Most of the B2B companies struggle to make sense of all the sales technology tools available at their fingertips. We strongly believe that sales companies should approach technology as an integrated stack with a strategic adoption plan. And every tool added to your sales stack should improve the quality as well as the volume of customer data at your team’s disposal. Adoption of new technology and new processes will not yield fruit without quality prospect and customer data.
The SalesTech landscape of 2019 includes many changes from my last SalesTech landscape, reflecting a vibrant industry.
Markets across all industries are becoming more crowded as the influx of new entrants is not stopping. And it is becoming harder for sellers even if the economy is doing well.
This hardship, combined with the CRM transition to the rise of digital selling and cloud, has created a mini gold rush for sales solutions fueled by abundant VC money.
Now the SalesTech landscape includes more than 950 participants.
Funding in the last year still remains at a high $1.8 billion, roughly the same level as the previous period. While the early stage investments have declined 45%, offset by growth rounds.
Meanwhile, the acquisitions grew 250% to $9.5B, driven by Private Equity funds.
So, if you are a sales leader, we’re helping you look ahead to better understand which B2B sales technologies will affect your company the most in next year.
And if you’re just starting your career in sales, this article will help you better understand why specific sales tools exist, and how they affect certain trends.
Irrespective of the fact that customers can be easily reached through a multitude of channels, email still stays the most preferred method of communication for B2B sales. Due to its ease of use and its incredibly low cost, almost every high-growth sales team has made email the go-to first touch activity in a sales cycle.
The email tools enable SDRs and sales representatives to play an active role in segmentation. Once under the sole ownership of marketing, email now has evolved into a highly personal and dynamic sales channel. Sales representatives can customize and send entire sequences directly to highly-targeted audience segments. And every click, open, and reply is automatically logged into your CRM.
Personalization at scale
Based on Forrester research, the most anticipated email marketing innovations include real-time personalization, micro-segment targeting, email-enabled video and in-email transactions. While the majority of new inbox innovations are created and designed to fill technical gaps, but data quality is taking email a step further.
Customized data and timeliness will keep email as the most powerful selling tool available in the market. To stay relevant, email technology must not only analyze and track data but also helps sales representatives use data to make better decisions.
Lead activity is more important than ever
The prospects, on the other hand, indicate that they want to hear from the sales representative over email, yet they want more personalized emails and fewer unsolicited emails.
The sales teams are now challenged by sending tens of thousands of emails while maintaining a high standard of customization in each email. The more accurate, specific merge fields are available, the greater the capacity for personalization. The more personalized an email, the higher are the chances of a positive response.
The buyers demand a personal touch. The sales teams want to automate. Automation is easy, but maintaining the human touch at scale is hard.
The SDRs and the sales representative need more firmographic data for initial qualification at the top of the funnel, while more demographic data enables sales representatives to establish rapport and address the specific pain points of a potential customer. Company data helps sales representatives close deals at the bottom of a funnel. Sales intelligence emerged in response to the need for a higher volume of highly accurate data.
And now with sales intelligence, sales representatives have easy access to an abundance of new data sources like digital behavior analysis and social media activity that helps to predict the purchase intent, even before the first touch.
In the same way, as lead generation is embracing dynamic insights, sales intelligence is incorporating elements of programmatic algorithms and predictive marketing to deliver insights to sales representatives throughout the complete buying cycle.
While the sales intelligence tools make teams more effective, but they don’t necessarily make for less work. So the sales teams must be skilled at knowing when and how to use a specific sales intelligence solution.
The process comes first
More data is not always a good thing. The key is having the right data about the right buyers. And sales intelligence makes it much easier to access when it comes to increasing sales velocity- in simple words, how efficiently qualified buyers are moving through your pipeline and converting into revenue.
The sales teams need to ask themselves what data can be used. Several sales intelligence are only useful in specific conditions. And these tools won’t work without a process in position that enables for actionable evaluation.
Having clearly defined, data-driven buyer personas is the key ingredient to making sales intelligence solutions work in your interest.
Data Cleansing and Validation
This tactic can help pinpoint the types of data that your sales team should invest in. Almost all organizations have a central repository for storing customer data and keeping track of all the sales interactions- usually a CRM. However, the majority of the organization struggle to keep that database up to date.
The ability to quantify and report the complete customer journey is important, but the huge volume of potential customers and the quantity of interactions in a market segment makes this very hard. Naturally, the bigger is the database, the bigger is the problem. Data cleaning technology emerged as a solution to this problem.
Prospect data is the lifeblood of the sales data, and keeping it clean is a top priority.
Activity, Attribution, and Synchronization
Data quality not just sits at the center of today’s most important B2B sales solution, it flows through it. For each tool in the stack, no matter how expensive, the most important thing to consider here is how the tool affects the overall health of a CRM.
Data quality is particularly relevant as more and more companies move their sales teams towards outbound lead generation. And the rigorous data validation ensures that the right people get the right message at the right time.
From IPs being blacklisted to poor email deliverability rates, bad data can easily create havoc on your entire sales process.
More data, more problems
Just think of data as the mortar that keeps your stack in place. Proper maintenance of the health of your data is not a one-time event and needs to happen at regular periods.
Applying tools to clean your data is just one solution, and your sales team must also take responsibility for data quality as potential customers move through your funnel.
TO begin with, set data entry for everyone having access to the CRM. Setting mandatory validation fields in your CRM ensures that all new data will follow a standard format.
Investing only in trusted vendors with built-in data validation can also mitigate the risk of poor data quality. High-performing sales teams have a dedicated sales operations position in charge of keeping their tools, technology, and fine-tuned data.
Most of the list brokers assemble together customer data from different sources and then sell it like fruits at a grocery store. One pound of banana costs $0.60. There is no price variation for even-hued yellows, bright green bananas, or the spotted browns.
However, the difference between buying and fruit from the grocer and leads from a list broker is that with leads you must reach into the pile blind. You can find out exactly what you bought only after you run the data through your sales funnel.
The next generation of the providers of lead is not brokers but builders. The new lead generation solution providers acquire real-time customer data for a company’s target audiences. These solutions are integrated with a sales team’s existing software, flexible, and continuously improve the quality of data that feed into a sales team’s CRM.
Leads are not a commodity anymore. Instead, they are a constantly shifting reflection of a real buyer, a company’s ideal buyer. And the static data won’t cut it anymore.
Lead Generation gets predictive
Now artificial intelligence (AI) is entering the lead generation space. Self-learning algorithms that automate the process of scoring and sourcing leads will become the norm when AI comes to lead generation. And then the new lead generation tools will accurately predict which prospects make the best opportunities, as well as how and where to find similar leads.
Using advanced machine learning and data analytics, marketing and sales solution will expose entirely new business opportunities and also predict how much revenue those opportunities hold, and also the scope and size of the resources needed to tap into them.
Less prospecting, more selling
Sales technologies are evolving quickly, but lead generation solutions are evolving much faster. And the sales teams must run faster to keep up.
As the time spent checking and entering data goes down, the time spent selling should go up. And this time can be used to get more out of existing leads or working a larger number of leads.
Efficiency is only achieved if your team’s time surplus is redirected to the right activities.
Content and Presentation
The role of presentation and content software is shifting away from basic storage solutions and joining the industry-wide trend of personalization. Now, each piece of content has an intended audience and the desired action. And the goal of every case study, whitepaper, blog, and e-book is to move leads further down the funnel, making them more informed as they approach the sales.
The right content at the right time
In 2019, more and more of unique forms of outbound expression will come to the forefront. Tried and true net designs aren’t catching as many inbound leads as they used to. While the content and it’s delivery methods will go on the offensive in 2019.
Real Sales Cycles and Increased Velocity
The relatability with the pain points of your prospects combined with the timeliness of messaging enables your sales representatives to become what the modern market aspects from a B2B sales representative.
For a lot of organizations, this means encouraging their sales representatives to create datasheets, write blog posts, post on social media, and for others, it means hiring a dedicated content marketer to work alongside your sales team. In either case, your sales team must be fluent in the materials at their disposal.
The right sales management technology is necessary for growing sales companies. Sales management solutions tackle the sales need beyond pipeline management like training, recruiting, contracts, compensation, and gamification.
As the interactions between the sellers and buyers occur through an increasing array of devices and channels, sales management solutions have evolved to keep processes and teams connected.
Now that all activity is centralized, revenue predictability and pipeline management will become the new norm. Each input should equate to realized outputs, allowing VPs to sleep easier at night and making the lives of sales representatives much easier.
The data-fluent sales leader
Now, the sales leaders no longer manage a team of head hunters and closers. High-performance sales leaders must build multi-functional teams capable of not just identifying new prospects abut also qualifying, developing, analyzing, and both new markets as well as strategic initiatives.
The modern sales leaders need to behave like VCs. ROI and pragmatism are their bread and butter.
As the size of marketing and sales databases grow, so does the need for more advanced data analysis. IT teams and external consultancies once analyzed an organization’s customer data.
With the introduction of business intelligence tools, now the sales teams have access to insights that give them a deeper understanding of their activity’s impact.
Predictability is the king
Sales companies are using business intelligence tools to expand into markets and accounts that are highly likely to convert, better understand customer behavior, create more accurate forecasts, and reach customers with relevant messages.
Turning the insights into actions
Each tool in the sales industry offers some type of reporting. The challenge is to collect those insights in the same place and make better sense of them.
This means having a central repository for sales data that not just provides you a snapshot of where you are today, but a panoramic view of your sales efforts over time.
Modern sales professionals need to be more data-fluent. Intelligence and visualization tools help the non-tech savvy make big chunks of data digestible, understandable, and actionable. And every report must be tied to an action.
Steps to Leveraging Tools
STEP 1: Find your leads
STEP 2: Make sure their contact information is correct
STEP 3: Fine-tune your messaging
STEP 4: Reach out to your leads via email
STEP 5: Pitch your value
STEP 6: Manage your processes
STEP 7: Measure your performance
The landscape is overwhelming and it is critical to design your stack more than ever, instead of adding incrementally the latest shiny pieces of software.
Your design should first reflect your sales process and methodology.
Second, and alas usually forgotten, your sales stack needs to be built around your sales representatives workflow, looking at what steps can be automated and what intelligence can be added.
Last but not least, it needs to factor data. Modern sales now have become a number’s game. And your architecture must incorporate the instrumentation required to assemble the data and track consistently all activities to feed the AI that will optimize your overall performance.