Main illustration: Liz Meyer
As your sales organization grows, your tech stack almost always does too. But figuring out which sales tools you should buy and invest in – let alone what each tool even does – can be a daunting task.
This is especially true when you consider the seemingly endless list of sales tools to choose from. With at least 950 vendors in the space and more being added daily, building your tech stack can quickly become an overwhelming exercise, even for the most experienced of us in sales operations.
The good news, particularly if you’re just getting started, is that you really only need two things: a framework for evaluating new tools and a few recommendations to kick off your search. I’ll share what we’ve learned while building our own tech stack and give you an inside look at the tools we’ve used to improve our sales motions. But first, let’s start off with a simple definition.
What are sales tools?
Sales tools are applications and software used by sales professionals to make their job easier. Sales tools come in multiple categories, including customer relationship management (CRM), sales and market intelligence, lead handling and processing, analytics and reporting, sales training, and sales automation and integration.
How to choose your sales tools
As you begin to build your sales stack, it’s important to consider what each tool accomplishes and how they work together. Measuring twice and cutting – or in this case, implementing – once is easy advice to overlook. Not all companies have the same needs.
The key to choosing the right tools for your sales stack is finding the ones that address your specific needs. If you’re selling a high-volume, freemium product, you may benefit greatly from a single tool that can automate manual tasks like lead qualification. An enterprise software company, on the other hand, may need a robust suite of integrated tools to help them manage long, multitouch sales cycles.
“The key to choosing tools for your sales stack is finding the ones that address your specific needs”
While it’s common sense that not all sales tools are created equal, it’s also true that not all companies have the same needs. Before you start contacting vendors, the first thing you should do is make a list of your core business needs. Then, use that list to evaluate potential solutions.
Remember you can’t build your sales stack on the back of “nice-to-haves.” Most software vendors will want to impress you with all the things their product can do, but making sure the tool meets your critical business needs should be paramount.
Better tools, not more tools
It can be tempting to believe that simply adding tools will make your sales team more productive or drive faster growth. After all, it’s easier to sign up for a new tool than it is to hire a great sales rep or make a prospecting call, but don’t believe that just adding technology equates to progress. I’ve personally seen countless teams sign a contract just to be able to say “we have a tool for that” without being able to show a true return on investment that justifies the purchase. A solution will always include process and change management.
“Tools should improve your sales process, not replace your ability to perform mission critical tasks”
I’ve also seen teams drown in a sea of tools with overlapping functionality. Tools should support and improve your sales process, not replace your ability to perform mission critical tasks like training a new sales rep or closing a tough deal. Choose your tools carefully: fewer tools may actually enable a simpler, more efficient workflow for your sales motion.
Simple frameworks for choosing your sales tools
Picking the right sales tools can be an easy process if you use the right frameworks to guide your selections. These frameworks can be as simple as a few statements reminding you what a tool should and shouldn’t do – for example, a tool should help you accomplish a goal like improving productivity, but it shouldn’t create more work for the reps using it.
Here are some simple suggestions as you design your own framework:
Another framework we’ve found useful is breaking down the work that needs to be done and then seeing what kind of tool is needed to level up. Put simply:
- Work that is high in value and requires a high touch should be accelerated.
- Work that is high in value but is low touch should be assisted.
- Work that is low in value and requires a high touch should be automated.
- Work that is low in value and requires low touch should be eliminated.
Putting this framework into practice might look like:
- Automate repetitive tasks like qualifying leads by using a chatbot to automatically engage high-value website visitors.
- Accelerate your sales cycle by using live chat, instead of email or phone, to talk to leads when they’re most engaged – on your website.
- Assist sales reps in the buying process by using a data enrichment tool like Clearbit to populate relevant information about your lead and their company.
- Eliminate low-value work by creating self-serve resources like a smart knowledge base that can quickly serve up answers to frequently asked questions.
Remember any sales tool that you choose should either increase value or decrease time – and ideally both.
The six types of sales tools
Most sales tools are either a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or CRM enhancers – they add a specialized functionality to your existing CRM, or they feed data into it. The six most common categories that sales tools fall under are:
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Sales and market intelligence
- Lead handling and prospecting
- Analytics and reporting
- Process and training
- Automation and integrations
The 45 best sales tools
I’ve organized this list using the six categories above. At the top of each category are the tools we use at Intercom, but I’ve included plenty of alternatives that might be just as good, or even better, for your needs. Browse the list, check out each tool, and see what sticks.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools
Your CRM is the center of your sales process. Choose one that facilitates a better workflow and integrates with the rest of your sales stack. This is the most important tool you’ll invest in, so carefully assess your needs and then choose the CRM that will grow with your organization.
We use Salesforce because they are the industry leader among CRMs. The platform is easy to customize, accessible from almost anywhere, has a robust report engine and offers numerous integrations, including the ability to sync data from tools that don’t talk directly to one another.
Additionally, with the Salesforce app for Intercom, we can keep our users in Intercom and leads and contacts in Salesforce synced. That way, our reps can move seamlessly between tools without sacrificing the customer experience.
If you want to build your own CRM, Airtable is your tool. It’s simple to use and totally customizable. Hook it up to Zapier to create automations and integrate it with other apps.
Alternative tools that we love
3. Alore CRM
This AI-powered CRM helps with lead prospecting and has built-in drip campaign functionality. With the Alore app for Intercom, you can easily keep your prospect data in sync.
Steli Efti and his team have built a full-featured CRM that sales teams love. It has all of the features you’d expect, plus built-in calling.
This CRM is built for G Suite users. It actually lives inside Gmail, so you can quickly track data, schedule meetings, and create tasks without ever leaving your inbox.
The basic version of this tool is free forever. You can upgrade for advanced features, but the free version works well for new teams and seamlessly integrates with Intercom.
Another widely used CRM tool, Pipedrive helps you reduce administrative overhead with their workflow automation feature. Automate all kinds of tasks using simple “if/then” logic.
This tool has been praised for its ease of use and top-notch design that makes it super simple to track your sales funnel. Use the SalesSeek app to stay on top of your Intercom conversations.
Sales and market intelligence tools
Knowing a prospect’s name or email is a great start, but these alone don’t tell you if that person or their company will be a qualified buyer for your product. Sales and market intelligence tools help fill in the details so you can quickly make informed sales decisions.
We use Clearbit to enrich visitors who chat with us via our Messenger but only leave behind a few points of information, like full name and email address. With the Clearbit Reveal app for Intercom, we can uncover things like company name, location and employee count. Then we can decide if we think the company is a good fit for our products and use cases.
Need some manpower behind your lead searches? We love LeadGenius because this tool combines the power of machine learning with the intuition of human researchers. LeadGenius helps us ensure the quality of the lead data we’re piping into our CRM.
We use Zoominfo to make sure we have accurate contact information in our CRM. This tool allows us to search for companies and prospects based on industry, location, company size, revenue and more to understand how our prospects and customers have changed over time.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows us to tap into their massive network to learn more about our prospects and identify key decision makers.
Alternative tools that we love
Turn anonymous Google Analytics visits into actionable sales data. Leadfeeder reveals the companies that your website visitors work for so you can look for matches in your CRM.
This tool matches demographics with behavioral data to identify and score the best leads.
Lead handling and prospecting tools
Perhaps the most important part of any sales motion is quickly identifying promising leads, qualifying them and getting them into the right hands to be nurtured and converted into a sale. The tools below will help you do just that.
16. Intercom live chat
At Intercom, our sales reps use live chat to proactively engage, qualify and convert website visitors in real time. We can even hop on a discovery call, demo our product or schedule a follow-up meeting with high value leads while they’re live on our website. With our growing App Store, Intercom can now be connected to hundreds of other tools, making it an even more valuable player in our sales stack.
LeanData is a powerful tool that helps us route leads to the right rep and attribute new business to sales and marketing campaigns.The drag-and-drop functionality means we can quickly build complex routing logic for leads and contacts along with opportunities and accounts. We can also create and edit round robin logic, establish territories and put reps on vacation to make sure prospects are never left waiting.
Salesloft allows us to streamline, automate and quickly personalize our sales outreach. For prospects that don’t come in through live chat, we use Salesloft to put them into an email cadence and proactively follow up with them to gauge their interest.
Alternative tools that we love
This is a complete solution for sales teams making outbound calls. It includes everything from call recording to data analysis to CRM integrations and works right in the Intercom Messenger.
Hook Bonjoro up to Intercom (or your CRM of choice), then get a prompt to send a quick, personalized video to each new lead. It all happens in Bonjoro’s mobile app, making it easy to add a human touch to the sales process.
Andrew Chen cited workplace collaboration apps as a prime candidate for network effect growth tactics. CloudSponge enables users to tap into address books to invite colleagues to collaborate with them so you can generate more leads and referrals.
Sales collateral is now in the cloud and easy to track. Use DocSend to send case studies, presentations and other content – and then track prospect engagement in its dashboard.
This is a cold-email outreach tool that includes sales email templates and automatic follow-ups.
This is a tool that helps you build an outreach process. Called Sequences, these workflows keep reps on tasks so that no lead is ever forgotten.
Wistia allows users to record their webcam and their screen. Make your pitch or give a demo, then share the video with a link. With the Wistia app, you can send your leads and video data straight into Intercom.
Analytics and reporting tools
Data is next to useless until it’s actionable. These tools allow you to visualize, scrutinize and mobilize decision making by making data accessible by stakeholders in impactful ways.
Tableau is critical to enabling those of us in sales operations to see and understand our data. We’ve connected Tableau to a variety of data sources, including our CRM, our backend data warehouse and our Intercom app, so we can visualize a treasure trove of customer data. Tableau allows us to process a lot of data, which is important as we scale.
Using Bombora, we have the ability to understand which of our prospects are actively searching for Intercom and pair that with firmographic information. Bombora makes it easy for us to uncover the key decision makers we should be reaching out to and move deals forward.
Clari allows us to gamify the sales process to boost rep productivity. The tool also provides insights on buyer intent so we can more accurately create sales forecasts and help our team track toward closing business.
Alternative tools that we love
Record every visitor session on your website, then rewatch and analyze to see where they get stuck. It’s great for customer support, but sales teams can use the FullStory app for Intercom to look for missed opportunities in content marketing, lead capture forms pricing pages, and more.
Process and training tools
Improving your most common sales processes can save your team immense time – and headaches. These tools help you reduce friction, speed up common tasks and onboard new sales team members quickly.
Gong captures all of our prospect calls, video meetings and emails to help us understand how deals are progressing and what our reps could be doing better. Gong uses conversational intelligence to understand what’s being said – things like if a competitor was mentioned or how a discount request was handled. We use it to monitor calls that our new sales reps so we can offer advice on how to best sell our product.
Let’s be honest: most customers would scoff if you asked them to print, sign, scan and email (or even worse, fax) a document back to you. That’s why we’re big fans of DocuSign’s e-signature tools. We use it to complete order forms and master service agreements (MSAs) in hours, not days, from almost anywhere in the world, which helps since we’re a global company. We have our templates synced to our CRM so reps can send contracts directly to prospects with opportunity details like product and pricing information populating automatically on the forms.
Every business, including ours, wants a synopsis of what happened during a sales interaction, but what we don’t want is our reps wasting time logging task after task. That’s where Dooly comes in. It’s a task management tool that allows our reps to sync quickly meeting notes to our CRM by clicking a link in their calendar meeting invite.
Guru provides one source of truth for all our collective sales knowledge. Our sales enablement team loves the ability to empower our organization with best practices and give our sales reps an easy way to understand our sales plays at a glance.
Alternative tools that we love
Record and transcribe sales calls for better documentation in your CRM.
This is one of those tools that nearly anyone can benefit from. Capture and annotate screenshots, record screencasts, and drop them right into your Intercom conversations.
For deals that require a contract or statement of work to be signed, HelloSign is essential. Electronic signatures remove quite a bit of friction from the closing process.
38. Process Street
Turn all of your processes into checklists. Process Street is a great way to document and share onboarding flows with employees and new customers.
Just about every company uses contact forms in some way. Typeform allows you to quickly collect customer information with beautiful, interactive surveys. With the Typeform app, you can ask for user feedback directly in the Intercom Messenger.
Automation and integration tools
What’s better than a top-performing sales team? Allowing that team to get more done with smart automation. Whether it’s pre-qualifying leads, instantly answering a support question or connecting data from disparate sources, automation and integration tools allow teams to go from good to great by creating efficiencies in the sales workflow.
Custom Bots, Intercom’s chatbots for sales, have helped us supercharge our sales pipeline. Our bots can initiate conversations with high value website visitors and handle lead qualification and routing. What’s made these bots most valuable for us is that we can create custom paths using visitor data so every lead is directed to the right outcome, whether that’s booking a demo, signing up for a webinar or chatting with a sales rep in real time.
A cross between Zapier and Segment, Stitch makes it easy to put all of our data in one place. For rapidly growing companies with multiple data sources that are difficult to aggregate, Stitch provides a foundation for giving sales reps the insights they need.
We use Tray to push data from our Intercom app to our CRM and surface notable customer events, such as when a customer increases their overall in-product engagement or grows their account spend. The visual editor means anyone on sales operations, not just technical teammates, can automate complex workflows.
Alternative tools that we love
With PieSync, you can automatically share customer contacts between your marketing automation, CRM, email marketing, invoicing and e-commerce apps. Use the PieSync app for Intercom to keep your leads and users in a two-way sync with tools like Mailchimp, Zoho CRM and more.
Integrate event data from various tools – Intercom, Google Analytics, Mixpanel, your CRM and so many others – in one place with Segment.
Out-of-the-box integrations aren’t always enough. Zapier allows users to trigger workflows that pass data from one app to another. It’s an essential automation tool for sales.
Why live chat gets overlooked on lists of sales tools
It’s common sense that having conversations with your prospects is highly valuable and the more opportunities you have to connect with a lead, the better. Yet despite this, live chat tends to get left out of lists like this one.
That’s because live chat enables a one-to-one, real-time interaction with website visitors that many sales teams are still figuring out how to handle. And then there’s the unavoidable association with customer support – sales reps want to close more deals, not answer a laundry list of questions (as important as that might be to your customers and your support team).
“Buyers now expect an on-demand experience, one that’s best provided through live chat”
But the reality is that buyers now expect an on-demand experience, one that’s best provided through live chat, and they won’t settle for anything less. For businesses, this means they should invest in a conversational marketing strategy, one that leverages chat to convert visitors on their site in real-time. Website visitors who chat are 82% more likely to convert to customers than those who don’t:
Here are a few other things you should know about Intercom’s live chat tool to power your conversational marketing:
- You’ll always be closing. Chatbots can help facilitate real-time conversations with your leads when you’re available but can also capture and qualify leads when you aren’t.
- You can automatically drive leads to the right outcomes. With a little help from a bot, prospects can qualify themselves, get their questions answered and even take the next step like scheduling a demo or signing up for your newsletter.
- Live chat fits neatly into your existing workflow thanks to our robust suite of integrations.
- Customers love it. In just one month, our friends at Copper generated $36,000 in new annual revenue thanks to 19 leads generated via live chat.
Think of live chat as a sales tool that eliminates repetitive work and creates a better user experience for your leads. It hasn’t made its way onto every list of sales tools yet, but it’s one that every top-performing sales team will need in their toolkit sooner rather than later.
Grow your business with the right tools
There are plenty of great tools available, many of which we’ve listed here. We’re aware that this list isn’t comprehensive – we didn’t cover dialers, activity tracking tools or contract management tools, for example – and that other sales teams will have their own list of recommendations. However, the tools we did choose are trusted by our customers and our own team.
The ultimate takeaway here is that the right sales tools will help improve your team’s attainment and overall performance. Find the parts of your sales cycle that need attention, carefully assess which tools best fit your needs and build an integrated tech stack that’ll fuel faster growth.