Picking the Right Tools for your Sales & Marketing Tech Stack

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The new age of sales and marketing is here, and sometimes it’s difficult to keep up with all the latest tools.  There are so many options! How do you keep track of what’s most critical to your sales and marketing efforts? As anyone who’s been following the evolution of the MarTech map over the last few years knows, the sales and marketing tech space is only getting more crowded, from 150 tools in 2011 to 7,040 tools in 2019.  

Despite the ever-changing tech landscape, one fact remains true.  Today’s tech is powerful, and anyone responsible for generating business will be at a disadvantage if they don’t embrace technology in their sales and marketing processes.  

Tools don’t replace what reps do every day.  They empower reps to go further and faster. By leveraging market-leading tools like CRM, Marketing Automation, Sales Engagement, and Data Prospecting tools, B2B companies can build a flywheel for revenue generation that feeds leads through the top of funnel, nurtures them in the middle, and empowers reps to stay relevant throughout the entire deal cycle.

How?  Well first, it starts with a well-defined strategy, talented people and a desire to standardize and scale business process.  Tools alone don’t help business move faster. They empower people within the business to be more efficient. If the people don’t know which direction they’re going, tech can only complicate things.

We’ve been fortunate to implement a lot of tech over our combined 30+ years as sales and marketing professionals, and there’s one cheesy phrase we’ve heard time and time again that always rings true: “a fool with a tool is still a fool.”  

Companies can’t expect technology to transform the way they do business, despite the fact that this is the vision that most tech companies are selling.  The tech is an enabler. In order to reach that promised-land, your company must have a clearly defined strategy and plan to get there. You need to have talented people in the right seats throughout your organization that can inspire and empower your people to create the growth you need. And you need to establish a process that scales.

The tech CAN help you reach that promised land.  In fact, you likely won’t get there without new tools.  But always remember it’s not the tech alone that can achieve your goals.  

Build the plan.
Align your talent.  
Then, pick the right tools that empower your people to execute on your strategy.

But which tools should we be looking at, you might ask?  We believe there are four categories of tools that are absolutely critical to empower B2B sales and marketing professionals today:  CRM, Marketing Automation, Sales Engagement, and Data & Sales Intelligence tools.


More often than not, CRM sits at the center the sales & marketing tech stack. CRM serves as the “source of truth” for customer data and provides a user interface for sales reps and marketers to interact with and update the data on a daily basis.  

Amongst our customers, there are two CRM’s that stand out above the rest: Salesforce and Hubspot.

Salesforce is by far the leader in the category and provides powerful CRM capabilities for sales and marketers alike.  With a wide range of products and licensing levels, there’s a Salesforce solution to meet any firm’s needs. If you need a robust CRM that you can bend to fit all of your business processes and add additional functions with an enormous ecosystem of partnerships, integrations, and apps; Salesforce is the best solution by a longshot.

Hubspot can be a great entry-level CRM for those who are just getting started.  Small businesses may not need a ton of customizations and may not have the budgets for a market-leading product like Salesforce.  In these circumstances, Hubspot can provide beginner-level capabilities across the CRM, Marketing Automation, and Sales Engagement categories.

Marketing Automation

Oh, MA… where to begin.  I love Marketing Automation.  Marketing Automation serves as the marketing engagement layer that sits on top of CRM, enabling automated marketing communications with known contacts.  In short, Marketing Automation enables the ability for an organization to provide the right message to the right person at the right time in the right channel.

I’ve been working with Marketing Automation tools for the last 8 years, and I’ve been lucky enough to see most of them in action.  A few of my favorite platforms for B2B organizations are Pardot, Hubspot, Marketo, and Eloqua.

Pardot (owned by Salesforce) is an excellent tool for Salesforce customers, and the Pardot product gets better and more closely aligned with Salesforce CRM every year.  I’ve been working with Pardot for years, and I believe it’s the best all-around product for small to mid-market businesses who are using Salesforce as their CRM.

Hubspot is a great entry to mid-level tool, and Hubspot provides fantastic thought leadership and guidance to customers.  Hubspot coined the term “Inbound Marketing” and leverages the inbound methodology as a core element of its platform.  For organizations that are just getting started with Marketing Automation or don’t have many advanced requirements, Hubspot can be a great fit.

Marketo (owned by Adobe) and Eloqua (owned by Oracle) are the most advanced and robust platforms available today, and both can be viable options for mid-market and enterprise B2B companies that have more advanced requirements. Eloqua is arguably the most powerful tool on the market, but with power comes complexity. Marketo is a great all-around solution with a major focus on functionality for marketers, and with the recent acquisition by Adobe we expect Marketo’s integration with the broader Adobe marketing suite to only become more powerful.

Sales Engagement

If you haven’t caught on to the Sales Engagement wave, catch up!  Sales Engagement is here and it will be the next big component of your tech stack to have a huge impact on your bottom line.  Marketing Automation has been around for a while, and the ROI of proper MA usage is clear. Now imagine if that powerful communications capability was specifically built and optimized for a sales team, enabling reps to more easily communicate with more prospects in a more personalized manner.  That’s Sales Engagement.

Sales Engagement tools enable sales teams to plan, execute, and optimize communications between a sales rep and prospect across multiple touchpoints and channels.  For sales leaders, imagine mapping out the ideal cadence of communications to a prospect that will capture their attention, get them to engage with your sales cycle, and ultimately purchase your product or services.  Oftentimes this can include a combination of emails, phone calls, social connections and messages, value-add content, snail mail, etc. Now imagine plugging in that ideal method into a tool so it can be replicated and optimized for your reps to engage with every prospective customer in your database in a highly targeted, personalized way.  That’s Sales Engagement!

There are two big players in the Sales Engagement space, SalesLoft, and Outreach, and a host of up-and-comers, including MixMax and the new Salesforce High Velocity Sales product.  Like all tools, they each have happy customers, but at InStereo we are big fans of SalesLoft due to their emphasis on the personalized sales experience and tight integration with Salesforce CRM.  A recent study by Forrester showed that SalesLoft can provide a 329% ROI in 3 years. SalesLoft is a powerful tool, and B2B companies should absolutely be checking them out if they don’t yet have a means to empower their sales teams to have personalized 1:1 conversations with prospects at scale.

Hubspot also has some basic Sales Engagement capabilities with their Sequences functionality.  Hubspot Sequences provides sales reps the ability to map out their ideal sequence of communication and schedule call reminders and automated emails to engage prospects along the way.

Data & Sales Intelligence

When it comes to digital technology, data is everything.  Bad data can kill sales and marketing programs before they even get off the ground.  To ensure your organization has a solid platform to maintain good, clean data, start with CRM and ensure everyone who interacts with the data has a central repository to work from.  From there, marketers may want to enrich the data on your known prospects and customers. If you want to grow (and who doesn’t!) sales will need to build lists of prospective buyers who meet your ideal customer profile to fuel their prospecting efforts.  Both of these scenarios are solved by Data & Sales Intelligence tools.

Sales Intelligence tools provide a marketplace for accessing prospect data. Notable players in the space include ZoomInfo, Clearbit, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, amongst many others.

At InStereo, we use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and ZoomInfo.  Starting with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, this is a necessary and complementary tool to your CRM and Sales Engagement tools.  Of greatest value is the visibility of connections, news, and career movement of the prospects you are targeting, giving sales valuable information to aid in personalizing their communications.  Oh, and, it seamlessly integrates with SalesLoft to support social engagement steps as a part of cadence activities.

For contact level information, there’s none better than ZoomInfo.  There will always be a healthy debate about data accuracy, which means you need to do your research to find the data provider that is best for your target industry and buyer.  That said, ZoomInfo recently acquired Datanyze for technographic data, and then boom!, ZoomInfo got acquired by DiscoverOrg, becoming a true data intelligence powerhouse.  In terms of features, the level of fine-grained company/person search, the ability to create and save lists, and the CRM export capabilities enable sales reps to quickly dial in on a clean set of prospects to work with.

While there’s no one right answer to build the best sales and marketing stack, today’s leading B2B companies must at a minimum have a solution in place for CRM, Marketing Automation, Sales Engagement, and Data & Sales Intelligence tools.  These platforms provide the necessary framework to maintain customer data and engage with customers in meaningful ways. If your company is looking for additional perspective on any of these platforms and how they can help your business grow, let’s chat!  We’d love to help.

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