SalesTech – What Works In the New Normal

For many, the whole concept of sales tech can be somewhat overwhelming and complex. As part of the work we do at Innovo with our small to midsize B2B clients, we take a great interest in choosing and selecting the right tools, because our clients look to us to help them gain the most value from them.

From this real-world experience, over time we’ve curated a preferred “salestech stack”. We have no vested interest in these particular tools that we’re going to cover. Our only motivation is to select the tools that are the best fit for our type of clients that are:

  • Effective
  • Relatively easy to use
  • Affordable

The reality is that for B2B sales professionals, only about 34% of their time is spent actually selling. That means that the other 66% is not in front of customers or engaged in sales activities, making it even more challenging to be successful. This issue is actually becoming even more critical with the dynamics of our prospects having changed significantly over the last year, and will continue to change.

Here are some of the challenges that sales professionals are dealing with.

More people involved

We’re dealing with many more people within the buying process. In the past, it was a handful…now it’s a herd!

In order to be successful in more complex B2B sales environments, there are more people to consider than just one decision maker. There are multiple layers of influencers, and possibly other decision makers throughout that process. It’s just adding more time and complexity to manage these communications, and contributing to the fact that only 34% of time is actually spent selling and closing.

The other reality is that the target B2B audience has generally become younger (or, in my case…I’ve gotten older!)

Prospects are more comfortable using technology

50% of the people that our sales professionals are dealing with are millennials. And that’s not a bad thing! It just simply means that this audience is more tech savvy. They are more comfortable communicating online. They’re not big on phone calls or face-to-face conversations. This is just the new reality. If your sales organization has not adjusted to this, and taken advantage of how to leverage opportunities now, you’re going to be “behind the eight ball” when it comes to building a pipeline and achieving your sales goals over the long run.

The other reality is that the buyers that we’re working with today in a B2B sales environment, are making 62% of their decisions online without even interacting with a salesperson. They’re able to do much more and get further through the sales stages before they even need to interact with a sales professional, assuming they ever want to.

So this is why it’s valuable to be very diligent and tech savvy to some extent so you can leverage new advantages through adopting some technologies.

There was an interesting study done by McKinsey, the prominent consulting company. They surveyed over 1500 different B2B companies and their decision makers. The survey covered large, mid-sized and small companies in different industries and verticals. McKinsey wanted to know what their buying habits are now. They found that 69% of this audience preferred video conferencing and online chat over face-to-face meetings, emails, and phone calls.

A catalyst for a new trend

Of course, we all saw when COVID hit what happened to the number and amount of video conferences that all of us were engaging in. I’ll ask you this question, though….based on where things are today, has it really decreased? It very likely may have increased! The way buyers want to interact with our sales professionals has permanently changed, and probably isn’t going back. And we need to adjust to that.

In our work with our clients, we’ve heard directly from the sales teams that B2B buyers no longer prefer in-person meetings. There’s no question that in-person meetings saw a decrease because of COVID. However, because everyone initially had to adapt to this technology out of necessity…now they actually prefer it!

Here’s another interesting, but poignant, fact. In another study from Forrester, they looked at what people will do in the future after COVID. When they looked at meeting with their colleagues, their existing customers, their prospects, and even their vendors and suppliers, overwhelmingly, they preferred the video conference option.

79% of B2B companies said they’re very, or somewhat, likely to sustain these shifts for at least 12 months post COVID.

So what’s really going on here? And how do we adapt to it?

So many salestech options

The technologies out there to support this new change and how we can adapt to it proliferated. And yes, it can be confusing and frustrating! That’s why we have curated that list down to some basic, but very effective, tools that are relatively inexpensive. They can get the job done in this new environment.

There are so many different things to consider to be successful in the B2B sales environment. When you look at the entire sales tech landscape, this is a visual of actual software that is available. And there’s many more beyond these!

We all know that there’s more here than anyone could possibly begin to understand and actually integrate. As small to midsize B2B companies look at the challenge they have to address, it can seem complex. This is why we really want to focus on a handful tools that we know we can integrate and put to good use. We’re going to explore 6 of those tools:

Calendly

How do we make it easy to arrange meetings? For that, we like using a very popular tool called Calendly. Let’s explore why it’s valuable, how it’s being used, and take a look at some actual examples.

Typically, when we want to arrange a meeting—whether it’s with another colleague, a prospect or an existing customer—we email them some options.

“Hey, are you available on Tuesday at 3?”
“No, I’m not available Tuesday at 3, but how about Wednesday at 1?”

And it goes on and on and on. It’s very inefficient!

As you may know, Calendly connects with your own calendar, whether it’s Outlook or Gmail, to determine your availability. Most people just send someone a link to their Calendly page, which is fine…but did you know that Calendly can actually embed 3 days worth of available times right in the body of your email? Here’s how.

Because it’s connected, you simply have it on your browser right there with your email. You click the button on your browser and your calendar pops up. You pick three days that you would be available, and then paste that onto that email. Then when you send that email it includes your available times for those 3 days. The person who receives it just clicks on a time that works for them.

Once they click on that link it automatically creates an appointment in your calendar, giving both you and them a confirmation that you now have a meeting. It can even send a reminder to that person, in advance. It’s also able to automatically assign a Zoom instance to the meeting. Calendly is a tool that needs to be in every sales rep’s kit. We use it all the time, it just makes arranging meetings much more seamless.

When prospecting and engaging with potential customers, we want to make that connection as easy, pain-free, and as seamless as possible. You want to reduce any friction that might occur between getting the actual meeting and having the actual meeting. The last thing you want to happen is finally getting someone to agree to meet with you, and then have to go back and forth trying to figure out the right time to do it.

Vidyard

I love video! There are tools other than Vidyard that are very similar, and you may want to explore them as well. This is what we use, though, and we’ve found it to be very effective.

Once salespeople weren’t able to visit clients and prospects as much, they increased the amount of emails they were sending. On the average, all of us are now receiving about 50% more emails than we did before. If your company is looking to attract more customers with email, then you are fighting with twice the amount of other emails that are coming at those same prospects.

With your prospects getting bombarded by all these emails, how can you differentiate yourself to get their attention? This is a tool that can help you get there.

Vidyard lives on your browser, and lets you easily put a custom video in your email. You just click on the icon, it activates your webcam, you deliver your message, then press “stop”. It attaches a link to your video right in the email you’re going to send, and automatically creates a thumbnail image that invites the recipient to click to watch the video. You can even have it create a short looping animated GIF so it looks like a short portion of the video is playing right in the email! Our human brains have no choice but to look at it, because we are simply wired to pay attention to something in our line of sight that’s moving. It’s a natural instinct that we basically can’t resist by grabbing the viewer’s attention.

One of the downsides of email is that it’s very flat. Often how an email is interpreted is very much dependent on who was reading it. But with video, now you can really get your message across. Once the recipient clicks on it, they can see who is speaking to them, what their voice sounds like, their body language, the facial expressions, the real tone. They can see that you’re a good person, you’re professional, and you’re likeable. Your message has a better chance to resonate.

In fact, if you simply have the word “video” as part of the subject line sentence, that email will be opened up 21% more often than an email that doesn’t include it. So even just that shows you that video is a very good tool to incorporate!

If you get the upgraded version, you can also brand it with your own logos, and have it connect it to other parts of your sales process. They do have a free version with some limitations, but it will get the job done and give you an opportunity to try it out.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Of course, LinkedIn itself is a no brainer. LinkedIn Sales Navigator takes it one step further, though, by identifying unique contacts within organizations. It’s a tremendous research tool, not to mention that it is a good networking tool itself, just like the standard LinkedIn. As of 2021, LinkedIn has grown to a database of 722 million professionals that have provided information on where they work now, where they worked before, what their background is, and what their interests are, It’s a treasure trove of information for any sales professional.

Most salespeople have at least heard of it, but unfortunately many don’t use it, because they’re not aware of what level of value it can provide. Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator is just another level of accessing critical business intelligence that your professional sales team needs to find the right people to talk to about the value of your company’s solutions and products. It is on the pricey side, though. But if it’s used regularly and properly, it will easily pay for itself many times over.

Reply.io

Innovo uses this product regularly. It’s a very inexpensive, automated prospecting tool. We’ll share some examples of how our clients use it (and for that matter, how Innovo uses it as well).

Think of this platform as marketing automation for cold contacts. Everyone is familiar with products such as HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot. They’re all very good, but they have two downsides for sales prospecting.

First, these platforms are designed to communicate with prospects that you’ve already established a business relationship with. They do not allow (or approve of) importing lists of cold contacts. Also, these platforms can be very expensive!

What Reply.io does is provide a way to set up automated cadences to your cold prospect list, allowing you you to contact your prospect list on an automated and stage cadence. So if we want to go after a particular audience, or a list that we vetted, we create some sales-focused email templates, including links to literature, graphics, etc.

Another benefit of Reply.io is that it’s actually sending it from your email account, so it looks just like every email that we would send the usual way. This also improves the chances that the email will wind up in the Inbox, instead of Updates or Promotions. The emails would go to each individual on that list, automatically, and it can be personalized. So, for example, it could start with “Hello Fred,” versus “Dear Sir”.

Also, if you have additional data fields in your list, you can easily reference them in your email template, such as the company name, title, or any other field in your dataset.

This whole system gives you the power to send hundreds of emails to the right target audience with a press of a button. In addition, you can create an automated prospecting cadence that sends a series of emails, spaced over a period of time.

Of course, with any good prospecting cadence, you’ll send an email, you’ll do a phone follow up, you’ll do a social touch on LinkedIn, and then the Reply.io cadence kicks in again, and sends another email. And if there is a response from any of those emails, Reply.io stops sending it. So it’s smart, too. When there is a reply, it notifies you, and there’s some good analytics behind it. So you can see what’s working, what’s not working, you can play around with your subject lines to see if one’s more effective than the other.

If you’re serious about getting more prospects into your pipeline, and more qualified opportunities in your pipeline, you’re basically using a product that will allow you to prospect while you’re doing other things. It’s sales technology. Because it is so personalized, it is professional and effective.

Of course, just because you’re using that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to be responding to every email. These are still emails, and we’re still competing with so many other ways that our competitors are trying to get our prospects and customers attention. But it has a work multiplier effect, so you can be automatically prospecting to hundreds of people in your target market while you’re simultaneously having zoom meetings with other prospects. This makes you much more efficient with your time and your resources.

Crystal

This is a very interesting platform that’s actually a plugin that works with either LinkedIn or Sales Navigator. It’s very powerful on many levels. It actually interprets the person’s profile content and generates a DISC behavioral profile assessment.

Let’s say that you’re going to be meeting with someone for the first time (which is more than likely going to be a video meeting these days) and you’ve never met this person before. Wouldn’t it be extremely valuable to know how they like to be communicated with, and how they make decisions? Here is a real-world example of how this can be very valuable.

I was working with a prospect, and after a short period of time it became very clear that he was more of a “C”, as defined by DISC. The C profile is not quick to make decisions. They are very analytical, they love data, and they want more information than they really need, so they prefer to take time. They don’t like to be forced, they’d rather have time to think it through and process. So the last thing they want is to feel like they are being “closed” by a salesperson!

Also factoring into this was the knowledge that I am a “D” in the DISC profile. These are typically goal-oriented. We’re very comfortable making decisions quickly, because we’re “bigger picture” kinds of thinkers. But at the same time, we’re also aggressive, we’re focused on the outcome, on achieving the goal.

Sometimes a D working with a C can be a bad mix!

But armed with the awareness up front that my prospect was a C, via Crystal, I was able to change how I communicate with this prospect. I was very laid back. which is unusual for me. It’s not how I typically operate!

So I provided him lots of information, and took the whole process much more slowly. After the third meeting I sent him a copy of our consulting agreement. Instead of sending a PDF, as I usually would, I sent it as a regular Word document. In the email, I wrote, “I know we haven’t gotten to this point in our conversation, but I thought it would be valuable for you just to see what the consulting agreement looks like. It’s in Word, so you can change or modify it. But we can talk about that the next time we meet.”

So when I did go to see him at an in-person meeting, the first thing he did was pull out the agreement and asked some questions about it. We discussed some of the issues, and found resolutions to them. After all that…he was ready to go! I never even had to “ask for the order”. I didn’t need to, because that’s not how he operated.

So Crystal is exceptionally powerful, and very affordable as well. (There’s even a free version, which actually is pretty good as well). In addition to using it to understand your prospects, you can even use it to create a DISC profile on yourself.

In the work we do at Innovo, we also use it as a tool to understand the profiles of the sales professionals we work with. As sales leaders, it’s our job to understand how they like to be communicated with, so that we can have better communication that resonates more deeply with them.

Seamless.ai

This is basically a different type of prospect database. It’s similar to ZoomInfo, but it’s much less expensive. We’ve found that it’s actually more effective. with some interesting technologies. By constantly gathering information from publicly available sources, including connections to LinkedIn, it’s able to provide very current information.

It’s a robust platform as well. They recently improved it so that you can do more granular searches based on your ideal customer profile, personas, job title, location, industry types, and company. In addition to emails, it sometimes finds mobile phone numbers as well, which is very valuable.

Summary

We explored a select curated collection of powerful salestech tools. There are many other fine tools out there as well. These are ones that we have vetted and used in real-world selling situations. We use them at Innovo, our clients use them, and we know they work.

It’s helpful to keep it simple, though. I don’t recommend trying to adopt every one of these platforms all at once. Most small to midsize B2B companies have limited resources. Each platform has to be set up and integrated into your sales processes. Perhaps start with just one, or two at the most, and get used to working with it. Experiment, try things, understand the features and best practices. All of these platforms have helpful information on their website, plus support teams who want you to succeed.

If you’d like to explore this topic further, please reach out and I’d be happy to talk shop about some of these tools and other approaches to help your sales organization and your company achieve its sales goals.

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