The Top 5 Sales Technologies as Scored by Salespeople

Highlights

  • Sales technologies bring process automation, information reporting and scale to selling execution. Technology is the primary tool to save time and aid performance, but managers often struggle to identify which tools are the most effective and deliver the biggest payback.
  • Sales Force Automation (SFA) software, sometimes called a Sales Cloud, was cited as the most effective application by the Best-in-Class performance archetype. However, this groups design and use of this software differed greatly from their lower performing peers.
  • Artificial Intelligence is the fastest growing technology within the sales software portfolio. It's less of a standalone solution and more of a technology that aids most other sales applications.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

In the most recent survey for the Sales Excellence Report we expanded the number of topics and questions related to sales technologies.

As with prior year surveys we wanted to know the most effective sales software apps. We've seen other research that shows the most used or planned for use, but in our opinion that's more of a popularity contest or groupthink tabulation. We also find it shows little to no correlation with sales performance results. Sales software effectiveness is what we're after.

We wanted to drill deeper to know how the most effective leaders, that is the Best-in-Class performance archetype (i.e., the top 15 percent), ranked their technologies in terms of effectiveness. So, we broke down the top five sales applications by archetype.

The results were informative for anybody seeking to better apply technology for improved revenue results.

The Most Effective Sales Technologies

The chart below shows how salespeople ranked the five most effective applications.

Top 5 Sales Technologies

See the 5 most effective (not most popular) sales applications as ranked by salespeople.

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Below are some additional insights for each of the top ranked technologies.

1

Sales Force Automation

SFA, also known as a Sales Cloud, was ranked the most effective tool by all performance archetypes. For most companies, the SFA system is a component of the CRM software.

The Best-in-Class described their SFA as mission critical and essential to their work. Several suggested they couldn't do their jobs without it. But in contrast, many Medians and Laggards described their SFA as an administrative burden that hindered instead of helped.

The difference in opinions had little to do with the application and more to do with who it benefited. If the goal is to capture data, such as leads and sale opportunities that roll up to the pipeline report, management is the beneficiary and salespeople are relegated to being the data input operators for somebody else's output.

If the application is instead designed to aid staff productivity with process automation, aid opportunity conversions with guided selling recommendations, aid information reporting with role-based dashboards, aid sales quota attainment with custom win plans or aid anything else that helps sellers sell, the software becomes invaluable to the salesforce.

2

Sales Analytics

Analytics include dashboards, information reporting and predictive models. The Best-in-Class cohort show that analytics are most successful when they are designed to connect data, insights and action that directly contribute to revenue outcomes.

The research found analytics were rated effective when they focused on the most important measures and delivered actionable insights that would otherwise not have been unearthed.

We know from other sales analytics research that information reporting is most valuable when it advises timely course corrections that improve revenue outcomes. We also know that even small improvements are shown to deliver significant financial uplift.

Sales Dashboard

Analytics were rated ineffective when they presented information that was considered not that important or useful or not actionable for the recipient. Sellers cited too much low value information content that went ignored.

While the Best-in-Class cited analytics as their top tool for continuous process improvements, their lower performing peers were more often data rich but information poor. To their credit, the underperformers understood the value of data but struggled to transform it into actionable intelligence. Data was both an unused and undervalued asset.

3

Artificial Intelligence

AI is showing increasing momentum and was ranked third. AI with sales software adds value to most other applications. Among the Best-in-Class, AI was described as a game changer and driver of numerous improvements.

Business leaders are using AI-infused apps to calculate lead and opportunity scores, facilitate guided selling with contextual recommendations, and identify buyers that will buy and sale opportunities that will close. It's an underlying technology that delivers overarching benefits.

Popular CRM systems such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 with its Azure Open AI and Salesforce with its Einstein have removed technical barriers and put AI capabilities into the hands of business analysts and power users.

One of our clients pointed out a comparable study. Salesforce published the State of Sales Report, which advised that AI is the top technology to aid sales software and performance. While the Salesforce study measures AI growth and not AI effectiveness, it appears complimentary and is worth reviewing if you are considering AI.

4

Customer Data Platforms

CDP apps use third party data or other data sources to append, update, replace and standardize account and contact data. It's a data enrichment tool and process that reviews lead, contact and account data in the SFA or CRM system. It then flags data inconsistencies, identifies bogus data, merges duplicate data, replaces inaccurate data, removes obsolete data and appends incomplete records.

A plethora of customer systems has created as many data siloes.

Customer Data Platforms have stepped up to harvest lead and customer data from multiple systems and unify the data into a single and central master profile record. The master customer data is then shared with other systems as needed.

The most named CDPs included Adobe's Real-time Customer Data Platform (CDP) (built on top of Adobe Experience Platform), Microsoft Dynamics CDP and Salesforce Data Cloud.

5

Sales Enablement Apps

Selling Enablement tools provide salespeople with the content, coaching, training and technology that helps them sell more effectively. For example, they include things like content management systems and online collaboration tools.

They typically orchestrate early-stage selling activities. They help deliver more effective interactions with customers and increase the productivity and effectiveness of the salesforce. These enablement applications have become the second highest growing category (behind AI) and are quite often managed by a dedicated group called Sales Operations or Sales Ops.

Sales enablement is often confused with sales engagement applications. While the former tends to be used for internal work processes, the later facilitates customer facing communications with productivity tools that automate highly repetitive customer engagement tasks.

That includes things such as computer telephony integration with its auto-dialing and automated voicemails, automated email distributions and simple, voice-based or automated logging of customer communications in the CRM system. Sales engagement apps are mostly used by digital-first sellers such as inside sales staff, sales development representatives (SDRs) and field sales.