Succeeding in sales in the 21st century is not an easy job. In addition to needing empathy, grit, and drive, you also need to know your potential and existing customers intimately to be relevant in every touchpoint.
Sales professionals who rely on sales technology outperform their peers.
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, video conferencing, e-signature, account-based marketing, marketing automation, and customer service softwares.
In a nutshell, a CRM (customer relations management) system is exactly what it sounds like, an optimized platform for tracking customer behavior, managing customer communications, and incorporating data about customer experience to help manage retention, acquisition, and relationships in the future. No matter what the goals or needs of your business, using the right CRM can help you maximize everything from advertising expenditures to upgrades you make to your platform, incorporating customer feedback and experience to optimize your business and best serve the needs of your customers. CRM software can also help you learn as the business owner - instead of attempting to guess or anticipate customer needs, the data offered by effective CRM software can inform the practices your business engages in to help you learn about best practices for future moves for your platform.
So how do you choose what’s best for your business? Currently, there are some clear leaders in the marketplace for enterprise solutions (Salesforce) and smaller businesses with more limited budgets (Pipedrive). While both offer a basic suite of tools, more comprehensive tools like Salesforce come with more comprehensive options for data analytics, automated solutions to everyday sales processes, and customization for integrating with your business.
Sales intelligence tools are primarily designed to optimize market research for sales professionals to maximize conversion and outreach for their company. While market research and studying customer and user habits is nothing new, sales intelligence is largely concerned with gathering information and answering questions that are influenced by the presence of competitive forces. Similarly, the market intelligence specialization works to understand the market, value proposition, opportunity and forces in play against your company and product which are not influenced by the competition. While there are other niche versions of sales intelligence, the general purpose and value to your company are the same - finding ways to optimize your own business practices in comparison to competitors and industry norms.
If the information can be used to help salespeople sell more, it probably falls under the broader umbrella of sales intelligence, but there are a growing number of tools that offer specific uses for companies across a wide range of industries. These apps offer everything from basic to comprehensive suites of tools for companies of all sizes to utilize and incorporate in their business methods.
Sales acceleration refers to strategies and tools that help businesses better optimize their ability to move new prospects through their respective sales pipeline. Effective sales acceleration software offers invaluable analytical data across a wide range of customer interaction data points to help sales and marketing teams optimize their best practices and make the most out of every customer conversion. The sales acceleration family includes a wide variety of applications, including sales leads databases, company research tools, email tracking technology, and predictive analytics.
Traditional sales prospecting has dramatically changed over the past decade, especially for B2B sellers. While closing sales deals was once predominantly about who you know, advances in technology and the proliferation of data and analytics have flipped this long-standing belief on its head. Increasingly, who is being replaced by the what. The sheer quantity of data that can be analyzed and processed in real time and immediately distributed in tools and applications is transforming the way sales and marketing is being managed.
Tracking and analytics tools are often what people think of when they think of the Orwellian elements of the Internet - the ability to monitor and gather data on the behavior of potential customers or visitors to your site. From seeing where customers click and how much time they spend on your page (through tools like Google Analytics or Lucky Orange) to watching real-time videos of customer interactions with your platform, the ability to see how a customer views your pages and what they are motivated by can be invaluable for any business owner.
Aside from compiling data to inform future business decisions, tracking and analytics software also offers the ability to move decisions about design, layout, and customer acquisition processes from the hypothetical to the battle-tested. While every idea sounds good in the planning stages, tracking and analytics software allows business owners and app designers to actually see things from a user’s perspective and watch how a customer interacts with their specific site or tool. Instead of trying to guess at what your users want, these apps give users the chance to see if ideas are proven - or, to learn the true needs and desires of different segments of customers and users, no matter how varied they may be.
More and more sales professionals are relying on video conferencing software tools to visually demo their products to prospective clients. While there are a wide variety of video conferencing tools available, from cheap and streamlined to customizable and sophisticated, the value of these tools for business owners remain the same. From screen-sharing to face-to-face conferencing, video conferencing allows business owners and sales professionals based anywhere in the world to meet with clients as if they were in the same physical location. Aside from the obvious ability to build relationships and provide more personal sales experiences for customers who may be based on an entirely different continent, some of the best video conferencing tools also offer integration with existing CRM or sales acceleration tools to also gather data about customer experiences and better optimize future sales meetings down the line.
Calendar scheduling tools like Timetrade and the many other solutions on the web are all about efficiency and optimization - where once, business relied on individuals to schedule sales meetings or customer relations appointments, solutions like this can provide a central tool that ensures that all sales meetings are scheduled and tracked in the same fashion. While tools like Outlook or Google Calendar have provided free and easy solutions for businesses and individuals to keep track of meetings, dedicated business calendar scheduling platforms add a suite of features that are unavailable through freemium options. These include adding appointments to multiple calendars at the same time (especially important if multiple individuals will be expected at a specific meeting), smart notifications for staying organized, and integration with other tools on this list like video conferencing software. The value of keeping appointments has long been known to any business owner, but in the digital age (and especially for rapidly growing businesses), being able to keep your entire team on the same page can be invaluable for improving customer experience and increasing conversions down the road.
Quite simply, e-signature platforms allow businesses the ability to share and receive signatures on important documents (like sales contracts, NDAs, and others) with full legal authority digitally, removing the need for paper documents or meeting in person to finalize these deals. From common ones like Adobe to more innovative solutions like DocuSign, there has been a rapid rise in solutions for businesses across all market segments with the need for gathering signatures for legal, business, and personal purposes.
Much like the other tools on the list, the beauty of e-document and signing apps is in convenience and efficiency - where once a document signature required an in-person meeting or a back and forth through traditional “snail mail”, the ability to collect legally valid signatures entirely digitally can save your business time, money, and stress and allow you to streamline processes for customer acquisition and contract negotiations that let you compete in the digital world of the 21st century.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) technology gives marketers the ability to build scalable, personalized marketing campaigns, measure their results against a set of key performance indicators, and prove revenue contribution. Adopting the account-based marketing method means concentrating on specific high-value customers with highly targeted, personalized campaigns, basing the targeting and marketing message on particular attributes of an account.
The account-based marketing strategy is all about shifting your focus from high volumes of prospects to highly targeted accounts that are a perfect fit for your product or service.
Account-based marketing software realigns the marketing and sales departments differently from general branding, for example, through allowing users to craft personalized buying journeys. Users can offer tailored paths for visitors to take when they come to their homepage, making them more likely to navigate through them.
Marketing automation software allows companies to streamline marketing workflows and optimize their marketing strategy by automating marketing tasks such as email marketing, social media posts, and lead generation. 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 they work for in exchange for the valuable content from your company.
Once a new contact reaches the marketing automation platform, the tool should help marketers qualify and prioritize these leads and nurture them to a sales-ready stage. Marketing departments are usually the most frequent users of marketing automation. However, it’s essential for sales teams to understand the functions of this automation too, as solutions like these are also applicable in sales.
A vital component of this software is the provision of analytics features to measure the impact of an entire campaign across segments and channels. These features measure the impact of campaigns on marketing team KPIs, campaign ROI, and the impact of campaigns on company revenue.
Customer service tools help a business manage inbound and outbound communications across multiple channels, efficiently deliver service, and resolve issues. Help desk, live chat, social customer service, and complaint management software, to name some, belong in this category. With this type of technology, users can track all customer requests and better understand their response time thanks to built-in analytics functions.
While there is no all-encompassing definition of customer service software, most vendors include features such as call-routing, analytic dashboards, auto-attendance, and case management. Many tools allow users to get notified when one of their key accounts sends in a request.
Vendors in the live chat segment offering in-app chat features have grown more popular lately, as they allow users to deliver more real-time customer support and turn chat discussions into real sales opportunities. Many tools in this segment are building applications such as chat bots that aim to qualify new leads and booking new meetings for the salespeople’s calendars. Since most of these bots are using machine learning, they are getting better every day, thanks to the new data that they collect.