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Sales Technology: Past, Present, and Future

While the overarching focus of the content on Martech Zone is MarTech-related, sales technology is often overlooked. However, having a robust MarTech stack without sales technology leaves a huge opportunity gap within an organization. It’s why we are constantly introducing and discussing sales as part of the overall strategy when it comes to an organization’s digital transformation.

It’s important to note that the terms Sales Technology and Sales Enablement are often interchanged. In this article, I discuss sales enablement as a subset of sales technology… but I’m not stating that’s the reality. Any technology that assists sales can be identified as a sales enablement platform.

What Is Sales Technology?

Sales technology refers to the use of software and digital tools to support and automate various tasks and processes in sales, such as lead generation, relationship management, forecasting, and data analysis. The goal of sales technology is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of sales teams and to provide them with the insights and data they need to close more deals, close deals faster, and drive more revenue to the organization.

How Has Digital Transformed Selling?

Both consumer and business buyers have dramatically shifted their behavior over recent decades. Before the internet, buyers were largely dependent upon brands reaching out to them to educate them on innovation and solutions that they may or may not have been aware of. Fast forward to today, and buyers research problems online, identify solutions, and verify reputations before ever contacting a salesperson at your organization.

While some organizations mistakingly believe this has reduced the dependency on sales representatives, I would argue that an organization’s dependency on talented sales representatives that are armed with technology is the gap between highly effective and low-performing sales organizations. Why?

  • Complexity – companies offer an ever-expanding array of solutions offered to their customers. As buyers research your solutions online, they often become as knowledgeable as your sales representatives on what or what can’t be possible. They probably are aware of your differentiators and even your pricing before ever contacting a salesperson. This requires an incredibly talented sales representative – one that can listen attentively to the prospect, educate the prospect on swaying their internal decision-makers, and fully help a prospect envision how the solution will fix the organization’s issues.
  • Volume – companies are fielding and targeting a far greater number of prospects than decades ago. We now live in a global marketplace where there aren’t just dozens of prospects, there may be millions. This requires intelligence for organizations to improve their qualification of leads and prioritize those engagements so that sales representatives are spending their time on the most likely and profitable opportunities.
  • Speed – companies want immediate assistance, want brands who understand their challenges, and expect a sales cycle that’s personalized, thorough, and easy to navigate. There’s little patience anymore with buyers. Buyers want to move at their own speed and expect the brands servicing them to operate at the same speed… or faster… to get the solution up and running.

This means that your sales representatives must be amazing learners and listeners, must have high attention to detail, must be incredibly organized, must be efficient and persistent, and… of course… must be talented at negotiation, providing valuable advice, and rapid relationship building. I’m not sure that’s even possible without leveraging technology.

It’s not surprising that Account-Based Marketing has been adopted by many organizations so that sales can proactively target specific prospective companies. This requires a sales representative that’s great with data, sleuthing and creativity in crafting a solution that shifts the prospect’s perception of whether or not they should do business with your company.

What Types of Sales Technology Are There?

This list is not an exhaustive list of sales technologies… and new technologies are being developed and integrated into sales organizations constantly. However, I did want to provide an overview of what types of critical sales technologies are available to organizations today. One trend you’ll notice here is that there can be a lot of overlap in functionality between these systems.

  • Lead Generation – An investment in a lead generation platform can increase lead volume, improve lead quality, provide more efficient lead management, provide better insights for sales to understand their customers, and… ultimately leads to accelerate revenue. Some examples of lead generation platforms include:
    • Marketing Automation Platforms (HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot)
    • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems (Salesforce, Pipedrive, Zoho CRM)
    • Lead Scoring and Qualification Tools (LeadSquared, Leadpages)
  • Relationship Management – An investment in a relationship management platform can improve the customer experience because your sales team has access to every interaction with the prospect, and provides better data management so that those interactions can be shared and aren’t lost in your transition of personnel at either organization, can increase collaboration between management, sales, customer service, and other departments… ultimately accelerating revenue generation and driving retention and upsell opportunities. Some examples of relationship management systems include:
  • Forecasting – An investment in a sales forecasting solution can improve accuracy for company growth, help sales teams better plan their activities, provide leadership with insight into the sales strategy and resource allocation, improve collaboration between sales resources… which ultimately accelerates revenue generation. Examples of forecasting systems include:
  • Data – An investment in prospect and customer data can provide improved targeting through increased understanding and analysis of your ideal customers (ICP). By using prospect data to inform sales, sales teams can improve their lead scoring, lead prioritization, and provide more accurate deals to prospective customers. This can all increase sales performance and drive additional revenue. Examples of data companies include:
  • Data Analysis – An investment in data analysis can help your sales staff become more knowledgeable about their prospects and customers, can identify trends and patterns in sales performance, increase efficiency, free up time for sales teams to focus on selling… all leading to accelerated revenue generation. Examples of data analysis tools include:
    • Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Tools (Tableau, Power BI, Looker)
    • CRM systems (Salesforce, Pipedrive, Zoho CRM)
    • Data Visualization Tools (Datawrapper, Flourish, RAWGraphs)
  • Document Management – An investment in document management solutions can help sales teams organize, store, and manage their sales-related documents more efficiently, reducing manual effort and improving access to critical information. Electronic document management and solution enables rapid delivery and execution of proposals, statements of work (SOW), and service agreements (MSA). This improves reaction time, collaboration, security, customer experience… and ultimately increased revenue.
    • Electronic Signature and Document Management Platforms (PandaDoc, DocuSign, Adobe Sign, HelloSign)
    • Digital Signature Platforms (SignNow, RightSignature, eSignLive)
    • File Sharing and Collaboration Tools (Dropbox, Google Workspace, OneDrive)
  • Meeting Tools – Presentation software, video conferencing, and screen-sharing tools can be used to conduct virtual sales meetings and product demonstrations, providing sales teams with opportunities to educate themselves and their customers on products.
    • Presentation (Powerpoint, Google Slides, Keynote)
    • Video Conferencing (Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams)
    • Webinar (ON24, GotoWebinar, BlueJeans)
  • Sales Coaching – Technologies that help professionally develop sales representatives, ramp up new sales representatives faster, and train sales professionals on their use of technology can improve sales performance, reduce ramp-up time for new hires, improve sales enablement, enhance data-driven decision-making, and drive higher customer satisfaction, resulting in a positive return on investment.
    • Sales Performance Management (SPM) (Aviso, Xactly, CallidusCloud)
    • Sales Enablement tools (Seismic, Highspot, Showpad)
    • Artificial Intelligence-powered sales coaching (SalesHood, Chorus.ai, Accredible)
    • Sales learning and training (LinkedIn Learning, Salesforce Trailhead, Hubspot Academy)

Note: This list is not exhaustive and new technologies are being developed and integrated into sales organizations constantly.

How Is Artificial Intelligence Impacting Sales Technology?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having a significant impact on sales technology by enabling sales organizations to automate repetitive tasks, improve decision-making, and personalize the sales experience for their customers.

Globally, 40% of salespeople use or are implementing AI technology into their workflows to automate or streamline sales.

VisualCapitalist

Here are 6 ways that AI is impacting sales technology:

  1. Predictive Analytics – AI-powered predictive analytics tools can analyze large amounts of data and provide sales teams with insights on which leads are most likely to close, what the forecast looks like, and how they can improve their sales performance.
  2. Sales Forecasting – AI algorithms can help sales organizations better predict future sales outcomes, taking into account historical data, market trends, and other relevant factors.
  3. Lead Scoring and Qualification – AI can help automate the lead scoring process, helping sales teams prioritize their follow-up efforts and focus on the most promising leads.
  4. Personalization – AI can help sales teams personalize their outreach and messaging to better engage with their prospects and customers, by analyzing customer data and behavior.
  5. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants – AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can help sales teams automate routine tasks, such as answering FAQs, scheduling appointments, and providing product information.
  6. Feedback – AI-powered sales coaching tools can provide feedback during or after sales interactions, helping sales reps to identify areas for improvement and make rapid adjustments – making it easier and more efficient for sales organizations to provide consistent and high-quality feedback to their sales teams.

Using AI tools could mean the difference between closing a deal or losing a prospect. Companies that automated their contact form responses saw a 71% increase in open rates and a 152% increase in click-through rates (CTR)

Email Institute

AI is transforming the sales process, helping sales teams work more efficiently, close deals faster, and provide a better customer experience.

The team at Raconteur has developed this infographic, The World Of Sales Tech. It provides the detailed results of a

sales tech infographic

Disclosure: Martech Zone is an affiliate of several sales technology platforms and is using our affiliate links in this article.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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