The essential utensils: sales stars use up-to-date technology to stay ahead of their competitors.
YOU WOULDN’T expect a mechanic to repair an engine with his
bare hands, and salespeople are no less dependent on tools to be
“Just hiring salespeople and expecting them to succeed is not
enough,” says Peter J. Fasulo, president of PJF Sales Training Inc.
“Having the right sales technology–like a tailored CRM [customer
relationship management] system–for your team is essential. Sales reps
do more than sell. They create their own proposals, enter orders, build
reports and more.” Without a CRM program set up for your
business’s needs and reps properly trained to use it, you’ll
probably lose sales, he warns.
All small-business owners have that one tool they can’t live
without. Here are what top sales professionals and small-business owners
from diverse industries list as their must-have tools for sales success.
(For tips on best practices for using these tools, see article on page
“Salesforce.com 1$5 to $250 per month per user) helps me keep
my customer information at my fingertips,” says Maria Vizzi,
president of Indoor Environmental Solutions, a New York City air
ventilation cleaning company. Salesforce.com, the best-selling CRM
system, earns top ratings from TopTenReviews.com
(crm-software-review.toptenreviews.com). Having Salesforce’s
cloud-based system that uses remote servers hosted on the Internet for
data storage and processing instead of a local server is great, Vizzi
says. “Each time we are asked to bid on a job, we log it as an
opportunity and can track [its path to] a sale.” Jeff Connally,
president and CEO of the Austin, Texas-based computer company CMIT
Solutions, agrees. “[We] use Salesforce to track leads, manage
opportunities and keep customer records organized.”
CMIT Solutions’ 12 home-office employees use the Salesforce
Enterprise package, which costs $125 per employee per month. Most small
to midsize businesses subscribe to the Enterprise package or the
Salesforce Professional package, which costs $65 per month per employee.
But some businesspeople might need fewer bells and whistles–and a
Carrie Layne, founder of Dallas-Fort Worth-area tech startup
BestBuzz, a mobile-driven advertising platform, favors social media
management tool CRM Nimble ($15 per month per user) for CRM. “It
allows our team to easily connect with new sales opportunities through
social media in real-time,” she says. “It’s brilliant and
should be on the list as a must-have tool for businesses with a sales
team in any industry.” Nimble differs from Salesforce by enabling
you to capture and automatically connect all conversations, emails and
social interaction to your contact list, instead of having to manually
Another alternative is PipelineDeals.com ($24 per month per user).
It integrates with your Gmail account, making it simple to record
important communications with key contacts without data entry. Your
contact records include social media data, such as Twitter and Linked In
profiles, so you can easily monitor clients’ social activity.
PipelineDeals lets you customize your sales process, set up your own
categories for contacts so you can sort them in a way that’s
logical for your business and for you, and create a lead-capture page
for your website.
You also might consider Contactually.com, which permits you to sort
your contacts into buckets. You decide what each bucket represents, who
goes into those buckets and the frequency with which you communicate
with the people in each bucket. Contactually (free personal plan; others
$19.99 and up a month) reminds you to call people in your “most
important clients” bucket at a schedule you determine. It also
reminds you to nurture the contacts in your “dream clients”
bucket at whatever frequency you set. And here’s another great
Contactually capability: email templates that make it easy to invest in
vital relationships. You can create follow-up templates and modify each
with a personal message before sending. Contactually also has a calendar
with appointment reminders and a task list.
“Cloud technologies level the playing field for small
businesses like mine,” says Ted Hessing, owner of
CharlotteWebDevelopment.com, a Charlotte, N.C., web developer for small
and growing businesses. “For instance, Google Drive is my free,
one-stop connection to the cloud where I can store, share and
collaborate on documents of all kinds with my business partners–without
investing in a cumbersome or expensive document management system. While
I don’t store confidential, security-related or private materials
on Google Drive, I do keep several of my most commonly used
presentations and analysis templates on there for easy retrieval. …
The cloud is a great place for an emergency backup.” And Hessing
adds that because “it is web-based, partners using different
devices with different software still have access to a common word
processor and spreadsheets that work perfectly,” without
Google Drive is free for up to 5 gigabytes (GB) of storage. If you
need more, monthly fees start at $2.49 per month.
Other big players in cloud storage are Dropbox and, for Apple
users, iCloud. Dropbox has been around since 2007 and is compatible with
almost every platform, with the free version giving 2 GB of storage;
more storage starts at $9.99 per month. iCloud helps you connect all
your Apple devices and apps with 5 GB free; more storage starts at $20
Constant Contact is an email marketing solution that enables
business owners to create email newsletters, event announcements, social
media campaigns and more. “It gives me the ability to reach out and
communicate with my audience without them needing to come to my
website,” says Matthew Coast of the Phoenix area and founder of two
businesses: a life-coaching company and the Small Business Processing
Association, which informs small companies about credit card processing.
“My message shows up in their inbox,” says Coast, who adds
that prospects “expect relevant information to come to them”
instead of having to search for it online themselves.
Monthly fees ($15 and up) are based on the number of contacts in
your email list or database.
Although PowerPoint, part of the Microsoft Office suite of
products, is the most widely used presentation-creation software, there
are many other options.
Connally of CMIT Solutions prefers Prezi, calling it a “fun
and engaging presentation tool that incorporates motion graphics, audio,
video and animation.” Prezi, which has a free version and two paid
versions offering more features ($59 to $159 per year), is touted as a
nonlinear method of creating presentations, which means you can jump
around in a presentation as needed–perhaps in response to questions.
Prezi is web-based, so you create your presentations in the cloud, not
on your computer.
At Gambrill Communications, a leadership coaching, training and
personal development firm in the New York City area, owner Dave Gambri11
uses Keynote ($19.99), Apple’s version of PowerPoint. “I use
it almost exclusively when Um conducting presentations and train ing. I
find the iPad version much simpler to use [than the regular desktop
version of Keynote]; I also have Keynote on my MacBook Air.”
Connally believes LinkedIn and Facebook are essential to a solid
sales strategy. “Linkedln’s social media platform can help you
gain valuable insight into your prospects, and using Facebook’s
algorithm helps you target ad campaigns to a precise audience based on
age, interests and demographics.”
Steve Cooper, co-founder and editor in chief of Hitched, an online
magazine based in Irvine, Calif., relies on Twitter and Google+.
“To cut through the noise and start conversations with potential
clients, Twitter has become my preferred channel,” Cooper says.
“And Google+ is becoming the hub where all Google properties are
connected, which makes it a social network that all businesses should be
It’s smart to establish a presence on all major social media
sites (Facebook, Linkedln, Twitter, Google+, Yelp and Pinterest) to find
the “sweet spot” where your customers are more likely to
interact with your company. Then you can focus your attention there.
From expense management to business card scanners, thousands of
apps support the sales process. Virginia-based Will Boland, co-founder
of used-car marketplace CarLotz, found a time-saving app for thanking
clients. ThankYouPro is a five-star-rated app for iPhone and iPad that
includes a gift card along with a personalized thank-you note, all sent
(via email or snail-mail) within 24 hours of creation for a maximum of
$2.99 per physical card; emails are free. “Handwritten notes are
terrific from a customer service standpoint,” Boland says,
“but they take time and are difficult for our managers to
track.” ThankYouPro solves those problems, allows senders to tailor
cards to their personalities–and there’s no worry about running
out of supplies.
Need to take notes? “Evernote [free is my go-to,”
Gambrill says. “I can also scan documents and save them to Evernote
or to Dropbox so I can share them with people from wherever! am.”
The free Skitch app from Evernote lets you capture screenshots from
a webpage and make notes on them for meetings. David Handmaker, CEO of
the Southern California-based custom printing business NextDayFlyers,
and his team use Skitch to take screenshots of their company website and
competitors’ sites. “It allows us to easily mark up and
highlight information. Sharing is a snap.”
For a social media management tool, Gambrill recommends HootSuite,
which lets him post., monitor and measure his social media activity from
any location at any time. The basic free Hootsuite version lets you
manage up to five social accounts and schedule posts. The pro version
($9.99 a month) enables you to manage an unlimited number of social
accounts; it also offers more in-depth monitoring and measurement tools.
Most entrepreneurs and salespeople have a favorite mobile device.
Gambrill says he couldn’t live without his iPhone (iPhone 5 starts
at $199 with contract) and iPad (starting at $399), which he uses for
presentations during client meetings.
Connally also believes the iPad is the best choice for sales
profes-sionals–today. “Unobtrusive and sleek, the iPad allows
sales professionals to stay connected while away from the office.”
But he believes that by the end of the year, Windows 8 Surface tablets
($499 to $999) will surpass the iPad as a better business tablet.
Handmaker prefers his Windows Phone ($100 and up with contract)
because of its built-in SkyDrive functionality that allows him to access
all his documents from any computer or mobile device at any time with
the SkyDrive app, Microsoft’s version of Google Drive, offering
cloud-based storage space.
Many businesspeople rave about Mobile Day (MobileDay.com), a free
app for Androids and iPhones. Linked to your calendar, MobileDay grabs
all of the dial-in numbers and passwords for conference calls and
webinars, and when it’s time, reminds you to make your call. Even
better, MobileDay allows you to press a single button on your smartphone
to connect instantly with your conference or webinar.
Here are more tools our experts swear by for generating leads,
communicating with clients, closing the sale and more.
Pardot: This marketing automation tool delivers custom drip
campaigns (email and snail-mail marketing programs that send a series of
prewritten messages to prospects over time) based on the
recipient’s actions; it also tracks response rates. The base price
starts at $1,000 a month for up to 30,000 contacts. Marketo, an
alternative, starts at $1,195 a month for 10,000 contacts.
Instant Teleseminar: Gambrill uses this service ($47 to $197 a
month) to provide webinars and teleseminars to clients and prospects.
“It is easy to use–you can upload PDF versions of your slides,
exported from Keynote–and it is easy for attendees to access. But the
main reason I use this service is it allows for auto-replay of webinars.
After an event, the webinar stays up and will play automatically as
people visit the page, making it ideal for the presentations 1 do for
prospective clients and list-building.”
VideoScribe: This “awesome, cost-effective tool,” in
Gambrill’s words, lets you create videos–whether marketing
presentations or instructional talks–with whiteboard capabilities,
meaning you can add illustrations, text, logos or photos to the video to
illustrate your point. You seem to be writing on a whiteboard as the
video plays, which is an attention-getter all by itself. VideoScribe
subscriptions are $22 a month or $189 a year.
PicMonkey: Gambrill calls PicMonkey “A simple, powerful
web-based photo-editing tool.” If you don’t mind a few ads,
PicMonkey is free, and you can scale, crop and add effects to photos.
You simply upload your photo to the site, edit it and save the new
Skype: Skype, which enables video and audio for online
conversations, is “a must-have” for Handmaker. The
instant-messaging feature and the ability to screen-share during calls
enable easy communications and collaboration when working
remotely.” Skyping computer-to-computer is free. To video-chat with
a land line or cellphone from your computer, you’ll need to
upgrade, with prices starting at $2.99 per month.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content
company Jocusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Anthony
Iannarino is the author oi the award-winning blog at TheSalesBlog.com:
his most recent article for SUCCESS was “Play Until the Whistle
Blows” in the February issue.