Wanna know something annoying?
If you’re working sales in a startup or small business, your sales stack is made up of a bunch of awesome apps that help you get your work done. And when I say awesome, I mean affordable, easy-to-use, gets-a-particular-job done, awesome.
Ok, so what’s annoying about that?
Well, if you’re doing it right, you’re evaluating the performance of your sales team by tracking sales activities completed and the quality of those sales activities – things they can control. The idea is that more high-quality sales activities equal more revenue.
Right. Still waiting on the the annoying part?
Here it is:
All of those sales tools you’re using, those amazing tools that do one thing exceptionally well, don’t always play nice with your other sales tools.
“Not playing nice” is a nice way of saying you’re doing a lot manual data entry and copying/pasting to keep all of the tools in your sales stack in sync.
Hubspot’s The State of Inbound Sales: 2014-2015 Report found that many sales professionals are spending more than 60 minutes per day keeping their CRM updated and humming along. That’s 60 minutes wasted on just one tool in your stack!
And that’s the annoying thing.
Your manual data entry does not count as sales activity. It’s a necessary evil that interferes with your ability to hit and exceed your sales activity quotas. Fewer sales activities mean less sales, and less sales makes you and your company much less awesome.
Think of the places where you probably waste time doing manual data entry and not closing deals
- Getting captured leads from sign-up forms, slide in pop-ups, exit pop-ups, lead capture bars, landing pages, and contextual micro-surveys into your CRM and email marketing apps.
- Enriching basic lead data with pieces like their name, company name, company revenue, their social media profiles, where they’re from and so on.
- Moving customer data up, down, and around your sales stack to keep everything in sync. To up the difficulty level, you might even do this differently for each lead depending on pre-defined criteria and lead scores.
- Creating and updating your sales activities. This is so annoying, am I right?!
- Tracking sales activities like emails sent, phone calls made, and demos given.
Now that we’re on the same page…
Here are 2.5 ways to integrate and automate your sales stack so that you can complete more sales activities and smash quotas.
1. Get your developers to connect your apps for you
Try not to let your eyes dry up while I quickly walk you through this process at 30,000ft. You owe it to your dev team to know a bit about the work they’d actually have to do for you.
First, they have to work through pages upon pages of API documentation to hunt down the many different triggers and events that can be automated between one app and another. Every app has a different way of doing this.
Here’s a link to a fraction of Slack’s API documentation, and theirs is one of the most organized in the biz.
Your engineers have to go through documentation that is much worse than this for every single app in your sales stack and then figure out how to connect them to each other. No app-to-app integration is identical to another, so they’re always starting from zero.
Oh yeah, then they have to manage these integrations to make sure they don’t go down and keep up with any major API changes for every single integration. If they don’t, you risk losing important data.
If you’re in a startup or small business like I am, you just chuckled a little bit at the thought of asking your engineers to do this for you – didn’t you? If you’ve already asked like it’s no big deal, you might be blushing.
Your engineers already have black circles under their eyes, they’re not eating, and they are the only reason Red Bull was able to sponsor the space jump without batting an eyelash.
They are already killing themselves for your company by doing some combination of the following:
- Getting your product to market.
- Keeping your product competitive in the market by adding new functionality.
- Keeping your product from imploding by fixing bugs.
- Responding to technical customer support inquiries.
- Not ripping their hair out (or yours) when you pivot…again.
Repeat after me:
I will not ask our developers to connect our sales stack.
It’s insensitive and a poor use of their talent. By asking them to reduce your manual work by integrating and maintaining your sales stack, you’re asking them to increase the mundane work they have to do. It’s work that takes them away from building your product – you know, that thing you get paid to sell.
There are, however, three scenarios where it might make sense to have your developers do a custom job:
- You’re a huge enterprise with a bazillion dollars and you have engineers to spare. Oh, how we startups would kill to have this luxury.
- You’re working with a lot of software that’s been built in-house such as custom CRM jobs. It’s going to be difficult to find an affordable solution that will help you integrate with your custom builds because it’s not as scalable for the provider.
- You have sadistic engineers that would love to work overtime wrangling some API’s for the fun of it.
If you don’t fit into any of the above situations – there’s a better way.
2. Use an Integration-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform to integrate your sales stack
Boy, do I have good news for you!
IaaS platforms, affectionately known as “SaaS Glue” by those in the know, let people like you and I get our workflows off the ground with basic integrations and automations.
We’re talking the If This Then Thats (IFTTT) and Zapiers of the world.
Showing a simple Zapier workflow that has a Wufoo form submission creating a line in a Google Spreadsheet.
These simple drag ‘n’ drop, point ‘n’ click workflow builders can help you fulfill some of your integration needs without harassing an engineer or learning to code.
You just select the apps you want to integrate from a dropdown menu, select your triggering events and the action you want to occur, and you’re off to the races.
Eureka! Problem Solved! End post.
Not so fast!
It’s true that an IaaS solution is a huge improvement over having your developers manage integrations for most teams.
These general IaaS platforms don’t care whether you’re integrating a sales stack, a marketing stack, a developer stack, or just some one-off admin tasks that are manual and repetitive.
They don’t care that you’re a sales pro, within a sales team, with sales problems, that require a solution focused on your sales process.
They don’t treat you like the unique snowflake that you are.
If one or more of the following points hit home, you may want to continue your search for the optimal sales stack solution:
- Your moving of data throughout your sales stack is complex. For example, I only want demos auto-scheduled for my top closer if the lead is a software company that has more than $25 Million in annual revenue. Not so straight forward.
- You want all of the workflows in your teamâs sales stack to live in one place. Zapier and IFTTT do not enable each member of your sales team to have their own username attached to a company account. Either everyoneâs workflows operate independently, or everyone shares a username and password. This can get messy.
- Related to the above, there are no permission level controls. So, if you need certain team members to have restrictions on their access or functionality to sales workflows, you’re out of luck.
- If you want any reporting around the data that is passing through Zapier and IFTTT from your other tools, you’ll have to look elsewhere. These platforms are bridges for your data – they arenât interested in helping your data meet up and mingle in one place.
- You feel more comfortable investing in a solution that is vertically focused on sales problems and not horizontally focused on integration problems.
If you can’t relate to the above, then a general IaaS platform could be a great fit. Because these tools are use case agnostic, other team members and departments may find them equally useful if they too aren’t needing a specialized solution.
3. A product that focuses 100% on helping sales pros save time and smash quotas
There’s a thought.
And a bit of a question.
Those pesky sales activities – have you been able to automate everything that is “computerly” possible (word borrowed from Loren Padelford, our mentor and Head Sales Scientist at Shopify). Is your sales stack helping you to destroy sales activity quotas to the point that they need to be reset?
And don’t underestimate what is “computerly” possible.
Many don’t even have the basics on lockdown. I’m talking capturing leads in the myriad of ways that you do (or should), automatically enriching that data so you’ve got detailed lead data to work with, and then getting that data to the two places it absolutely has to be – your CRM and email marketing apps.
Don’t worry, I’m not pointing fingers.
This is the other side of the double-edged sword that is a sales stack composed of many tools that are the best at the one thing they do. It’s hard to make them work together.
So, what’s keeping you from enjoying the benefits of a sales stack made of today’s best apps without the drawbacks of fragmented workflows?
How do you plan on solving this problem? If you’re already trying – what’s been working or not working so far?
Is the answer as simple as a killer CRM? Or, do you still find yourself doing a lot of work that isn’t a sales activity just like HubSpot’s article said?
These questions aren’t rhetorical – I want to know.
And this is where you, fellow Sales Hackers, come in…
I can’t think of a better place than Sales Hacker to discuss the victories and problems associated with the modern day sales stack. There may or may not be larger sales communities out there, but Sales Hacker is a community of forward-looking pros.
Here’s what I’d love to discuss in the comments below:
- Have you eliminated most of the manual work in your sales process that isn’t a sales activity? If so, how’d you do it? If not, what are your biggest challenges?
- Any experience with general IaaS platforms? What was amazing about it? What left you wanting more?
- What’s your dream sales stack solution do? What annoying work could you get off your plate for good? What would it help you do better?
- Anything else on the topic of sales apps, stacks, and automation would be great.
Let’s rant and brainstorm in the comments!
And, if anyone wants to go in-depth on this stuff one on one, send me an email at email@example.com.