Max Altschuler knows a few things about SaaS.
Max Altschuler, author and entrepreneur
He’s author of Hacking Sales, a bestselling book on transforming sales processes using next generation tools and tactics. He built the first sales team at online learning platform company Udemy, founded Sales Hacker, a thought-leadership, sales community and B2B marketing event company, and has advised over 50 startups on building high-performance sales teams. Most recently he joined Outreach, a rapidly growing sales engagement platform company, as VP of Marketing after Sales Hacker’s acquisition. Today, Max is sitting down with us to talk about the concept of a ‘sales stack’. He offers insight into what it is, why it matters – and cautions against the missteps that leaders make when faced with an endless number of SaaS tools.
What exactly is a ‘sales stack’?
In sales parlance, a ‘sales stack’ (also known as a ‘sales technology stack’) refers to the set of software, generally cloud-based, that a company’s sales team uses. Ideally, the tools in this sales ecosystem are integrated, complementary and used to accelerate sales productivity. It generally includes tools for customer insight, outreach, revenue prediction, activity management and routine task automation.
Yes, choose SaaS, but choose the right SaaS.
Max noted that companies need to adopt software that lets them singularly focus rep attention on activities that matter. Naturally, to do this, they need to know the metrics around the activities that matter.
If Pipeline Built is a critical performance measure, then they should reverse engineer the steps that create a richer pipe. These could include: activities logged –> opportunities created –> meetings booked –> and eventually, new pipeline built.
When leaders know the metrics that matter, then they can prioritize software that makes the improvement or acceleration of these metrics a reality. In his work with dozens of startups, Max sees a trend in software acquisition:
“Too many SaaS tools are informational, or about “aesthetics”. Companies need actual insights, in addition to just information, that help reps take the next-best-action.”
A new sentiment analysis AI that listens in on reps’ calls may not be useful by itself. But, if it can take the call information and clarify a next step that creates more frictionless or effective movement of the sales process, then it might be worth it. Similarly, a calendar tool that limits back-and-forth emails for reps and reduces time per contact, while driving up the activities logged rate, could make a meaningful difference over time.
Most startups are oversaturated with SaaS
They have tools for everything because their processes are fragmented and undocumented. There’s no rationale for saying ‘no’ to a purchase – and rarely are they maximizing the usefulness of their existing tech. Not only does this erode productivity (consider the implications of having multiple, unconsolidated CRMs, or disconnected email marketing and analytics tools), but it can become an unmitigated financial drain and data security disaster. ‘SaaS hygiene’, or the relative cleanliness of tools and company visibility into user licenses, utilization and costs, matters.
The cheap-thrill-rush of buying a shiny new tool is addictive. Sales people are wired to find an edge and deploying that latest SaaS feeds a momentary sense of advantage. Of course, while sales stack design and the tools that are eventually deployed matter, it’s critical that companies first map a sales process.
Good sales processes allow companies to clone their best reps
A sales process is a map that serves as a plug-and-play example for your sales team.
Max shares that the sales process is a series of steps — each consisting of several activities and involving one or more sales methodologies — aimed at finding and connecting with customers. These include the activities required to move prospects to become purchasers. They are part of the template for achieving sales objectives and, ultimately, for replicating consistent rep performance.
View the sales process as a map. It serves as a plug-and-play example by which anyone on a sales team can have success in prospecting, solving customer problems, closing deals, upselling and improving client retention. Naturally, it will be customer-focused, goal-oriented and repeatable; not just internally convenient or, as new managers inheriting legacy sales teams realize, aligned with “the ways things have always been done.”
The sales stack is about augmenting what already works
Once the process is mapped, then it’s time to figure out your essential SaaS. This order of events is important. The sales stack is about augmenting what already works, it’s about automating the steps within a tested process to allow a more precise focus on selling activities.
Through consistent experimentation, measurement, iteration and then implementation, companies can establish clarity on what activities move a prospect from one stage to the next. Then, with additive technology, companies can supercharge the effort of reps; accelerating their ability to move through the sales process with more insight, personalization and success.
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