5 things your sales tech stack needs
James Burnett: The way I think about tech stack in the most, I guess simple form is it's really a set of platforms and tools that sales orgs use to do their job effectively. That's my definition.
Devin Reed: This is Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast here to help go- to- market leaders do one thing, stop guessing.
Sheena Badani: If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential. Then this show is for you. I'm Sheena Badani.
Devin Reed: And I'm Devin Reed coming to you from the Gong Studios.
Sheena Badani: So Devin, you used to sell, you kind of sell. Marketing is part of sales. We're all selling. What are the tools that you can't live without?
Devin Reed: Good question. I'm going to go very high level. I'm not naming technologies or even categories. Look, you need prospecting data. You need to figure out about your buyer, about the company itself. However, you need to do research. Should I put it into a research bucket? Depending on your role you might need a sales engagement tool. Now that's not necessarily, you need to have sequences and blast tons of messages, but you need something with templates to make your outbound messaging and responses, and all of the conversations you're going to have throughout the sales cycle. So I'd say almost kind of like an email tool, to be very shameless plug. I didn't need it until I had it, which was Gong. But that was more for coaching for myself. So I'm big on self- coaching. So it was like I can see my analytics, hearing my own sales calls was big. I shared that, it was a top performer at my previous company and I had an 83% talk time when I joined Gong. So I was like," Wow, imagine how better I could have been if I had listened once in a while." So I think that's big. And then you get into like, you need a CRM, of course. And it kind of probably shows you my thought here. But you got to punch data in and kind of keep track of your accounts. You get the idea. I guess the high level is like it's a lean. To me, I want as few tools as possible for the very important things that I need help with, but that's kind of it I'm like just give me what I need and nothing more.
Sheena Badani: Yeah, I think that's right. And I would add one more thing, like something to aggregate all of those insights from those different solutions to paint a picture for what's going on across the whole team. So I would add in something like that for the leadership side of things.
Devin Reed: For leadership, for sure. But of course there's lots of things you can add on top of that. And that's why we had today's conversation with James Burnett, Senior Director of Global Sales at LinkedIn. And so had James on to talk about how the sales tech stack is changing. So it's around mid- December by the time you here this, probably would be January. Folks are still looking at their tech stacks, sales tech specifically. What should they keep? What should they remove? Why should they remove certain things? And I think the biggest mo... At least my opinion, the most interesting thing was how B2B buyer turnover and that trend of the great resignation is impacting the sales tech stack, because of course it's impacting how people sell. As we get into the conversation, we teed up James to share the core components every sales tech stack has to have.
James Burnett: When I think of the core foundations of a tech stack, or at least maybe today's modern tech stack. I think there are probably about five different components, I would say. Some that are probably pretty common, people are probably pretty familiar with, but every stack today, you have your foundational CRM, which is your system of record, vital part of how sales organizations kind of manage and forecast, and execute their strategies. Those are often a pretty big hub of other software integrations, but that's one of the core components. I'd say the second is reporting in analytics. So these are like your Tableaus and power BIs. Many, many companies are relying more and more on data accuracy. So this sort of BI really allows you to pull in information from multiple sources and convert it into insights, typically used for sales operations, but other functions as well. And then third, I would say sales intelligence. So that's category I'm very excited about and LinkedIn's really excited about, but that's really about empowering sales people and organizations with information and knowledge to kind of go out and find, and acquire new opportunities or grow existing opportunities with existing customers. And I think the difference between the analytics and intelligence, what I'm describing in this third one is really, it's typically external sources, I would say, that are very actionable. So examples are like Sales Navigator with LinkedIn or DataFox, D& B. And then the fourth would be marketing automation, that could probably be a category on its own. We could probably spend an hour just talking about that, but as more companies really think about sales and marketing alignment or orchestration, marketing automation plays a really big role in today's modern and stack. And you also see some of these companies acquiring marketing automation companies Oracle and Eloqua, and really kind of lots of interesting integrations there. And then the fifth, I would say is sales engagement, which is all about this era of automation that we're coming out of, which is about prospecting at scale, outreach at scale, text, email, other communication channels. So I'd say those five to me are kind of what make up the CoreStack today. You actually have a separate category of enablement where there's a lot of training and interesting technologies that have emerged as well. And I guess that would be a honorable mention if I will say, put one more in there, but I think those first five are what I think about as the core.
Sheena Badani: And I suspect that stack looked different maybe when you first started your career and it's different today and in another five, 10 years, it's going to look like something else. So if you take a look at today in the now, what are some of the trends that are impacting, what tools, what systems sales org rely on?
James Burnett: I go back to the phone book era of crosstalk.
Sheena Badani: I didn't want to grade you, so I let you do it yourself.
Devin Reed: That's a good way of where to go.
James Burnett: But I would say, I think one of the biggest changes is just been the proliferation of technology that exists. I know many, many years ago, there were a couple core key legacy players, your sales forces, Microsoft Oracles of the world. And we've just seen an exclusion of different technologies that are out there in the market today. So I think that in itself has been a pretty big trend there, sales orgs have so many tools that they're trying to manage and maintain, many not working together, some starting to integrate and talk to each other. And I think the explosion of technology in the market is definitely one of the broader macro trends. But I'd say there are probably a couple others that we're keeping an eye on that I think are very relevant today. First is just privacy and data. So there's a number of different legislations that are in place. Some that are coming that I think are putting a lot of pressure on a number of the vendors and just the market in general. I think that's going to continue to be a growing trend as we think about the evolution of the stack. And then second I would say is you see a lot of companies trying to expand their scope that maybe started one part of the stack that I described that are really trying through acquisition offer more capabilities as a one stop shop, and then sales enablement. That other, I think is a real growing category where companies continue to focus on productivity and efficiency. There's certainly a trend of organizations, actively investing in those types of technologies to improve their operations.
Sheena Badani: Being in this space, in the sales kind of tech market. It's exciting to see that investment that's going into this space. It's exciting to see new vendors pop up and the problems that they're going after. But then on the flip side, could be overwhelming for sales teams, for buyers, that there are all these new solutions. How do they even work together? Which one is most critical? Which one can I leave behind? And then the other piece of it is the explosion of data. Now there's so much information and generally reps, they're not taught what to do with that information and data. So I'm curious if you have any recommendations for orgs who are expanding and they have all these new tools and systems and data, how do you set your teams up for success to use all them?
James Burnett: Your stack is only as good as the accuracy of the data that is flowing through it. So I think one of the biggest trust gaps between the sellers and their leadership or their organization is the data is in quality or it's not trusted. And I think one of the things that has been really interesting over the past year is that there's been so much uncertainty and so much change out there in the market that are starting to be compounded because there's so much movement going on with buyers and changes in organizations. So I think the companies that are investing in technology really need to think deeply about are the foundational tools they're pulling in providing trusted and accurate sources of data that are keeping up with the pace of change that's happening out there in the market? And I think, really thinking thoughtfully about the data sources that you're pulling into the stack is where it really starts because you could spend as much money as you want on great technology. A lot of these companies do a lot of great job marketing. The benefit of their technology, but at the end of the day, if you're working off stale data or a stagnant data, that's not real time. I think sales teams are going to really struggle to take advantage and sales ops and organizations are going to struggle to build credibility with their sellers that are looking to be productive in an environment that's very challenging right now.
Devin Reed: Speaking of changing market or all the change that we're used to in sales, there's the great resignation happening, right? Which means a lot of B2B buyers are turning over, leaving the company and going somewhere else. So how is that trend impacting the way that we're selling or maybe your team is selling today James?
James Burnett: It's something we've been spending a lot of time on, here at LinkedIn. I mean, we obviously have a pretty unique lens on talent movement across all industries and we have the unique luxury of having 800 million users across the globe of our flagship app on LinkedIn. And that gives us a pretty unique lens into buyer seller behavior and buyer seller interactions. And when you start to look at things like the quit rate or the amount of turnover that we're seeing within the context of the B2B buyer demographics, so the senior decision makers that are often on a buying committee, or strong influencers in the buyer circle, it's incredible. We haven't seen something like this, at least in my time in 12 years at LinkedIn and maybe in our lifetime, I think the stat I saw most recently was that we saw 31% year- over- year increase in B2B buyer turnover. And I think that trend's only going to continue. Actually, some of our research also shows that 80% of sellers said that they lost or had a daily deal in the past year because there champion switch jobs. So it's pretty incredible, and I experienced that. I run global accounts here at LinkedIn, and we're seeing the same thing, you're late in your sales process and all of a sudden your executive sponsor decided to go jump to another company. And it really started to put the emphasis on a few different things. One, the competency and the skills to be able to multithread and really understand how to do that well. So you're kind of shoring up multiple relationships to mitigate the risk of talent movement on the buyer side. And then also making sure coming back to my point, that I really want to stress here, that the signals that you're using in your technology stack are actually living and breathing in real time that can keep up with this movement, because it's not just about understanding that buyer may have moved, but it's also about the opportunity that you have. When a buyer moves, they go somewhere else. So that may be another one of your company's accounts or sales teams accounts. So if you had a great relationship with them at one company, being able to understand that signal in a really efficient way so that you can either mitigate the risk or leverage that movement for other accounts has been really critical. So I think sellers just have a new opportunity in this environment to mitigate risk in these unprecedented times, but also with the right tools, leverage technology, to continue to help them be really productive and grow.
Devin Reed: The great resignation is trending and its impact is being felt. So what do revenue leaders need to be paying attention to? The data reveals that sales turnover in B2B is a big problem, and it's not just buyers making moves. When you can sell from anywhere, leaders have to take intentional steps to keep attrition rates at bay. Forrester agrees with James sharing that resignations are higher for sales professionals up as much as 39%. If you're a sales leader, it's essential to think about how you attract onboard and retain top talent, because the opportunity costs is felt on both sides. All right, let's get back into to it. Next, James shares, how LinkedIn approaches multithreading and what teams need to do to win in today's competitive environment.
James Burnett: We definitely drink our own champagne. We like to say at LinkedIn. So I think spending time being sellers being much more intentional in their approach, we hear the term buyer intent quite a bit now. And I think we're coming out of the era of automation. When you think about just a prospecting motion for new business or even in your existing customer business, a lot of the proliferation of tools that we're talking about allowed sellers to automate their outreach at scale. That's been going on for a number of years. Well, that's not good enough in this environment. I think folks who are just relying on some of those tools alone, especially with static data sources are really going to miss the mark because the bar has raised in this virtual selling environment where buyers expect much more and they have a much higher bar when it comes to their time and responding back. And you look at the data, the volume of outreach through these types of tools has gone up dramatically, but the actual conversion rate of that outreach into meetings and calls has gone down. And I think that's because when you're just automating your outreach at scale, you're not relevant. So I think the teams that will win are the ones that are going to really get focused on understanding intense signals, to be able to reach out to the right buyer with the right message for the right sale at the right time. And in order to do that, you need to move beyond just static data sources and automation to intent. LinkedIn's a really incredible living, breathing network where people are updating their profiles and updates, and billions and billions of signals in real time, every day as an example of a tool that can be used to really stay up on what's happening and making sure that your outreach is relevant.
Sheena Badani: So earlier we talked about those five key categories for any sales tech stack. On the flip side, what aspects of the sales tech stack do you think folks should consider cutting or consolidating or just reevaluating?
James Burnett: I think the industry is going to face a lot of pressure over the next couple of years from the regulatory body. So if I was a CIO or an SVP of Sales Operation, thinking about investing for the future, I'd really want to make sure that the tools that I'm investing in are going to sustain and support my organization over a multi- year journey. And I think you're going to see a consolidation in a market where some players are going to survive, some aren't. There's going to be more M& A activity. And I would just really stress to make sure that the data sources that you're putting in as a foundation for your sales technology stack are ones that you're going to be able to trust. You know where the data's coming from, and you're going to be able to invest in a technology that's going to be with you for many, many years to come, because I think there's certainly a storm coming when it comes to privacy and GDPR and et cetera. So I would be looking at any technology more short- term. I'd questioning whether or not that should be in your stack, as you think about some of those trends. That to me is a very important factor to be considering when you're building for the future, because what you don't want to do is you don't want to put these technologies in. And then as the market evolves or the regulatory environment, all of a sudden you have to rip them out. A couple years later.
Devin Reed: We both have the privilege of selling to sales leaders, revenue leaders, that's, who's listening right now. Sometimes selling Gong, you hear my tech stack. How big is my tech stack supposed to be Devin, right? How many things am I supposed to add? And other phrasing is it can be bloated, and that's not to say, people don't still onboard Gong, obviously in LinkedIn and add to it, but I'm kind of curious, is how can revenue leaders, sales ops or CRO personas? How can they kind of take inventory of their current tech stack? Right. And maybe look to shed some things. Maybe it's consolidation, maybe it's some of the regulation things you just mentioned, but how do you James kind of coach revenue leaders who maybe are evaluating LinkedIn or just in general to make sure that they have that Lean Tech Stack, that's helping them with their most strategic priorities.
James Burnett: I don't know if I have a perfect answer here, but I would say starting with the user, maybe people in process is the right place to start. Who will be using these technologies, what do they do on a daily basis to nurture relationships and close deals and how can you really augment those activities? And then from a process perspective, like where are the integrations? I've heard the term, I work with some of our largest global customers on the Sales Navigator and LinkedIn Sales Insights side. And we often hear this concept of a single plane of glass. We know the productivity loss when you have reps jumping from screen to screen because systems aren't integrated. So I'd really be thinking about your productivity tools and your sales and marketing orchestration. And are you working with a few core players across those five parts of the stack that I described where you can really work towards an integrated approach to make sure that you're not burdening your sellers with a whole bunch of different pieces of technology that aren't talking to each other in your stack. So I think it's going to be different for many different customers when you actually get into their own proprietary systems and nuances and challenges that they're trying to work through and solve. But all these companies should be working towards having a CRM reporting, analytics, sales, intelligence, and marketing automation that is integrated, that ultimately is a one stop shop for your sellers to focus on, on clients and relationships and be productive doing that.
Sheena Badani: A lot of the examples you gave. And I think naturally when we think about sales tech, it's really empowering the individual reps to be more productive, or effective or accurate, et cetera. But how do you see the data and insights that come from these solutions really empowering sales leadership?
James Burnett: I think it's probably pretty similar to reps. I mean, there are different reporting and analytics or you're looking in aggregate at trends and insights that you can make decisions on as it relates to where you've got productivity gaps or efficiencies in your sales process. But I think one of the bigger things that I would advise to folks that are evaluating these technologies is starting to think about putting the customer or the buyer at the center of this conversation. So when you're assessing these sort of technologies, does it make it easier to communicate? Does it make it easier for your sellers to sell, but also for your buyers to buy? Does it help your sellers more efficiently leverage data to be able to provide reliable buyer insights? Can you extract more value from each interaction with a client through these technologies? And it's been very one- sided. We're always thinking about sales and productivity, and efficiency and conversion rate. How is this helping the sellers? But I think if we focus also on some of these buyer- first principles, how does your technology enable your sellers to bring more value through every interaction to your buyers, especially in this fast changing environment. I think that will lead you to ultimately some of the right solutions and the right outcomes that we're all driving for. I will just stress again. I think when you have your leaders in the market where we've been at this for 10 plus years in a sales solutions, this concept of social selling here at LinkedIn. But we came through this era the past five, 10 years on automation with this proliferation of technology that I discussed. And it's all about automating. It's all about outreach at scale. And it's bringing the AI just to automate. I'm a firm believer that that is, we're moving into a new era where that's not enough. And in fact the brand of your sales team, as it relates to how buyers perceive you could be damaged if you're relying solely on automation and not thinking enough about intent and insights and value, and making sure that that outreach experience is a really positive one from a buyer perspective.
Sheena Badani: Yeah. I think it's a really great point. And I like how you reposition the question and then rephrase that so that we really think about that in our evaluation, right? Like what is the customer's experience with this technology? How are we making the process better and experience better for them?
Devin Reed: So, James, we ask all of our guests the same question to wrap up our conversation. And that is how would you describe sales in one word?
James Burnett: I would say critical.
Devin Reed: I don't think we heard that one, actually. I like that.
James Burnett: Yeah. I mean, I just think sales it's really the Profit Engine for every organization. So when you think of any company's mission or vision, the things that they're trying to accomplish, the good they're trying to do in the world. Sales is really the Profit Engine that allows all of those other incredible parts of a business to actually thrive and do what they do, and bring products and markets and services and broader impact to the world. And I think oftentimes it gets overlooked, but I think it's just critical to any organization's success, relative to what they're trying to accomplish in that bigger picture.
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Devin Reed: And if you're not ready to give a five, check out another episode and see if we've won you over by then.
James Burnette, Senior Director of Global Sales at LinkedIn, shares how to use technology to your advantage and thrive in a rapidly shifting environment.
ICYMI: Your tech stack is only as good as the data that flows through it. James breaks down the tools you need to succeed and why real-time data matters more than you think.