Success in sales takes a lot more than having the best product or service. No matter what you’re selling, it’s the selling process happening behind-the-scenes that determines whether a business will sink or swim. And these days, tech tools are the key to crafting a streamlined behind-the-scenes sales process.
Let’s face it—there are some things computer programs are better at doing than people. Over the past few years, the tech market has boomed with computerized solutions to common problems for sales professionals and businesses, with the goal of streamlining top-to-bottom processes. The result? An enormous range of tech selling tools that solve a myriad of sales-related pain points:
- Strategic sales tools
- Sales workflow tools
- B2C sales tools
- B2B sales tools
- Innovative sales tools
- Free sales tools
Of course, with that many options, it can be hard to dive in if you’re just getting started. So let’s begin with the basics.
What are sales tools and why do we need them?
Every flaw in your process is a lost opportunity to grow and bring your business to the next level. But finding and fixing those flaws to create a lean, streamlined sales process is an enormous challenge that many businesses grapple with daily. And if you want to build and establish trust with your customers, you can’t let those challenges show on the surface.
Managing sales processes is like the work that goes into making a blockbuster film–you don’t want the hard work to show in the final product. Customers enjoy a seamless, simple buying experience. That means you want every sale to look 100% effortless, even while a million things are going on out of the customer’s sight.
Essentially, sales takes a lot of effort, but you don’t want the effort to show. Easy, right?
In fact, with the advent of so much new sales technology, making sales look effortless has never been easier. The tech market today is full of incredible software tools designed specifically to streamline sales activities and make it easier for businesses to manage the millions of tasks that go on before the sale is closed.
If you will, imagine current sales software offerings as if it’s a library that’s constantly expanding with more shelves and books. Of course, not every tool in the library is going to be useful for your business, which is why the time you spend selecting the right tools is an important process in itself.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the “library” of digital selling tools that businesses are currently using to simplify and streamline the process of selling. And just like any good library, we’ve split ours into sections so you can jump to the topic that appeals to your unique needs.
Strategic sales tools
A good strategy is key to maximizing your resources. No matter how small or large a company is, it’s the strength of their strategy that lets them make the most of what they have. And just like in battle, the best strategy is the kind that’s based on lots of hard information, visibility, and speed.
A weak strategy, on the other hand, barely lets ideas and goals get off the ground. Plans are made and targets are set, but there’s no method for monitoring them to make sure they’re met on time and within budget. If the most impactful strategies come from having information and visibility, the least impactful ones are those that come from guesswork.
Other pain points felt by businesses who need strategy sales tools include:
- Difficulty putting plans into action
- Lack of real-time visibility into performance
- No method of tracking key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Decisions based on guesswork and gut instinct
- Lack of insight into market trends and customer base
- No reliable center of customer data
The following strategic sales software features are designed to help businesses plan, implement, and refine their sales strategies using reliable information and repeatable processes.
Analytics and reporting tools
When it comes to strategy, there is no tool more powerful than data. The numbers behind your operations are like clues which—when organized, assembled, and interpreted correctly—can reveal incredible insights about what’s really going on. They can pinpoint where the flaws in your process are, and where your strengths are carrying your success.
CRM analytics and reporting software tools are designed to help businesses mine and interpret the mountains of data collected during the sales process. Then, they display that data in reports, giving you frequent and reliable visibility into your sales performance. You can track email open and click-through rates, display your data on visual sales dashboards, and automatically generate reports for different stakeholders.
No matter what digital selling tools you ultimately choose to invest in, be sure it includes analytics and reporting features. This kind of real-time analysis of your data is key to helping teams track their progress and see which activities lead to the most sustainable and cost-effective outcomes. It’s also a vital resource for big picture planning among managers and executives, who look to mitigate risk with data-driven decision-making.
Your customers are the most important component of your business. Due to the information explosion of the recent decades, customers have more options when it comes to purchasing than ever. Customers’ eyes and attention are everywhere, and businesses are scrambling to stand out from the noise. One of the ways businesses have found to attract customers is by focusing on building trust in the buyer-seller relationship. And to do that, many have turned to customer relationship management software.
A CRM is a platform that serves as a center for all customer-related data and interactions. It’s an end-to-end customer experience tool that allows sales, marketing, and support service teams to align their strategies so that their customers are happy—and will continue to be so. CRMs are designed to make sure your process is customer-centric, so you don’t risk letting the most important component of your business slip through the cracks. The Zendesk CRM for sales teams, Sell, is one such platform.
Sales forecasting tools
There’s no such thing as perfect clarity into the future. But there are tools that make it much more possible to accurately predict future sales than what you can do with guesswork.
Before sales forecasting tools were available, your best option was to stare at your past sales data in a spreadsheet and consult your gut-feeling for what to do next. But by harnessing the power of data and automations, sales forecasting tools remove the guesswork and make it possible to make confident plans for growth.
Sales forecasting software uses information from yesterday and today to build an accurate view of what tomorrow might look like. Quantitative sales forecasting tools examine past sales numbers, identifying historic trends and patterns to predict how future sales may perform if similar practices are in place. Qualitative forecasting, on the other hand, examines current market trends and customer feedback.
With more accurate forecasting, businesses using forecasting tools are better positioned to make data-driven decisions when it comes to things like hiring, inventory, territory expansion, and introducing new products or services.
Sales workflow tools
A good sales workflow is a clear and repeatable step-by-step sequence of tasks that culminates in a job well done—on time and within budget. In a well-structured workflow, tasks flow smoothly from one to the next so that everyone is working at their most productive and sustainable capacity. There’s minimal time spent waiting, wondering, or looking for the next step, and projects are managed quickly among stakeholders.
A clunky workflow, on the other hand, is full of downtime and confusion. If your business needs sales workflow tools, it might be because you’re struggling with the following:
- Tasks and responsibilities fall through the cracks or get miscommunicated
- The sales cycle is bloated with downtime
- There are no consistent sequences of actions to follow
- Onboarding new talent takes too long
- The sales cycle has too much downtime
- Remote and on-the-road sales teams struggle to organize and communicate their activities
- Staff spend too much time searching for the information they need to perform tasks
Sales workflow tools are designed to help businesses organize and execute the multitudes of tasks involved in converting leads into customers. Just like any organizational tool, their purpose is to ensure that the job gets done quickly and with as little fuss as possible—and without overextending your valuable resources.
Sales force automation systems
SFA tools are software programs and apps that free up human hands—and more importantly, their brains—by automatically performing repetitive administrative tasks. Businesses are currently automating dozens of sales-related tasks, including but not limited to:
- Sending follow-up emails
- Tracking and reporting email metrics
- Scheduling meetings
- Prospecting for leads
- Building lead lists
- Sending alerts and notifications
- Lead scoring and distribution
When it comes to decluttering your work schedule, sales force automation tools are the hot ticket in sales technology. They allow your workforce to free up enough time to aim their talent where it’s most needed—interacting with clients and providing the kind of service that builds loyalty and trust.
Sending emails, scheduling meetings, making sales calls, and researching leads doesn’t take much talent—just time and consistency. And when it comes to time and consistency, computers are simply better than humans.
Of course, not every task should be automated. Selecting which processes to automate is a delicate decision that will rely heavily on your sales model and customer base.
Laying out an efficient sales workflow typically involves constructing some kind of pipeline sales tracker solution. Your pipeline is a visual representation of the potential customers who are on the path to purchasing from your business. In a well-structured pipeline, salespeople have clearly defined stages that they follow to guide potential customers to their destination—the sale. The best sales tools for pipeline management are clean, well integrated, and designed to facilitate speedy communication so that customers aren’t left with any opportunities to jump ship.
You can easily track a small volume of deals in a spreadsheet. But as your lead and customer lists grow, spreadsheets can quickly become overwhelming and messy. Pipeline software lets you manage a growing volume of potential deals in a way that doesn’t stress your time or resources, while also providing a one-stop glance of where your efforts should be aimed next.
Door-to-door sales software
When it comes to laying the framework of a well-structured workflow, no one struggles more than door-to-door salespeople. The added factors of travel, spotty internet access, last-minute changes, and limited access to company resources make it difficult to execute a repeatable and consistent step-by-step workflow. And those difficulties spread upwards, with managers often scrambling to maintain visibility of their field teams’ activities and progress.
Door-to-door sales tools are designed for on-the-go reps who need more structure in a chaotic and unpredictable job. These platforms often include features for organizing field sales activities such as:
- Mapping and GPS tracking for finding the best routes to sales meetings.
- Offline access to data and schedules, so reps aren’t left without critical information due to location.
- Multiple messaging channels for easy internal and external communication.
- Sales call logging that allows managers to track sales team movement and outcomes in real time.
- Mobile-friendly automations that allow on-the-go reps to skip administrative tasks that typically require being at a desk and computer.
Sales workflow tools take time and energy to implement, so tread carefully when you’re looking for your own perfect digital workflow solution. For now, let’s explore the tech tools that focus on B2C and B2B sales needs.
B2C vs B2B sales: What’s the difference?
The main difference lies in who the customer is. In a B2C sales model, the customer is the end-user of the product or service—for instance, a 24/7 fitness center with a gym and yoga center. In a B2B model, however, the customer is another business—for instance, the vendors supplying the gym equipment, the maintenance company that cleans and maintains the building, and the software vendor whose platform the fitness center uses to check in members, enroll new ones, and run credit card transactions.
Buying something for personal reasons as opposed to business-related reasons is an important distinction. If you were buying a treadmill for your home, the process of making that purchase would look very different than it would if you were a fitness center owner who needs to purchase twenty treadmills for your business.
Business purchases often include multiple decision makers, long-term strategizing, and detailed contract negotiations. Personal purchasing decisions are typically handled by individuals, and don’t always involve so many different pricing models or lengthy contracts.
Because of these distinctions, B2C and B2B companies tend to have sales cycles and practices that look very different from each other. While there are some software platforms—such as CRM—that are a tech stack must-have no matter who your customers are, there are some tech tools that are better suited for certain business models than others.
B2C sales tools
Whether your prospective buyer is another business or the end-user of your product or service, you need a way to organize your sales process and practices. If you don’t, running your business will always feel like putting out fires instead of building new revenue-generating streams.
But B2C sales processes are unique in that they focus exclusively on the end-user’s buying experience. Think of restaurants, retail stores, and home service providers. In these businesses, the individual buyer is the only person who must be won over. Their pain points and concerns are the only ones that matter, and the sales process is designed to appeal specifically to that individual’s personal wants and needs.
Here are some B2C sales tools that help companies build processes specifically for end-user purchasing experiences.
An eCommerce sales tool is any kind of software technology that lets you sell your product or service online. The internet is an immensely popular place to sell, with ecommerce sales in the U.S. jumping by 44% between 2010 and 2020. Online sales toolkits make purchasing fast and convenient, and will only get faster and easier as technical advancements give rise to new ways of simplifying the purchasing experience.
A strong eCommerce tool establishes a trustworthy online presence that makes the buying process easy and simple. Think about it—if you’re browsing the internet and stumble upon a product that you like, but the online shop is a clunky and confusing website, are you really going to put in your credit card information?
Buying products online comes with an enormous amount of trust. Ecommerce tools like Shopify, PayPal, and BigCommerce are designed to help businesses build a seamless buying experience that customers will be willing to repeat again and again.
Email automation tools
If there’s another must-have tool in a B2C company’s tech stack, it’s an email automation system. Email marketing still boasts an impressive ROI, which makes it well worth any business’s time to invest. Email is a simple, fast way to let customers know when it’s time to sit up and pay attention.
Among other things, email automation tools let you:
- Send personalized emails the moment a lead reaches out.
- Direct targeted messaging at specific groups of customers so they don’t see messages from your business that aren’t relevant to their interests.
- Automatically share new content that’s been optimized to generate interest.
Let’s be honest—no one loves emails from businesses. But when it’s done right, email automation tools allow you to make contact at the precise moment when it will be most appreciated. That way, rather than rolling their eyes and dragging your email to the spam folder, they’ll think, “This is exactly what I was looking for.”
B2B CRM and sales tools
Selling to other businesses can be a complex process that eats up incredible amounts of time and resources. For every sale that doesn’t close, company resources have been spent and wasted.
These tools are therefore designed to make a complex system as lean as possible, so that customers aren’t overwhelmed or frustrated by a sloppy, disorganized sales journey, and B2B sales professionals don’t burn out due to frustration.
Here are some of the B2B sales tools companies small and large are using to develop sleek, streamlined sales processes that won’t turn off prospective business clients.
Lead management tools
Typically, business purchases aren’t as simple as moving items into a virtual shopping cart and paying with a personal credit card. Selling to a business is a longer and more involved process that has multiple stakeholders and qualifying factors.
This added complexity requires closer management so that potential customers don’t fall through the cracks or end up with contracts that don’t actually suit their needs. The solution? Lead management software. A good lead management system, implemented with best practices, can be instrumental in laying the groundwork for a long and trusting buyer-seller relationship.
Lead management software offers a wide range of features all serving the same end goal: to convert more leads into paying customers. Features and functions typically include:
- Lead gen software, for attracting potential customers who fit your ideal buyer persona and increasing their interest in your brand. The best sales tools for lead generation will help you target your efforts at the right prospects as soon as possible, so you can maximize your sales efforts where they’ll have the greatest impact.
- Lead capture, for gathering information about people expressing interest in your business. The best approach to lead capture is to know your customer base well, so you don’t have to work so hard to convince them to give you their information.
- Lead tracking, for identifying where leads are coming from and how they move along a buyer’s journey. This is a useful feature for ensuring that marketing and sales align their strategies so that leads don’t feel an awkward bump as they’re transferred from one hand to the next.
- Lead nurturing, for building a relationship that establishes a sense of trust between potential buyer and seller. Using strategically crafted content and messaging, a good lead nurturing system lets sales professionals guide leads smoothly to conversion with just the right amount of pressure at the right moments.
- Lead segmentation, for dividing your leads into groups using insights about their likes and behavior. When used correctly, lead segmentation helps businesses send targeted marketing and sales messaging that directly resonate with specific sectors of their buyer base.
- Lead scoring, for assigning numerical values that indicate which leads are most likely to purchase. Capable of analyzing enormous amounts of data, lead scoring AI and machine learning technology can quickly calculate a value that helps sales teams assess which leads are most worth pursuing so they know where to devote their energy.
- Lead distribution, for automatically assigning leads to sales reps who are in the best position to close the deal. A solid lead distribution approach keeps the sales cycle moving at a profitable pace and ensures that the weight of your pipeline is sustainably distributed across your team.
Prospecting is the process of identifying the right buyers for your product or service so you know where to focus your selling efforts. The right buyers are basically the leads whose problem matches the one your product or service solves at a price they can afford to pay. But finding out who those buyers are is more easily said than done.
The process of prospecting involves tons of repetitive tasks, not to mention handling and organizing huge amounts of data. The amount of time it takes to locate prospects and evaluate if they’re worth pursuing is time that many sales professionals can’t afford. That’s where prospecting tools come in.
These software platforms automate many of the tasks involved in prospecting, including performing online research to gather information about businesses who may match in your ideal buyer persona.
B2B sales prospecting tools are typically used to streamline outbound sales prospecting and inbound marketing campaigns. Features of prospecting tools typically include:
- Call center tools for cold calling
- Social selling tools and integrations like LinkedIn
- Content and email marketing
- Research tools that verify emails and update new information
Virtual selling software
One of the biggest changes to the economic landscape recently has been the massive shift to web-based sales tools for conducting sales virtually. And although some companies may prefer to go back to the face-to-face way of doing things, many others have realized that when it’s done right, virtual selling can save massive amounts of time and money without sacrificing the personal touch that builds trust.
Here are some of the virtual selling tools that B2B companies are using to build strong buyer-seller relationships from a distance:
- Video conferencing tools that let you orchestrate a virtual social environment that facilitates fast and effective meetings.
- Website visitor tracking that provides a view of where traffic is flowing on your site, allowing you to optimize your CX and drive potential customers where you want them to go.
- Virtual management solutions that allow you to demonstrate your product or service in video form, giving customers a full view of what you offer without either of you jumping on a plane.
Innovative sales tools
Our last stop in our tech sales tool library is the innovate sales tools section. Technology is constantly evolving, which means that sales-based tech tools will continue to change as well. Part of what makes tech products so unique is their ability to update with the demand.
As technological innovations continue to arrive on the scene, software providers—at least the business-savvy ones—will find ways to use that new technology to either optimize their existing features, or create new ones.
Whether or not new technologies will be useful to your company depends on your product, process, and customer base. Not every new innovation needs to be added to your tech stack for the sake of novelty. But when certain innovations start seeping into the common vernacular, you know it’s time to pay attention.
Here are some of the innovative tools for sales that are revolutionizing sales processes across industries in 2022.
AI & machine learning for sales
At some point in the not-too-recent past, we stopped talking about Artificial Intelligence as if it were something from a science-fantasy novel. Today, it’s something that we interact with on a daily basis. From the software that suggests songs based on our listening history, to digital smart assistants that can act like virtual secretaries who remind us of appointments, AI and machine learning are already deeply ingrained in how we live. Now they’re making waves in how we sell.
Many of the automations described earlier use AI and machine learning to operate, including forecasting and prospecting. Here are some of other the ways businesses use sales intelligence to boost sales and build lean, simple processes:
- AI chatbots. AI messaging apps that carry on a human-like conversation while answering commonly asked questions, directing site visitors and gathering key pieces of information before passing customers to live representatives.
- AI next step recommendations. AI can now make suggestions for next best actions, saving a lot of decision-making time. It’s an intelligent sales tool that gives sellers instant insight into what their next move should be, based on hard data rather than memory or gut instinct.
- Advanced sales and demand forecasting. To accurately predict what will happen in the future, you’d have to keep a constant eye on what is happening in real time. But who has time for that? Machine learning technology acts as a third eye (and brain) that can constantly observe and interpret new data as it arrives, allowing it to adjust predictions in real time.
Mobile tech solutions
These days, consumers can buy nearly anything from their smartphones. And the selling side is beginning to catch up. Many sales software platforms are beginning to extend their services onto mobile devices so that businesses can take their sales organizing tools on-the-go. As connection speeds and mobile device functions become more sophisticated, mobile sales tools are evolving with the landscape.
If your sales team is constantly on-the-go, here are some of the innovative mobile sales solutions simplifying the process:
- Mobile CRM, so you can care for your customers with speed and efficiency no matter where business takes you.
- Mobile lead capturing apps, which allow you to scan business cards and badges at conventions and trade shows and store contact information instantly.
- Mobile document signing software, so you can get paperwork finalized the moment a client is ready rather than suffering through a tedious back-and-forth email chain.
Free sales tools
The beauty of software as a service is that vendors can offer free samples with very little effort or expense on their part, while their potential customers get a first-hand tour of their platform’s interface and functionality. The result is that there are tons of free software tools on the market that let you test out their platforms with no financial commitment.
If you’re a young business looking for the best sales toolkit for a tight IT budget, here are some of the platforms that could have the greatest positive impact on your productivity and profits.
As we mentioned before, customer relationship management is one of the most important selling tools in your tech stack. Keeping customers happy is vital if you want a satisfied base to build on. Without that, you’ll always be trapped on a shaky foundation.
Free CRM options are available from many vendors, either for small teams or limited trial length periods. Beyond that, cloud CRM is typically priced very affordably for small businesses, with many providers offering tiered plans designed to scale with your tech needs and budget.
Email marketing is still an incredibly cost-effective way to boost revenue. But there’s more to it than sending emails to a single list of leads and customers. Today’s email marketing tools are designed to help to build campaigns that hit the right audience’s inbox at the right time so it stands out from the constant influx of emails.
Many sales and marketing email software providers offer free versions and trials of their platforms to small businesses. Additionally, many CRM platforms include native email marketing features, so you can manage all your customer information and communications from a single platform.
Contact management solutions
Of all the free tools for storing and tracking business information, basic spreadsheet applications are probably the go-to solution for young businesses. After all, what’s easier than starting a Google Sheet and tying in a few numbers?
Most new companies will store information in spreadsheets at some point—and it’s no mystery why. Spreadsheets present a basic and useful structure for organizing a lot of information in a small amount of space. The problem with this method is that your ability to maintain accurate records decreases as your customer list grows.
Spreadsheets can only handle so much success before they become unmanageable. When that happens, you can either hit the ceiling and stop growing, or drive yourself crazy trying to manage more customers with fewer resources.
Small businesses that want more functionality than what a basic spreadsheet can provide have other options. There are plenty of free software platforms for managing customer data. Some platforms offer limited-time trials, while others offer free features based on number of contacts or agents.
Choosing the right sales tools for your business
As you can see, sales tools encompass a wide variety of platforms that come with all kinds of features and functions. From sales productivity tools and beyond. Every business will have different tech stack needs, and every team will experience a unique approach to adopting their new software platforms.
As you continue searching for the sales tool that fits your exact needs, keep in mind that your business software has to serve your customers as well as your sales team. Perform an honest assessment of your needs and processes, and be willing to test your options before committing to a decision.