The Ultimate Guide to Sales Technology & Sales Stacks
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A guide to the sales technology
When it comes to sales technology, there’s no shortage of options. But just like any set of tools, it’s best not to clutter your toolbox with a bunch of gadgets you don’t actually need. Selecting which sales tools to include in your toolbox — or sales stack — is key to making sure your software fits into your workflow.
But finding the tools that fit with your workflow isn’t easy. Like we said, there are a lot of options out there. In this article, we’ll help you better understand the basics of sales technology and the concept of a sales technology stack, so you can get started compiling your own tech sales stack.
What do you mean by sales technology?
Sales technology refers to any tech or software tool that lets your reps perform their tasks faster and in a more organized way. Every industry and career field has been revolutionized by new technologies, and sales is no different. But it’s not as if the hardware for sales has changed much. We’re still relying on computers and phones to do most of the sales grunt-work. It’s the sales software industry that’s really exploding, and that’s what we’ll be focusing on in this guide.
Sales technology software lets sales reps perform their daily tasks faster and with greater accountability — and that adds up to more deals closed. Some sales technology platforms, like CRM, go one step further by not only providing sales tools that help businesses close more deals, but also help them to retain a valuable and happy customer base.
When people speak of sales technology, they typically mean SaaS, or Software as a Service. This kind of software is usually subscription based on a monthly or annual basis, and includes updates and maintenance handled by the provider.
An overview of the sales technology landscape
The sales technology landscape is big — and only getting bigger. There isn’t a single kind of sales technology, but rather many different categories. Each platform offers a different assortment of features, either with a very narrow focus, or with a broad focus that encompasses nearly every sales activity.
Here are some of the hottest categories of sales technology on the market today:
- Customer relationship management: With its origins in contact management technology, CRM is an wildly popular tool right now for managing customer data from a single point of entry. Businesses use CRM to track sales, store contact details, run forecasts, and automate dozens of tasks that are necessary for maintaining healthy customer relationships.
- Sales engagement tools: Sales engagement tools facilitate more direct communication between sales team and clients, helping businesses speak more directly to their prospects’ pain points.
- Prospecting and lead Generation tools: Prospecting tools generate leads from every available source, including web forms, social media activity, and internet searches. Then, they identify which leads are most likely to purchase, segment them by qualifying criteria, and assign them to the appropriate sales rep.
- Power dialer software: A power dialer connects agents with prospects over the phone smoothly and efficiently, allowing sales reps to call more contacts in less time. When the sales dialer gets a busy, disconnected, or unanswered call, the system patches the rep along to the next number, eliminating dead space between calls.
- Scheduling tools: With scheduling tech tools, you can say goodbye to endless email chains trying to nail down times to meet for demos or sales calls. Scheduling apps let contacts pick time slots from a calendar of available times, and the new appointments are automatically entered into the rep’s calendar.
- Team communication software: These tools help businesses avoid costly and frustrating information silos that occur as a result of teams not communicating properly. They offer features for sharing data, scheduling and holding meetings, creating presentations, and managing other tasks that go into keeping everyone on the same page and directed toward their common goal.
- Sales automation software: SFA, or sales force automation, helps businesses save time by taking over the repetitive and time-sensitive tasks that typically monopolize sales rep schedules. These tools handle tasks like sending email follow ups, generating invoices, and creating forecasting reports, allowing sales reps to spend more time actually selling.
- Learning management system: Training new hires and keeping current staff up to speed is vital, and learning management systems make it easier than tracking it all on your own. Set up training content according to your business rules and then monitor learning progress to see where strengths and weaknesses lie, so you can get new sales reps selling to their fullest potential sooner.
- Pipeline software: This handy sales tool lets sales teams build and customize their pipelines to help reps efficiently manage leads, opportunities, contact information, and overall prospect and customer relationships.
- Project management: Project management tools help your staff keep track of who’s working on what, so everything gets done on time and with proper accountability. Get all of your moving parts working together seamlessly, so projects are completed on-time and with every component in place.
- Sales tracking and reporting: Sales tracking technologies facilitate the tedious data entry of sales reporting. And many are also armed with sales analytics tools to help you identify potential areas of improvement.
- Closing and E-signature: E-signature software facilitates the fast and simple closure of deals, ensuring that every account’s paperwork is organized and in order. For even greater flexibility, some platforms offer mobile device access (read more about mobile sales tools), meaning you can capture signatures wherever you go.
If it sounds like a lot, keep in mind that this isn’t even a comprehensive list. For nearly every task involved in running a business, there is a tool or a software out there that makes it easier, faster, and more efficient.
But running 10 separate apps for sales teams doesn’t sound very efficient. For this reason, many sales technology tools are grouped together on a single platform. For instance, a very powerful CRM may also serve as an effective SEP and sales automation tool. The best designed stacks will contain tools that complement and integrate with each other, meaning you’re not forced to switch constantly back and forth between platforms.
As you can see, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the landscape. So how do you even start?
How to use sales technology to level up your team?
Your very first step is to create a roadmap. Many companies will have a sales roadmap — a living document that features sales goals, strategies, the lifecycle of an order, and key performance indicators (KPIs). When looking into adopting tools, you’ll want to create a sales tech roadmap to work alongside your sales roadmap.
Your roadmap isn’t just a list of the tools you’re currently using or want to use. Every piece of software in it should directly serve one of your strategies or goals. Not every business needs all the same tech software, so it’s important to be honest about the realities of your operations so you can make smart software decisions when building your tech stack.
For instance, if you’re a small business where everyone works closely together, a team communication software might be a little redundant. But if your small team still struggles to get projects done on time, then you might benefit from a project management tool. However, keep in mind that if you have plans for growth, your software should be able to scale with you.
Most importantly, make sure to commit the time to training your staff on any new software platforms. Once you’ve designed your sales stack, it’s critical that every one of your reps become familiar enough with the interface and features. Look for software providers that offer a lot of different training avenues, so everyone on your team has access to the help they need to make the most of your tech stack.
What is a sales tech stack?
A tech stack is the collection of programs, interfaces, IT infrastructure, and software that businesses use for day-to-day work. It’s a digital tool box of operations-enhancing software for sales teams. Each department will usually have its own unique tech stack, including the sales team.
It may be helpful to think of a sales tech stack as a literal stack of tools standing next to the model of the traditional sales funnel. At the top of the funnel are the potential customers you’re targeting with awareness of your product. This is where you’ll have your prospecting, lead generating, and live chat tools.
Next are the potential clients who are in the consideration phase of the funnel. Here, you’ll utilize your sales engagement platform and customer relationship management platform for building strong, trusting relationships. You’ll also have scheduling and demo tools there as well.
Finally, at the bottom of the sales funnel are customers in the decision phase. This is where your sales team will find the most use of your sales tracking and reporting, sales automation, and closing/e-signature technologies.
What are the benefits?
There is a tool out there for just about everything you can imagine. A well designed sales stack keeps your team engaged, and helps them fine-tune their approaches for the future.
Here are some of the benefits you can experience with a well-chosen tech stack:
Get high quality leads with less effort
Prospecting and lead generation technologies are excellent tools for taking some pressure off of your reps to find the highest quality leads. Even while your reps are home for the night or handling other clients, your lead generating software is still identifying leads and setting them up for sales reps to take over.
The result is that your sales reps have more time on their hand for revenue-generating activities, but your business is still bringing in high quality leads to populate your pipeline.
Save time by automating tedious tasks
A survey of 720 sales reps in 2018 found that, on average, they spent almost 65% of their time at work doing something other than selling. Administrative work and other red tape often keep these people from the top bullet point in their job descriptions. The right tech, however, can slash those tasks and red tape and keep your reps on the phone, in the field, or in the boardroom.
Automations can either be triggered by actions or set up to operate at a specific time or interval. Plus, automated data capture and entry tends to be much more accurate than humans, meaning that there will be fewer errors to cause problems down the road.
Track effective strategies
Once you’ve adopted all of the tools in your tech stack, it’s critical that you don’t lose sight of the overall goal. The whole point is to increase sales, and you can’t do that unless you’re collecting data, measuring outcomes, and identifying the tools and strategies that work best.
Finding out which practices are profitable and which are dragging you down is key to growing your business. Sales tech lets you cut out the guesswork when it comes to implementing changes. With the hard, accurate data right in front of you, you can better strategize tactics that will work in the future.
What type of sales technology do you need?
So which sales technologies are the “must-haves”? The short answer is — it depends. There are many different factors that come into play, but we’ll focus on the three most significant—size, industry, and customer base.
- The size of your company
If you’re a start-up with just 3 employees who all wear multiple hats, you’re obviously going to have different needs than a massive enterprise. A team communication program may be less important for you. You don’t have to DM your coworkers to get her attention, you can just look across the room and talk to her.
It’s not just the type of tools that company size will affect, though. Most of them have different pricing levels. Often there will be a free version with limited capabilities for very small teams. The more users in your business, the higher the price tag. For the 3-person startup, the free version of these tools may work perfectly well. But as your company grows you’ll want to scale up to the more powerful versions.
- The industry you are in
Many industries have sales process solutions that are unique to their needs. Any company that has anything to do with healthcare knows how vital it is to stay compliant with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). To protect a customer’s Protected Health Information, the tools used by these companies have to be incredibly secure with high-level encryption. In instances where your industry dictates the type of tools you need to use, it’s even more important to work with your IT department to ensure that you’re crossing your Ts and dotting your Is.
- Your customer base
It could also just be that your industry may not require all of the bells and whistles of an enormous, complicated tech stack. If you’re an online retailer selling goods directly to individual customers, maybe an e-signature program is overkill. Or, say you’ve learned that 90% of your new leads come from word-of-mouth referrals. It could be that your prospecting tool isn’t worth the investment. Or at the very least, you need to re-evaluate how it’s being used.
What goes into building a sales tech stack?
The first step is to create your sales technology roadmap, as we mentioned earlier. This is a guide you’ll use to make decisions about which tools to adopt and how to use them. This roadmap should align with your company’s values, sales strategies, and objectives. If it does, and if you stick to it, your stack will complement your team and help them do their jobs.
When you’re building a sales tech stack, pay attention to the following factors:
- Security. Work with your IT department on building your roadmap and committing to new programs. They’ll have a better idea of which platforms are secure enough for your business and customer base.
- Integrations. If you’re already working with other sales apps, you need to be able to connect your software. Otherwise, you may not be able to transfer data from one platform seamlessly to the next. For instance, most platforms will offer integrations with the most popular email programs, so users can easily track and access communications without switching between browsers.
- Data analytics. Any software you use should allow you to do something with the data it's collecting. Data is a gold mine of information, but it doesn’t do any good just sitting in your software.
- Training and support. As stated earlier, you need to adopt your software fully before you can reap the most benefits from it. Part of ensuring 100% adoption is utilizing the training options offered by your software provider. Additionally, there should be a robust support system — such as 24/7 phone support and an extensive knowledge base — so you’re never left alone to figure out issues that arise.
Your adoption roadmap should be a living document. You need to be flexible enough to adjust what’s in your stack. These decisions are important and they can have lasting consequences. But don’t be afraid to pivot if it becomes clear that something isn’t working.
What should companies consider when choosing sales technology?
Once you’ve determined that you need a specific software tool for your tech stack here are some software sales questions you can ask to determine which vendors are the right fit:
- Are they a good fit for our company’s size, industry, and customer base?
We’ve explored this a bit already, but these external factors will determine which types of tech you need and which pricing levels you can afford. Just because a big-name company goes with one provider, it doesn’t mean that provider is also right for you.
- Do your reps spend time on any manual processes that you can streamline or eliminate?
Talk to your staff and try to determine how much of their time is spent on specific tasks. Then, do some research to discover what tools exist that would reduce the amount of time spent on those tasks. Cutting a few hours here and there can seriously add up to better productivity and increased sales.
- Where is there opportunity for more engagement?
If you make enough room in your sales reps’ schedule using automations, you should fill it back in with revenue-generating activities. Engaging with customers is one of the best ways of moving prospects to make a purchase. Ask yourself what kind of engagement best suits your brand and customers, and search for engagement platforms that offer features for that kind of activity.
- What Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are you focusing on?
Every company looks at different metrics to measure performance. Are you focused on client acquisition rate? Number of calls and emails? Average deal size? Conversion rate? This goes back to the sales tech roadmap, but once you’ve identified your KPIs, you should be able to narrow down different sales technologies that will help measure and evaluate them.
As stated earlier, many software tools are often bundled together onto a single platform, which makes learning and integrating much easier. Platforms like Zendesk Sell — one of the industry’s leading sales CRMs — provide multiple sales tech tools, and is easily scalable from start-ups to enormous enterprises.
Zendesk Sell funnels all client communication into one spot for easy access. It integrates with many other platforms to streamline communication between clients and among colleagues, letting you keep everyone on the same page and updated with the most accurate data. It also lets you track sales from beginning to end and evaluate your KPIs so you always have a clear view of your company’s health.
Frequently asked questions
Does your organization need sales technology?
If you want to be competitive, yes. Reps will continue spending the bulk of their workdays on tasks other than selling. They’ll become disengaged, they’ll make less money, and your growth will sputter.
If you’re nervous about using new technology, keep in mind that small businesses and CRMs make great combinations for learning how to integrate technology into your operations.
How is technology used in sales?
Technology never takes the place of excellent salespeople and strategies. But at its best, technology will enhance their capabilities. Sales tech works to automate and streamline tasks so that your sales reps have more time and energy to engage with clients and refine their tactics. It isn’t about replacing salespeople — it’s about giving them the time to use their talents to their fullest potential.
How can you improve tech adoption?
It’s true that sometimes employees will resist adopting technologies, especially if they were hired before your company started using it. But you can mitigate this by adopting your roadmap, sticking to it relentlessly, and making sure all hires are fully trained on your selected tools. Plus, if you track the success of the technology, even hesitant staff members will start to come around after seeing the hard data about how tech can boost sales — and commissions.
How can I align tech with sales strategy?
Just as you want your staff to be aligned in the way they engage with customers, you need your tech to align with your strategies. Review your sales strategy and make sure that at every point along the sales process, your sales technology is supporting your values and approaches. Take advantage of customizable features, which allow you to reconfigure your software so that it suits your business rules and strategies.
Try industry-leading sales tech for free
Without a robust sales tech stack, you’re missing out on opportunities for smoother operations and faster growth.
If you’re interested in taking greater control over your business and maximizing your teams’ time, check out Zendesk Sell. This powerful CRM platform helps sales teams streamline their operations so they can spend less time on tedious tasks and more time selling and planning for growth.
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