What is sales acceleration?
A guide to accelerating the sales process
Picture the successful salesperson of the days of yore. Perhaps you’re imagining Don Draper with his dapper suit, a rotary phone, and a rolodex at his gleaming desk. Anytime he wants to make a sale, he leisurely flips through his contacts looking for the perfect candidate. Cigarette in hand, he seemingly has all the time in the world to close the deal of his life.
And that’s why Mad Men is historical fiction.
Salespeople in 2022 always seem to have 30 hours of work to do in a 24-hour day. But, mercifully, technology has kept pace. Successful sales reps can leverage powerful mobile sales apps, set up shop anywhere, and work hundreds of prospects through their pipeline on a daily basis.
But it’s important to remember that streamlined sales pipelines carry the risk of minimizing meaningful interaction with prospects. That means it’s imperative that today’s reps have access to tools that speed up the drudgery and maximize the interaction. And those are sales acceleration tools.
In this guide, we’ll define sales acceleration and give a side-by-side comparison of traditional methods versus their accelerated versions, so that you can decide what the best options are for your business.
- What is sales acceleration?
- When did sales acceleration technology start?
- Types of sales acceleration software
- How to choose the best sales acceleration platform
Just what is sales acceleration?
Sales acceleration is a set of strategies that businesses use to move leads through the sales pipeline more efficiently. In today’s landscape, most of those strategies involve sales software. This technology includes databases, research tools, tracking tech, and analytics capabilities—all of which increase the velocity of the sales process and enable sales reps to close more deals in less time.
The traditional sales process
The phases of the sales process haven’t changed much over the years. Whether you’re in a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) market, the basic steps to any sales process are:
- Prospecting (finding leads)
- Qualifying (sorting leads)
- Presenting (establishing a relationship)
- Quotation (presenting pricing options)
- Closing (sealing the deal)
- Won/Lost (tracking the data)
The accelerated sales process
The accelerated sales process moves much faster than the traditional approach, but the steps are the same. The advent of powerful software and ubiquitous data haven’t eliminated crucial touchpoints, they’ve just made each step faster. Especially when each step in the process is unified within a single sales CRM. This is what an accelerated process may look like:
- Find leads with prospecting tools and lead gen software
- Score and assign leads with lead management software
- Optimize outreach, quotation, and closing with sales engagement platforms
- Track results with sales analytics software
When you automate sales processes, you win:
When did sales acceleration technology start?
The very first sales acceleration platform, LotusNotes, launched all the way back in 1989. When combined with the launch of the world wide web in 1991, this platform paved the way for the creation of customer relationship management (CRM) software. Ten years later, CRMs moved to the cloud and we haven’t looked back since.
Forrester coined the term “sales enablement” in 2008, in reference to any company functions that offered sales support activities. This was a key milestone in the development of sales acceleration technology. As more companies realized that these tools were more than just pretty tech, they started throwing money into arming their salesforce. By 2014, spending on sales acceleration technology in North America alone had reached $12.8 billion. That number is still growing.
The types of sales acceleration software
There’s a wide variety of sales technology designed to align with each phase of the sales process. Let’s take a look at how each of these types of tools has changed over the years through sales acceleration.
Prospecting is the first and arguably most critical step of the sales process. If you can’t find potential customers, you don’t have anyone to share your product or service with. Gathering leads is step one for any business, so it’s vital you’re caught up on the latest techniques.
Traditional sales prospecting used to be about who you knew. Sales reps worked from static prospect lists containing basic contact information. Cold calling and email blasts were scattershot, random, and not terribly effective. It didn’t help that these tactics were often employed in isolation from marketing departments, so teams were often working in silos.
Sales acceleration completely transforms the efficiency and efficacy of prospecting. Sales acceleration software can process a truly staggering amount of data for analysis, tracking, reporting, and distribution in just a few clicks. With this software, you can profile ideal customers and generate specific buyer profiles. No more relying on basic contact information and guesswork.
When you use a CRM for sales acceleration, multiple applications (like sales funnel software) are built right into the platform. One system means your sales and marketing teams can collaborate with ease.
Lead scoring is a crucial part of the sales process. It takes place during the “qualifying step” and sorts leads based on their scores in a predetermined point system. Lead scoring is critical in the modern age as companies frequently end up with more leads than they know what to do with. If you don’t want to get buried, you have to know how sort the wheat from the chaff.
Traditional lead scoring is a manual process. Typically, a marketing team would use a series of checklist factors to qualify a set of leads … one by one. If that sounds painstaking, it’s because it is. Marketers using manual methods can only handle fairly small data sets at a time, which not only slows down the qualifying process, it also opens it up to human error.
Accelerated or predictive lead scoring is an automated process that uses an algorithm to create a mass lead scoring model. It bases that algorithm on existing contacts’ information (both won and lost). Through advanced analytics, lead scoring software can identify meaningful trends in the data and determine which attributes are actually significant.
Data-driven, software-managed lead scoring saves time and keeps the scoring process objective.
Inaccurate lead scoring can waste time and effort, but lead assignment is where promising qualified leads can fall through the cracks. Assigning qualified leads to the right sales people is a delicate process—you need to evenly distribute leads while also assigning the top priority leads to your best sellers. Sales acceleration tech simplifies the process.
Traditional lead routing means manual assignments—it can be a bit of a free-for-all. As leads transfer from marketing to sales, reps either choose or are assigned leads based on their availability and level of expertise. For companies with hundreds or thousands of leads coming in on a regular basis, a manual process quickly becomes impractical, exhausting, and ineffective.
With accelerated lead routing, companies use an automated lead management platform to distribute leads to the sales reps who are next in line and most qualified. Sales reps can then see the entire range of a lead’s behavior as they progress through the buyer’s journey and plan their attack. Lead tracking software keeps sales reps alerted to new leads, which cultivates faster responses and stronger relationships.
Contact management is the process of organizing and managing details about customers, leads, and prospects. It’s the company address book, filled with essential contact information — and a lot of mistakes. Individual people already struggle with keeping their friends’ phone numbers up-to-date. But with thousands of manually-entered leads, companies risk thousands of errors.
In the past, businesses have relied on address books or spreadsheets to store, organize, and track contact information. Small startups may still find this to be a manageable solution, but larger companies will struggle to keep information up-to-date, accessible, and applicable using only spreadsheets. It’s understandable, but it’s not very useful.
Today. businesses use specialized contact management software to keep contacts updated. Strong pipeline software also lets you track interactions with those contacts and alerts your team when contact information changes. It can take up to five tries to get in contact with the right decision maker. You don’t want to lose them because of a changed email address.
Sales engagement is the series of interactions between a sales rep and a lead. Ideally, these interactions are all in-person, but with the modern increase of both the number of leads and the personalization those leads expect, that’s not always realistic. The struggle becomes: how can sales reps make every single prospect interaction meaningful?
For years, particularly with B2B companies, sales engagement has been a linear journey for prospects — transitioning from marketing to sales with increased in-person interaction as the close approaches. Over time, this engagement became increasingly digital. For sales reps in earlier decades, keeping track of this engagement was a manual process: they entered data into a spreadsheet and toggled endlessly between a variety of tools and apps. The waste of time and the risk of error in this process make it very nearly unusable.
With sales acceleration software, engagement tracking happens in a single interface and activities get logged automatically. No headaches, no mistakes. With sales automation, your teams can set up multiple workflows so that engagements (like a series of templated emails) are sent directly to leads through the platform based on timing, channels used, or minimum number of clicks.
They can also tailor interactions to each prospect through templates rather than by hand. Crafting personalized messaging improves the quality of engagement, meaning a lead will be more likely to convert. But with the help of technology, your sales rep won’t need to be the one doing that by hand.
Sales dialers are software tools that allow reps to reach out quickly to contacts by automating the outbound calling process. The two basic types are power dialers and auto dialers.
Power dialers automatically dial a new number as soon as a call ends, saving reps from having to look up and dial that number manually. Auto dialers call several numbers at once, anticipating that many calls will simply go unanswered. Whereas the power dialer ensures a 1:1 ratio between caller and seller, the auto dialer can provide callers with pre-recorded informative messages and, if necessary, connect them to a live agent.
But what happens if you don’t have a sales dialer?
If you aren’t working with a sales dialer, you’re wasting hours of precious time. Your sales reps are spending a massive percentage of their work week entering numbers manually from a call list, waiting through ringtones, leaving voicemail messages, and then manually entering notes into a spreadsheet. It’s simply not efficient.
Now that business phone systems can be entirely web-based, all a sales rep needs is an internet connection and a headset. With a comprehensive sales force automation system that includes a power dialer, sales reps have access to additional capabilities beyond just faster dialing. They can track calls, record them, access contextual data about a contact, take notes, and more. Less time dialing equals more time relationship-building.
Sales activity trackers
Sales tracking software help sales reps manage deals and quotas by measuring the individual components that lead to a sale, such as number of phone calls, emails, clicks, demos, or contracts. These trackers are particularly important for sales managers who need to determine key metrics that reps will be evaluated on and set sales goals.
Traditional tracking tools are just spreadsheets, or spreadsheet templates, where sales reps can enter data. Depending on a template’s complexity, it may or may not integrate well with other platforms, potentially leaving sales reps and managers with isolated and meaningless data. Again, no one has the time anymore for manual entry and system toggling. Not with quotas on the line.
Sales acceleration software can integrate activity trackers directly into your CRM automation platform, so all the information you need is in one place. This lets reps and managers quickly identify trends for sales success and improvement. It even helps reps plan out their daily activities ahead of time using automated workflows and planning tools. With this improved method of opportunity management, your team isn’t just learning from the past—they’re looking to the future.
Sales forecasting and analytics
Sales forecasting is a prediction of how much a salesperson, team, or company will sell during an upcoming period of time. This prediction lets companies estimate future revenue, spot potential issues, assess risks, and make adjustments. That said, a prediction is only as good as its accuracy. A bad forecast is nothing but a recipe for disaster.
There’s a fair amount of variety to traditional sales forecasting categories and stages. Companies might use any number of strategies, including:
- Opportunity stage or pipeline forecasting
- Intuitive forecasting
- Historical forecasting
- Best case or worst case forecasting
The downside of most traditional methods is their inaccuracy. Because they rely more on sales reps and less on data-driven analytics, the statistics from which predictions are made may be flawed. Humans are notoriously bad at consistent reporting. That’s why we invented tech to help us out.
Sales acceleration software lets sales teams predict future sales growth more accurately based on their pipeline. It also lets them fine-tune their sales strategy for greater success. With the ability to perform multivariable-analysis forecasting, your CRM can use predictive analytics that incorporate a variety of data, including average sales cycle, opportunity type, and individual sales rep performance.
How to choose the best sales acceleration platform
To make sure you are choosing the best sales acceleration platform, there are several considerations to keep in mind: cost, utility, and compatibility. At a minimum, your platform should provide sales engagement features, research tools, and sales lead databases. Beyond that, you should be able to:
- Identify weaknesses to ensure new software will address your team’s needs
- Evaluate product features so you’re aligning your goals with the right tools
- Confirm the platform will integrate with your existing systems
How sales CRMs accelerate the sales process
Sales CRMs are an integral component to accelerating your sales process. With an all-in-one platform, a wealth of information is at your reps’ fingertips. A sales CRM ensures every one of your key stakeholders can access up-to-date, insightful, customized, and actionable data with the click of a button, eliminating silos and increasing efficiency.
Smart automation means less time wasted on administrative tasks and more time spent closing deals. Better lead scoring means your reps are never pursuing tire-kickers, but instead focusing their efforts on the most promising prospects.
Zendesk Sell sales CRM acceleration features
Zendesk Sell offers everything you need in one simple platform. With Zendesk, you can build your sales playbook, utilize sales force automation to increase sales velocity, and make your pipeline more efficient.
With built-in sales engagement tools, power dialers, activity reports, and forecasting tools, you’ll never need to return to the agonizing days of manual dialing, tracking, and tabulating.
Sign up for a free trial today and experience just how fast sales acceleration software can take your business from zero to sixty while only making the sales experience better for prospects.