I can still remember the cutting-edge technologies that changed the game for my dad and other salespeople of his generation—wonders like thermal-paper fax machines and car phones the size of bricks. The impact of technology on our profession has snowballed since then, with digital completely transforming the sales process, sales technology stack and its potential.
Creating that technology ecosystem is integral to the task of increasing your sales velocity and accelerating revenues. But it can be a daunting prospect. There are literally hundreds of sales technologies out there, as this new supergraphic from Sales Hacker illustrates in dizzying detail. Where do you start?
Having led the development of multiple sales ecosystems over the past 10 years, and now heading up sales at Eyewitness Surveillance, I’m no stranger to the challenges. These are the steps I take to break down what’s there and build a sales technology stack that aligns with the organization’s unique growth requirements.
Step 1: Evaluate what’s there
Start by assessing your existing sales tools. What’s working? What’s not? And why not? What department spec’d and configured the tools? Look at the adoption rates: do you have a great tool in place that no one’s using? Look at capabilities: what is your existing ecosystem designed to do, and does that align with your sales objectives? Look at data quality: do you have a good system clogged with bad data? Look at integration: do you have a bunch of potentially great sales tools that can’t talk to each other?
And here’s a really important factor that’s often overlooked: is your sales technology stack capable of scaling to meet your growth targets over the next two or three years? Build something that gives you room to grow and can support your team at every step. This will drive better adoption, without which you can’t achieve the best returns.
Even if you’re a one-person show or operating on a shoestring, there’s something you can do to start strengthening your ecosystem.
Step 2: Choose your hub
The sales technology stack is built on a hub-and-spoke model, and the CRM is your hub. Unless your company is small and plans to stay that way, put Salesforce at the top of your list. While alternatives like Zoho, Pipedrive or Base are more cost effective, if your company is in growth mode, these CRMs will soon start to feel constricting. That leaves you to face the prospect of migrating your data to a more robust hub (painful) and re-aligning or even rebuilding the spokes of your ecosystem from scratch (even more painful).
Equally important, look at the add-ons and integrations available, and remember: the CRM is not just the hub for sales any more—it also drives marketing, accounting, operations and customer service. Will your CRM sustain an ecosystem that’s capable of growing market share, supporting customer acquisition and enhancing customer success?
Step 3: Clean your data
Once your hub is in place, start looking at the data that powers it. This is especially important when you’re migrating data from one CRM to another, but even if you’re staying put, you need to be sure the data is clean before it starts flowing through the spokes of your ecosystem. Once bad data flows outside the hub, the issues start to multiply.
Start by looking at what’s in the system already and making sure it’s fresh, relevant and complete, and that all the duplicates have been resolved. Then use a de-duping product like Cloudingo or Ringlead to scrub the data periodically.
Step 4: Plug in your spokes
With a good CRM and clean data, you’re ready to plug the spokes into the hub and get things rolling. Automation tools, presentation tools, coaching and performance management tools, analytics, lead enrichment, ABM—the options are endless, but resources aren’t, so it’s important to focus on those areas where you’re feeling the biggest pain or could see the biggest gain.
For example, when building the sales technology stack for Eyewitness Surveillance, I had to remember that our goal was to increase sales velocity by sourcing more quality leads and building up the capacity of our existing sales team. With that in mind, our spokes include:
Salesvue: Automates the sales processes and sets the contact cadence based on best practices and best results.
Hubspot: Integrates your marketing messages, measures clickthroughs and increases conversion rates with seamless intel into your calling campaigns.
Docusign: Streamlines the contract process and keeps deals moving forward in the final stages.
Sales Navigator: Automates the prospecting process and unlocks sales-relevant data on LinkedIn.
Step 5: Use your data
One of the key advantages of a functioning sales ecosystem is the ability to collect meaningful, granular data at every point in the sales cycle. But that’s only an advantage when you have the means to analyze that data and use it to create actionable steps.
(Refresh on the core metrics to know from your sales cycle by reading 4 Sales Pipeline Metrics Growth-Oriented CEOs Must Know.)
This is where you need to start developing specialized roles to deal with the data deluge. Within a year of launching our ecosystem, we hadn’t added any sales reps, but we had added to our headcount at the director level, enabling us have one person focused exclusively on analyzing the data.
We now know how many touches it takes for a lead to book an appointment with inside sales. (It’s six and a half.) We can see whether a lead that downloads a white paper converts more frequently than someone who reads the blog. We can see which reps close more sales and which regions perform better than others.
With a specialist focused on turning the data into actionable insights, I can now spend more time looking at our opportunity funnel and creating pricing, programs and promotions that broaden our market, increase conversions and accelerate the sales cycle.
Build something that gives you room to grow and can support your team at every step. This will drive better adoption, without which you can’t achieve the best returns.
Before we put our system in place, our sales people were hunting and pecking through the database for leads. Now they are laser focused. The system serves them the most promising leads, sets the contact cadence and gives them the contextual data they need to make the most of every opportunity. Here are some of the success metrics we achieved by the end of our first year:
Doubled capacity. Our salespeople used to average 15 to 20 activities per day. Now they complete 35 to 40 because everything is served up to them. And the data is good. They know they can act on it—that it will yield results.
Quadrupled engagement. Before putting our system in place, we booked about 10 appointments per month. Now we book that many on a weekly basis.
42 percent higher RMR. Pre-ecosystem, we projected RMR of $175,000. We ended the year at $249,000.
And all we’ve done so far is pull one lever on the sales velocity equation. We simply increased the number of appointments that sales can book by cleaning up the data, automating key activities and tightening up the cadence. We haven’t change our average sales size, the number of salespeople, the close rate or the sales cycle, but it still made a massive difference to our revenue.
Here’s the bottom line.
Start big or small. But start.
I was fortunate to have the human and financial resources—and the organizational buy-in—to tackle the sales technology stack head-on and build it out in several directions at once. But even if you’re a one-person show or operating on a shoestring, there’s something you can do to start strengthening your ecosystem.
Start where you’re going to see the quickest wins. Once you have your hub in place, take a look at your pipeline and focus on the areas that are blocked, sluggish or opaque. Maybe it’s at the prospecting stage. Maybe it’s at the contract stage. Wherever it is, start there. But get started. The stakes are too high and the payoff is too great to ignore.
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