The potential benefit sales tools can bring to your business can be very exciting but the sheer number of different tools is straight up intimidating. New tools go to market every day. In this blog, we'll introduce you to 10 sales tool categories we think are the most important.
What are sales tools?
Sales tools refer to digital tools used by sales professional to make their work easier. Sales tool categories include customer relationship management (CRM), sales intelligence, sales acceleration, sales gamification, sales analytics, web conferencing, eSignature, account-based marketing, marketing automation and customer service softwares.
By forming a powerful sales technology stack, you can keep your pipeline flowing more efficiently, improve your team’s performance metrics, automate tedious tasks, or cause game-changing transformations in specific aspects of your sales process.
No wonder 98 % of all sales organizations in the U.S. use at least one sales tool (according to LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2017 report). To help you navigate the gigantic jungle of sales tools, we recently published the ebook “The Best Sales Tools & Technologies” in which we list 100+ strong options divided in 10 categories.
In this article we’ve listed the 10 types of sales tools to make it easier for you to get an overview of today’s vast variety of sales technologies.
What are the 'must know' categories of sales tools?
- CRM Software
- Sales Intelligence and Sales Prospecting
- Sales Acceleration Software
- Sales Gamification Software
- Sales Analytics Software
- Web Conferencing Software
- eSignature and Document Tracking Software
- Account-Based Marketing Software
- Marketing Automation & Lead Generation Software
- Customer Service Software
For most companies, CRM is the first and usually the most extensive investment they make in terms of sales technology. A CRM helps you keep track of existing customers, stay on top of sales and marketing efforts, and make sure to follow up with potential customers in a timely fashion.
Nowadays, most CRM solutions are SaaS solutions where you pay on a per-user, per-month basis. On-premise installations are no longer needed as users now have credentials that can be used online in their internet browser. Yet, some vendors charge a flat monthly fee for a set number of users, but require larger packages or extra fees for additional users.
CRM is often the first and most extensive investment a company makes in terms of sales technology.
There’s a lot to think about when choosing your organization’s CRM software. On one hand, there are the large vendors, such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, attempting to build ecosystems incorporating App marketplaces. On the other hand, the CRM market has recently seen an increase in vendors offering cheap easy-to-use solutions. Pipedrive is being one of the drivers in this space.
If you've invested in a Sales Intelligence or Sales Prospecting tool, going with a CRM that smoothly integrates with that platform comes with many benefits. One example of such tool is Propeller CRM that integrates with Gmail. It even allows for use right in your Gmail inbox with the Propeller extension.
A clearly common trend among CRM-vendors in 2018 is to promote AI capabilities. A use of artificial intelligence can improve lead scoring accuracy and also automate the repetitive tasks for the salespeople.
Sales Intelligence and Sales Prospecting
Sales Intelligence refers to a wide range of technologies that help salespeople find, monitor and understand data that provides insights into prospects' and existing clients' daily business. These insights help the salesperson find and identify potential new customers that fit their ideal customer profile. In other words, to help them do sales prospecting.
One of the trends in 2018 among these vendors seems to be an understanding of prospects’ intent. Algorithms process huge amounts of public, open and social data to uncover buying intent so that sales teams can reach out to the right companies at the right time.
Sales Intelligence and Sales Prospecting technology works around the clock to collect and make sense of company information from millions of data sources.
Sales Intelligence and Sales Prospecting technology works around the clock to collect and make sense of company information from millions of data sources. This allows salespeople to conduct pointed searches for companies with a specific set of up-to-date data-points, including both firmographic and technographic data as well as buying signals.
Most vendors also come with notification features, alerting you of organizational changes that can open up a window of opportunity for you as a salesperson within one of your target accounts or informing you when a new company falls into the description of your ideal customer profile.
Sales Acceleration Software
The best business relationships are forged with personal interactions. Sales Acceleration software is a technology designed to help salespeople maximize sales revenue by driving more successful communication with potential and existing customers.
Speed without control is doomed to failure. Hence, Sales Acceleration aims to improve both efficiency and effectiveness with better engagement and organization through the entire sales ecosystem.
Sales Acceleration software is an umbrella term that includes tools that aim to help salespeople drive more efficient and more predictable sales processes. Coaching tools, email tracking softwares, tools for predictive analytics, sales engagement software and outbound sales dialers, to name some, belong to this category of technology.
Speed without control is doomed to failure. Hence, Sales Acceleration aims to improve both efficiency and effectiveness.
These types of tools grew popular first in high-volume markets such as the U.S. and the U.K. As it is becoming more and more difficult to reach decision makers all over, Sales Acceleration is predicted to win more ground also in smaller markets in the coming years.
Is your Sales Acceleration platform GDPR compliant?
Many Sales Acceleration platforms have email tracking features in their platform. Everyone who is selling within the European Union needs to pay close attention to vendors GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance. GDPR takes effect in May 2018 and sets several new rules and policies for how companies can process personal data. Often a clear consent is needed, and the lack of transparency involved with email tracking is contrary to the GDPR. That’s why the Working Party is calling for you to gain explicit prior consent in these cases.
Sales Gamification Software
Chances are good you’re already using sales gamification to some extent in your business. Or, you have at least run a sales competition to encourage your sales team to put some extra effort into their work. By adding competition and recognition, sales gamification software aims to boost motivation and sales performance to get the most from your team.
The sales manager can choose which metrics his or her team will be judged by, and the tool ranks employees based on their success against those metrics. Most sales gamification tools have a real-time dashboard for you to have up at any publicly-displayed screen at your office for your sales reps to know how they are doing in the competition.
A word of warning: There’s such a thing as too much when it comes to gamification in sales.
By making the data available company-wide, you amplify the competitive spirit between reps and engage them in a play-to-win culture. You also allow sales reps to see which metrics they are hitting and which ones they’re lagging behind, hopefully encouraging them to put more work into the sales tasks they need to improve the most. One goal with sales gamification is to turn short-term strong behavior into long-term habits.
There’s such a thing as too much when it comes to gamification in sales. While everyone wants a job that’s fun to go to, nobody wants their sales team playing all day. A platform that only favors gaming and turns your business into a playground can cause more damage than good.
Sales Analytics Software
In the age of big data, sales analytics has become an important, if not absolutely necessary part of every sales report. These statistics help sales managers communicate their team’s results in an informative way. Instead of manually gathering these analytics through a tangle of spreadsheets, modern sales analytics software allows you to access it systematically in one place.
Sales analytics software programs are used by sales teams and managers to gain visibility into sales activities to locate both high-performing and struggling salespeople, products or campaigns, and forecast sales results. These tools allow you to get a granular view, breaking down sales into comprehensible pieces when reviewing what’s working and fixing what is not. This helps improve productivity across the whole organization.
Sales Analytics systems are usually implemented on top of an existing CRM system, though some more high-level vendors serve as both a CRM system and the analytics tool. The adoption of sales analytics software is growing rapidly throughout the business world, especially in the small to medium-sized business (SMB) segment. One reason for this as we at Vainu see it is the recent rise of SalesOps roles within SMB market.
Web Conferencing Software
More and more sales organizations are running online meetings with the purpose of demoing and/or sharing their offerings. While it’s easier to build trust with someone you meet face-to-face and in-person meetings better ensure all participants’ questions and concerns are raised, the pros of web conferencing are many.
It’s efficient and cost-effective as virtual meetings can be conducted in different places over the globe, which also makes them environmentally friendly. Plus, virtual meetings ensure there will be no such thing as absences because someone wasn’t able to get to the location of the meeting.
Incumbents such as Skype and WebEx have seen a high increase in new solutions competing over market shares lately. They all seem to strive for the same purpose: to help both parties schedule, start, and hold online meetings, without the need to install complex applications. And, many of the top web conferencing software tools offer a free trial.
As you're unlikely to have missed, the world of sales is getting more data-driven every day and video conferencing is no exception. Web conferencing tools in forefront can pull out key pieces of your conversations and gives you insights about the conversation. This what sales leaders can better understand what type of conversations drive the most results. One example of this type of artificial intelligence-powered apps is gong.io. Gong.io help you quickly see what topics you covered in a call, what competitors you mentioned and hone the talk-to-listen ration.
You just need to check that your local legislation allows meeting recordings with customers. Another good reminder is to always turn on the video when having calls with customers. Seeing each other helps you to build trust which is an essential part of any successful sales process.
eSignature and Document Tracking Software
In today’s world, faxing or mailing proposals and contracts can seem outdated to both buyer and seller.
An increasing number of contracts and proposals are sent and signed electronically, and solutions focusing on this area offer plenty of interesting data that can help increase proposal conversion.
eSignature and Document Tracking software provide solutions for managing, tracking and storing important legal agreements. This type of software aims to streamline administrative tasks and reduce overhead by providing a single, unified view of each contract’s processes.
This type of software also gives sales professionals clear visibility into the status of a specific contract. Many salespeople call the decision-maker when they receive a notification about someone opening up a proposal they send. They want to provide a helping hand, and make sure all questions are answered.
The majority of eSignature and Document Tracking software provides users with notifications for critical dates that affect a contract, such as the cut-off date for contract renewal. Some more low-end services only provide templates that allow users to create and store their own contracts. Other more advanced softwares provide tools for creating and managing contracts electronically and automating the digital management of a contract throughout its lifecycle.
Trend prediction for eSignature and Document tracking software
We’re starting to see more pointed e-signature solutions for sales teams. Vendors expand their capabilities beyond signature process and allow users to track real-time insights that help salespeople to automate and streamline the sales process. Some of these tools are useful not only for signing the documents but useful tools for sending out any sales and marketing collaterals. We expect to see also some built-in gamification features soon in these platforms.
Account-Based Marketing Software
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) was introduced as a term as early as the late 90s; however, it didn’t really take off then due to a lack of technologies backing up this strategic business marketing strategy.
Now, when aligned, sales and marketing departments have access to more advanced technologies including Sales Intelligence softwares that enable detailed target group identification, or “micro-targeting.” In short, account-based marketing is making a strong comeback.
The account-based strategy is all about shifting your focus from lots of leads to highly targeted accounts that are a perfect fit for your product or service.
The account-based strategy is all about shifting your focus from lots of leads to highly targeted accounts that are a perfect fit for your product or service. Each account is treated like a market of one and each should have a sales and marketing strategy tailored directly to them, to help you open doors to new sales opportunities within the account.
In order to run a successful account-based strategy, you need to have an effective inbound methodology. With a clearly defined target audience, marketing departments can better categorize and evaluate leads and move them further along the sales process. This also allows content marketers to create content that speaks to the specific pain-points of the right target accounts.
For the buyer, this can mean that she's greeted with an experience tailored to her unique needs when she is visiting a vendor’s homepage. The case studies she sees and the use cases she reads about are all adjusted for her.
Marketing Automation & Lead Generation Software
Every sale starts in one of two ways: either the seller finds the buyer, or the buyer is seeking the seller. Marketing Automation and Lead Generation softwares aim to encourage the latter. Leads come into sales reps every day through Marketing Automation tools thanks to marketing efforts such as downloadable content, demo requests and more.
In a nutshell, Marketing Automation software aims to automate marketing actions, such as emails, social media, and other website actions. These activities build up a rich database of contacts through conversions, particularly when a person exchanges her contact details and possibly information about the business she works for in exchange for the valuable content from your business.
In a nutshell, Marketing Automation software aims to automate marketing actions, such as emails, social media, and other website actions.
Once a new contact reaches the Marketing Automation software, the tool should help marketers qualify and prioritize these leads and nurture them to a sales-ready stage. Even though Marketing Automation is most typically used in the marketing department, it’s important for sales teams to understand the functions of this automation, as solutions like these are applicable in sales too.;
Customer Service Software
For many companies, email and phone are still the primary tools used to handle customer support, as well as engagement with potential buyers. During the last few years, however, we’ve started to see more and more chat popup windows on company websites. Software providers have also implemented in-app chat features to deliver more real-time customer support and engagement.
Customer service software allows you to manage, organize and respond to all Customer Service requests more efficiently. You can track all Customer Service requests and better understand your response times thanks to built-in analytics functions.
With Customer Service software you can also get notified when one of your key accounts sends in a request. This type of software can help improve your brand image by sending a signal to your customers that you actually care about them and put keeping them satisfied as your top priority.
Traditionally, only companies with large number of customer inquiries have taken advantage of Customer Service and support ticket systems. With the rapid development of technology, these solutions are becoming more affordable, also, for companies with limited number of customers.
Trend prediction for Customer Service Software
More and more vendors in this category expand the use of their platform beyond the traditional customer service use case. Most companies like the idea of turning all chat discussions into real sales opportunities. That’s why many of these vendors are building applications such as chat bots that aim for qualifying new leads and booking new meetings for the salespeople’s calendars. And since most of these bots are using machine learning they are getting better every day because of new data that they collect.