How to Build a Kick-A$$ Sales Tech Stack
There are high-performing sales teams and there are outperforming sales teams. How can you move your team from functional to phenomenal? The answer lies in your tech stack and how you use it.
You know the people-process-technology framework. You’re all-in on solution selling. You’ve considered SNAP, NEAT, and SPIN sales methodologies. Your inbox is full of suggestions, ideas, and possibilities for increasing the performance of your sales team.
All of these approaches have promise. But none works well without a purpose-built, kick-a$$ tech stack to support it. Here’s a quick look at what we know about the current sales tech landscape:
Sales technology is transformational. Now that virtual is the norm for sellers and buyers—and traditional in-person sales tools have been rendered nearly obsolete by the pandemic—technology is even more important as a way to build, strengthen and maintain sales relationships.
Next-gen capabilities deliver next-gen results. Sales organizations that are willing to reform their sales models and adopt next-generation technology are growing revenue at twice the rate of GDP.
Integration and adoption are a must. Buying sales tech is easy. Integrating it into the sales workflow requires enormous effort. The combination of the right tools and strong adoption means higher sales, with “outperformers” 62% more effective than other salespeople in using digital tools.
Keep up to stay competitive. There are literally thousands of sales tech tools to choose from, with more coming to market daily. Sixty-eight percent of sales professionals expect to invest more in sales technology in the coming year than in the past year and, of that 68%, almost half say they will invest 50% more in the same time frame. Your organization must do the work to find what’s effective. You must keep up.
How We Do It
At MarketSource, our entire business model is built around accelerating sales for our clients. We have an Innovation Center solely dedicated to fine-tuning our sales teams to go beyond high performance to “outperformance,” a term coined by McKinsey to describe salespeople who are “ahead of the pack where it matters—in insights, agility, talent, and tech.”
So, when I talk about how to build a tech stack, I’m speaking from our MarketSource experience of building a world-class sales organization using a tech stack that’s unsurpassed in the industry. I don’t know of another company doing what we’re doing in terms of sales technology, and I am passionate about sharing how we do what we do.
Let me know what you think of our approach.
S.B. | firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s the Kick-A$$ Standard?
Our goal is always to decrease “red” time (administrative time) and increase “green” time (selling time). So when we look at sales technology, we look for four “must-haves.” The technology must:
For us, sales technology is not merely an enabler, but a foundation—it’s an integral part of our effectiveness, efficiency, and optimization.
With this in mind, in our organization, sales is a team sport. We support and surround our sales professionals with niche expertise that not only helps individual sellers become outperformers, but also standardizes and makes our approach replicable.
First, we call on business process engineers to look at every process involved in our sales efforts—the inputs, outputs, constraints, and resources. These engineers break down the sales process and define every piece of it, from end to end.
Our instructional designers then look at the skills and acumen necessary to perform each process at the highest level. They’re skilled at teaching adults how to learn, and they use the right approach for each person to learn to use each piece of our tech stack in the most effective way.
All the while, our team of business analysts is looking at how we can improve. For example, if we introduce changes to the sales process, they take before-and-after snapshots of program metrics to measure increases in productivity and profitability. If the ROI is meaningful, we roll out changes where they fit.
Sales Tech is Not an IT Job
Sales and IT work together hand-in-hand. But be aware that building a sales tech stack is not an IT job. Sales must own it.
IT departments are busy. They have a huge, far-reaching job that includes the entire organization.
Sales—or sales operations—must have the capability to customize its own technology to meet sales reps’ needs. Making CRM modifications is not going to be high on IT’s list.
Building the Stack
Every sales organization has a tech stack. Optimizing it—making it kick-a$$—is an ongoing challenge.
I receive between 30 and 50 emails every day from different companies suggesting I look at their sales tech products. I welcome this outreach because we’re always looking for the best options and the right niche products.
Of these thousands of options, our Innovation Center looks at about 50 new sales technologies every year. We investigate about 20 of them, and test 15 to 18 per year. To make the testing cut, all must meet our four-part kick-a$$ rubric.
Bolted together, the right technologies in the right place in the sales process make every sales rep as productive and efficient as possible. Here’s what we recommend:
I. Data Source—How’s Your Data?
Everything upstream depends on the quality of your data. If your data isn’t accurate, your sales efforts go nowhere. The people you’re contacting may have left the company, or the company doesn’t even exist anymore. You’ve just wasted three or four months and hundreds of phone calls and emails, and you now need to find out who the new buyer is.
And you’re not alone: 85% of sellers say they lost or delayed a deal in the last year because a key client stakeholder switched jobs.
So anchor your tech stack with a rich and powerful data source that provides insight into customer profiles, company attributes, and intent—one that finds prospects early in the buying process, looks for patterns, and can identify buying personas. You’re selling to a whole account, so seeing the org structure can tell you who else you need to sell to.
Some data sources are now using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine, for example, if prospects use their cell phones to conduct business, and if so, that number is added to the database. Every bit of data helps.
II. CRM—It Only Works If You Use It
Most companies buy a CRM and everybody “uses” it. But what really happens is that users navigate through it and use only parts of it because it isn’t designed specifically for their roles.
Indeed, Korn Ferry sales performance research shows that only a third of companies use their CRM all the time, and of those, only a third saw significant improvement in their productivity. Not surprisingly, two-thirds would take a risk to change their CRM for the better.
Our sales teams live by the CRM. Updating it is a non-negotiable must-do for every seller. The CRM runs their days, reduces red time and increases green time—and it works for them because it is built for them.
On our sales teams, people have different jobs. Some are involved in prospecting, some qualifying, some managing accounts. This is where our process engineers have worked their magic. They’ve come in and observed a “day in the life” of each type of sales role and reverse engineered what’s required for sales reps to hit their goals. We’ve built a process model for every role, and then built that workflow into our CRM.
Here’s the special sauce: Our sales reps don’t have to figure out what to do next—that’s the epitome of red time—because the CRM takes them to the next step. The workflow is built in, so our salespeople sit down in the morning, open their laptops, and are presented with what’s going to happen that day. Everything they need is right there.
We also score prospects based on share of wallet to be gained. We use scoring attributes to ensure that we spend 40% to 50% of our sales time calling on accounts with the greatest opportunities for growth.
Other customers will buy from you no matter what—so maybe you just touch them quarterly with a phone call, monthly with an email, or weekly with a text—all of which can be automated. Personalized videos are a great touch! But you want your sellers using the CRM to call on the most important customers at the most important time in the buying process.
III. Customer Engagement—Build & Follow the Flow
Your sales team is engaging with lots of accounts. Keeping those accounts interested, informed, and interacting with you is where customer engagement comes in, as it defines and determines the ongoing relationship between you and your customer.
The right customer engagement tools allow you to build a cadence so you’re touching the right customers at the right time on their buying journey. It’s all automated and there’s a flowchart of what’s going to happen—how many calls the rep will make today to A accounts, how many emails or texts to B accounts, and how many social touches to C accounts, for example—all integrated into the CRM.
Our business analysts are essential here. For example, they look at buying patterns and tell us what time of month our prospects buy, and we build our cadence around that pattern. Because these tasks automatically show up on our sales reps’ calendars, their productivity goes up exponentially.
Also, we record sales calls in our customer engagement platform, which is invaluable when it comes to sharpening sales skills. Pick a smart platform that can tell by the area code whether that state allows you to record both ends of the conversation or just the seller’s part. (More about this below.)
For field reps, our customer engagement tool plans their days to minimize “windshield time”—time wasted driving from customer to customer—so they can visit more customers and engage with the right people at each location.
IV. Skills & Acumen Training—Help Reps Master Their Craft
No one is born knowing how to sell. Even salespeople with “natural” talent benefit from sales skills training. We believe coaching and training transform good salespeople into great salespeople. As part of our onboarding, we use skills assessment technology and selling scenarios to determine sales reps’ strengths and weaknesses. Our instructional designers can then develop a curriculum to help address any gaps.
Our goal with ongoing skills and acumen training is to equip our sellers with the techniques they can use make the most of their “at bats” on the phone or in person with their prospects. There are about a dozen of these skills required, depending on the salesperson’s place in the sales process. For example, salespeople need different skills and acumen for different roles and goals, such as qualifying leads, getting past the gatekeeper, articulating the value proposition, or finding others who are involved in the buying process.
Because we’ve reverse engineered the sales workflow into the CRM, we know which skills are required for each process. Every salesperson has a digital playbook that guides them through the technology required to perform the process most effectively and efficiently.
One of the tools that helps with this is voice analytics. Our calls are recorded, and the voice analytics tool looks for certain keywords. For example, if the call’s goal is a solution sale, we want to look for the seller to ask who the “owners” are in other departments and ask for permission to contact them. Similarly, if there are certain phrases sellers shouldn’t use in a sales conversation, those phrases are flagged as well.
Call results are recorded in the CRM—did the call accomplish what it was intended to? We ask our sales reps to choose their best and worst calls every week and send them to their managers for weekly one-on-one coaching and feedback, which is managed by another piece of technology integrated into the CRM.
For field reps, we have video technology that lets them practice and record their pitch and then send it to peers or managers for input.
All of this feedback works. Organizations that assess, enable and coach their salespeople have a 13% increase in win rates.
V. Continuous Improvement—You’re Never Finished
Driving continuous improvement means finding incremental improvement in your processes, skills, and technology.
For us, continuous improvement is built into our operations. We know that even the very best salespeople can get a little better. We call it Relentless Incrementalism.
We ask each seller to introduce one new thing that they want to try and to do it for a month or two, then document the impact. Every year, by the third quarter, each seller has 8 to 10 things they’ve tried and measured. We can then look at what changes were implemented successfully. Our goal is to make our salespeople better every single week by streamlining our processes, making sure they have the right information at the right time, and helping them master their craft.
In terms of technology, we’re always assessing. If it’s not helping sales reps close more deals, it isn’t worth what we paid for it.
Post-Sale: Where Sales Meets Customer Success
Every organization wants to ensure that the post-sale experience is as delightful as possible for the customer. Ideally, this is a seamless handoff between sales and a customer success organization. Unfortunately, the handoff isn’t always smooth.
Servicing accounts isn’t selling. Sales can keep nurturing, but the sales team shouldn’t be responsible for product adoption, ongoing usage optimization, or issue resolution. Yet, if the handoff is bad, a seller sometimes needs to step back in to ensure that the buyer is receiving the full value of the product or service.
If sales reps are not being paid for customer support or customer success, this becomes an irritation—and more red time.
Our own sales to customer success handshake is firm and effective, and we capture post-sale activities and customer success signals. This technology is aligned with our CRM so we can manage renewal and account expansion opportunities.
Tools Aren’t Enough
Building a kick-a$$ tech stack isn’t just about the tech. It’s about adopting it and integrating it into sellers’ everyday lives. At MarketSource, we spend as much time, energy and money choosing the right technology as we do ensuring that it is used most effectively.
We’re now seeing more convergence in the sales tech industry, with developers building in predictive capabilities, analytics and coaching up and down the stack. In the next five years, there will likely be a handful of players that offer end-to-end sales technologies—which may or may not make building a kick-a$$ tech stack easier.
In the meantime, I encourage you to embrace all the opportunities that sales tech offers your sales teams. Taking full advantage of what’s out there—and making it your own—can transform your sales model and set you up for ongoing success.
Steve Bonvissuto is vice president of Innovation at MarketSource. A proven alternative to traditional outsourced sales, MarketSource is a sales accelerator that helps businesses thrive by fostering deeper connections between people and brands.
You’ve decided to engage a revenue generation partner to expand your sales channels, but how do you know which is the best fit for you?
There are a number of factors to consider, but none may be as important as their sales tech stack. To help you find the outperforming organizations, we’ve built a set of questions to ask each of the partners you’re considering.