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 at every touchpoint.
Sales professionals who leverage sales technology outperform their peers. In this article, we'll introduce you to the eleven sales software categories that we think are the most important for you to be acquainted with.
What are sales tools?
Sales tools refer to digital tools used by sales professionals to make their work easier. Sales tool is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of different technologies, including customer relationship management (CRM), sales intelligence and prospecting, sales acceleration, and data connectors and integrations, to name but a few.
The X factor for closing (the right) deals
Sales tools help salespeople understand which prospects are most likely to be successful with their product or service, when to reach out to those prospects, and what they should be talking about with them. They save time on tedious and time-consuming administrative tasks, and can focus on what matters the most: providing value for people and businesses.
Another reason for investing in sales technology is that employees have started to demand access to a greater variety of modern tools. This means that companies using conservative or old-fashioned sales methods not only risk losing sales, but even seeing their best sales talent leave them. According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2021, 94 percent of sales professionals say sales tools help them close more deals, highlighting the importance of sales tools.
11 need-to-know sales tools categories
- CRM software
- Sales intelligence
- Sales acceleration
- Data connectors and integrations tools
- Sales analytics
- Sales productivity
- e-signature and document tracking
- Marketing automation and ABM
- Sales enablement and digital sales rooms
- Customer success
As the name suggests, customer relationship management (CRM) software assists in the management of your businesses’ relationships with its customers. It helps you keep track of existing customers, enhance customer relationships, improve customer retention, stay on top of sales and marketing efforts, and automate communication.
For most companies, a CRM is the first investment that they make in terms of sales technology, and it’s understandable why it's prioritized to that degree: According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2021, 68% of respondents stated that their CRM system was “very important” to closing deals.
Due to the advancements in technology and ultra-competitive markets, CRMs have matured into complex, multi-tiered support systems. From providing real-time updates to executing advanced lead scoring and automating repetitive tasks, CRM software now offers countless features that help salespeople optimize their sales processes.
Today most CRM solutions are SaaS platforms where you pay on a per-user, per-month basis. On-premise installations are seldom needed, as users can access most CRMs online in their internet browser. Some vendors charge a flat monthly fee for a set number of users, but require larger packages or extra fees for additional users.
In a nutshell
A CRM is often the first investment into sales technology that a company makes. The CRM space is a crowded one, yet there are clear leaders in different segments: Salesforce for enterprise, Pipedrive for small and medium-sized companies.
Picking the right platform is an important decision, since you will probably want to integrate it with other apps and platforms as you grow—make sure you pick one that won’t limit you down the road. Luckily most vendors have seen UI facelifts in recent years, improving the user experience drastically to before.
To make the choice a little easier, we've listed fourteen vendors we've identified as strong options.
Sales intelligence and sales prospecting
Sales intelligence refers to a wide range of technologies that help salespeople find, monitor, and understand information on prospects’ and existing clients’ daily business.
Sales intelligence helps salespeople know precisely who they should be talking with, what they should be talking about, and when they should reach out to them, and put all the relevant information in front of them when they’re having that conversation. Sales intelligence tools provide the contextual information surrounding these contacts, such as purchase history, current contracts, business objectives, and digital footprints.
The technology is increasingly becoming essential to most salespeople, with 62% of sales professionals believing that their sales intelligence software was “very important” in helping them close deals, and 74% stating that their organizations plan to invest more in sales intelligence tools going forward, according to LinkedIn’s survey.
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In a nutshell
In sales intelligence, local data plays a critical role, which makes the category more fragmented geographically than others. Legislation such as GDPR makes Europe, for example, a more challenging market to have contact information on.
New datasets will constantly emerge, which will make prospecting more effective and specialized. Intent data is one new example, as well as industry-specific data sources such as real estate data, credit ratings, or vehicle information.
Its fragmented nature makes it far from easy for first-time buyers to compare sales intelligence solutions and decide which one is right for their business. To help you narrow down the search, we’ve listed ten powerful sales intelligence tools.
Sales acceleration is a strategic initiative to have more sales conversations, shorten the sales cycle, and/or close more deals. Sales acceleration software aims to speed up sales by automating administrative tasks and streamlining sales processes.
Speed without control is doomed to fail. Hence, sales acceleration technology helps salespeople improve both efficiency and effectiveness with better engagement and organization throughout the entirety of the sales process. This is similar to the goal of sales enablement software. However, the latter focuses more on sales behavior and equipping salespeople with quality materials, quality opportunities, and best practices. Nonetheless, some vendors do use these terms interchangeably.
Some people even argue that sales acceleration is more of an umbrella term for all tools that help B2B sales reps find the right companies to approach and/or enable sales outreach. Coaching tools, email tracking software, tools for predictive analytics, sales engagement software, and outbound sales dialers, to name some, then all belong to this category of technology.
While vendors in most of these categories use the term “sales acceleration” somewhere in their value proposition, vendors that use this label as their primary categorization have instead bundled multiple feature sets together from across these categories.
In a nutshell
Sales acceleration is another category where global leaders, such as SalesLoft and Outreach, are starting to emerge. We expect to see continuous innovation in this area, since engaging with prospects through traditional methods is getting harder each year.
Vendors seem to believe in a systematic, multi-channel approach, where you cover all bases to get attention from the right buyers. Minimizing human effort through automation is a key part of keeping outreach efforts manageable.
As the sales acceleration market consists of a wide range of tools with a broad variety of features, finding the right one for your organization is like looking for a needle in a haystack. To make the search easier for you, we’ve created a list of ten comprehensive sales acceleration tools.
Data connector and integration tools
The increasingly digitalized world that we’re living in has a multitude of fantastic tools that can help make our lives easier. A downside of this wide range of different tools is that they are often independent and not easily accessible from a single system. It’s here that data connectors and integrations come in handy.
A data connector is a tool that connects different systems so that data can be moved between them. This means that the data is accessible through a single system, which is a significant quality-of-life improvement.
Data integration tools are slightly different in that they work to combine data from different sources into a single system instead of simply allowing the movement of data between systems.
In a nutshell
Even when businesses have access to all of the data and tools that they could possibly require, they run headfirst into another challenge—that data is scattered across numerous platforms and solutions. This decreases usability and makes it more difficult to access in real time.
If that’s a problem that your organization has encountered, data connectors and integrations, like the ones listed, could be worth looking into, as they make it easy for businesses of all sizes to centralize the wide range of tools and data that they have access to and avoid drawn-out and expensive data projects.
We’ve scoured the market, searched high and low, and found the six best data connector and integration tools so that you don't have to.
Sales analytics software is a term used to describe tools and systems that enable sales professionals and managers to effectively track, evaluate, and enhance the performance of their sales activities, while predicting trends and results, and finding relevant insights. They provide sales managers with a granular view, breaking sales down into understandable pieces when reviewing where salespeople, products, and campaigns are performing the best, and where they should improve.
In the age of big data, sales analytics has become an important part of every sales report. Instead of manually gathering analytics through a tangle of spreadsheets, sales analytics software allows sales managers to access it systematically in one place.
Sales analytics systems are usually implemented on top of CRMs, and use algorithms based on existing data to reveal insights, though some serve as both the CRM system of record as well as the analytics tool itself.
The adoption of sales analytics software is growing rapidly throughout the business world. In the past, mainly larger enterprises took advantage of this type of technology. Thanks to the rise of SalesOps roles in small and medium-sized businesses, the adoption of sales analytic tools has grown in this segment lately.
In a nutshell
In addition to analyzing sales performance, the tools in this category are building predictive systems based on artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict sales. These models can estimate, for example, customer lifetime value from a very small amount of usage data.
With several major vendors in this space, choosing the right sales analytics software can be overwhelming. To narrow the options down, we've listed fourteen of the most renowned sales analytics software tools on the market today.
Productive means being able to produce a substantial amount of tangible end results. That's likely something that we all strive for. However, there are often hurdles and obstacles in our way, which make it difficult for us to cross the finish line. Fortunately for salespeople, sales productivity tools are there to help.
As the name suggests, this category of tools helps to improve the productivity of salespeople, offering a range of automation and time-saving tools that allow sales professionals to focus on the more critical aspects of the sales process.
Sales productivity is an umbrella term for any tool that can help salespeople in their daily professional activities and enable them to produce more sales. Obviously, this broad definition means that a wide array of different tools fall into this category and as such sales productivity tools come in all shapes and sizes.
Sales productivity tools can, for example, help salespeople generate leads, make calls, schedule meetings, write proposals, create pipeline reports, and automate other repetitive tasks.
In a nutshell
Sales is a productivity game where two factors—quantity and quality—play pivotal roles. However, salespeople will often end up spending a significant amount of their time on time-consuming, manual, and repetitive tasks that aren’t especially value adding and could easily be avoided. By allowing their salespeople to sit with these tasks, businesses are leaving money on the table.
As such, it’s often in a business’ best interest to invest in automation and time-saving, quality-of-life tools that free up their workers’ time, equip them to perform better, and enable them to devote their energy to the most important aspects of their work processes.
For your convenience, we've compiled a list of fourteen sales productivity tools. Hopefully, this should make finding the right sales productivity tools a whole lot easier.
E-signature and document tracking
An e-signature is a digital way of putting pen to paper. E-signature and document tracking software provide users with the ability to securely collect signatures on electronic records, such as sales contracts and proposals.
This type of software helps streamline administrative tasks and reduce overhead by providing a single, unified view of each contract’s processes. An additional benefit of e-signature technology is that it allows for a paperless office. The sheer amount of space that paper documents and files take up is problematic on several levels.
Many solutions focusing in this area offer the possibility to track in real-time when and how a prospect interacts with a specific document. Some salespeople call up the decision-maker when they receive a notification about a prospect opening up a proposal. While this is still perfectly fine outside of the EU, salespeople selling to prospects based in any of the union’s member states have to take the new GDPR restrictions into account before they turn on any tracking feature. GDPR requires you to have previous consent to track a person’s email activity before you do so.
The majority of e-signature and document tracking platforms provide 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 offer templates that allow users to create and store their contracts. Other more advanced software provide tools for creating and managing contracts electronically and automating the digital management of a contract throughout its lifecycle. Many vendors integrate with third-party applications such as CRMs.
In a nutshell
Early movers in the space focused mainly on offering a digital signature alternative to the traditional hand-written process, but lately vendors focus a lot more on collaboration throughout: chat capabilities, document tracking, predictive analytics, and so on. Expect all document-related collaboration to soon happen within the proposal software itself, to ensure a speedier process.
In addition, as larger players switch to e-signatures, expect stronger security protocols for enterprise tools—emerging technologies such as blockchain are the facilitators here.
Lately, the market has started to see more e-signature and document tracking solutions pointed for sales teams. These tools can be useful also for sending out any sales and marketing collateral. To help you find the right vendor for your needs, we have collected ten top tools in this category.
Marketing automation and ABM
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 tools aim to encourage the latter.
This type of 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.
Building on that, 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.
In a nutshell
While a CRM is often the first sales technology investment, marketing automation is a close second, and a staple for most modern sales teams. The largest providers nowadays are extensions of a core CRM, or also provide CRM functionality themselves.
Account-based marketing is one of the harder categories to define: some vendors focus on account data to help focus your campaigns, others on engaging with companies once you have a list ready. At the end of the day, all of these software providers are potential vendors for account based marketers, according to their needs and business situation.
To help you get a better understanding of the market, we’ve compiled a list of fourteen vendors that can help your business get started.
Sales enablement and digital sales rooms
As transactional B2B sales becomes increasingly automated, salespeople will begin to allocate more of their time into larger opportunities where consultative approach, discovery meetings, and tailored proposals play a more significant role. More people will get involved, both from the buyers and sellers’ side.
With these larger sales processes, customer-facing digital portals and microsites will gain more traction. Via these sites, parties can share relevant materials, chat with each other, and craft custom proposals with prospective buyers. The goal is to strengthen the relationship already before the contract is signed by removing any buyer friction. These portals also allow sellers to track content that clients view and interact with, which can be highly useful when analysing which content creates the highest impact.
The software vendors that enable these portals and microsites come with different backgrounds. After G2 released digital sales room as a newly formed category, we have seen many sales enablement platforms and some e-Signature and document management providers rebranding themselves as DSR vendors. Nevertheless, salespeople will most likely find it useful when creating unique buying experiences for customers gets easier.
In an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace, where buyers expect a greater amount of involvement and personalization, salespeople could sometimes use a helping hand, or tool, to ease the sales process and remove any potential points of friction.
Considering the amount of deals that don’t materialize due to buyer friction, it’s in a business’ interest to do what it can to counteract that. The ten sales enablement and digital sales rooms softwares that we’ve listed should do just that—remove friction and enable your sales team to make more sales.
Customer success software is used by businesses to ensure customers achieve the outcome that they expect to achieve as they use the business’ product or service. In other words, optimizing customer relationships and ensuring that the customer achieves success. Customer success initiatives are vital for the preservation and expansion of revenue, as well as boosting customer advocacy and helping sustaining profitability and growth.
The software provides businesses with a detailed analysis of customers’ past behavior and a “health score” that estimates their level of satisfaction. Moreover, customer success solutions will help businesses build or identify customer profiles, capture customer data, history, and feedback, engage customers throughout the lifecycle, provide feedback and customer success scores, and predict future customer growth or red flags.
This helps businesses in identifying any dissatisfied customers, setting appropriate tasks into motion, and increasing customer retention rates. Additionally, more often than not, customer success software will integrate with CRM software, help desk software, and social media management software tools, making it easier for businesses to gather their data in the place where they need it most.
In a nutshell
With their wide range of features, customer success software makes it easy for businesses to centralize all of their customer data and develop a 360-degree view of them, helping to decrease customer churn, increase customer satisfaction, and increase upsell opportunities.
Through customer success softwares, businesses are able to accurately assess the satisfaction of their customers and take action if necessary. This helps to ensure that the business is able to do the thing that matters just as much, if not more than, capturing new customers—retaining those customers.
Whether you’re choosing your customer success solution based on your existing techstack or as a standalone solution, we’ve compiled a list of ten softwares for you to look into.
Configure, price, quote (CPQ) software helps companies automate the lifecycle of the quoting and proposal process, starting with the moment a customer supplies their needs in a company’s offering and ending with sending a detailed quote to the customer or prospect. CPQ software is used in sales departments to accelerate the sales process while improving quote accuracy and customer relations. These software products allow companies to determine a customer’s needs and provide them with custom quotes that best fit those specific needs. Products are typically built on an existing CRM software product or designed to integrate with one (or more) CRM tools.
As companies and their product/service lists grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage product pricing, identify great upsell opportunities, and keep track of deals being offered by your competition. On top of this, sales reps aren’t given up-to-date pricing information on their products, leading to lost opportunities and slower quote times. Configuring a quote can be a time consuming task, especially when critical data is not easily accessible in real time.
CPQ software eliminates these problems. Sales cycles are faster, pricing data is far more accurate, and opportunities to upsell and bundle are captured more frequently. At the same time, a company can prepare orders faster without increasing the potential for error. And lastly, because pricing data is more streamlined, workflows are streamlined, time is saved, and more sales can be made.
In a nutshell
With businesses generally having an increasing amount of personalization available in their product catalog, buyers increasingly having particular specifications for their purchases, and sales representatives not necessarily having the required access, or knowledge, to effectively create quotes, CPQ software is a boon.
Through automation, businesses can make the quotation process faster and more accurate, as well as making it easier for their sales teams, simplifying their sales process and freeing up time for them to focus on a more important aspect of sales—customer interaction.
Whether you’re choosing a CPQ solution built on your existing CRM software or a standalone solution, we’ve gathered a list of ten great options for you.