Time to Automate—Your Sales Tech Stack

  • Wikings Machado Partner, Go-To-Market, Next47
  • Morgan Lopez Business Operations Manager, Next47
  • Albert Cheng Global Engagement Manager, Next47
  • Michael Heilmann GTM Executive, ScaledRev

The key to a painless execution of your sales process lies in carefully selecting your sales tech stack. Each tool within this broad category is best suited to specific phases of your startup’s growth. 

“There’s no magical combination of technology tools that will guarantee your go-to-market success. What’s important is that you build your tech stack as the organization grows and the necessity for automation, visibility, and scale becomes critical to actually drive the business forward”, comments Michael Heilmann, GTM executive at ScaledRev. 

So, how do you make sure you’re getting it right? This article will walk you through the building blocks of a successful tech stack, as well as an overview of relevant vendors in the market.

The Sales Tech Stack: An Overview

The cornerstone of any sales tech stack is the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. A robust CRM operates as a single source of truth, enabling salespeople to manage relationships and processes while providing leadership with transparency over key metrics.

Mention CRM, and Salesforce comes to mind. While they have cemented their position in the industry, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Competitors such as HubSpot, Zoho, and Pipedrive offer compelling products with distinct features that can reduce deployment complexity while integrating with other services. 

While some sales leaders advocate for startups to adopt an Enterprise-grade CRM from the outset to avoid future migration headaches, others favor an even simpler approach, opting for lightweight CRM features from vendors like Airtable, Trello, or Apollo.io. This choice often reflects a balance between immediate needs and long-term scalability.

Some important criteria to consider are:

  • User-Friendliness: The more intuitive the tool, the less time spent in training and rework.
  • Integration Capabilities: Especially regarding outbound prospecting tools.
  • Data Security and Compliance: These are table stakes in ensuring data protection and adherence to privacy regulations.
  • Reporting: Does the solution meet the reporting needs across all lines of business?
  • Cost: If you elect to move forward with a CRM contender, does the cost savings justify a potential migration at a later stage? What would be the related switching costs?

As we delve deeper, the stack is divided into three categories that mirror the stages of a sales funnel, as well as a horizontal layer of Enablement and Revenue Intelligence. 

  1. Outbound Prospecting: Tools that enable efficient outreaches and manageable campaigns.
  2. Qualification: Tools related to communication, proposals, and pricing/quoting. 
  3. Closure: Tools that facilitate dealing with the procurement processes.
  4. Enablement: Centralized content and training that enables the SDR/BDR and Sales teams to communicate the right messaging/content.
  5. Revenue Intelligence: Tools to analyze and optimize pipeline management

Outbound Prospecting

Sellers need to connect with prospects before engagement can begin. This is where contact data tools shine, guiding sellers toward the right people that align with a startup’s Ideal Customer Profile.

In this category, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is an important tool that provides accurate information on companies and contacts that would be ideal for outreach. In addition to LinkedIn, teams also need to understand which accounts are displaying buying intent signals and contact data. Larger providers such as Zoominfo, Demandbase, and 6Sense offer end-to-end tools while more use case-specific tools such as LeadIQ, Apollo.io, Clearbit, and Kaspr offer pieces that cover specific aspects of contact/prospect engagement.

With contact information in hand, outreach automation tools are then essential to reach prospects at scale. Some vendors are focused on phone connections, such as Connect and Sell, Dialpad, and Aircall. Others have a broad focus encompassing email and social, such as Salesloft, Outreach.io, Salesforce sales engagement, Dripify, and Waalaxy.

Amidst target account lists that may be well into the hundreds or even thousands, outreach platforms are what help drive scale into SDR/BDR organizations. Automation of messaging helps augment 1:1 message outreach and offers account coverage and touches that would never be possible with a limited amount of SDRs sending emails.

Qualification

The qualification stage is where tools for virtual meetings become indispensable. However, modern sales teams are upping the ante by integrating conversation intelligence tools such as Gong, Chorus.ai (acquired by ZoomInfo), Salesforce Einstein Conversation Insights (ECI), SalesLoft Conversations, and many others, which record, transcribe, and analyze conversations with prospects

As part of qualification, these call listeners allow sales management to listen and understand their pipeline at scale and very rapidly. Managers can use these recordings and AI-generated sentiment analysis on pipeline reviews with sales reps to help determine how qualified a given opportunity is and where it should sit in the pipeline and associated forecast. Further, these tools often provide valuable feedback on key next steps to be considered, competitors mentioned, and resources that may be required to support the deal.

Michael continues, “It’s simply impossible for founders to do deal ride-alongs on every single deal. Conversation Intelligence tools allow a busy exec team to review the deals at scale and make it easy to both spotlight moments of greatness and opportunities to coach sales up.”

Closing

Proposal & quote tools are key pieces of the closing funnel. Tools like Salesforce CPQ, PandaDoc, Proposify, Apttus, Conga, DealHub.Io, Subskribe, and HubSpot Quote enable salespeople to craft professional branded proposals and quotes quickly.

As part of the final stage of closing, contract management & e-signing software serves to not just get final signatures, but also provide additional layers of the approval process, an expedition of legal review (using AI), and centralized contracts archival. Tools like Ironclad, DocuSign, PandaDoc, Icertis, and Concord help drive more efficient contract turnaround times helping both Customer and provider close faster.

“The merger of e-signature and contracts management functionality is greatly enhancing the ability for startups to rapidly respond to legal/privacy law changes & external investor, merger and acquisition diligence events where all contracts come to audit”, comments Michael.

Enablement

Sales reps go through a lot of steps between the first sales engagement and the close of an opportunity. Sales velocity on software is commonly measured in the 90-120+ day range which is a significant amount of time and overall engagement. These sales-led emails, calls, meetings, onsite presentations, and proposals all hinge on the account team communicating the right discovery call, value proposition, competitor differentiation, pricing, technical capabilities, integrations, deployment expectations, and so on.

Considerations to keep in mind:

  • Content publishing: What would be required to support the content publishing and upkeep of materials for Sales?
  • Training materials: What is the level of effort to produce and deploy training content to the field?
  • Targeted Content: Can the system support content recommendations based on deal stage and/or other signals being captured (competition, industry, etc)?
  • Analytics: Can we drive reporting that helps management understand rep engagement, and training and measure how content is performing?

Enablement has become a de facto investment for all software organizations both in people and tools. Today, tools have grown beyond simple document repositories into much more deeply CRM-integrated and analytical tools. Providers such as Highspot,  Seismic, and Salesforce Sales Programs are helping drive more maturity in these functional areas.

Revenue Intelligence

An emerging area of rapid technology consolidation is the category of Revenue Intelligence. Providers in this category are helping leadership and teams understand and optimize their go-to-market performance. 

Considerations for any revenue intelligence platform:

  • Pipeline Management: Can these tools offer current and historical visibility into the pipeline, current period breakdowns of pipeline movement, forecast(s) of future period pipeline, beginning of period benchmarking, etc?
  • Forecast Management: “Bottoms up” interfaces that are easy for AEs, managers, and leadership to input best case and commit values, “Tops Down” AI/ML models that predict revenue outcomes and forecast accurate totals, interfaces that help managers understand “what changed” between time periods.
  • Deal Reviews: Interfaces that allow a manager and rep the ability to rapidly dissect the current quarter pipeline via call recordings, activity/response data, sentiment analysis, and support case reviews.
  • Analytical Management Views: Interfaces that provide current period and historical rep scorecards, productivity analysis, attainment, win/loss rates, competitor tracking, Marketing & Sales funnel KPIs, and Sales execution KPIs.
  • Integration: How well does all this Revenue Intelligence data integrate with my CRM and what are my options if I need to change vendors down the road?
  • Customization: Can this solution meet the variety of my product mix and still deliver full value? 

Key players in this domain include Clari, Salesforce (Collaborative forecast & Rev Intel), Gong, Boostup, Aviso, and TigerEye

TigerEye distinguishes itself with a focus on predictive analytics, aiding sales teams in anticipating customer needs, risks, and opportunities. It expands the revenue intelligence concept by also offering features for sales coaching, enhancing efficiency in 1:1 interactions and behavioral analysis.

With the fast changes in the AI application layer, we anticipate further technology consolidation and additional core features to emerge in the coming quarters ahead. Amidst this rapidly changing landscape, these solutions (in the present) still offer tremendous insights that are helping leadership teams get out of spreadsheets and into highly accurate reporting offering visibility they have never been able to achieve previously.

The Landscape

In today’s hyper-competitive world, sales isn’t merely a game of numbers, but one of speed, strategy, and sophistication. For startups, the right sales tech stack doesn’t just optimize operations but could delineate success from stagnation. 

But remember, it’s less about the quantity of tools and more about their qualitative alignment with your unique journey. Before adopting a tool, make sure you test it and verify its value for your business. If you feel that the gain of a tool is just marginal, it may not be the right moment to adopt it. 

The following landscape can be used as a starting point in your vendor evaluation journey. Use it as a first step for exploring and experimenting with the sales tech stack that will take your go-to-market organization to the next level.