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The New Sales Tool Stack

Posted by Paul Ironside on 7/28/15 4:20 PM

Think back to 15 years ago: sales tech was finally coming online, in-person meetings still ruled, and Salesforce was entering the market as a young challenger to the status quo. CRM soon became the foundation of the new sales team, driving easy alignment with the sales cycle and a stream of data that anyone could use to improve the team.


15 years later, the world of sales technology has blossomed. Along with improvements to Salesforce came a broad variety of new tools – CMS, data/analytics, lead generation, company databases, email tracking, and more. For a growing or existing sales team, the options have become incredibly complex, often with no clear path to growth or ROI. Each team carries its own toolkit, often with only a CRM at the core and a mix of other solutions supporting the organization.

Think of your toolset – if you had to remove every tool except the ones that directly lifted rep ability, what would remain?


What Changed?

The current sales stack, the set of tools that teams most often adopt, has a strong foundation: the Customer Relationship Management tool. 

There is a fundamental difference between the impact of a CRM versus other tools on a team. A CRM, due to its organization and data-centric nature, sheds light on team performance as it relates to real data. Because it links actual sales results – new Leads and Opportunities or deals – to individual timelines, reps, or any other tracked metric, a CRM allows a team to get insight into their sales results and performance. 

Other tools in the current sales stack are also crucial, but serve a different need: they are engineered to either scale or increase the productivity of these metrics, working on top of the CRM to improve the team’s existing efforts. The contrast comes in how these tools move the needle versus a CRM. While a CRM improves productivity by providing the team with data, other tools serve to increase operating efficiency. For most every tool, the team can expect an X% increase in efficiency and that their reps will able to do more with the same inputs. 


But while these existing tools can squeeze more out of your team, they won't improve the quality of the rep.


Lifting productivity alone is a fantastic goal, yet over time, it delivers diminishing returns. Tools that help reps send more emails, make more calls, and deliver more targeted content will improve productivity, but they will not improve the quality of the messaging or the ability for reps to articulate value and close more business. With poor quality messaging, feature listing, or even a limited understanding of the product, reps can be calling on accurate contacts and tracking sales cycle data without improving anything in their actual ability to convert. Productivity can only improve so much before lifts become smaller and less frequent.


What’s Missing?

While the CRM addresses how the team performs, and thus how productive they are, it does not necessarily aid a rep’s ability to interact with a prospect or win more deals. Likewise, existing toolsets can boost rep efficiency and productivity, but not what they actually say and do. This includes how well they understand and adopt core skills, messages, and behaviors, how they articulate these in the marketplace, and how often they can actually break the status quo to convert a sale. 

The problem comes from any number of sources – high expense to lift rep ability, little time or support, lack of easy scalability, but addressing them promises higher returns and a more effective team. 


The New Sales Stack 

To make change to rep ability, the new sales team toolset needs to include the opportunity for practice and alignment behind the skills and behaviors that will make for a better rep, one with the ability to articulate value at the moment of truth. 

The new sales stack starts with investments in two core platforms: the CRM and practice-based sales training. Investments in a CRM address how you go to market, while dedicated adoption of a practice solution ensures you're team is prepared to deliver when they get there. 

When considering sales goals a quarter or year out, if reps are performing more efficiently in how they go to market, due to operational investments, but are at the same level of competence in the market due to lack of scalable training investments, then you've only nailed half of the productivity equation. 

As more teams embrace a practice-based solution in parallel to core investments in CRM, they are beginning to see how practice ties to performance. When reps are challenged to adopt and apply new skills and behaviors, aligned with existing investments in tools that expand capacity, the modern sales enablement strategy has taken shape. No question the modern rep is more efficient than ever before, but they are also more effective in their ability to consult, influence and move prospects off the status quo. 

About the Author

Paul Ironside

Paul Ironside is the Chief Executive Officer and a board member of CommercialTribe. Paul has more than 20 years of experience in sales, sales management, marketing, operations, and executive management at leading companies such as Gartner, Parature, and Corporate Executive Board (CEB). Most notably, Paul served as EVP Sales and Service and as a member of CEB's Executive Committee during the firm's $100M to $500M growth trajectory.

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Topics: Sales Enablement, Sales Leadership, Upskilling

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