The rise of sales-tech: What you need to know

Sales technology solutions may not be as big as adtech or martech today, but they're swifting becoming a key element of the business technology lumascape. Question is, can they finally build a bridge to close the marketing and sales gap?


It was while selling B2B services at Google in the US that Chris Rothstein and his colleagues first started to see how broken a sales process could be.

“We had such great people, yet they had so many things they had to do that weren’t really helping them sell,” Rothstein says. “They either had the choice of flying blind and not understanding what activities were driving what results, or spending a lot of time on all these things that didn’t help them sell and that they didn’t like to do.”

So Rothstein and his colleagues started building a data-driven solution that would remove the tedious tasks that got in the way of selling.

They subsequently left Google to found Groove, a company that strives to take inefficiencies out of sales processes.

Today Groove is one of a growing pantheon of sales technology solutions seeking to both drive efficiency while giving salespeople better access to knowledge about their customers. And one of its biggest clients happens to be Google.

While the sales-tech stack doesn’t yet rival that which has been built out for adtech and martech, it is catching up, thanks to a rush of technology-driven solutions hitting the sales industry. But can they finally help the sales and marketing teams actually get along?

The evolution of CRM

Many of these are built on top of the last great technology-driven revolution to hit the sale industry in the 2000s – CRM. Rothstein says Groove’s goal is to fix many of the problems that CRM has created.

“A lot of sales reps feel like they are working for the CRM, rather than the other way around,” he says. “It’s a tedious thing they get no benefit from, but management gets a nicer set of reports. It really shouldn’t be that way, it should be there to assist sales, and make them better as sales people.”

That the development of sales tech has lagged marketing and advertising most likely stems from its core processes having not significantly changed with the evolution of surrounding technologies. Whilst the emergence of online advertising provided a rich data set for analysis and manipulation, the activities of sales have relied on manual data entry, and have generally failed to capture the full picture.

Read more: 6 lessons in CRM project management: What brands would do differently next time

Read more: 10 signs your CRM system needs an overhaul

However, with artificial intelligence now able to capture and comprehend the content of emails – and even phone calls – analysable sales data sources have now emerged.

For Groove, the key is in integrating the communications element of sales by automatically capturing phone calls, emails and other communications that happens between a rep and their prospect or client. This data is then used to inform the sales person as to what is working, and advise them on what steps to take next.

“What we want to do is tie these things together so that your organisation can improve, and you can deliver more value to your clients,” Rothstein says. “And we are just at the cusp of that. There are so many interesting things we could help people with. We want to do exactly what happened in marketing automation, where we can be the one top shop for basically your system to run your sales team.”

Rothstein says the predominance of cloud-based solutions is also another important piece in the puzzle.

“They all have APIs, and you can connect them and make it so for the customer it is pretty much plug-and-play,” he says.

Changing buyer behaviour

Like many of the changes that have swept the sales and marketing industry in the last decade, that these tools are now necessary speaks to the changing expectations and behaviours of buyers generally.

According to owner of B2B sales and marketing consultancy Carpe Diem, Bruce Rasmussen, over the last there or five years buyers have changed how they buy, and many sales organisations have failed to keep up.

“Seventy per cent of the time, the customer roughly knows what they want, so all the salesperson can really do is beat off everybody else,” Rasmussen says. “That is the area of low win rate, high competition, and being perceived as a commodity.

“The research coming from the Corporate Executive Board is saying that sales success is coming down to the sales people that tell buyers what to do, rather than letting the buyers figure it out for themselves. So we say you have to engage earlier.”

Hence whereas once a single sales process might have been adequate, now three might be necessary.

“There is the process for when the customer is calm, and that is all about introducing an insight to shatter their status quo,” Rasmussen says. “But if they have already had their status quo shattered, now it is the solution-selling methodology, which is to highlight the pain and build a vision of the solution. If they have got through all of that then you have to run a competitive selling methodology.”

That places a strain on both sales and marketing organisations to gather the information about what mode the prospect or client is in, to determine the relevant insights, and then to create the relevant content and offers and track their effectiveness.

Hence the rush of new providers in areas such as social selling, sales engagement, customer relationship intelligence and sales performance management, content management, and many, many more.

And many are getting active in Australia.

Up next: What the new breed of technology players is promising, plus the rise of ABM and how it's shaking up sales and marketing relationships

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