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Modern Sales Reps Need Digital Tools—Lots of Them
The proliferation of data is just one of the challenges of an increasingly sophisticated sales landscape—and salespeople need all the digital help they can get.
Posted Oct 4, 2017
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The modern salesperson is hardly recognizable from the one of even a decade ago. While the successful salesperson is still characterized by ambition, perseverance, and a firm handshake, his arsenal of tools has evolved significantly. Indeed, these days, wining and dining clients or prospects at a fancy restaurant isn’t enough to find and close a deal. Rather, the modern salesperson relies heavily on digital processes and software applications to find success at every point in the sales cycle.

Sales has never been a simple vocation—just ask Willy Loman. To be successful, it requires the aforementioned virtues of ambition and perseverance, as well as a level of intellectual curiosity about the prospect and trends in the market. But these days, sales is made even more challenging. For example, more decision makers are involved in the modern sales deal, essentially making it a group-buying process. In fact, according to a Harvard Business Review article, “The New Sales Imperative,” an average of 6.8 stakeholders take part in B2B purchase decisions. This is up from 5.4 in 2015. The sales cycle is further lengthened by multiple meetings, POCs, and trials. For the rep, this web of red tape and signoffs means she must be better informed than ever before, her sales cycle must match that of her prospect’s buying cycle, and each moving part must be easily tracked throughout the sales cycle.

Information—the type and amount available, as well as access to it—has also shaped modern-day sales. Businesses today are looking at salespeople as more than just order-takers. They expect today’s sales rep to understand and know his prospect and connect in a more meaningful way. They expect the sales rep to offer additional value beyond the product he’s selling—about the competitive landscape or the prospect’s industry, for example. Information like this is powerful and beneficial to the sale and to building relationships with the prospect.

Sales Tools in the Information Age

In light of the demands of today’s sales environment, a recent survey we conducted with Cite Research revealed some of the most important sales tools, with CRM in the top spot. In fact, 64 percent of salespeople polled said they consider CRM to be the most valuable tool in increasing the effectiveness of the sales team—even more than laptops (61 percent) and smartphones (59 percent). Surprised? It’s true: In the past, sales reps have seen CRM systems as management tools used mainly to look over their shoulders. Now, greater CRM functionality in modern systems not only helps move deals through the pipeline faster, it also helps the sales rep in more meaningful ways. For example, today’s CRMs are evolving into a personal assistant. They now not only track deals through the sales cycle but also leverage machine learning to deliver detailed, pertinent information about a prospect; automate previously manual processes; and ensure streamlined communications with a prospect across all channels. 

While CRM emerged as the overwhelming requirement for sales team success, the survey highlighted other applications that follow close behind in terms of importance. Almost 50 percent of sales reps in the survey find lead development applications like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and SalesLoft extremely valuable; the same percentage finds collaboration and productivity tools like Dropbox equally important. Literally “signing on the dotted line” is no longer an actual thing, either. Once a deal goes through, contracts are now signed digitally, making tools like DocuSign valuable to 49 percent of respondents. 

Online meeting schedulers (45 percent), web meeting platforms (45 percent), internal messaging tools (44 percent), and data enrichment service subscriptions (38 percent) also bubbled up as important to the success of sales teams. However, those surveyed cite cost, security concerns, and complexity as the top barriers to adoption, at 48 percent, 36 percent, and 34 percent, respectively.

While equipping a modern sales team is expensive and can be complex, data shows that organizations are nevertheless toppling the barriers to adoption and beginning to really spend on software. Recently, Gartner announced that IT spending worldwide will grow by 1.4 percent to $3.5 trillion this year. Enterprise software comprises $351 billion of that, with spending increasing over last year by 5.5 percent.

The Bottom Line

Tenacity and intelligence are the hallmarks of a good salesperson. Unfortunately, though, these two traits and a mobile phone are no longer enough to push a deal over the finish line. Today, businesses can help make their modern sales teams more successful (and, in turn, reap the revenue benefits) with modern tools. These include an innovative CRM that offers all of the features inherent in a modern system; lead development apps; collaboration and productivity tools; internal messaging tools; and so on. By investing in these tools, your sales team—and your bottom line—will thank you.


Clint Oram is the chief marketing officer of SugarCRM, which he cofounded in 2004 with the goal of helping companies around the world turn customers into loyal fans. Formerly the company’s chief technology officer, Oram leads corporate development strategy and the alliances teams. Oram was one of the original architects and developers of the Sugar application and has focused on building out the product, company, partners, and community in a variety of executive roles.

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