Brian Collins loves a good sales tool, but even he has his limits. As Jellyvision’s director of revenue strategy and enablement, Collins evaluates and purchases tools that are supposed to make the sales reps’ lives easier and more efficient. But recently, he took a more critical look at the sales tech stack and noticed something off.
At any given moment, a sales rep needed to have 13 separate tabs of tools open on their computer to do their job. Five years ago, they needed four.
The problem wasn’t exactly tool bloat — each platform was there for a reason and provided value, he said. The issue was fit. While each tool communicated with Jellyvision’s CRM, Salesforce, they all operated independently from each other with separate user interfaces.
“None of the vendors speak to each other, so nobody knows what the other is doing,” Collins said. “It creates a lot of frustration in a lot of different areas.”
Moreover, the economic impact of COVID-19 has meant budgets for new sales tools aren’t as deep. It’s had sales leaders like Collins reviewing their tech stacks and realizing that more tools isn’t always the answer.
What’s the Problem?
Before this year, Collins and Jellyvision’s revenue operations team took an approach to building its sales tech stack that would be familiar to most companies.
A sales manager would identify an issue in the sales workflow and ask Collins to find a tech solution. From there, Collins would examine the root of the issue, build a minimum viable product to test if a tool will solve that issue and then research tools that integrated with its CRM, Salesforce.
The process often ended with Jellyvision buying a new tool, rolling out a workflow training and adding to its already robust sales tech stack.
“If you were a seller over the last five years, Jellyvision was probably a very nice prospect for you,” Collins said.
Instead of making the sales workflow more efficient, however, the tools have wound up having the opposite effect over time.
Part of the reason for this is the explosion in sales tools over the last five years, Collins said. In 2019 alone, the number of sales tools available jumped up from 830 to 950, according to SalesHacker. In order to stand out, many of the tools have their own platforms with numerous add-ons that are designed to make them indispensable.
“It now presents a challenge of, ‘What are the appropriate workflows for my sellers?’ because they have all this functionality around the edges.”
When there are 13 tools, each with different interfaces, that need to be learned to perform each step in the sales process, it can make things more complicated, Collins said. Toss in the edge use-cases that many tools come with, and that’s how Jellyvision ended up with 11 different tools from which sellers can send an email.
“It now presents a challenge of, ‘What are the appropriate workflows for my sellers?,’ because they have all this functionality around the edges,” Collins said.
As a result, it’s not uncommon for salespeople to create their own workflows, even if they don’t make any sense.
Jellyvision isn’t alone in confronting this issue. In a properly functioning sales tech stack, a sales rep should be able to complete a task like sending an email from one tool and one window, said Jeremy von Halle, founder of the sales operations consulting agency, Mud City.
But finding platforms that contribute to a cohesive sales ecosystem is easier said than done.
“It’s not like the tools don’t integrate,” von Halle said. “It’s how well they integrate and how flexible their platforms are to achieve what you set out to achieve. Not everyone thinks like that.”
Build Your Own Tools
Tools don’t solve problems. That’s the first thing sales leaders need to know before they make any purchase, von Halle said.
When von Halle and his co-founder Jessica Watts work with a company sales leader, they start by understanding their sales strategy. Only then will they talk about purchasing tools.
That’s because buying tools to solve a problem and then cobbling together a process after is one of the quickest ways to tool bloat. It can lead to a situation where sales reps need to take dozens of steps to send an invoice because the tech tools don’t integrate with each other.
“We wanted to work with clients and give them guidance before they get too far down, because sales stacks can easily become Frankenstein monsters and are costly to detangle,” von Halle said.
So, if a sales team is struggling to engage customers, start with developing a content strategy. Once that strategy works and the team needs to scale its efforts, then it’s worth purchasing a tool.
“We wanted to work with clients and give them guidance before they get too far down, because sales stacks can easily become Frankenstein monsters and are costly to detangle.”
But sometimes, building a cohesive tech stack means knowing when a new tool isn’t necessary.
That’s something Collins has started to embrace as he’s taken a more critical approach to Jellyvision’s sales stack. Thanks to the flexibility of Google’s GSuite and CRMs like Salesforce, Collins estimates that 90 percent of the functionality in Jellyvision’s sales stack could be recreated using those programs.
While he won’t go so far as to eliminate the entire sales stack, it has shaped how he has prioritized software contracts in light of a tighter budget.
Boil the Tool Down to Its Basic Functions
The aha! moment came in 2019 when Jellyvision’s RevOps team identified the need for an email tool that more accurately reflected the way B2B companies purchase. Most outreach platforms are designed to message one prospect, but salespeople often worked with multiple buyers to complete a deal.
Instead of forcing a new tool to do something it’s not designed to do, Collins reached out to a Salesforce developer who could build them their own solution.
“It cost us $10,000 to build a custom solution that allowed us to create buying groups in Salesforce,” Collins said. “We now have a container where we can put prospects in and then send email messaging to groups of people to create a more cohesive experience for customers.”
The same process worked when sales leaders requested a coaching tool. In order to develop a coaching culture, Collins needed to know:
- Are sales leaders coaching?
- When are they doing it?
- What are they talking about?
After researching, he found that every coaching tool on the market came with several additional features sales managers didn’t need, and they required tons of training and new workflows to adopt. So, Jellyvision built its own using Google Docs.
“If you look at your internal tools and you’re like, ‘I can do this in here,’ you might as well.”
Collins talked to a couple of managers about what they needed and then created a short survey form. After every one-on-one, managers simply enter the topic of coaching conversation, the date they coached the sales rep and any additional notes from the conversation. That information is then collected in Google Sheets, where the RevOps team can start identifying trends.
“It might not be pretty, but in terms of adoption, it beats out the other tools on the market,” Collins said.
That’s not to say every tool can be replaced using a minimum viable product. Some platforms, like DocuSign, rely on specific technology and are too complicated to recreate.
Still, he believes more companies will start to embrace the DIY approach to building their sales stacks, especially with limited budgets. After all, existing sales platforms are often too robust for the tasks they handle, or they fail to deliver on their promises, Collins said. A custom solution can be just as effective as, and cheaper than, the name-brand tools.
“If you look at your internal tools and you’re like, ‘I can do this in here,’ you might as well,” Collins said. “It makes more sense economically.”
Seen, but Not Heard, Tools
As Collins evaluated Jellyvision’s sales stack through the lens of COVID-19, he’s come to two conclusions — his sales team is missing some tools it needs, and it also needs to offload tools.
The evaluation involved a quantitative and qualitative analysis. The quantitative examination helped him see what financial gain each tool brings to the company. If an email sequencing tool is expected to boost the number of meetings for a sales rep, then the numbers should bear that out.
For the qualitative evaluation, he anonymously surveyed the sales reps, asking them if they used a particular tool, whether they liked it and if they found it valuable. After all, nobody knows the true value of a software like the people required to use it each day.
“The future of sales tech are tools that provide value but are neither seen nor heard.”
The results have helped him uncover ineffective platforms like its sales content tool. It proved to be cumbersome to upload content into, it muddled the process because reps could also find the same content in Google Docs, and usage data wasn’t being sent to Salesforce.
As Collins thinks about the future of Jellyvision’s sales stack, he plans to prioritize simplicity over elegance. That means opting for tools that the company can quickly build on its own, or ones like Gong, which operate in the background and add value without requiring a new workflow.
“The future of sales tech are tools that provide value but are neither seen nor heard,” Collins said. “If you do that, you’re going to be the new tool because the one thing I need like I need a hole in the head is to implement another set of workflows, expectations and use cases for a ‘Platform.’”