Ty Collins, November 22, 2020
The many moving parts that work together behind the scenes at thriving sales organizations are key to keeping results-driven progress on track. At a high level, it can be challenging to achieve the right mix of sales tools to match organizational goals.
The sales tools market is vast. Hundreds of unique vendors currently offer some version of a sales tool, from fully integrated customer relationship management (CRM) platforms to powerful analytics tools.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when imagining all the possibilities. If you’re in this camp, don’t worry. We’ll help you develop a solid foundation that will allow you to try out new tools. We’ll also introduce you to 15 of the most popular and powerful sales tools across several categories.
Let’s dive into the basics.
Typically, the term “sales tools” refers to software and applications that sales professionals use to streamline processes. Organizations use sales tools to:
Handle and process leads
Provide sales training
Automate and integrate sales processes
Manage customer accounts and relationships
Analyze and report on sales and marketing efforts
Sales teams across many industries share common pain points.
Sales tools can help you address your administrative hurdles. This is especially relevant for departments where there is a good deal of redundancy in processes. Sales tools can help you identify commonalities across an organization and eliminate the overlap, reducing unnecessary and extra work.
Redundancy is also an issue when it comes to the day-to-day work involved with sales processes. If you’re finding that your team is spending a great deal of time on data entry, for example, you may use a sales tool offering smart automation. Investing in a sales tool like this will allow your sales agents to concentrate on bringing in more leads.
Sales teams often include a roster of sales professionals who bring different levels of experience to the table. Sales tools can pinpoint sales agents who could use more training and agents who are over-performing their quotas. You can use this information when you’re assigning roles and setting goals.
Some sales tools include self-directed training features, which allow teams to onboard new sales professionals quickly.
A robust stream of incoming sales starts with qualified leads. Sales tools can enhance lead generation through automations that source more information about contacts. They can also run processes like email campaigns with little to no input from sales teams and then identify likely buyers based on customer behavior.
Every sales tool provides a unique benefit. It would be impossible to evaluate every offering available in the market, but you’ll want to spend some time becoming familiar with various options. Try out different tools in real-world situations before fully committing.
Before you begin, take stock of your organization’s primary sales goals. An organization with a high-volume strategy will have distinct goals versus an organization that offers a product or service with a higher entry point.
For example, suppose your product is a subscription-based health and beauty box. Your sales tools will need to support a complex CRM platform capable of subscription management, automation that takes care of collecting monthly fees, and integration with a robust ecommerce platform.
On the other hand, an organization focused on lower-volume and high-price-point products will nurture leads in a completely different way. Each of these organizations can benefit from the right sales tools but will wind up with a unique approach.
As you get started, make a list of your primary business needs to compare against potential sales tools. This will help you to stay on track as you evaluate the different options available for sales professionals. You’ll find that many vendors offer a long list of possible solutions, but they may not offer what you specifically need.
Bringing on too many new sales tools at once may not be a good strategy. Adding tools alone will not produce results and may even negatively impact sales outcomes. Sales tools enhance sales team efforts—they don’t replace them.
Start from a solid foundation of reliable and results-oriented sales agents with shared goals and a full understanding of the product or service lineup. Take a systematic and thoughtful approach when bringing on sales tools. Process and change management must go hand in hand with sales tool implementation.
Another sales tool overload risk factor is having many tools that offer overlapping functions. Redundant tools can introduce confusion, frustration and redundancy to your sales efforts. A more streamlined, focused approach will likely deliver more efficiency than a larger bag of tools that sales agents don’t fully understand.
Before you start downloading demos, take a step back and develop a strong framework for evaluating sales tools based on your primary goals. Each tool should address a specific need without creating more work.
Organize your main sales processes into several categories:
Repetitive, high-touch tasks that would benefit from automation
Tasks that are bogging down processes and would benefit from tools designed to accelerate these efforts
Functions that you’d love to eliminate or replace altogether—low-value work that requires less touch but is still integral
You’ll find many options for tools that can help you improve how you handle these tasks, among others.
As you narrow your choices, ask yourself if the sales tools you’re considering improve workflow in some way without creating additional tasks elsewhere. You don’t want to wind up playing whack-a-mole with sales tools, where you solve one problem and create a new one at the same time.
The ideal mix of sales tools will increase the value of your processes and decrease how much time you spend on tasks.
The majority of sales tools are CRM platforms or designed to enhance CRMs. You’ll find many specialized tools that enhance certain CRM functions or feed data into it.
Most sales tools fall into one of six categories:
Sales and marketing intelligence—for example, AI enhancements
Analytics and reporting tools
Training and processing
Integration and automation
There are hundreds of potential tools out there. When you begin your search, this list can serve as a jumping-off point. Evaluate the function of each tool against your list of sales process priorities before diving in.
Your CRM serves as the hub of your sales process. If you haven’t used a CRM before, this is an area you will want to spend some time exploring.
CRMs vary widely in the way they function and in complexity. You’ll want to check for compatibility. If you’re using a CRM alongside other tools, everything needs to work together seamlessly—including integrations that need to be compatible with the CRM itself.
Here are a few factors to consider while shopping for a CRM tool:
Scalability. Will the CRM grow with your organization?
Complexity. Will you need to invest in extensive training?
Reliability. Don’t rely on the vendor’s word. Read online reviews extensively.
When someone mentions the term “CRM,” there’s a good chance that most people will think of Salesforce. The company bills itself as the world’s #1 CRM. With more than 150,000 companies using the tool to run the backbone of their sales programs, this isn’t a far-fetched claim. So, what’s all the fuss about?
First, it’s important to note how long Salesforce has been in the game. Many tools available in the marketplace are brand new or a few months old, but Salesforce has been around since 1999. The company has evolved alongside the ever-evolving internet itself.
According to the company, Salesforce “enables companies of every size and industry to take advantage of powerful technologies—cloud, mobile, social, blockchain, voice, and artificial intelligence—to connect to their customers in a whole new way.” If this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. You’d be hard-pressed to find another CRM that can touch Salesforce in terms of the breadth of its offerings.
In addition to its impressive service offerings and long-term presence, Salesforce offers several attractive benefits:
Flexibility to use customized page layouts as well as personalized workflows and processes
Robust integration that allows users to link up to a long list of sales tools like Mailchimp and DocuSign
An extensive user base that powers continuous upgrades to the platform like more integrations and up-to-the-minute tool enhancements
Uncomplicated functions that make it easy for teams to implement many changes on the administration side without the need to wait for IT teams
Built-in training features that support self-directed learning, saving teams time and ensuring a consistent training experience across the whole team
According to its website, HubSpot offers a “complete CRM platform with all the tools and integrations you need to grow better—whether you want to increase leads, accelerate sales, streamline customer service, or build a powerful website.”
HubSpot is free to use as a basic CRM. You’ll pay extra for à la carte features and options. This model may mean HubSpot is a more affordable option over Salesforce for many small and medium-sized businesses.
Many people choose HubSpot because it offers simple tools aimed at lead generation, including inbound marketing. In many ways, HubSpot is a pared-down and relatively simple solution.
SalesSeek offers a unique and uncluttered interface for tracking your sales funnel. The company bills itself as a “natively integrated sales and marketing software that helps organizations around the globe scale their revenue generation.”
SalesSeek offers several attractive benefits:
Easy setup that requires no training
A single revenue solution that supports sales and marketing alignment
Simple data importing process
The sales tool also offers employee engagement at every stage of the sales process to ensure that your whole team is centering on the same message and using the same shared source of truth.
If customization is what you’re looking for, Airtable might be your best bet. Airtable is a simple, flexible CRM tool that plays well with other sales tools you might want to use alongside it.
Intelligence tools allow teams to go beyond basic lead information like name or email. Identifying and capitalizing on qualified leads is a crucial element to a streamlined sales process. These tools work to inform your sales and marketing decisions, from development to revenue stream.
Clearbit bills itself as “the marketing data engine for all your customer interactions,” designed to help you “deeply understand your customers, identify prospects, and personalize every single marketing and sales interaction.”
Tools like Clearbit Connect allow companies to gain insights into their email contacts. The tool can locate additional information like other email addresses, related companies, job titles, and other helpful sales generation information.
Clearbit allows organizations to:
Set up smart lead scoring and segmented lists for better and data-driven targeting
Receive alerts when key contacts visit your website
Access a massive database of more than 200 million contacts
Easily connect to company social media handles
Essentially, Clearbit allows organizations to uncover a great deal of information with only a few details available, like name and email.
ZoomInfo is a tool that allows teams to check the accuracy of the contact information saved in their CRMs. Clients can access the company’s extensive database of information about business people and companies.
The tool also allows companies to search for prospects based on characteristics like industry type, location, company size and revenue. Armed with this information, sales teams can gain more in-depth insight into how prospects and clients’ buying behaviors evolve.
Qualifying leads is an integral part of the sales funnel. Organizations need to quickly identify, qualify and convert promising leads into sales to get the most from their investment of time and resources. Lead and prospecting tools enhance these efforts in several ways.
Salesloft is a CRM integration that helps teams with sales engagement. Smart automation allows organizations to gauge the genuine interest of leads, which streamlines the qualification process.
Here are five enhancements Salesloft adds to the sales process:
Cadence-setting and automation features guide sales professionals through the sales process, taking the "guesswork out of pipeline generation, lead nurturing, and customer renewals," according to the company
Dialer and messenger features offer one-click and cloud-based dialing, built-in coaching tools and one-to-one SMS texting
A deals feature helps teams maintain their hold on leads and to prepare more accurate forecasts
A conversations feature gives organizations insight into the impact of their sales conversations and then replicate the success of top-performing agents
Analytics and reporting features collect activity and outcome data around lines, helping teams identify what is driving lead qualification
DocuSend integrates with CRM platforms as well as accounting and billing software. This tool allows organizations to share documents and gain real-time insights and control across a secure cloud-based environment.
If you’re routinely sending documentation out to prospects, DocuSend can be a game-changer. You’ll know when documents are open and which pages people are reading as they happen.
Gathering sales data is only helpful when you have the right analytics tools in place. With a set of functionalities geared toward data analysis, organizations can better visualize and examine data down to a granular level. gaining insights that drive just about every aspect of the sales funnel.
Analytical insights into metrics like these can turn a lagging sales effort around:
Sales by channel
Per capita sales
Lead conversion rates
Sales growth over specific periods
Analytics and reporting tools make it easier to capture data and, more importantly, to put it to work.
Tableau has a long history within the self-service business intelligence (BI) space. Like other BI tools, Tableau gives its users insight into their business operation’s historical, current and predictive views.
The sales tool creates rich data visualizations that help organizations make sense of trends and predict where sales are headed, depending on various outcomes. Tableau puts the “power of exploration in your hands” through observable feedback.
Many organizations gravitate toward Tableau because its user-friendly interface makes it attractive to stakeholders from many disparate departments. In this way, Tableau allows companies to derive more value from the data they collect.
EverString is an AI-powered software-as-a-service (SaaS) designed for business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams. Its goal is to help drive revenue, close new customers, expand into additional markets and provide actionable insights at every stage.
Organizations without a sizeable administrative structure can appreciate the self-service nature of this business intelligence tool. Its users can manipulate sales data in real time and make adjustments on the fly.
As a subscription-based model, EverString is ideal for supporting scaling efforts. As your needs increase, you can simply move to a new service tier. Upgrading a subscription is a more resource-efficient approach than over-investing in new tools throughout your growth trajectory.
The processing and training category includes sales tools that help organizations spot and repair roadblocks occurring along the sales journey.
In addition to improving standard sales processes, which will save your team a great deal of time and frustration, process and training tools can quickly help you onboard new team members.
The Gong revenue intelligence platform analyzes sales processes to break down how deals are progressing and what is driving them. Gong defines revenue intelligence as “the new way of operating based on customer reality instead of opinions.”
The platform is smart enough to use conversational intelligence to analyze sales calls, giving companies information about how sales representatives handle their products on sales calls. Gong also captures and analyzes meetings and emails to provide you with a full picture of what’s happening.
Gong is especially helpful for companies with remote sales teams. Its features can help you stay on top of training and employee monitoring across the cloud.
As one of the more well-known process enhancement tools, DocuSign and its technology has completely transformed the way many organizations conduct business over the web.
Not so long ago, companies had to jump through many hoops to obtain the necessary signatures on contracts and waivers. These days, there’s no need to print, sign, scan and return documents through email or fax. DocuSign provides a path for secure electronic signature transactions.
Sales teams can use DocuSign to get completed order forms and have master service agreements (MSAs) signed in a matter of hours, from anywhere in the world. When synced with an organization’s CRM, DocuSign can communicate directly with prospects and customers.
The service can also streamline form filling by automatically populating fields on documents to match CRM data.
There’s so much on automation across the current software landscape that it almost seems like a buzzword. The right automation tools can significantly enhance many organization processes, including their sales efforts.
Automation tools add efficiency to sales workflows with features like:
Providing instant customer support
Connecting data from disparate sources
Automated email campaigns
Self-service scheduling capabilities
The list goes on from there. Any time an organization takes a high-level look at its processes, it’s a good idea to consider where automation could improve or correct issues throughout the sales funnel.
Stitch describes its product as a “cloud-first, open-source platform for rapidly moving data.” The tool makes it simple to pull data from disparate sources into a single centralized location.
This capability is significant for companies relying on a mix of legacy systems and new, cloud-based tools. Aggregating data across these sources can be extremely time-consuming without a smart tool like Stitch.
Stitch is also a robust tool for cloud-based and automated data analytics. For example, users can set up Stitch to replace a manual report generation process with automation functionalities that are accessible through an interactive dashboard. Instead of spending time on each report, agents can simply click or tap a few buttons, and Stitch takes care of the rest.
Segment works by “unifying your customers’ touch points across all platforms and channels,” so teams can better understand the customer journey. The platform’s software and application programming interfaces (APIs) collect, “clean” and control customer data to create a single view of the customer.
Some features that Segment’s users enjoy include:
Email personalization with user-behavior-based recommendations
Frequency caps that enable the organization to prevent unsubscribes by limiting the number of emails a customer receives each day
Propensity modeling to help companies predict the likelihood a given customer will buy
Omnichannel messaging across all channels including email, social networks, Google Ads and product pages
Channel optimization that empowers organizations to instantly try new channels, free from the need to embark on costly engineer and analytics projects.
In the sales automation category, the way Segment examines real-time audience behavior is unique. The software can instantly create custom campaigns based on behaviors. For example, Segment can automatically send a cart abandonment or “act fast” email when a user drops off the funnel.
Zapier is a subscription-based integration platform that allows teams to connect their applications and automate their workflows. One notable feature is Zapier’s ability to connect hundreds of web apps, including popular apps you’re probably already using. This tool can interact with Facebook Lead Ads, Slack, QuickBooks, Google Sheets, Google Docs, Gmail and more.
As an integration platform and sales tool, Zapier is one of the easiest to use. For the most part, it works in the background. When a user needs to launch Zapier, they can access what they need in a click or two—or set up automated triggers when they notice opportunities for automation. This is a three-step process:
Start a workflow from any app
Select a trigger
Finish routine tasks automatically
Companies can eliminate redundant activities and manual tasks like data entry with Zapier by pulling data from multiple sources. It’s a champion time-saver.
These 15 sales tools are the tip of the iceberg. When you start your search, you’ll quickly discover tools to track activity, organize and manage your paperwork and help you with many other activities.
As you evaluate sales tools, follow these best practices:
Include relevant stakeholders in your decision about each tool, especially the people who will need to interact with it regularly
Thoroughly vet vendors that are new to you because untrustful vendors do operate in this sector
Evaluate the security measures the vendor has in place because bad actors have been known to infiltrate and use CRMs to scam customers
Your main goal should be to match the best sales tools available to your needs. Helpful sales tools will allow your sales team to reach its full potential.
Approach your search with the caveat that sales tools aren’t magical, although some of them can do pretty magical things. However, some problems relate to issues that teams won’t be able to address with sales tools.
Interpersonal issues among sales staff, for example, could be improved by implementing new tools that reduce frustrating tasks. However, if the problem is that strong personalities are clashing, sales tools are unlikely to provide much help in solving the problem.
Sometimes, the answer lies in choosing the best sales tools for your needs. Other times, a new management approach is in order. Before you invest in sales tools, carefully consider your unique pain points.
Ty is the head of digital acquisition and content at Calendly.
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