In a world where customers have access to more information than ever before, it's not surprising to see that sales is ever-evolving. The digital world has completely changed the sales game.
HubSpot's research found some interesting insights:
- 57 percent of salespeople think buyers are less dependent on salespeople during the buying process.
- Only 29 percent of people want to talk to a salesperson to learn more about a product, compared to 62 percent who will consult a search engine.
The changing landscape of sales is bringing new challenges and making pre-existing challenges even more difficult. In fact, HubSpot's research also found that 30 percent of salespeople say closing deals is getting harder now.
The best approach is starting to sell the way that your prospects buy. This is accomplished through inbound sales.
Why is inbound sales so important today? Because the world of sales is now buyer centric, and inbound sales is all about empowering the buyer with educational resources to help them make the best decision for themselves. Sales rep are now more of a consultant to prospects.
Ready to build your inbound sales process and team? You need the right sales tools at your disposal.
What Are Sales Tools?
There was a time in the sales field when the only tools one needed were a phone book, a business card holder, and maybe a good golf game. While that, admittedly, oversimplifies it a bit, the sales game has gotten harder because customers have more data, but so do sales teams.
And, what’s the best way to manage that data? Sales tools.
Specifically, sales tools include software and applications that help manage, organize, and guide the sales process. That sales tech stack can include everything from sales and marketing intelligence and lead prospecting to customer relationship management (CRM) and sales automation or workflows.
How Tools Support the Inbound Sales Methodology
When that phone book was useful for a salesperson, your average consumer had limited access to information. If they were lucky, they could find a Consumer Reports magazine and maybe they had a neighbor who knew a thing or two.
These days, information and data isn’t just in the hands of the sales folks; it’s also in the hands of the customer. The internet opened doors for consumers to do initial research, to compare providers and products, and to seek out answers.
That simple change led to a world of sales that is now buyer centric, and inbound sales is all about empowering the buyer with educational resources to help them make the best decision for themselves.
Sales reps are now more of a consultant to prospects. Their job is to provide valuable information and content that guides a prospect through their buying choices and leads them through a buyer’s journey that, hopefully, ends in the customer choosing the rep’s product or service.
The Inbound Sales Funnel
Because the inbound sales process is a bit different than traditional outbound sales methods, it’s also important to understand the funnel looks a little different as well. If you consider that the first part of any buyer’s journey is seeking information, then the first part of the inbound sales process must respond to that.
From there, you begin to build a relationship of trust with the customers that nurtures their decision making. The parts of the inbound sales funnel include:
Bring qualified people to your website or your blog where you provide information and content of value to the consumer in the early stages of problem/challenge identification and understanding.
Now that you have visitors to your site and are tailoring content to each stage of their journey, you’ll also create calls to action, forms, and landing pages that help initiate contact between your team and the visitor to convert them, generating new contacts within your CRM.
Use personalized emails, workflows, and CRM tools to nurture qualified leads through their journey. Your sales team can then work the established relationship to close good fit prospects into happy customers..
No sales funnel should end once a lead is closed. Follow-up emails, surveys, reviews, social media contact, smart CTAs, and personalized emails should continue to help build the relationship between business and customer.
How Sales Tools Facilitate the Funnel
Sales tools can facilitate just about every stage of the sales funnel. Some platforms, like HubSpot, are all-in-one and help manage every aspect from blog creation and lead generation to email workflows and follow-ups. They store all the information and data relevant to contacts, leads, and goals, and provide relevant reporting on progress.
Further, sales tool applications allow sales reps to monitor every stage of the buyer’s journey, which enables the kind of relationship building and nurturing that drives inbound sales.
8 Types of Sales Tools You Need for Driving Revenue
To really understand what and how sales tools are assisting sales reps with inbound sales, let's take a detailed look at the types of sales tools and their roles.
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
A CRM system acts as a central repository for businesses to store data, track interactions, manage relationships, and identify important opportunities for sales and marketing to best serve prospects and leads and delight current customers.
The CRM has become a staple for every sales department for many reasons. It can help you and your team track and manage customer data, which you can use for lead scoring and lead nurturing.
Because customer data is the pillar for business growth, accurate, comprehensive information on who is engaging with your brand better prepares your team to nurture them and drive conversions.
Further, CRMs provide the ability to facilitate internal team communication because everyone in your organization can access customer data, helping your teams actively engage your audience at every touchpoint. Additionally, they save time by simplifying and automating data input and tracking.
When you're considering CRMs, look for tools that include features like dashboard analytics and specific application integrations, like Google Workspace, that best fit your team and streamline workflows.
Our Picks for the Best CRM Solutions
We love the HubSpot CRM for many reasons. Not only is it free, but it also best fits our needs because it integrates with all our tools and with our HubSpot suite. That being said, there are plenty of other excellent CRM options, including Salesforce, Oracle, Zoho, Pipedrive, and Monday.
2. Document Management System (DMS)
A DMS has been essential for a long time. It thankfully replaced paper-based systems, which are slow, inefficient, and wasteful. A DMS comes with a variety of features, like the following:
- Cloud storage, which is best for accessing everything from anywhere, at anytime.
- Tracking abilities and metadata storage so you can see all changes and updates to important documents.
- Integrations with your other awesome tools, like your CRM, email, etc.
- High levels of security to help protect private data.
Simply put, a DMS does all the things mentioned above and overlaps with other systems. But in terms of sales, one of the best features to look for is e-signature capabilities, which brings us to our favorite DMS tools.
Our Picks for DMS Tools
One of the most robust tools you can use as a DMS is Google Drive. It's easy to use, customizable, and, best of all, free.
Another must have for us is PandaDoc. This is an essential tool for all aspects of our organization. We even use it internally for our onboarding and other employee documents.
But it really shines as a sales tool. We deliver, track, and manage all our client-facing documents. This makes it easier on prospects, too. They can make comments and suggestions to documents and use their e-signature for final sign off.
One of our other favorite features is video embedding. We always shoot videos to show prospects our team members who would be working on their accounts, and then we embed the video into our proposal documents. This way, prospects get all the information they need in one single document.
3. Lead Management and Prospecting Tools
Managing leads and prospects is one of the biggest challenges facing sales teams today. Between contacts, MQLs, and SQLs, it can be a lot to juggle, especially with leads in varying stages of their journey.
However, keeping those people organized and keeping the pipeline moving can be the difference between closing and losing a sale. The right tool will not only help you track potential leads from social media and the web, but will also help you navigate touchpoints and interactions.
Our Picks for Lead Management Tools
Some of the more robust tools out there offer not just lead and prospect management, but also understand that a relationship only starts at that stage. The best options continue onward and also offer customer relationship management tools as part of the solution.
Our go-to is HubSpot. With full integration of all of our sales and marketing, we really do get the most out of the tools available to us through the platform. Other notable lead management tools include Salesforce, Zoho, Pipedrive, and Apptivo.
4. Sales Communication and Collaboration Tools
One of the biggest issues plaguing sales teams and remote workforces everywhere is silos. When you don't use an internal communications tool, your teams are not connected, which can slow down or even complicate sales processes.
It’s a preventable complication, however. Investing in technology that provides reliable connections and facilitates regular communication breaks down those silos and brings your marketing, service, and sales teams together.
In fact, it’s that kind communication that, especially when paired with a robust DMS, facilitates collaboration as well.
Another important consideration to address with your communications tools is how you host and conduct meetings. The right communication tool can also simplify scheduling, record meetings, enable collaboration, and much more.
Our Picks for Sales Communication Tools
For our internal communication, we love Slack. It's the most popular communications tool for a reason. It's super easy to use, includes countless integrations with other apps (including CRMs and DMSs), and makes collaboration a breeze.
Our sales and marketing teams share a channel and are constantly in contact whether it’s sharing documents, discussing leads, or, of course, sending funny memes.
5. Invoicing Tools
When it’s time to send invoices, technology should simplify the process. Old school tactics are, simply, cumbersome and time-consuming.
When payments impact your bottom line, you obviously want to make the process as easy as possible for both your customers and your organization. So, with the right tools in place, you can track and manage each customer's invoices in one simple interface. Plus, user friendly software helps with onboarding customers.
Simplifying and streamlining these types of processes is, itself, a form of customer service. It can be another opportunity to demonstrate a customer forward methodology if the process is straightforward and easy to use.
Our Picks for Invoicing Tools
One of the best new tools on the market right now is HubSpot Payments, which was announced during their Inbound 2021 event. It allows you to streamline the B2B buying experience and make it easy for your customers to submit digital payments.
By using this native payment processing feature in your HubSpot CRM, all your teams gain full visibility of the entire customer experience while organizing all your commerce and customer data in a centralized location.
There are plenty of other options to choose from as well, and, let’s be honest, old school isn’t always a negative. In fact, QuickBooks, which has been around for nearly 20 years now, is always one of the first invoicing tools to come to mind. It covers all the bases for your business needs, from managing bills to inventory management and so much more.
In terms of invoicing, it offers plenty of features such as instant payment directly through the "smart invoice" you send. Customers can pay using credit, Apple Pay, and bank transfers, which are free.
The software automatically matches payments to the associated invoices, so there’s no need for manual tracking. You can also customize invoices for each customer and add billable hours through tools like Google Calendar or Quickbooks time tracking.
Other notable invoicing tools include Zoho Office Suite, Hiveage, and Invoicera.
6. Project Management Tools
Project management has been identified as one of the areas where most teams struggle. Whether it’s missed deadlines or missed opportunities, managing projects, staying on task, and keeping teams aligned is vital to a properly functioning business.
From creating projects and all associated tasks to assigning or automating them and creating deadlines, project management tools help everyone stay accountable and deliver to your customers on time.
These days, project tasks are typically assigned across teams, departments, and sometimes even locations. So finding a project management tool that integrates with other applications and helps keep your team connected and on task is crucial.
Our Picks for Project Management Tools
You’ll see some familiar faces here and, by now, have realized that some of these platforms really are designed to provide all (or most) of the tools your team needs to be successful.
HubSpot offers its own project management tools that does everything from task creation to automation. As it’s connected to the Marketing Hub, it’s a great way to keep your sales and marketing teams aligned.
ClickUp is one we use as it allows impressive customization, goal setting, prioritizing, and filtering. It’s a remarkably versatile tool that can be flexible depending on the user or team.
Teamwork is another great option. Like ClickUp, it also includes capacity planning that gives leadership a view into how much time tasks are taking and how effective and efficient teams are in meeting deadlines, servicing clients, and completing projects. That kind of forecasting is invaluable for planning future projects as well.
7. Sales Automation Tools
Sales automation tools were initially designed to speed up tedious or repetitive tasks. Those are the tasks a sales team member can get bogged down by if required to handle them as they arise. Automating those tasks means your sales team can spend more time on strategy and more efficiently manage the pipeline.
Ideally, early on in the sales process, automation is an invaluable tool when emails and other touchpoints don’t need to be highly individualized. However, given the advancement of these tools, which now can use AI and analytics to respond to workflow choices, choosing the right tool matters more than ever.
Our Picks for Sales Automation Tools
Let’s be honest. There’s a lot out there. Depending on which part of the sales process you want to automate (prospecting, lead list building, email or funnel management, marketing integration), finding the right tool is vital.
Pipedrive is great for both goal setting and administrative tasks, but also includes a CRM that, again, shows the kind of awareness about an inbound sales funnel that you want in a tool.
Similarly, HubSpot Sales Hub can automate emails and workflows ensuring your leads and prospects hear from your team at the right time, with the right message. With a CRM included, these two take top spots. Close.io offers that same functionality and is great for startups and small businesses.
Reply.io also enables your sales team to automate communication through multiple channels, including social media with attention paid to your brand’s voice and your team’s strategy.
8. Sales Analytics and Reporting Tools
What good are all these tools if there’s no way to measure and analyze the success of campaigns? Sales analytics and reporting tools give you all the information you need to respond and adjust your goals and strategies based on real-time data regarding your success.
Sometimes called dashboards or business intelligence tools, these applications typically provide visual representations of data that allow you, at a glance, to see where things are and where they’re headed. They’re an invaluable part of the sales team’s digital toolbox.
Our Picks for Sales Reporting Tools
Again, our go-to in our office is HubSpot. Using detailed reporting with robust filtering options, your sales (and marketing) team can get all the information they need on what lead capturing efforts and campaigns are performing well.
You’ll know who's interacting with your website and what outreach efforts are successful. When you consider that HubSpot also offers a CRM and marketing tools, it's easy to see why all of those working together can really help strategic and scalable growth.
Much like HubSpot, Salesforce and Zoho offer similar analytics and reporting while incorporating them into an all-in-one solution. In contrast, standalones like InsightSquared integrate with other platforms (like Salesforce) to provide out of the box digital dashboards that analyze your existing revenue generation activities and reveal missed opportunities as well as where you can and should make adjustments.
Grow Your Business Using the Best Sales Tools
No sales rep should work alone, and while that doesn’t mean you need to add to headcount to support a single representative, it does mean you should take a look to ensure you’re providing your team with the tools they need to succeed so your business can too.
With all the applications on the market, finding the right sales tools for your team can be difficult, but when you do, you increase efficiency and productivity. Your sales team benefits, your inbound funnel fills, and your business grows.