This might sound strange but I’m going to start this post off by saying I’m not a big advocate of sales tools. What I mean by that is I firmly believe that less is more when it comes to adopting new tools to help you or your sales teams hit your targets.
Yes, technology has advanced. Yes, we can now automate almost every sales activity we used to spend our entire lives doing. But the real question here is, should we use so many tools? By adopting every new sales acceleration tool that emerges, aren't we just distracting our reps with tool overload? Do we even have a single source of truth when it comes to identifying the current state of the business?
These are some of the questions that used to keep me awake at night, but then I figured out something that has been crucial to my team's success: stick to the essential technology and forget about the rest. Your job as a sales leader is to protect your reps from that noise and enable them to do what they do best; sell.
In this post, I'll explain what the essential technology is and the tools my team and I can't go a day without. I'll cover what I believe should be automated in the sales process and what unconditionally needs a human touch.
Let’s start with the fundamentals.
1) A Healthy, Happy Database
There is no denying that salespeople need a good database of qualified leads to work from. At the same time, spending hours crawling LinkedIn for contacts or importing purchased lists is a terrible use of your rep's time. Not to mention, it can have a negative impact on your company’s brand.
Instead of having reps add cold, uninterested contacts into your database, you should be thinking about how you can work together with Marketing to generate engaged, inbound leads. There’s a bit of a mindset shift required here before you implement any tools but you can and should automate this part of your sales process.
Why? Because inbound leads cost 60% less than outbound leads.
Getting aligned with your marketing team is essential to your success here. Both teams need to understand what the ideal customer profile looks like so marketing can ensure the website is up to date with content that attracts and converts the right people into leads for your sales reps to follow up with.
We’re fortunate at HubSpot that we get to use our own tools. However, even if you don’t have this luxury, there are other options out there for minimal cost. There are even free tools to help you in some aspects of your job or better understand the market dynamics. For example, if you’re curious how your sales emails perform against your peers, you can do that for free using our Email Open Rate Tool.
2) A Customer Relationship Management Tool
That brings me nicely to the topic of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). If you get the first step right and your marketing team is converting lots of high-quality inbound leads on your website, you'll need somewhere for those leads to go; enter CRM. This is one of the tools my team could not live without.
A CRM is going to be that single source of truth that I mentioned earlier and a good system will enable a sales manager to:
- Measure and track rep productivity
- Forecast revenue
- Report on KPIs
It will help a rep:
- Keep a record of all communication and progress with leads
- Automate follow-up tasks
- Track and measure how contacts engage with their emails
- Save time writing emails with pre-built templates
- Save time manually adding contacts with an email integration
Automate the administrative tasks
Depending on the CRM system you adopt, there will be various ways you can automate different parts of your sales process. For the most part, a good CRM will automate the administrative tasks that slow your sales team down or inhibit them from picking up the phone and selling.
Let’s say a rep takes a call with a prospect. What do they have to do after the call takes place?
- Write down all the notes from the call
- Write an email to the prospect to summarize the call and list action items
- Add a reminder in their calendar to follow up in X days
- Write an email to follow up in X days
- Create a deal or an opportunity against that account
- Calculate the close probability for the sales forecast
Now think about how much time all of that takes. With a target of 100 calls per day, no wonder most sales people struggle to meet their targets.
A good CRM will automate those tasks and keep your reps on the phones where they are most valuable.
If you're evaluating CRM systems, make sure the one you choose is easy to use and intuitive. Many of the customers we speak to who use other larger CRMs find that it takes up more time than it saves with ‘bells and whistles' features they don't need.
3) Marketing Automation
Without involving your marketers in the sales process, you’re missing huge opportunities. If you work together in tandem and integrate your sales and marketing automation tools, this is where the magic happens.
Automate time-consuming tasks
The marketing and sales automation tools available today allow us to do a lot:
- We can score leads based on both demographic and behavioral data, ensuring reps spend their time speaking only to the most qualified contacts.
- We can automate email sends and tailor the content based on who is receiving them.
- We can notify a rep when a lead shows high purchase intent like visiting a pricing page.
- We can even fill a rep’s calendar with sales meetings without the rep needing to get out of bed in the morning.
The more data you can collect on your leads, the better. Work with Marketing to figure out how best to score your leads and decide together what qualifies a lead enough to be passed to the sales team. E.g. which website pages show higher purchase intent? Have they requested a demo of our software? Can they afford to buy what we’re selling (think company revenue or employee count)?
“The best thing to do is figure out what actions a lead needs to take to qualify for a sales call and automate everything that happens before the lead gets to this point.”
When someone meets the qualification criteria, you can send an automated email that comes from a sales rep and includes a link to the rep's calendar allowing the prospect to book time to talk with the rep themselves. This is empowering for the modern buyer and makes them feel like they are in control of the sales process. It also saves your reps a ton of time prospecting through lists of cold leads. Like I said, magic!
You’ll need a good marketing automation tool that integrates a contact database, hosts or tracks all interactions on your website, and has lead scoring and email marketing functionality. Combine it with a sales acceleration tool for booking meetings on a rep’s calendar’s and you’re onto a winner!
4) Sales Enablement
Traditionally, in sales we’ve always said that a rep needs to know two things to be successful in their outreach:
1. Who am I talking to?
2. Why am I talking to them?
Knowing these two things about your prospects means you can map their goals and challenges to the value of your product or service. This part of the sales process cannot and should not be automated.
However, when I think of sales outreach today, there’s a third element a rep should know to be successful –and this one can be automated.
3. When should I reach out
Automate the process
Sales enablement tools now give us the visibility to know when to reach out and with what content. We can see when a lead opens our email and even if they clicked on the proposal within that email.
We can track the performance of every sales asset we send whether it’s an email, a proposal, a case study, or a customer testimonial. This information is invaluable to a rep. They now know the exact moment in which their leads are thinking about them and reading their proposal—what better time to give them a quick call?
My team likes to keep a close eye on which assets are getting the highest engagement (opens and clicks) and then they share them with our entire team. That means everyone is benefiting from the highest performing content and, as a result, a higher response rate.
There are lots of great email and document tracking tools out there to choose from. My team uses our own, which does everything I’ve mentioned above. The best sales tools will integrate with your CRM and marketing tools so you have an all-in-one platform to make all of this magic happen. This means you don’t have to log in to 10 different apps to try and extract some value for your sales team.
Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll need a good reporting system to ensure marketing is sending enough qualified leads, sales is hitting their targets, and your business is growing.
However, one of my pet peeves is when people spend a ton of time crunching numbers and analyzing data for days and weeks and months on end, simply because they think they should.
The best thing you can do as a sales manager is figuring out the KPIs you need to know, use a reporting tool to build out a dashboard that shows progress for those KPIs, and automate it so the dashboard is emailed to you daily. Simple as that.
Again, we eat our own dog food here and use our “reporting” add-on, but depending on which other tools you’re using for the rest of your sales process, there may be other solutions that match your needs better.
The important thing is getting the process in place for all of this before you choose which tools to adopt. You can implement as many tools as you like but if there isn’t buy-in across your team as to why you’re doing it the way you are, the tools won’t work for you.