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Sales Development Technology: The Stack Emerges

A new technology stack is emerging that is specifically designed for sales development. The emergence of a dedicated sales development technology stack is basically the result of a fundamental tension that’s existed in sales development for a few years now. On the one hand, sales development has become a mission critical element in most high growth company’s marketing and sales efforts. On the other, an abundance of digital information makes it harder than ever to reach and qualify buyers. Sales development leaders are in a continuous battle to manage this core tension.

One way that sales dev teams are overcoming this challenge is through the use of technology. As a result, more and more technology vendors are building products for sales development. Of course, the proliferation of sales development technologies creates another problem for sales development leaders – how to make sense of the ever increasing and changing sales development technology landscape.

That’s why the TOPO Sales Development Practice just published The Sales Development Technology Report. The report is the seminal work on sales development technology. The report:

  • Is based on 130+ interviews with sales development leaders
  • Analyzes key market dynamics from both the buyer and vendor perspective
  • Provides a canonical framework for thinking about the sales development tech stack
  • Shows how to evaluate and adopt specific sales development technologies
  • Examines 75 different technology vendors in 9 different categories

Sales Development Technology Trends

The report analyzes the trends, dynamics, and drivers that are shaping the sales development technology market. There are many market trends that buyers and vendors should track, but a few worth highlighting include:

Buyer behavior has made it essential to augment SDRs’ capabilities with technology. SDRs now have to make more touches per lead and make those touches more relevant and personalized. It takes 18 dials to connect with a buyer. Only 23.9% of sales emails are opened. Sales development needs to invest in technologies that help SDRs find more buyers and increase both the quantity and quality of touches on those buyers.

Sales development teams are already using a record number of technologies. On average, high growth sales development teams have 5 applications in their technology stack. Furthermore, the stack will continue to grow – 72.4% of companies have plans to make a sales development technology purchase in 2015.

sales development technology

Adoption risk is the number one challenge when it comes to sales development technology. High growth teams have a process to ensure adoption and assess quantifiable gains. The ability to successfully rollout new technology makes the difference between technology being merely purchased and technology being used to drive performance.

The Sales Development Technology Landscape

The aforementioned market dynamics are also shaping the sales development technology vendor landscape. The report provides detailed analysis of 75 different vendors in 9 different technology categories. Some key points that sales development organizations should be aware when evaluating specific technologies and vendors include:

Point applications are racing to become the single platform for sales development. Forward thinking vendors are exploring how they can offer more capabilities to grow market share. Contact vendors, for example, are enabling SDRs to contact prospects within the platform (InMail) and are incorporating advanced sales intelligence. Sales email applications are beginning to incorporate other touch points like phone and social to offer SDRs a single outreach solution.

Sales development organizations should use multiple sources for contact data. SDRs need contact data providers to allow them to 1) find prospects 2) research prospects and 3) reach prospects by phone and email. LinkedIn has become the primary source of contact data for sales development teams, in large part because it fulfills needs 1 and 2 with the most accurate, real time data. However, it does not provide the phone and email information SDRs need for outreach, nor does it integrate with their other systems (e.g. CRM and sales email apps). As a result, 89.9% of companies use two or more sources of contact data to fulfill the needs of sales development.

Technology can greatly improve the number and quality of touches SDR touches. Sales email applications that offer automated email capabilities, such as mass email sends, templates, and reporting and analytics, have become essential to the stack. Sales email applications have overtaken tradition email applications and email automation platforms as SDRs’ primary means of outreach.

Dialing automation is enabling SDRs to compete with severely low connect and call-back rates. It takes 18 or more dials to connect with a prospect over the phone and call-back rates are below 1%. Despite its inefficiency, the phone remains a critical touch point in SDR outreach. As a result, technology vendors have responded with applications to automate sales phone activity. This market is taking off; dialing automation is the number one buying priority for sales development in 2015 with 45.3% of sales development teams planning to evaluate vendors this year.

Predictive analytics offers sales development a powerful value proposition. Predictive analytics offers a valuable, new way for organizations to hone in on their ideal customer profile (ICP) and focus SDRs on the buyers that are most likely to convert into opportunities. This technology is still emerging, with only 15.0% of companies using it, but its strong value proposition for sales development will drive its continued growth in the technology stack. In fact, predictive analytics technology is the second highest buying priority for sales development in 2015 with 36.8% of companies planning to evaluate vendors this year.

If you’d like access to The Sales Development Technology Report, contact TOPO at www.topohq.com. If you have specific questions for the lead analyst on this report, Bryan Gonzalez, you can reach him at bryan@topohq.com.

About the Author:  Bryan Gonzalez is TOPO’s Sales Development Analyst. He publishes research and helps clients design, build, and optimize their Sales Development organizations. Prior to joining TOPO, Bryan was a founding member of two high-growth SDR teams, and helped launch, execute and scale their Sales Development programs.

  • The emergence of sales development is the biggest innovation to happen to sales in the last decade. Thanks Topo for being all over this trend and producing the information revenue leaders need in order to win!

    • Ken Krogue

      Hey Kyle, great to see you following the SD research! Thanks for all you are doing for the SD function also!

  • Ken Krogue

    This is some very valuable research about the technology most needed by sales development. Have you considered the more specialized functions under the SDR function? For example: inbound response, enterprise vs smb outbound, etc.?

    • Bryan Gonzalez

      Hi Ken, thanks for the question. We do a lot of research on the more specialized functions within the SDR role, both from a process and plays standpoint as well as a technology standpoint. For example, our Sales Development Touches report analyzes the differences between inbound/outbound and smb/enterprise outreach patterns.

      Our Sales Development Technology Report provides a lot of specialized analysis for each technology and how they impact different types of SDR teams. We are constantly gathering new data, so we will certainly be producing more specialized pieces going forward. The examples you gave are definitely on my mind: leveraging email and dialing automation to increase response times, and mapping different technologies to enterprise vs. smb process and plays (e.g. smb will need more automation and less contact intelligence).

      Feel free to get in touch with any specific questions in the meantime. I’d certainly be interested in getting your insights as we continue to analyze the sales technology landscape.

  • J. Andrew Baker

    Ken, can you provide a breakdown of the types and sizes of the companies that you interviewed to come up with your numbers in this report? I would be very interested to see the types and sizes of companies that investing in the SDR stack and methodology. Thanks.

  • This is a great post and one of the most popular by sales experts in May 2015: http://salescoachworld.com/salescoachingblog/sales-expert-popular-content-may-2015-1931/

  • I’d like to throw in my two cents on a new category that I’m calling “sales development email automation” which is a different set of vendors than the marketing automation category. Put products like SalesLoft Cadence, ToutApp, Yesware, iHance (now part of ISDC), and Outreach in this category. Additionally I don’t see a nod to the screen sharing vendors. Products like WebEx, join.me, and GoToMeeting are being disrupted by ClearSlide and AlignRevenue. The latter is particularly interesting for SDRs who are trying to create better engagement with buyers on the first scheduled sales call (aka discovery call, qualification call – it goes by different names in every company). AlignRevenue allows SDRs to create a virtual whiteboard that gets buyers to do stuff during the call – much more engaging and memorable than sharing a screen.

    • We have sales email applications in the stack and did considerable research on those solutions. That market is here. Period. 83.7% of people surveyed had a sales email application.

      On the screen sharing vendors, I think it’s an interesting idea. However, we use research to identify the stack and we didn’t identify sales development organizations using screen sharing.

      • Craig – cool. I’m interested to see about sales dev and screen sharing – doing the peek in the window demo. We’ll see how that evolves.

      • Jason Rozenblat

        Hi Craig- Which email automation tool did you choose and why? I’m currently evaluating a few providers. Happy to discuss live if that’s easier. My email is: Jrozenblat@ crowdcompass.com

  • William Tyree

    Fantastic research, TOPO. Particularly love the direct correlation in your chart between sales acceleration and marketing automation tech. Given the prevalence of role specialization on sales teams, I also think there’s a need for more analysis between inbound-leaning SDRs, outbound-leaning SDRs and those that are still in blended roles. Thanks for doing this!

  • great read and perfect timing as we’re addressing exactly this issue – thanks for knowledge share!

  • Edd Spencer

    I appreciate the Topo team for providing this data-driven framework for both new and seasoned SD leaders.

  • Love your breakdown of the stack. I recently wrote a similar piece on the PersistIQ blog that compared the technologies, so I can appreciate the research and time you put into this. The challenge for me was breaking down the technologies into categories. Some tools serve many functions across the stack and therefore compete in multiple categories. Anyway, I love this space — it’s young, it’s quickly evolving and it’s changing the way we sell. I’m curious to what you and everyone else thinks about what it will take for a company to win in their given category. Since the space is rather nascent, there are no clear winners. Thanks!

  • Arsh Sidhu

    The emergence of technologies like these are great. It improves the quality of contact information, results in better conversations, and higher close rates. At Shopify, we haven’t invested in Predictive Analysis too much – something definitely to explore.

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