to bake their best practices into their solutions.

These capabilities are included in the following four categories:

  • Content enablement: playbooks can be used to map sales content to the used methodology
  • Multichannel orchestration: playbooks defines the engagement model
  • Onboarding and training: playbooks are a very effective way to train sales reps and share tribal knowledge
  • Account-based planning: account-based methodologies help shape up account pursuit

Artificial Intelligence Fuels A New Wave Of Innovation

AI is spreading in many categories. A year ago, it was mostly used by predictive analytics to identify the best accounts to target and predictive scoring of leads and opportunities. AI is now enabling many new innovations:

Analyzing social and digital “breadcrumbs” from companies and potential buyers: companies such as Artesian, Node.io, or Nudge are using AI to surface the most relevant sales signals.

Communicating with prospects. Conversica, Fusemachines, and Growbots provide AI-powered sales assistants to personalize at scale the early engagement stages. Crystal uses AI to decipher prospect personalities and make recommendations on how to best tailor your written communication to them.

Finding best time to call or meet. ClaraLabs and x.ai can take on the tedious task of arranging demos or booking appointments.

Tracking activities. Rollio and Tact harness AI to capture and log consistently all the sales activities.

Gaining intelligence from conversations: Chorus and Gong leverage AI to analyse at scale sales conversations, uncover insights, and coach sales reps.

Accessing complex data set. People.ai is pioneering AI for simplifying access to analytics and data.

So What?

Jill Rowley’s quote says it all.

“A fool with a tool is a still a fool. A fool with lots of tools is an even bigger fool.”

This applies now more than ever before. 

Maximizing all the technologies available to you requires a solid foundation:

Have a clear sales methodology. It is more critical than ever to have it defined and documented. Then, you can harness software to execute.

Be clear on why you are buying software. It should be for one of three reasons: automate and scale a process, instrument your processes to optimize them, or experiment and innovate. Having that clarity will help you get the most out of it.

Define your data model with minutiae. It will become the backbone to align your technology stack.

About the author

Nicholas de Kouchkovsky

Nicolas De Kouchkovsky is an advisor, consultant, and VP of Marketing on demand for B2B software companies. He covers all aspects of marketing and market development, helping them grow. Nicolas has extensive software experience and held diverse executive roles at companies of all sizes. He is a recognized industry expert in sales technologies and has authored a comprehensive salestech market landscape.

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