Sales Tools – Choosing the Right Tech for Your Sales Team

In our high-tech world, skill, experience, and training will only take you so far – and choosing the best sales tools and technology can be the difference between success and failure. But finding the right sales technology for your needs isn’t easy. After wading through marketing messages, sales demos, and over-hyped user reviews, you still need to find technology that fits your budget, team size, and specific business needs. Just as important, the sales technology you select needs to play well with the other tools in your tech stack – or you risk information silos and communication errors that can bring your team’s momentum to a grinding halt.

You may be wondering if these technological unicorns even exist. Thankfully, we can answer this question with a resounding yes!

The Sales Tech Stack

There are three primary types of sales technology:

  • CRM — all-around sales management software
  • Sales prospecting tools — specialized software for engaging leads
  • Targeting tools — specialized software for finding leads and contact information

At the very least, every sales team needs a Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM). Depending on your sales process, you may also need a targeting or sales prospecting tool, or software for scheduling meetings, making cold or follow-up sales calls, and the like.

Using multiple specialized sales management tools doesn’t need to be a hassle or cost a fortune. One tool that does everything is ideal, but it’s not necessary to learn to code or have a large budget to integrate software or use multiple tools. Most sales tools integrate well with other sales technology and you can put together a good sales tool tech stack for under $500/mo.

For example, consider a B2B sales team that needs to find their own qualified leads for high-volume outbound prospecting, and has a long, detailed sales process. A cloud-based CRM like HubSpot can manage the sales process for $50/mo, but it has no targeting capabilities and charges $500/mo to add most prospecting features. Here are their options:

Option 1: HubSpot Sales Professional (sales and prospecting for $500/mo) + LeadFuze (targeting for $135/mo). Total fee = $635 per month.

Option 2: HubSpot Sales Starter (sales for $50/mo) + Reply (prospecting for $70/mo) + LeadFuze (targeting for $135/mo). Total fee = $255 per month.

Option 3: HubSpot Sales Starter (sales for $50/mo) + Growbots (prospecting and targeting for $200/mo). Total fee = $250 per month.

Not only is option #1 the least specialized option (HubSpot has less prospecting capabilities than Reply or Growbots) but it’s also nearly three times the cost of the other, more specialized bundles.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the sales technology stack, we’ll dive into each of these tools in detail, along with our top recommendations for CRMs, targeting and prospecting platforms, and other sales productivity tools we use and love.

But first, let’s dive into why you need a CRM and how to find the best one for your team.

Sales CRMs

Every sales team needs a CRM tool. Yes, even a sales team of one. 

To close deals and succeed in sales, you need to follow clearly defined sales methodologies, you need to be efficient, and (if you have a sales team of more than one) you need to be transparent. A good CRM will help with all of this.

Sales CRMs are designed to manage everything sales-related. They track the entire sales cycle, sales process, prospecting, customer lifecycle, KPIs, commissions, sales performance, sales analytics, website traffic, all customer interactions, customer satisfaction and more. And they alert your team with notifications when key activities occur to keep the workflow moving. CRMs are vital to maximizing customer experience, and they can significantly improve your customer success program.

Sales CRMs also contain sales enablement tools, marketing and sales process automation tools, sales AI tools, and nearly everything else needed for modern sales teams to manage sales efforts and stay competitive. Inevitably you’ll need other tools to level up your sales efforts further, but the CRM is where nearly all sales professionals live throughout the day.

Not only do you need a CRM, but you need a good CRM and to configure it to match your processes. A CRM that’s not a good fit for your business (or just bad software) will cause unnecessary drag on your salespeople – and often does more harm than good.

Sales CRM Categories

CRMs typically fall into one of three categories:

  1. Lite CRMs – software that wasn’t specifically designed as a CRM, but can be adapted to provide basic CRM functionality. Examples of this include Asana, Notion, and Airtable.
  2. Standard CRMs – this category includes the majority of CRMs and typically works best for small to midsize sales teams (100 sales reps or less). Examples include Pipedrive, Copper, and Close.io.
  3. Enterprise CRMs – this is full-sized software for full-sized companies, and most enterprise options end up being unnecessarily complicated and expensive for the average sales team. Salesforce, Zoho, and NetSuite are all examples of enterprise CRMs.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. While most CRMs fit firmly in one category, we’ve found that HubSpot works well for everything from tiny sales teams to full-scale enterprise organizations.

Questions to Answer Before Choosing a CRM

When selecting a CRM there are a few things to carefully consider:

  • Will it support all aspects of your sales process, or will you need to integrate other software to fully meet your needs?
  • What is the user interface like? Is it straightforward and easy to navigate, or does it have a steep learning curve?
  • What features can be automated? What information will need to be entered manually?

CRM Features Every Sales Team Needs

Determining which features are important to you will depend on your sales strategy, marketing activity, and existing tech stack. Some words to be on the lookout for are:

Email Sequences — every sales team needs the ability to send sequenced emails automatically. As we mentioned earlier, some sales prospecting tools do this better than most CRMs (and cost less) but it’s much less hassle when possible in your CRM.

Multichannel Sequences — nearly everyone doing outbound sales prospecting should use multiple channels to connect with leads. This feature includes email sequences and, again, some sales prospecting tools do it better than CRMs (and cost less) but the integration can be a hassle.

Automation — all sales teams should use automation, at least to streamline basic tasks and workflows. This doesn’t need to be done in the first year while your process gets ironed out but you’ll need it eventually. It’s fine to start with lower automation capabilities as long as the next tier(s) will fit your needs as you grow.

Pipeline — sales managers spend most of their time looking through the pipeline and individual deals. When these screens aren’t customizable or intuitive, or don’t mesh well with your team’s process, it’s a pain and sales representatives will use them less. Look for a visual sales pipeline and a streamlined user experience.

Meeting Scheduler — every sales team should make it as easy as possible to schedule a sales call. Finding a sales CRM with this native feature is the easiest way to do it.

Sales Playbooks — sometimes called dynamic call scripts, intuitive call notes, or “blueprints,” playbooks are interactive call scripts that guide sales professionals through calls and organize their notes. This has a massive impact on the quality of sales calls, data reporting, and transparency, but is only valuable if you have written sales processes.

Integrations — all CRMs like to advertise how many automations they have. Native CRM integrations usually work better than 3rd party integrations (like Zapier) but it’s always better to have that capability as a baked-in feature of the CRM.

Popular Sales CRMs:

The most popular sales CRMs are:

HubSpot

Unlimited scalability, with a great user experience regardless of team size

Pipeline management and deal stages in HubSpot

HubSpot is the best all-around sales CRM on the market. It’s the best sales CRM for startups, small businesses, and most large businesses because it strikes a perfect balance between user experience (UX), scalability, and pricing. They’re also releasing new AI sales tools, like a content assistant and operational chatbot built on GPT.

What you need to know about HubSpot:

  • The only enterprise CRM with great user experience at every level. This combination of scalability and UX is priceless. Competitors like Salesforce and Zoho have similar capabilities but are so ugly and clunky that sales professionals hate using them. HubSpot gives you the strengths of an enterprise CRM that you’ll never grow out of, without jeopardizing buy-in from your team or giving them a steep learning curve. This is important when it comes to adoption and onboarding.
  • Unlimited efficiency from automations and integrations. HubSpot has every workflow and task automation you’d ever need. Sales Hub, which is also a sales enablement platform, offers enough automation at the Professional tier for most teams and costs a maximum of $500/mo for five users, whereas Sales Hub Starter ($20/mo for two users) is just enough automation for small sales teams or startups.
  • Affordable lower tiers. HubSpot gets pricey when you add many hubs (especially with many marketing contacts). But these hubs and higher tiers aren’t necessary for small, low-revenue teams. HubSpot’s $20/mo Sales Team Starter tier is loaded with more features than every other similarly priced option on this list.
  • High quality of training. HubSpot’s training academy is incredible. The courses for learning how to use HubSpot are best in the business, plus they have some of the best online sales training courses we’ve seen. Conversation intelligence also helps sales managers coach their sales reps on recorded calls.

HubSpot’s Pricing:

Sales Hub Starter ($20/mo for two users) is enough to get you started if this is your first CRM, but larger and experienced sales teams will eventually want Sales Hub Professional ($500/mo for five users). The Enterprise tier ($1,200/mo for 10 users) unlocks playbooks, custom objects and reporting, and advanced analytics and automation.

HubSpot only charges for seats that use Sales Hub features. Most admins and non-sales reps will NOT require a paid seat. Non-sales users are free.

Check out our full review of HubSpot Sales CRM here.

Pipedrive

Simple, affordable and easy to use

Visual sales pipelines in Pipedrive

Pipedrive is the best standard CRM for small sales teams, and the best budget CRM for startups. It doesn’t have the scalability of HubSpot, but it still has an excellent combination of great capabilities and excellent UI/UX.

What you need to know about Pipedrive:

  • The best value CRM. Pipedrive’s 2nd and 3rd tiers ($28-$50 per user per month) have more capabilities than other CRMs at the same price point. The 3rd tier includes workflow automations, webhooks, custom fields, quotes, e-signatures, email sequences, custom reporting, scheduling, a dialer, and more. The majority of these features are either not included with other CRMs or in the range of $100 per user per month.
  • Good UI/UX. It’s tough to pack many features into a CRM while maintaining an excellent look and feel. Many people leave CRMs like Salesforce, Zoho, and ActiveCampaign because the UI is too confusing and it’s tough to get reps to buy-in. Pipedrive is visually appealing and easy to get situated without formal training. Each screen strikes an excellent balance, containing lots of data while still being easy on the eyes. While plenty of CRMs suffer from “great data; terrible to look at,” Pipedrive deserves credit for avoiding the fate of Keap and Close, which prioritize great UI at the expense of minimal data.
  • Limited scalability. Pipedrive has similar features as enterprise CRMs, which may make it seem like you’ll never grow out of it. However, these features in Pipedrive have fewer capabilities and customizations than in premium tiers of HubSpot or Salesforce. This is okay since the cost is 10-20x lower than a premium tier enterprise CRM, but since migrating CRMs is such a big job, scalability is key for growing sales teams. Examples of features that need more depth are reporting, deal customization, and automations.
  • Some key features require paid add-ons. Many of these features are very basic and really shouldn’t be behind another paywall. For example, it’s an additional $32/mo for a meeting scheduler, live chat, and web forms, which are all included in HubSpot’s completely free tier. Document library, document tracking, proposals and quotes, and e-signatures cost another $32/mo. The list goes on.

Pipedrive’s Pricing:

The Advanced tier ($28 per month per user) is good enough for very basic sales teams. However, most good sales tools are in the Professional tier ($50 per month per user), such as extra deal and field customization, advanced reporting, and more.

See our full review of Pipedrive here.

ActiveCampaign

Email marketing-centric but well-rounded with great marketing automation

If you’re looking for customer relationship management but still need affordable technology for your marketing teams (marketing automation, email automation, etc.) then ActiveCampaign may be perfect. It has solid CRM functionality for the price, and significantly more automation capabilities than non-enterprise sales software on this list. Although we haven’t tested them yet, their new sales & marketing AI and AI lead generation tools seem more like simple workflows than high-powered machine learning and AI sales technology.

What you need to know about ActiveCampaign:

  • Scalable and efficient. A big reason for this is the wide array of sales and marketing automation options. You get a lot of automation tools even at the lower tiers, and the price to upgrade to Professional or Enterprise tiers is reasonable compared to competitors.
  • Affordable, especially if you have a lot of marketing contacts. While this is more of a concern for marketing-heavy companies, many CRMs get extremely expensive as you scale to 5k, 10k, 50k, or more contacts. ActiveCampaign’s price remains reasonable as you scale.
  • User interface isn’t great. The UI is a bit outdated and geared more toward marketing than sales. This is a matter of preference, but many people used to using sales CRMs may not like this interface.
  • No competitive advantage if not utilizing marketing automation tools. In other words, if you don’t need marketing software then choose a more sales-focused CRM.

ActiveCampaign’s pricing:

You can subscribe only to their marketing features ($49/$149) or sales features ($19/$49) but ActiveCampaign is best when bundled. The Plus bundle ($93/mo for five users) is an excellent, affordable option. The Professional bundle ($386/mo for 10 users) adds AI prospecting and AI lead generation, as well as sales engagement and advanced automation.

Copper

Niche but powerful CRM that lives entirely inside Google Workspace

Copper is the best CRM for people who live inside their Gmail or Google Workspace. At first glance it’s tempting to write it off as a niche Gmail plugin, but Copper is capable of more than most other standard CRMs.

What you need to know about Copper:

  • Designed for Google Workspace. It’s unmatched in terms of its integration with Gmail and the rest of the Google ecosystem. If you value this more than anything, look no further. Copper is the only sales CRM recommended by Google, and they’re a Google-backed company – they have no real competition here.
  • Ease of use and easy sales rep buy-in. Copper may be the easiest CRM to get employees to buy into using since everything is a click away from their email inbox.
  • Scalability is an issue. Copper lacks many of the advanced capabilities you’d find in an enterprise CRM. You can use integrations when necessary for calling, automations, quotes and proposals, etc., but all these integrations add up to being expensive and a hassle.
  • Gets expensive. Subscriptions are per person (regardless of roles) so a team of a couple sales reps, a manager, and operations rep can cost over $500/mo. At this price it can be tough to justify the lack of scalability and enterprise-level capabilities.

Copper’s Pricing:

The Basic tier ($23/mo) is too limited and doesn’t even include reporting, integrations, or email templates. Most will need the Professional tier ($59/mo) which is also limited. The Business tier ($99/mo) unlocks email sequences, lead scoring, and more.

Close

Great for outbound sales calling, but seriously lacking in reporting and customization

Emailing, SMS, and calling in Close

Close is a good CRM if you need one that comes fully equipped for phone calls. It has a good range of CRM features, especially at higher tiers, but some of these features are so severely limited that it’s tough to recommend Close over other similarly priced CRM software and sales tools.

What you need to know about Close:

  • Very well-equipped for calling. Power dialers are the first step toward consistently making a high volume of sales calls, and Close has this feature natively. This is great since adding an efficient dialer onto most other CRMs is either impossible, expensive, or requires a complex integration. With Close you get this feature right out of the box at $99 per month per user.
  • Easy to use. This is due to its lack of features and options, but regardless, it sticks to its core activities (namely calling and deal tracking) and does those well without distracting in the process. Centralize your workflow by syncing with Gmail, Outlook, and other email providers.
  • Reporting is extremely limited. You can only view reports or dashboards that report on very basic information, like the number of leads created or calls made. There’s no way to even check conversion rates per pipeline stage or lead source, which is just basic reporting to most other CRMs. Close is aware of this – they have a blog post on their website which is essentially a guest-sponsored ad for a $60-$260 per month integration for advanced reporting.
  • Very little customization available. Close will look pretty much the same for any teams using it. You’re not able to change the user interface much, and while you can create custom fields and properties to record data, you can’t do much with them. Currently there are no extensions available at the Chrome Web Store.

Close’s Pricing:

Most small sales teams can use their Startup tier ($99/mo for three users), which includes a power dialer. Their Professional tier ($299/mo for three users) and Enterprise tier ($699/mo for the users) aren’t worth the price unless your sales reps need to make thousands of cold calls per day for high-ticket sales.

Keap

Loved by some for payment processing but known for a steep learning curve and bad UX

Dashboards in Keap

Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) is an all-in-one sales and marketing platform with solid CRM and payment processing capabilities. It’s more of a one-stop-shop for small business owners or freelancers than a high-powered CRM.

What you need to know about Keap:

  • Simple and polished UI. This sales software was clearly designed by someone with aesthetics in mind, which may be helpful in getting buy-in from users. However, this simplicity and compact design may be a downside for users looking for a full-suite CRM.
  • Great automations for the price, and easy to implement. In part due to its simple UI, it’s easy to automate workflows in Keap. There’s a vast number of automations you can use within Keap, and it’s easy to create automations from your sales pipeline. You won’t find more automations than in enterprise CRMs like HubSpot, but it’s easier for users to configure these automations on their own (in part due to their simplicity).
  • Strong and simple text messaging. Keap has a tab dedicated to text messaging and it’s easy to send quick texts to contacts from their file. Sales teams who rely heavily on texting may find this worth the price of admission.
  • Limited complexity, customization, and reporting. Companies with complex deals and detailed, data-driven sales processes simply cannot use Keap. In the sales pipeline, only basic properties like deal value, deal contacts, deal stage, and deal status are available. This is fine if you’re selling simple widgets, but teams selling complex products or services need more customization in their sales pipeline, contact, and company screens. You can’t create custom reports or dashboards based on metrics or custom properties you’re interested in.

Keap’s Pricing:

The Pro tier ($149/mo for two users) is likely enough for most users. If you need more e-commerce features like promo codes or marketing analytics tools, get the Max tier at $199/mo for three users.

Salesforce

Every feature imaginable but exhausting to shop for, learn, and use

Information overload in Salesforce

Salesforce is a multi-faceted CRM with extensive capabilities… at a price. Due to the availability of features, the user interface can feel busy and overwhelming. The learning curve is substantial and implementation often requires (paid) professional assistance.

What you need to know about Salesforce:

  • Unlimited functionality and scalability. Salesforce is ubiquitous in the sales and software industries. It’s everywhere because it can do everything. It’s designed for large, enterprise companies who want to invest in one super-powered CRM they’ll never grow out of. Salesforce is constantly adding new functionality, improving existing technology, and buying massive companies (e.g., Slack, Tableau) to roll into their offering. This has an absurd effect on the buying experience (detailed below), but if you’re okay with that and its other weaknesses, you will find everything you need in Salesforce.
  • Terrible user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). Salesforce is far too complex for its own good. You need a certified Salesforce consultant to set it up and extensive training for anyone using it. That’s not to say all enterprise CRMs are simple to use and set up, but if you care about an intuitive and easy-to-use CRM then HubSpot beats Salesforce in nearly every category.
  • Horrible buying experience. There are 13 different products, each with up to four tiers. Nearly all are designed to rope you into their FIFTY-SIX PAGE list of add-ons. If you want to “sync your email, calendar, and customer data” – a feature that’s included free in every other CRM on this list – Salesforce has an add-on called “Inbox” for an extra $25 per person per month. But on their pricing page for Sales Cloud (which includes sales forecasting), their “Email Integration” feature, which is included in all tiers, is defined as “automatically sync email with CRM data.” And on their Sales Cloud Edition Comparison chart, the Inbox feature is included in the 1st tier (“Essentials”) and the 4th “Unlimited” tier, but is “available for purchase” with the 2nd and 3rd tier.

Salesforce’s Pricing:

See above then buy HubSpot (or anything else) instead.

Zoho One

Affordable with extensive capabilities, but clunky and complicated UI/UX

Zoho One is an affordable all-in-one business solution that includes enterprise CRM, sales marketing, finance, and web features. It contains impressive automation and AI capabilities. However, the learning curve is significant and minimal training materials are available. If you’re going with Zoho, buy the bundled Zoho One instead of Zoho CRM.

What you need to know about Zoho:

  • Great value. The Zoho Bundle comes packed with 40+ “apps” with a wide array of functionality. It’s annoying that these are bundled as separate apps (discussed below), but Zoho One does pack an immense amount of functionality that’s well beyond every CRM on our list (aside from maybe Salesforce). To name a few: loyalty and affiliate management platform, surveys, e-commerce management, service desk, inventory, payroll, bookkeeping, recruiting, contracts, password manager, and more.
  • Terrible user interface (UI). Zoho looks terrible and is confusing to navigate. Similar to Salesforce, Zoho is far too complex for its own good. As HubSpot has shown for enterprise CRMs (and Pipedrive on the standard CRM level) it’s possible to display a lot of data without making sales reps’ eyes bleed.
  • Separating features into 40+ “apps” makes for a bad user experience (UX). Many of these are very basic features included in any other CRM, such as a meeting scheduler, forms, pipeline management, live chat, and a document library. Even the CRM in Zoho is considered an app. While some CRMs may charge extra for certain features, it’s insane to compartmentalize each one. Users need to constantly click to the main menu, find another app, open it, perform a task, click to the main menu, go back to the CRM, etc. Furthermore, since apps are separate modules, it’s often not possible to link tasks between two modules.

Zoho One’s Pricing:

Zoho has 40+ apps, including one Zoho CRM app. If you like Zoho we recommend just buying Zoho One. If you buy Zoho One for all of your employees the price is $37 per user per month. If you only want Zoho One for several employees the cost is $90 per user per month.

See our full review of Zoho One here.

Other CRM Options and Next Steps

Other popular CRM choices decision-makers should consider are Apptivo, Freshworks, Airtable, Notion, and Touchpoint.

Once you’ve settled on your top three choices for CRM, it’s time to look at other parts of your tech stack. If targeting or prospecting are a big part of your sales process, you may want to consider a tool specifically for that task. Most targeting and prospecting tools are designed to work hand-in-hand with your CRM. 

Sales Prospecting Tools

Prospecting tools explained:

If you’re reaching out to leads by cold calls or cold emails, you probably need a prospecting tool. This type of sales outreach is necessary for many companies, especially for startup sales with no inbound leads yet, but it must be done efficiently to make it worthwhile.

Higher efficiency leads to more outreach attempts, more leads, and eventually more deals

Some CRMs have a full suite of prospecting features, but if you try to use a CRM like Salesforce or HubSpot to match the prospecting power of a tool like Reply or Growbots, you’ll pay far more money with the full-suite CRM than you would with a specialized prospecting tool. 

A good sales prospecting tool will:

  • Automate or semi-automate multichannel outreach through email, LinkedIn, and phone. 
  • Provide better, more affordable outreach capabilities than what’s packaged with a CRM.
  • Be easy to integrate with CRMs and targeting tools.

How to choose a sales prospecting tool:

First decide which channels are important to you: email, LinkedIn, calling, texting, or a combination of multiple channels. Compare prospecting tools according to these key features:

Multichannel sequences

Along with email automation, this is the most common use for prospecting tools. Every tool we recommend has this built in; it’s just a matter of how they do it.

Email automation

Automatically personalize and send email templates and sequences. This is why most companies need a prospecting tool. Prospecting tools also help with email tracking by monitoring email open rates and clicks in real time. And they help you send automated emails in a way that maximizes deliverability, like with email sending limits. Most prospecting tools have settings for tweaking send habits and frequencies to improve deliverability and avoid spam filters. CRMs weren’t designed for outreach and don’t always have these settings.

LinkedIn semi-automation

Efficiently send LinkedIn connections and messages while prospecting. Email and LinkedIn always increase success when paired together, so this is important for everyone whose target market is on LinkedIn.

This is tough to fully automate since that’s technically against LinkedIn’s terms of service, but some (like Zopto) pull it off. Usually, sending LinkedIn connection requests as part of a multichannel sequence is semi-automated. For example, in Reply to complete “tasks” for each LinkedIn connection, you click a button, which opens a new tab on your browser for that contact’s public LinkedIn page → it automatically clicks the “connection request” button → automatically pastes your pre-written message → automatically clicks send → then you close the tab and repeat for each request. This takes around 10 minutes per day since LinkedIn limits you to around 20 connection requests per day.

Calling automation

You need a native dialer in your prospecting tool if you want to add calling to your multi-channel sequences. Cold calling today is largely dependent on volume – if you’re not doing it efficiently then it’s probably not worth the effort. That said, if cold calling isn’t part of a multichannel sequence with email or LinkedIn, then a VoIP with a power dialer like Aircall is all you need.

Keep an eye out for capabilities such as call recording, click to call/click to dial, and the ability to bring your own VoIP or phone number versus needing to use one provided by the prospecting tool. If you’re required to use theirs then it’s likely a higher monthly fee.

Texting automation

Adding texting to multichannel sequences can be very effective, especially in B2C. But as with calling, it must be efficient to be worthwhile. If you plan on texting leads then make sure to choose a prospecting tool that has native texting and an SMS inbox. Some tools let you bring your own VoIP or phone number versus needing to use one provided by them. As will calling automation, if they require you to use theirs it’s likely a higher monthly fee.

A/B testing

Test multiple different copy options in your emails, LinkedIn messages, and SMS. A/B testing is necessary to figure out which subject lines, introductions, offers, and calls to action bring the best results. The best prospectors and marketers don’t magically write perfect sales messages – they start with a bunch of options then A/B test until they find the best.

Email domain warm-up

As described in the cold email guide, you need to warm up new emails and new email domains prior to sending 50+ sales emails per day. Many prospecting tools have this feature built-in, which is extremely useful for people launching their first automated prospecting campaign. This will take three to four weeks to finish (you won’t need to touch it once it’s set up). Google is requiring many prospecting tools to shut down email domain warm-up features, so if you use Gmail it may be tough to find this feature.

Multichannel inbox

This is a comprehensive inbox for all sales channels, letting you read and respond to messages from email, LinkedIn, SMS, and more all in the same tab. This is only important if you do a lot of messaging across multiple sales cycle prospecting channels. This is fairly common in CRMs.

Best Sales Prospecting Tools

Reply

Reply is a simple prospecting tool for automating email, SMS, and WhatsApp campaigns, and semi-automating LinkedIn outreach. Reply has a fantastic UI/UX and is easy to learn. Reply can be used as a lead generation tool as well, but its prospecting and outreach experience is unmatched for the price, making it one of our top sales tools overall and our top recommended sales prospecting software.

Features:

  • Amazing outreach and prospecting abilities
  • Good lead database for targeting and contact information
  • Best-in-class UI/UX
  • Best-in-class LinkedIn semi-automation in multichannel sequences
  • Texting, A/B testing, email domain warm up, and calling automation

Pricing:

Most users will need the $90/mo Professional tier. A free tier is available for trial and there is a $60/mo tier for email outreach only.

Growbots

The Growbots user interface

Growbots is a basic prospecting tool with a great lead database and targeting capabilities. These are better than other sales tools with both targeting and prospecting, but its outreach and prospecting aren’t as great as what’s possible with Reply. UI/UX is very good and customer support is great.

Features:

  • Great at finding targeted leads with contact information
  • Good outreach and prospecting capabilities
  • Email automation, A/B testing, email domain warm-up
  • Multichannel sequences with LinkedIn
  • No texting, multichannel inbox, or calling automation

Pricing:

A $49/mo tier is available for outreach efforts only, but since Growbots shines most as an all-in-one targeting and prospecting tool, we recommend the $199/mo tier.

Apollo

A/B testing and managing outreach sequences in Apollo

Apollo is a good all-in-one sales technology for lead generation and beyond. Prospecting and lead targeting are both core functions. And while it may not be the best software for either prospecting or targeting, it’s priced well for an all-in-one software and the unlimited email credits at every tier are tough to beat. Apollo is great for managing nearly all sales activities prior to the sales process, and while it’s not a full-fledged CRM, it’s better than most prospecting software in terms of sales intelligence, sales automation, and general sales enablement.

Features:

  • Great prospecting/targeting combo tool for the price
  • AI-assisted cold email writing
  • Click-to-call dialer with call recording and calling automation
  • Buyer intent feature targets leads who may be searching for your product
  • No email warm-up, SMS texting, or multichannel inbox

Pricing:

We recommend the $99/mo Professional tier, which includes AI-assisted email writing, buyer intent, and calling automation.

Zopto

Fully automated LinkedIn lead generation with Zopto

Zopto is a LinkedIn automation tool – think of it like an automated version of LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It provides significantly more LinkedIn automation than other prospecting tools, but it isn’t helpful for email automation or other prospecting channels. You need a paid LinkedIn Sales Navigator account to get the most out of Zopto.

Features:

  • Fully automated lead targeting and outreach on LinkedIn
  • Automatically send connection requests to website visitors and form submissions
  • No email, phone, texting, or other social media prospecting capabilities
  • Great when using another tool for email marketing campaigns, but tough to coordinate timing perfectly

Pricing:

Pricing is simple and starts at $215/mo. If using Zopto for cold outreach, you’ll also need LinkedIn Sales Navigator for $99/mo.

Some prospecting tools have targeting capabilities which allow them to search for leads and contact info to be used in your prospecting campaigns. If it doesn’t have that capability, you’ll need to input your own lead lists or use a separate targeting tool.

Targeting tools

Targeting tools explained

A targeting (or “lead generation”) tool is software for finding leads and their contact information. You enter the industry and characteristics you want to target, and the tool spits out results. This info is usually pulled from large databases or public information, but methods for sourcing data aren’t always transparent. 

Targeting tools:

  • Find leads based on buyer personas and ICPs (ideal client profiles)
  • Provide contact data such as email addresses, phone numbers, job titles, collegiate affiliations, interests, and LinkedIn URLs
  • Provide company data such as revenue, number of employees or locations, years in business, funding acquired, ad spend, staff changes, and technologies used

The targeting software recommended below are specialized tools whose core function is finding leads and their contact information. If you’re also shopping for outreach software, all-in-one platforms like Reply or Growbots may be the right sales tools, especially for startups or small businesses on a budget.

There are targeting tools to fit just about any need. First figure out what features and capabilities you need, then begin your search.

How to choose a lead targeting tool:

The key distinctions and features to look at when choosing a lead generation software for your sales team are below.

Pricing

Naturally, pricing is important. Targeting tools typically charge a monthly (or annual) fee in exchange for a number of leads per month (or year). Top tiers may have some extra features, but the biggest distinction is always with the number of leads you receive per month. Note that some software (e.g., Hunter, RocketReach) charges per search instead of per lead, so don’t compare these figures head to head with price per lead in other tools (e.g., LeadFuze, Dealfront).

Data Quality

Data quality is tough to determine without testing. Sign up for a trial or entry-level account or try this: come up with a list of 10 companies in your target market, preferably ones you’re familiar with (e.g., current customers) and can verify. Email the targeting tools you’re considering and ask them for contact information within those accounts. If they have no data on these companies they’ll deflect your answer. If they have data, they’ll tell you.

Bulk Enrich

You need this feature to enrich existing lead lists with contact information. For example, if you have a spreadsheet with company and contact names but need contact email addresses or phone numbers. All targeting software on our list has this feature.

Search by Technologies Used

This feature analyzes target company domains to see which technologies are in use. This is huge if you sell products or services that work (or don’t work) with certain technologies. For example, if you work exclusively in WordPress this feature will target companies using WordPress, ensuring you don’t waste costly lead credits on those with Wix, Squarespace, etc.

Search by Buyer Intent

This feature (in theory) lets you know when companies in your target demographic are searching for services like yours. Typically this data is acquired from 3rd party sites that detect a spike in one company’s domain researching the same solution. We’ll have a higher opinion of this feature once the accuracy is proven to be better.

Organizational Charts

This feature tells you who reports to whom within your target organization. Similar to buyer intent, this is a feature that sounds great in theory but rarely lives up to the hype.

Once you’ve determined which features make the best sales tool for targeting in your industry and what customer data or lead data is important to you, it’s time to take a closer look at our recommended tools.

After a lot of trial and error, we’ve come up with a short list of options we’d recommend.

Popular targeting tools

LeadFuze

Searching a wide array of job titles in LeadFuze

LeadFuze is an easy-to-use targeting tool specifically for outbound sales, marketing, and recruiting teams. It has excellent data quality and data volume for a reasonable price. We really like the AI-based feature that continuously matches and verifies new emails, numbers, and socials.

Features:

  • Hundreds of filters to fine-tune searches
  • Add contact info to existing lead lists through upload
  • Search for companies based on technologies used on their domain
  • AI feature constantly searches for new leads according to your saved searches
  • No buyer intent or inbound features like tracking web visitors

PRICING:

The first tier ($147/mo) is enough for around 25 emails per business day. Contact their sales department to increase leads per month or upgrade to their unlimited tier for $397/mo. Unlimited leads requires an annual subscription.

Dealfront

Turning website visitors into enriched, inbound leads in Dealfront

Dealfront (formerly Leadfeeder) is a robust option that generates cold leads for outbound sales plus inbound leads and ads. Their price per lead isn’t cheap, but the lead quality in our testing was excellent. Fully loaded Dealfront will cost more than other tools on our list, but it’s far stronger than most. We recommend Dealfront over ZoomInfo as the top premium lead gen tool.

Features:

  • Excellent data quality when finding outbound leads
  • Identify inbound leads and gather sales intelligence from website traffic
  • Retarget website visitors with ads and account based marketing (ABM)
  • Bulk enrichment of existing lead lists, search by buyer intent
  • AI-based targeting and deeper company profiles in the Pro tier

PRICING:

The base plan costs $199/mo for 208 credits per month. Credits are used for targeting outbound leads or tracking inbound web visitors. For more leads, upgrade to Pro ($999/mo for 1,250 credits per month) or buy lead credits in bulk (e.g., 1,200 credits for $999).

Hunter

Email searches in Hunter's Chrome extension

Hunter is a decent budget option for finding lead contact information. They boast a database of over 100 million email addresses, but the data quality can be dubious and many are guesses (e.g., “firstname.lastname@domain.com”) rather than verified contacts.

Features:

  • Upload CSVs to bulk-enrich existing lead lists with new email addresses
  • Search for companies based on technologies used on their domain
  • Email outreach capabilities included in paid tiers

PRICING:

Pricing is based on searches and verifications, not leads provided. Users need one credit to search and another credit to confirm the information is correct (and the result may still be partial confidence). For this reason, the Starter tier ($49/mo for 500 searches) isn’t enough to send 25 emails per day. Most users will need the Growth tier ($149/mo for 5,000 searches).

RocketReach

Finding contact info in RocketReach

RocketReach is fairly expensive and has a bit of a learning curve, but it has much better data quality and functionality than most targeting tools on the market. It’s a great choice if you need high-quality lead data without a ton of volume, since it gets expensive beyond 200 leads per month.

Features:

  • Massive database with over 700 million profiles
  • Bulk-enrich existing lead lists (Pro tier) and CRM leads (Ultimate tier)
  • Search based on technologies used
  • Organizational charts and company trends (Ultimate tier)

PRICING:

Similar to Hunter, RocketReach is pay per search. You may need multiple searches to find one lead. Their entry tier ($80/mo for 80 searches) is email-only and very limited in volume. Most users need their Pro tier ($150/mo for 200 searches) or Ultimate tier ($300/mo for 500 searches). Annual plans provide a 50% discount on these prices, but we recommend testing data first while on a monthly plan.

Other sales technology

The following tools aren’t sales-specific, but we’re including them here because they are an essential part of a streamlined and transparent sales engagement process.

VoIP

Every sales team needs a dedicated phone system for their sales reps. Even if you have the most dedicated reps, cell phones are just too distracting and lack the transparency and recording capabilities of a good VoIP.

There are a ton of VoIP platforms to choose from, but here are three:

Aircall — industry leader with power dialer and advanced call center options. Integrates extremely well with any major CRM software.

Kixie — another high-powered VoIP platform with a power dialer, voicemail drop, and automated SMS. Integrates well with popular CRMs.

JustCall — budget-friendly option with a power dialer and nearly every capability Aircall has, except for a few enterprise-focused call center options. Integrates well with most major CRMs.

If using HubSpot or need multiple phone numbers, we recommend Aircall due to the excellent integration and overall ease of use. If you only need one phone number then we recommend JustCall since it’s more affordable, especially with fewer than three phone numbers.

Conversation Intelligence

A step above call transcripts and recordings, call intelligence gives you real time data you can use while you’re on the call (and after) to highlight key points, questions, and action items. Gong is a well-known call intelligence option, however, it can cost thousands per month, making it out of reach for many startups and small businesses. Fortunately, there are several more affordable options. While they’re not quite as full-featured as Gong, these platforms meet our minimum requirements for conversation intelligence software:

  • Automatically record calls on Zoom and Google Meet by joining the meeting as an attendee.
  • Transcribe sales calls using GPT to make the transcriptions much more accurate than anything pre-AI.
  • Automatically save meetings with timestamps for takeaways, topics, or questions covered in the call. Click on what you’re interested in and it plays that portion of the call.

We’ve tested several affordable conversation intelligence solutions, and have narrowed it down to two that we’d recommend:

Read.ai — Seems like it was designed for larger teams, or for sales managers reviewing rep performance en masse. Scores meeting performance and participation. Gives feedback on attendee engagement, talking pace, interruptions, non-inclusive terms, bias and more. For each meeting it documents: summary, chapters & topics, action items, and key questions. Recording can be glitchy.

Tl:dv — Simpler approach than Read.ai: meeting reports contain “takeaways” throughout the call. AI does a good job of recommending these, plus they place a button in your meeting client so you can manually set markers with one click during a call. Great for when you know in real-time that something is important. There are integrations for automatically logging calls and highlights in HubSpot, Salesforce or Slack, and you can easily create clips of takeaways or other key moments and share them.

Proposals, Contracts, and eSign

The tools in this category perform two or all three of these functions:

  • Proposals — present statements of work, pricing, and more to potential customers who haven’t yet entered the sales funnel
  • Contracts — upload full-length contracts for customers to enter their information into custom fields and create legally binding agreements
  • Clickwrap — lets users check a box to accept agreements, which is legally binding but not a full-service, robust contract manager like above

While there are a lot of options to choose from, these are some of the best options for small to midsize teams:

PandaDoc — full-service tool with proposals, contracts, clickwrap, and more. Easy to use drag-and-drop editor where proposals are fairly customizable, look good (not great), and the price is reasonable, starting around $25/mo.

Proposify — full-service tool with proposals, contracts, clickwrap, and more. Drag-and-drop editor allows for immense customization, but it’s clunky and buggy, and proposals look far from beautiful. Price is reasonable but starts at $50/mo, which is double the cost of Pandadoc.

Qwilr — only for proposals and clickwrap agreements. Users with zero design background can easily create beautiful proposals. Customization is lacking but the price is reasonable at $35/mo.

If you want the most complete all-around tool, go with PandaDoc. We’ve tried all three at IRC and this is the one we prefer (and still use).

Content Creation Tools

Targeting lead sources with carefully crafted content is an important avenue for attracting inbound sales leads. For example, creating more impactful blog content or videos for YouTube can equal higher conversions for landing pages, product pages, and other money pages you want to drive traffic to.

A user-friendly YouTube shorts video editor can lower the barriers to creating professional videos, and a generative AI tool for writing web and blog copy, can help more leads discover your content. These aren’t simply marketing tools, but powerful lead generation tools for advertisers.

Internal Processes and Communication

Some of the biggest challenges to being a sales rep have nothing to do with sales. Internal communication about products, processes, and expectations can make or break your team. Fortunately, there are a wide range of platforms that make it easier than ever to bridge this gap.

Here are several that we regularly use and recommend:

Clockify – This time-tracking app is simple, reliable, and has great reporting capabilities. You can also use it for scheduling and time-off requests.

1Password – This password manager is similar to LastPass but we think it’s easier to use. Along with upgrading your security, password managers will make you better prepared when sales reps leave or are terminated.

Slack – Slack brings internal and external teams together across locations, time zones, and working styles, instead of confining work to email’s siloed communication. We also love that all content in Slack channels is searchable, so it’s easy to find past conversations or get new team members up to speed.

Notion – Notion is the connected workspace where better, faster work happens. We use Notion to host our sales manual, SOPs, and working documents. It’s great for creating wikis, project trackers, and complex databases.

Scribe – Scribe allows you to turn any process into a step-by-step guide, instantly. It’s the easiest way to communicate processes and SOPs with ease.

Loom – Rather than taking the effort to document your progress in writing, simply hit the record button and update your team members with async video.This platform is also great for back-and-forth communication when email or Slack just won’t cut it.

Asana – Asana is the #1 software in product and project management. It works well for small teams and scales easily as you grow. Our favorite part about Asana? It makes communication and transparency about projects and tasks simple and searchable. Plus its Zoom integration allows video conferencing.

In today’s fast-paced business world, selecting the right sales technology can be the difference between failure and success. When choosing tech for your sales team look for tools that are high-quality, easy to use, and integrate well with other platforms. The goal is to create efficient, transparent processes that allow your team to spend less time on non-sales tasks and more time actually selling. Making the right choices in sales technology can provide the competitive edge needed to thrive in today’s highly competitive market.

The Definitive Guide to Creating a Sales Manual in 2023

Before we jump into a step-by-step outline on how to create a sales manual, let’s answer a few questions you might be asking.

What size of company or sales team needs a sales manual?

The short answer is that all teams need a sales manual. Even if you only have one rep with a few simple processes, you need a written handbook documenting those steps. For growing businesses and those with larger sales teams or more complex sales cycles, having a detailed sales training document is even more vital.

Yes, gathering information and documenting your processes can be time-consuming. But by equipping your sales team with the tools they need, you’re setting your business up for success.

What essentials should I include in my sales training materials?

Your sales manual should be a one-stop-shop collecting every detail a sales rep needs to know, from their team structure and responsibilities, to how commissions are calculated and when they can expect to get paid.

We go into much more detail in the next section, but every sales manual should include:

  • Information about your business, structure, and key people to know.
  • Product information and your competition.
  • A detailed description of your targeting, prospecting, and sales processes.
  • Rep responsibilities, behavior expectations, and legal requirements.
  • How account ownership and dispute resolution is managed.
  • Training resources: scripts, playbooks, and tech platform use (VOIP, CRM).

What are the benefits of having a sales manual?

A great sales manual will fill three key functions:

  1. Sales knowledge — A sales rep’s knowledge is a key indicator of sales team success. A sales manual is the primary reference and training for all four types of sales knowledge: product, industry, customer, and sales process knowledge.
  2. Management efficiency — Without a single source of information and training, reps are forced to constantly ask management for information. This is inefficient for both sales managers and sales reps. Instead of answering the same questions over and over in a single-use format like emails or Slack, you can direct reps to your sales manual as the single source of truth.
  3. Enforcement — If reps can’t find (or remember) your rules and policies, they won’t follow them. By clearly defining their responsibilities and expected activities, you can hold them accountable.

As you can see, a well-written sales manual plays an essential role in your sales team. Now that you know why you need one, let’s walk step by step through everything you need to know about creating your own sales manual.

The Only Sales Manual Outline You’ll Ever Need

When writing your own sales manual it can be difficult to know where to start.

The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. By filling out each of the sections listed below, you’ll end up with a working document that’s detailed, holds exactly the information your reps need, and is already organized and ready to share with your team.

Let’s get started.

Intro: The Basics

This introductory section of your sales manual should include the “how” and “why” of your business. At minimum this should include a brief company overview and history, and your product overview and pricing.

You may already have this information elsewhere. If it’s easy to read and nicely formatted you may be able to include the image files or document links directly in your sales manual. If this info is detailed in a business plan or a company website, you may be able to copy and paste. Just remember to edit so that the information you include is clear, concise, and relevant.

Also, be sure to either paste the information into your sales manual document, or link directly to the website page or online file. Avoid linking to a folder that they’ll have to sort through to find what they need. If your sales reps find your sales manual isn’t helpful (even just once or twice) they won’t use it.

Team Structure

When your sales reps have a comprehensive understanding of how your sales team functions and how it fits into your organization as a whole, it’s easier for them to collaborate and work together efficiently. That’s why detailing your sales team structure and people to know is an important part of your sales manual.

The Team Structure section should include:

  • A hierarchy chart of your sales team’s structure.
  • Each team member’s name, responsibility, and contact information.
  • Key people to know at your company and when/how to engage them.

It’s also important to include the roles and contact information of non-sales team members who your reps will need to interact with. Some examples include personnel in human resources, information technology, and accounting.

The Competition

The better sales reps can relate to their prospects, the easier it is to sell to them. Good sales reps help prospects make a successful buying decision – even if that means your company isn’t a good fit. To do this, reps need to understand the full range of options available to your prospects, and how your company fits in this lineup.

Depending on your business specifics, the info you cover in this section may include:

  • Your company’s value proposition, competitive advantages, and strengths and weaknesses compared to others in your industry.
  • Your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, pricing, and positioning.
  • Relevant (and up-to-date) market conditions or industry trends.

Be as detailed as you need to be, but still aim to keep the information clear and easy to understand. If you overwhelm your reps with unnecessary information, they’ll be more likely to miss the important points.

Rep Responsibilities

This section of your sales manual should detail three types of rep responsibilities: duties, quotas, and targets. Duties explain what to do, quotas say how often you need to do specific duties, and targets are goals typically rewarded with bonuses.

Ideally, the key activities reps need to accomplish will be tracked within your CRM, and your sales manual should include details on how to do so. Regardless, if there is something you want or expect your sales reps to do, it needs to be clearly defined in your sales manual.

Compensation

Most good sales reps are in it for the money and really care about commission. Make sure you spend ample effort explaining commission terms as clearly as possible. It’s an important topic for sales reps, so you don’t want to be seen as brushing it aside or not explaining it well.

This section should be highly detailed, and should include:

  • How commissions are earned — For example, is it when a sale is made to a new customer, or once a new customer pays for a product?
  • When commissions are paid — Explain whether commission is paid monthly, on the 10th day of the month following the commission period, etc.
  • How commissions are calculated — For example, a 10% commission on total invoiced amount, 10% commission on net profit, etc., with an explanation of how overhead and “net” is calculated.
  • Example scenarios — Give several examples (with increasing complexity) that demonstrate how commission is earned, calculated, and paid.
  • Additional commission terms — When applicable, such as rollover clauses or commission adjustments.

Again, when it comes to compensation, it’s always best to be as specific as you can. Don’t fill this section with unnecessary fluff, but be sure to cover every single aspect that affects rep compensation. Transparency and specificity on this topic are extremely important.

Targeting

Sales reps need to understand the target demographic and how to find usable contact information. This section gives them the tools they need to do so effectively. As with many other sections in your sales manual, this is going to be highly specific to your business and targeting process.

At the very least, this section should include who to target, who to avoid targeting, and how to source leads. Depending on the complexity of your targeting process, you may also need to add information on how to use a targeting tool or lead source properly, prompts for reps to come up with targeting strategy improvements, and (if some qualified prospects are more valuable than others) an explanation of the different tiers of ideal customers.

Prospecting

Along with targeting, your reps should know how to engage targeted leads.

Your Prospecting section should detail your strategy and process for reaching leads, and it should include the lead statuses that define a lead’s position in the prospecting process.

If applicable, you may also need to cover:

  • Details for the inbound prospecting process – goals, targets, conversion process, as well as templates and snippets for responding to inbound leads.
  • Details for the outbound prospecting process – goals, targets, and cadence and sequence for outreach to leads.

If you want new sales reps to be able to sell effectively, they need to understand how prospecting works in your company, field, or industry. Don’t leave this part of their skill set to chance.

Qualifying

How will your reps know who is worth sinking their time into? By defining your qualifying criteria and process in your sales manual, you’ll be answering this question for your reps.

The Qualifying section should explain both aspects of qualifying:

  • Qualifying criteria — What makes an opportunity qualified.
  • Qualifying process — How to properly qualify an opportunity.

In addition to the criteria and process for qualification, you should also explain what to do with leads once they’ve been qualified or de-qualified. These are usually pretty straightforward, such as creating a deal in the CRM and passing the baton to an Account Executive. But no matter what, they need to be explained in writing.

Sales Process

A sales process is a step-by-step process for turning interested prospects into customers. This is essential to creating a good sales manual, and should be explained as clearly as possible. The sales process begins after a lead has been generated from prospecting, or in some cases, once they’ve been qualified. This lead becomes a prospect and now enters the sales pipeline. The sales pipeline is a series of steps (deal stages) that need to happen in order for the prospect to complete the buying process.

A simple sales pipeline will almost always include a variation of the following stages:

  1. Qualified
  2. Negotiation
  3. Closed Won (Sale Complete)
  4. Closed Lost (No Sale)

Your sales process may look similar to the above, or it may be significantly more complicated. The best sales processes are highly customized to their company. Typically you’ll need more deal stages and more sales calls for complex and expensive products, as well as for deals with multiple decision makers or complex decision-making processes.

From there, explain your sales process and how each stage works.

  • Stage definition – Explanation of what it means for a deal to be in this stage. This may be as simple as repeating the stage name. For example: A contract has been sent to the prospect.
  • Stage activities – What tasks do we perform while a deal is in this stage? For example: Follow up with the prospect to remind them to sign the contract.
  • Goals – Every stage has a primary goal. Most have a secondary goal, and some have a tertiary goal. List these goals for each stage. For example: Receive a signed contract; Get prospect to commit to signing the contract by a specific date; Determine obstacle that’s preventing the contract from being signed.
  • Next action – After we’ve completed the Stage Activities above, what’s our next action? For example: Hand deal over to the customer success team once the contract has been signed.
  • Duration (optional) – How long should a deal remain in this stage? For example: A contract must be signed within 30 days.

Unless you already have a detailed sales process, this will probably be the most time-intensive part of creating your sales manual. But even if you need to adjust your sales pipeline and deal stages later on, defining your sales process in writing is a beneficial (and necessary) step.

Workflows and SOPs

Efficient and scalable businesses have efficient and scalable processes. The more these processes are automated, the better. But whenever a human (sales rep) is involved, the process needs to be written and easily accessible.

Here are some examples of processes to include in this section:

  • How to get set up on the required tech stack.
  • How to quote customers.
  • How to process an order.
  • How to update the CRM.
  • How to fill out forms or documents.
  • How to create an invoice or other documents.
  • How to explain our contract.
  • How to request PTO.

If these processes all have their own forms or documents then you don’t need to recreate them. List them all in this section with direct links to each file.

As you document each process, consider including:

  • Step-by-step instructions — Numeric, sequential instructions are much easier to follow than paragraphs of text.
  • Screenshots — Especially when describing how to use software or an app.
  • Flowcharts — For processes that differ depending on the situation or other variables.
  • Links — Rather than just mentioning the name of documents or forms and explaining where to find them, link directly to them.
  • Videos — For more complex processes, especially in apps or software, do a screen-record video showing the process step by step.

As a bonus, documenting your processes for your sales manual often leads to immediate improvements. Once processes are written down, problems and bottlenecks are often clear and impossible to ignore.

Account Ownership

These are rules that govern which sales rep can call on which accounts. In many organizations, only one sales rep may sell to each customer or account. These rules can be complex depending on the nature of your business, but most newer sales teams just need some basic, written rules.

Teams with multiple competing reps need Account Ownership rules in order to keep reps from stepping on each other’s toes, and to keep them from annoying customers with calls or emails from multiple reps.

Account ownership rules need to cover:

  • How reps gain ownership of accounts.
  • How reps lose ownership of accounts.

Again, these are going to vary widely depending on your business model. Be as detailed as you need to be to get the information across, but don’t make account ownership rules that you aren’t willing to actively enforce.

(Optional) Sales Methodology

A sales methodology is a set of guidelines or principles for interacting with prospects or customers. Methodologies are fairly complex and require dedicated training to experience the full benefit and really “follow” the methodology, but you can still learn many new skills from reviewing them.

If your organization has chosen to use a formal sales methodology such as the Challenger Model, Solution Selling, or Sandler Method then you’ll want to dedicate this section to explaining that methodology and how it works.

Objection Handling & Value Selling

This section should include information on common objections and how to overcome them, along with specific ways to provide value to your customers.

Objection Handling When building this section, you’ll want to take every objection and concern you can think of and highlight them here. For each of them you’ll want to include:

  1. The objection.
  2. An example response.
  3. An explanation for why the example response is an ideal response.
  4. (Optional) Background on the objection.

Try to explain each objection in as much detail as possible. The more context the sales reps understand behind the objection, the better they’ll be able to handle them on the fly and come from a place of mutual understanding when speaking to the prospect about that concern.

Value Selling

While objection handling is more about responding to objections properly, value selling is hearing customer pain points or buying criteria then matching them to features of your product and end-benefits to customers. Proper objection handling keeps you from losing deals whereas well-trained value selling enables you to win deals.

Value selling is easiest to create in a simple table with the following three columns:

  1. Pain point / buying criteria — A potential customer’s issue, need, or goal that can be solved with our product.
  2. Features — Our product features that solve this issue, fulfill this need, or reach this goal.
  3. Benefit — The end-benefit to customers who use this feature to resolve this point point or buying criteria.

When working on your value selling table, keep in mind the differences between capabilities, features, and benefits. For example, if your laptop has a fingerprint scanner, it saves you the trouble of needing to type in your password when you log in. The feature here is the fingerprint scanner, the capability is unlocking your computer, and the benefit is the few seconds that the fingerprint scanner saves you versus typing in your password manually.

Of course, if you haven’t already worked through value selling or objection handling, creating this section of your sales manual is going to be somewhat time-intensive but very beneficial in the long run.

Resources

The purpose of this section is to make this manual the one-and-only document sales reps need. Inevitably your reps are going to need to use other software, reference personal documents such as contracts, and more. If you can use this section to link to every other resource your reps will ever need, you’ll have made your sales manual a very usable single source of truth.

Some common resources to link to include:

  • Sales & marketing collateral (stored in CRM, Drive, Dropbox, etc.).
  • Personal documents (employee contract, commission reports, etc.).
  • HR platform.
  • Websites for CRM, targeting, or prospecting tools.
  • Industry publications or blogs.

Basically, if it’s something your reps are going to need to reference or access, link to it under Resources.

How to format your sales manual

Don’t use multiple documents in multiple locations with multiple versions. If helpful information is difficult to find, or in numerous locations, reps will spend unnecessary time looking for them (or won’t look at all). Your sales manual should be housed in one company-wide document with links to sales-relevant external docs, URLs, etc.

Use these sections as a foundation for creating your sales manual:

  • Basics — Introduction to the role and company.
  • Team Structure — Your current sales team and key people to know.
  • Competition — Where you stand among your competitors.
  • Responsibilities — Expectations and quotas for your sales reps.
  • Compensation — How commission is earned and paid.
  • Targeting – Your target demographic and how to find their contact information.
  • Prospecting — How to find leads and engage them.
  • Qualifying — Criteria and process for ensuring an opportunity is worth your time.
  • Sales Process — The stages and processes for turning prospects into customers.
  • Workflows & SOPs — Processes and guidelines reps need to follow on a daily basis.
  • Account Ownership Rules — Rules of the hunt.
  • Methodology — How to approach selling.
  • Value Selling & Objection Handling — Tips for overcoming objections and providing value.
  • Resources — Links to anything else reps may need.

Your sales manual is a dynamic document and should be updated regularly. For this reason we don’t recommend printing your sales manual or creating it as a static PDF file. Both Notion and Google Docs are easy to update, and offer sharing options that are simple and straightforward, but there are other software platforms that have similar capabilities. Online documents are also searchable using Cmd+F or Ctrl+F, making the information even more easily accessible for your team.

Whatever platform you use to store your sales manual, it’s important to keep it organized, accessible, and a dynamic single source of information for your sales team.

In Conclusion

Creating your own sales manual takes time, but in the long run it will make your job easier. By following the steps in this detailed outline, you’ll be able to write a sales manual that accurately reflects the sales practices and policies specific to your business. By keeping this document accessible and up to date, you’ll equip your sales team to work and sell effectively.

To learn how to build a sales plan check out this guide.

Want to have access to templates, examples, instructions, and more? View our Sales Team Starter today!

Sales Automation – How to Automate Your Sales Process

If you’ve ever lost a deal because you forgot to send a follow-up email, or you feel like there’s barely any time left for sales after trying to schedule meetings or logging information in your CRM, then sales automation is for you.

In fact, the average sales rep only spends 34% of their time selling. The rest of their time is spent on administrative tasks, such as:

  • Writing emails
  • Manual data entry
  • Prospecting, researching leads, and finding contact data
  • Attending internal meetings
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Training
  • Reading industry news and researching sales tips

By automating the small tasks involved in your sales processes, your sales reps will have more time to sell and reach their sales goals.

Sales reps aren’t the only ones being held back by administrative tasks. Sales managers also find themselves using their time to complete repetitive tasks that could be automated, especially time consuming sales tasks such as assigning leads to their reps.

In this article, we’ll go over what sales automation really is. After that, we’ll go over 10 ways you can automate your own sales process to maximize its efficiency.

What is sales automation?

Sales automation is the process of streamlining manual, tedious, repetitive tasks and time-consuming tasks in your sales process so that your sales reps can focus their time exclusively on selling. This is accomplished with the use of sales automation software, artificial intelligence (AI), and other sales automation tools.

The tasks that are automated are mostly things like data entry and customer relationship management, manual tasks that sales reps and their managers would otherwise do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

How does automation increase sales efficiency?

Proper automation of your sales process can improve your sales efficiency in a number of ways:

  • It allows your sales reps to focus more on sales and less on administrative tasks.
  • It can accelerate the sales cycle by expediting repetitive tasks like follow-ups.
  • It ensures that sales leads won’t fall through the cracks.
  • It can lead to increased customer satisfaction by reducing response time.
  • It maintains consistent sales data across your organization.

Can I use sales automation to replace my sales team?

Despite what the name may imply, the goal of sales automation isn’t to replace sales reps.

In fact, the goal is to extract as much value as possible from your sales reps by enabling them to focus on more important things, like building relationships, improving the sales process, working on new sales methodologies, and giving their leads more personal attention.

If you’re looking into using sales automation tools in an attempt to replace sales reps by blasting out generic emails or using autodialers, you’re doing it wrong.

Sales process automation – 10 ways to automate your sales process

Put your LinkedIn prospecting on autopilot

If you’re using LinkedIn for your sales prospecting, there’s a simple way to set it up so that you don’t have to constantly run the same types of searches.

If you have a LinkedIn Premium or Sales Navigator account, you can set up custom filters to get emails from LinkedIn every day, week, or month with new potential prospects.

LinkedIn only sends new profiles, so don’t worry, you won’t see the same ones again and again.

Once you get these emails all you have to do is go through each profile. For each one that’s a fit, get their contact information and put them through your sales cadence.

If you’re the type that likes to fully automate this type of thing, you can do so with a tool called Zopto.

To use Zopto, you’ll need to have an active LinkedIn Premium or Sales Navigator account. Once you create your Zopto account, you’ll use the same filters and data points from LinkedIn Premium or Sales Navigator to tell Zopto who your target markets are.

After you’ve filtered your ideal prospects, Zopto lets you automate different levels of engagement, such as Connection Invites, Sequential Messaging, Free InMails, Twitter Engagement, or Profile Views.

Pretty soon, you’ll find your LinkedIn inbox filling up with new leads on autopilot.

For more info on Zopto, check out this tutorial.

Automate lead enrichment

Lead enrichment is all about finding out everything you can about your prospects in order to properly target your sales pitch to them.

In this case, knowledge is power. The more you know your prospect’s industry and company, as well the challenges and goals they encounter on a daily basis, the better you can tailor your pitch to their needs.

Lead enrichment tools like LeadFuze work well for this kind of thing. LeadFuze is a tool that gathers information from hundreds or thousands of data sources on over 300 million people from over 14 million companies to give you a complete, up-to-date profile of your prospects.

If you’re looking for a specific prospect, you can use their “Account Based” search to gather more information about this individual.

 

Image shows account based LeadFuze search results.

You can also use LeadFuze to find new prospects using their “Market Based” search tool.

For example, if we’re selling a CRM tool for enterprise companies, we might want to use this tool to search for enterprise level companies that use SalesForce.

Image shows that Leadfuze search results can be filtered by market and account based criteria.

This would give us a list of qualified leads with all of the necessary data.

Image shows that LeadFuze search results include person, company, and contact info, with an "add to list" button.

If you’re getting your leads through another channel such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can leverage LeadFuze’s database to automatically gather powerful lead enrichment data with their Zapier integrations.

LeadFuze integrates natively (or via 3rd party integration like Zapier) with many CRMs. This means you can tell LeadFuze which leads you’re interested in, and every day it will find new leads for you and automatically place them right into your CRM. Which leads us to…

Create and manage CRM contacts

Many sales teams still create and update their CRM contacts manually. Thankfully, there’s a better way. Most of this can be automated.

For much of this, you’re going to have to get workflow automation capabilities in the CRM you choose. This will enable you to automatically create and edit records for leads who meet a certain criteria.

For example, maybe you want to define a lead as “Qualified” if they have a certain title or role in a company and have read specific articles on your blog.

Unfortunately, this typically comes at a higher price – especially with the more robust CRMs like HubSpot or Salesforce

If you have a decent sized team or a complex sales process, it’s worth taking the time to fit a more robust CRM into your budget and set it up properly.

However, if you’re operating on a tighter budget, Pipedrive is a good option that has a solid amount of sales automation for a decent price.

It’s also important to integrate your various lead generation sources with your CRM. That might be Facebook ad respondents, new email subscribers, event attendees, or new website leads.

If native integration isn’t available in your CRM for this, you can always use Zapier – a tool that seamlessly connects apps.

Use templates to automate sales email outreach

Email templates are a great way to save your sales reps tons of time.

Rather than writing emails to every prospect, templating your emails allows your sales teams to focus only on the important parts of your email outreach campaigns – personalizing the emails and managing replies.

Be careful about overusing templates. Non-personalized templates are easy for your prospects to spot (and ignore) and make it harder for emails coming from your domain to avoid spam filters over time.

Finding a good balance between what should be personalized and what should be templated is important. These days, including the person’s first name and company simply isn’t enough. Everyone does that.

You can balance personalization and templating by writing customized opening sentences in your outreach email for each prospect and templating the rest.

You can personalize your opening sentences by noting one of their recent accomplishments, complimenting their work on a recent blog post, or addressing their pain point on a personal level.

By personalizing all of your emails in the same way, you can easily systemize your outreach process.

If you’re in need of some email templates, they’re available in nearly all CRMs – typically in their first pricing tier. You can also find plenty for free online.

You always use the old fashioned way of copying/pasting from a word document, but that can still be pretty distracting and surprisingly time consuming. So it’s probably worth just paying for it.

If you have a decent number of prospects in your sales pipeline, then it’s probably worth it to pay for an outreach sales automation tool like Reply or PitchBox. Reply also comes with some LinkedIn automation features, but it’s not 100% fully automated like Zopto

Many sales professionals are using these templates rather than creating their own, so your prospects may get an uncomfortable sense of familiarity from these. It’s worth writing your own templates rather than using the ones available online or via your CRM or email automation software. Just make sure you give your emails a grammar check before sending them out to avoid embarrassing mistakes.

To help you write your own outreach email templates, we put together the infographic below about what makes up a good sales email.

The-Anatomy-of-a-Great-Sales-Email.jpg

If you’d like to post this infographic on your site, please feel free to do so! We only ask that you credit us with a link. 🙂

Saving the infographic and reuploading it to your server is totally fine, but if you prefer to embed it, just copy the code below:

Schedule calls and meetings automatically

The process of scheduling a call or meeting with a prospect can feel like the email equivalent of a tennis match. You send them a time, they send back another, you send another, and so on.

This is extremely inefficient and kills the momentum of your deal.

Fortunately, many CRM tools include this in their free tier. If you’d prefer to use an external tool, you can leverage appointment and meeting scheduling tools like Calendly or Acuity Scheduling to combat this issue.

Simply send your calendar link to your prospect and they’ll see a page like this where they can pick a time that works best for them.

Image shows meeting scheduling page with the option to select day, time, and meeting length.

Once they choose a time, a calendar invite is automatically sent to both parties.

Scheduling tools can also ask people questions while they’re scheduling a call. These can collect prospect data such as name, email, company, or the reason for scheduling the call.

Making use of scheduling tools is one of the sneakiest ways to save time on a day to day basis. This type of automation tool is one of those things that once you have it and start using regularly, it immediately becomes something that you can’t fathom living without.

Automate sales call dialing and analysis

This is only really important for people who do a ton of outbound calling, which is admittedly becoming less of a priority for many companies in this day and age.

However, if you have appointment setters or other types of cold callers, this can be huge as it removes a ton of distractions from your workflow.

The CRM tool Close has an auto-dialer built into it, but it’s not always a feature represented in CRM’s well. If you have a CRM that doesn’t have a built-in auto-dialer, you can always use software that specializes in this such as AircallJustCall, or Kixie and integrate it with your CRM via Zapier.

If you’re looking to improve your outbound calling campaigns, then conversation intelligence tools are what you need. These tools let you quickly see summaries of all your sales calls — both transcribed and analyzed.

Platforms such as GongChorus, and Wingman help with this by pulling out pieces of your conversation (topics you discussed, action items, competitors that were brought up, etc.) to give you insights about your opportunities.

Use sales automation tools to automate touchpoint tracking

You call a prospect, get sent to voicemail, and log the attempt in your CRM.

Call again the following week, have a short conversation with them, log the conversation in your CRM.

You follow up with an email, log it in your CRM.

Instead of manually logging the process of scoring a deal, you can automate these deal-related activities.

Many CRMs can handle this if they have features like automated email sequencing, tracking email opens and clicks, and automatic call logging.

For email tracking with a CRM, it’s often as easy as BCC’ing a unique address assigned to you by the CRM, and the emails will automatically appear in your CRM. If you’re using email outreach software, you can just set it up to always BCC that address so that the emails sync to your CRM automatically.

If your CRM doesn’t have these features, or you’d prefer to use a sales automation tool outside your CRM for something like email outreach, then make sure these tools can be integrated to log deal-driven activities in your CRM.

When it comes to CRM integrations with third party tools, native integrations are best since the developers of both apps got together to make their services work as seamlessly as possible. However, 3rd party integration like Zapier can be just as useful if a tool doesn’t integrate directly with your CRM.

If the tools don’t directly integrate with each other, you can check the available Zapier integrations for the services you’re looking at to see if you’ll be able to link them that way.

For example, let’s say we want to use Close as our CRM, but we want to use a third party sales automation tool for email outreach.

First, we want to see what sort of things we can do with Close using Zapier, so let’s search for the app.

Image shows Zapier search bar and the option to select from several popular apps.

If we then scroll down to their integration details and click “Actions,” we’ll see that there’s an option to update leads.

Image shows Zapier with a list of available automation triggers for Close CRM.

If we do the same thing for one of the email outreach tools we might consider, like Reply, we can see if they have triggers that allow us to use Zapier to make changes within our CRM when prospects open or click a link inside an email sent with Reply.

In this case, if we search for Reply, scroll down to the Integration Details section of the page, and click “Triggers,” we can see that Reply has the triggers we’re looking for.

Image shows Zapier page with available Reply integration triggers.

This means that we can set up automations in Zapier so that whenever a prospect opens an email, clicks a link, or replies to an email, we can update their lead data in our CRM automatically.

What you can do specifically to automate your deal management will depend on the complexity of your sales process and the length of your sales cycle, but keeping track of these small details can help you attribute specific actions to sales success.

Create documents and proposals automatically 

Sales teams spend a ton of time on proposals.

Normally, this is because sales reps have to spend time on manual data entry, copying and pasting information from notes, emails, and various other sources to fill in accurate data on the proposal document.

Fortunately, here’s a wealth of excellent drag-and-drop editors that allow you to streamline this process and create beautiful, interactive proposals very quickly!

With many of them, you also get data insights. This means you’ll get an alert when your prospects open the proposals and how long they spend looking at the document (and in some cases, how long they spent looking at each page).

This also means you can further automate your sales process by, for example, scheduling your automated sales emails to be sent within minutes of the prospect opening it.

PandaDoc is a pretty great option for this. They have a free tier that gives you access to e-signs, so you don’t need to pay for alternatives like DocuSign anymore.

If you’re looking to create beautiful full-fledged proposals, then Qwilr is a great option for this. They even have a huge selection of templates you can choose from if you aren’t very design-savvy yourself.

Both of these (and many more) options will integrate fairly well into your CRM and with various workflow automations.

Use sales automation tools to automate lead rotation

This is most useful for decent sized teams that are used to having a sales manager assign leads manually.

Manually assigning leads takes up precious time that can otherwise be spent on more meaningful sales tasks. Plus, there’s the danger a lead will slip through the cracks, which definitely hurts your team’s ability to meet the sales quota.

Not only that, but manually rotating leads can increase the amount of time it takes to contact your leads, which can reduce your conversion rate.

According to research from Harvard Business Review, most companies are not responding nearly fast enough to online sales leads.

In fact, if companies did not respond to leads within a five-minute window, they were at a high risk of losing that lead entirely.

Businesses that contact leads within 1 hour of inquiry are 60x more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a decision maker. - Harvard Business Review

Rotating leads is fairly easy when you have a small outfit. You’ll soon notice that, as your team grows, it can become a very time-consuming task that really doesn’t bring too much (if any) added value by doing it manually.

If you spend a lot of time digging through leads and assigning them to your reps, then go for this, but otherwise it’s safe to skip it.

If, however, you are spending a lot of time digging through leads and assigning them to your sales reps, you can set up auto-rotation inside your CRM to assign leads by geographic territory, company size, vertical, or a combination of criteria. If it’s a free-for-all, use a round robin style.

Here’s a video that shows you how to do this with HubSpot.

Automate lead scoring and prioritization

Automating your lead scoring and prioritization is the best way to keep your sales reps laser-focused on the best opportunities.

Since, according to research from MarketingSherpa, most businesses don’t use any form of lead scoring, this alone can give you a leg up on your competitors since the ROI of this is so high.

Chart showing average lead generation ROI by use of lead scoring. Currently using lead scoring = 138%, Not using lead scoring = 78%. Source: 2011 Marketing Sherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey

This is done by making use of an automated lead scoring system. This type of sales automation software uses demographic and behavioral data to determine how qualified a lead is.

This way, sales reps know exactly which leads to prioritize.

Unfortunately, this kind of feature is typically in a higher pricing tier for most CRMs. This means that you need to have great data and a high volume of leads for it to be worthwhile.

The data is especially important since you’ll need to make rules for the leads to be scored. If you don’t have much data, then there’s really not much to score.

However, if you have the data and volume, and qualifying leads is important to you, then this is an extremely valuable form of automation. You end up spending less time speaking with leads who have a lower chance of converting.

If you prefer to use software outside of your CRM, you can do this with marketing automation software like Autopilot or ActiveCampaign. You can even connect these to your CRM with Zapier integrations.

Conclusion

With the best sales automation software on your side, your sales team will be able to accomplish so much more. Implement these systems, and the results will speak for themselves!

Have you set up any automations that have helped your sales team? Let me know in the comments!

If you need further guidance when it comes to setting up automations that will help your sales team, check out our self-paced workshop!