Picking the Right Tools for your Sales & Marketing Tech Stack

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.

CRM

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.

B2B Demand Generation: The Keys to Success

Demand generation is becoming more and more of a necessity for B2B businesses.  Buyers expect more from their vendors, and companies must adapt to deliver a seamless experience throughout the entire customer lifecycle (Thanks, Amazon!).  Before we dig into what companies should be thinking about when implementing demand generation strategies for their business, let’s level-set on one thing: What is demand generation?

As Hubspot states, “Demand generation is more than just a branding concept or early funnel marketing tactic. Demand generation programs are touch points throughout the conversion optimization and sales cycles… The goal of demand generation is to build and nurture key prospect and customer relationships for the long term.”

InStereo has years of experience working with brands on their demand generation programs. We’ve been fortunate to help many companies scale existing programs to take them to the next level. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with those who’ve struggled in their sales & marketing efforts to get them back on the path to success. Through these experiences, we’ve learned from those successes and developed a framework for B2B professionals to consider when implementing demand generation programs in their business.

At the highest of levels, the goal should be simple.  Create exceptional experiences for your buyers. Anticipate their needs and answer their questions before they know to ask.  Be there when they need you, and deliver value even when they don’t. Why? Companies that create great experiences win. And winning companies create revenue and growth.

At InStereo we know that the only way to build a successful program is to take a step back and take a strategy-first approach to customer experience and revenue generation. A well-rounded plan will include a focus on five key areas:

When all of these elements are balanced and working together, great things happen. We force both Sales and Marketing to work together on a common plan for customer engagement.  And when the right people agree on the right vision in an environment where constant change is encouraged, organizations can begin walking down the path of creating amazing customer experiences that maximize revenue.  

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Strategy

It all starts with Strategy.  And Strategy begins with a deep understanding of your buyers.  When you know your buyers and truly understand their pain-points and wants, you can anticipate their needs and build touches into your sales and marketing processes that deliver against those needs.  In order to accomplish this, organizations must have a deep understanding of their:

  • Ideal Customer Profile — Who is the ideal target account?
  • Buyer Personas — Who is the buyer within that account?
  • Buyer Journeys — What is that buyers’ ideal buying experience?

By understanding your ideal target accounts, the buyers within those accounts, and their ideal buying process, you can then architect your internal sales and marketing processes and content to surprise and delight them all along their journey with you.  

Technology and Data

Once the strategy is defined, an organization must implement tools that most efficiently and effectively allow their teams to execute upon the strategy.  Commonly this includes CRM, Marketing Automation, Sales Engagement, and Data platforms that help manage data and process and automate communications with customers.

The tools are important, and data is the fuel that drives them. Without good, clean data, we can have a great vision, solid tech, but inability to execute and connect with customers in a meaningful way.  

Another one of the common mistakes we see businesses make is prioritizing new technology over people and process. Truth is, a fool with a tool is still a fool. Taking a strategy-first approach lets you evaluate which tools best align with your teams and processes and allows you to implement in a manner which empowers the business users.

Said another way… make sure to get the technology that’s right for your business. Don’t buy a Ferrari if you don’t know how to drive stick.  Don’t buy a heavy-duty pickup if you don’t have anything to put in the bed. And don’t buy a coupe if you have a team of four. In the end, you may get to your destination faster, most comfortably, and most cost-effectively in a Honda Civic — even if it’s not the sexiest ride.

Whichever tools you decide to implement, make sure the business is ready, and make sure they are right for your team.

People

B2B sales and marketing is a people-driven ecosystem. Even with all the technology we use today, organizations still buy from human beings. Tech alone does not drive demand gen, but the people within organizations that harness the power of technology to improve the connection to buyers.

In order for your strategy and technology to align, people need to be in the right roles throughout your organization. The first thing you can do is define roles throughout sales and marketing and evaluate if people have the right skills.

Once you have the right skills in the right departments, how collaboratively do your departments work together to achieve their common goals?  All too often we see sales march to the beat of one drum while marketing is off marching to another. And IT can’t hear the music at all. For programs to be effective, all parties must work together with a common strategy and common goals.

One trend we love is the emergence of the Chief Revenue Officer or Chief Growth Officer.  This is a leader who oversees all revenue-generating activities, including both the Sales and Marketing departments. By bringing these groups together, the CRO can ensure that all are focused on the common goals of growing the business and driving revenue.  

Even if your business doesn’t have a CRO, sales and marketing leaders can take steps forward by aligning on their department goals and working together on plans to achieve them.

Process

Once you have a strategy in motion and the technology and people to support it, you must develop a repeatable and scalable process for audience engagement. By doing this you deliver a consistent customer experience that drives revenue through your pipeline.

Oftentimes we see the “wild west” scenario: a sales team that has many reps doing their outreach their own individual different ways. You may have have seen this masquerade as an “entrepreneurial sales environment.”  It can be effective for hitting short-term numbers on a growing sales team, but ineffective for scaling a growing organization.

Rather than allow sales reps to do whatever they wish to close their business, ask those same reps how Sales and Marketing leaders can provide tools to help.  You may find that reps want the partnership. Some of their current methods may be effective, and the organization can benefit from taking those reps’ practices and standardizing them in a scalable way.  

The same thing goes for marketing. Create repeatable processes for campaigns and customer communications, and create an internal constant dialogue between sales and marketing, that allows for input on what marketing tactics reps are seeing be effective and what needs to change. This helps each department understand how they best support the other.

Create a plan across Sales & Marketing and have everyone committed to the same goals, systems, and schedules.  Work together. Grow your business as a team and not as individuals.

The most important thing to consider about process is that it’s never finished.  Processes defined 6 months ago may be stale and outdated today. Organizations must plan to review and revise process constantly to make sure teams are most efficient in working towards the collective goals.

Content

We’ve all heard it before… content is king. And it is!  

Whether the content delivery mechanism is via a sales rep, automated email campaigns, website, blogs, webinars, e-books, or any other tactic your organization can dream up, in the end the content must provide value to your buyers.  Without content that is targeted, engaging, and valuable to your audience, none of the other elements matter.

All too often, content is considered an afterthought. People think, “The tools will solve my problem!” or “the new-hire will figure it out!.” Always remember that audience engagement tools like Marketing Automation and Sales Engagement are just a means to automate and scale process.  If there are no processes in place to automate and no content to deliver, the value of these tools diminishes quickly.

Those who focus on their buyers’ needs and deliver value to them at the right time and revenue will fall in place.

InStereo

InStereo is a consulting firm of modern Sales & Marketing experts.  We help our clients create amazing buyer experiences that drive more revenue.  We work with customers every day to define their Strategy and plan for Technology & Data, People, Process, and Content.  It all starts with a deep understanding of your buyers’ needs and building a framework to deliver value time and time again.

Can you do a better job of delivering value to your buyers to accelerate revenue?  Do you have gaps in your sales and marketing process?  We can help. Let’s talk!

Meet InStereo. (It’s about damn time…)

Bill and Adam have each had the lifelong dream to start a business and bring something to the market that we’re truly passionate about — a chance to step out into the world with a unique perspective that helps companies grow. Today is very exciting because we get to announce how InStereo will bring that dream to life.

It started this summer when we got together for drinks and reflected on the wild ride we took to build an amazing company from a day-one startup to a consulting powerhouse in the Salesforce ecosystem.  

The more we talked (and the more we drank), the more it became clear that the world of sales and marketing continues to rapidly change. Companies are struggling to keep up, and we have an opportunity to help them win.

Today, there are countless technologies that can provide value across sales, marketing, demand generation, customer experience, marketing automation, etc, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to unlock the value these technologies can provide. The technology oftentimes is seen as the “easy button” to solve all the organization’s problems, when truly, it’s an enabler.

How much value could we provide to organizations if we flipped the script and focused on what’s most important across these domains: the humans who make it happen.  

Enter InStereo.  

InStereo is a new consulting firm that brings a people-and-process-first, technology-second approach to customer experience and revenue generation. We believe that companies can effectively transform in today’s digital age only when there is a clear understanding of the customer, and a clear alignment of the people and process to deliver for that customer.

How?  Simply, know and delight your customers. Arm your sales and marketing teams to support them at every stage. Align processes to enable the ideal customer experience. Then, align strong technology to support the teams, automate processes, and enable new customer touchpoints.

Digital capabilities should be implemented in a manner that truly makes teams better:

    • Sales teams must become better sellers.
    • Marketing teams must become better marketers.
  • And together they must deliver an amazing experience across the entire customer lifecycle.

At InStereo, we’re driven to make this happen. We have a solid framework for customer experience strategy, sales and marketing excellence, and killer technology partnerships with SalesLoft, HubSpot and more.

The opportunity for all of us to achieve the vision is in front of us. And we’re ready. Ready to help our current and future clients deliver incredible experiences, accelerate revenue, and win.  

So to all of you sales and marketing peeps out there, raise a glass. Here’s to our future together!

Want to learn more?  Let’s talk!