3 Sales Tools That Are Changing the Way Salespeople Do Business

Traditionally, sales has relied largely upon human relationships: successful salespeople know their product and their audience and are enthusiastic about talking to people, pursuing, and closing leads with persistence and moxie. Aside from these personal qualities, until the advent of Salesforce in 1999, the only external tools a salesperson needed were a Rolodex and a phone. In the last decade, technology has dramatically changed the landscape in which inside sales reps operate: the Internet has given the general population unprecedented access to information, the penetration of mobile has allowed people to access this information anywhere and anytime, and (somewhat ironically) the number of people who actually answer phone calls has diminished.

At the same time, the tools that salespeople rely on have evolved and have changed how salespeople gain insight into leads, interact with customers and prospects, and organize their efforts. Here are a few tools that have helped salespeople gain new insights and pursue new strategies for success:

Document Analytics

Each step in the sales pipeline is affected by the exchange of documents: client education, contracts, marketing materials, business proposals, letters of intent and just about everything in between. Email attachments have made the process of sending documents faster, but, until recently, once a document was sent out, its fate was a mystery. Salespeople had no way of knowing if clients or prospects opened an attached document, when they looked at it, how long they spent looking at the doc, or, crucially, whether they forwarded it to a competitor. Further, many email services aren’t built to handle the large PDFs necessitated by lengthier docs.

Document analytics services like DocSend not only accommodate large file sizes with ease, but provide sales reps a wealth of insights into how and when clients or prospects are interacting with the documents they send. This gives salespeople actionable intelligence that helps gauge when and how to follow up with customers, reducing the risk of a call wasted on a client who isn’t ready to talk and saving time and energy for customers who are more prepared to engage.

Lightweight CRM

For larger companies, a heavy-duty CRM tool like Salesforce is an indispensable asset for the sales process, but the task of keeping it up to date is often cumbersome, requiring hours of attention and a team that is well-acquainted with the nuances of the software. For smaller companies, a lighter, more nimble tool like Streak, Landslide, or Nutshell is often more appropriate. For Gmail users, Streak is useful because it works within your inbox, eliminating the inefficiency of hopping back and forth between inbox and CRM.

A good, lightweight CRM will sync with your contacts and calendar, keep track of follow-ups, allow you to easily share proposals and deals within your team, and work seamlessly with existing applications that your company uses.

Social Media

Until the robots take over, leveraging human contacts will always be a critical component of the sales process. There is no way to overstate how important social media tools are in developing, maintaining, and growing relationships with customers, prospects, colleagues and competitors. LinkedIn and Twitter are not only vehicles for building your brand or product story; they’re also real-time news feeds that keep salespeople up to date on industry trends, who is working with whom, big news, etc.

One of the challenges with social media is that it moves quickly, and keeping up can be a chore in itself. Step away from Twitter to eat a sandwich, and you could easily miss a major piece of information that impacts what people are talking about for the rest of the day. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer allow users to manage multiple social media accounts using one dashboard. These tools can be used to track conversations and activity across platforms, schedule posts and tweets, create measurable campaigns, and track analytics, meaning that salespeople can spend less time fretting over scheduling a tweet or spending fruitless hours scanning LinkedIn.

Furthermore, a browser extension like Rapportive brings social search right into the user’s inbox, giving salespeople a wealth of publicly-available information all in one place, and is a good option for those who are less involved or familiar with social media but still want the wealth of information.

Of course, tools are only as good as the salesperson using them. No shiny new toy will make up for a sloppy social media strategy, poorly edited marketing materials, unprofessional-looking websites or lackluster follow-ups. However, in capable hands, these tools can help busy salespeople manage their time and efforts more efficiently.