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This November, San Francisco is hosting two major SalesTech events, Sales Hacker Sales Stack Conference and SiriusDecisions Technology Exchange, on the heels of Oracle Open World in October and Dreamforce in September.

To be able to sustain so many events, the SalesTech Industry must be doing well. With more than 350 companies and products, $9.7 billion invested in venture capital, and 27 billion-dollar companies, the data from the Inside Sales Technology Landscape on VB Profiles seems to validate the good health of this industry.

However, at this point, the big question is this: Is SalesTech yet another example of an over-inflated venture capital type bubble? Or is it truly a set of emerging technologies entering sales departments to fulfill real market needs? The answer is critical to executives at vendor organizations and heads of inside sales departments, who have a lot to win or lose depending on how quickly — and how smartly — they make SalesTech decisions. To evaluate how real the demand is for SalesTech, let’s look at its key drivers.

It all starts with productivity

The past 30 years have seen technology transform many functions in the enterprise. It started with Manufacturing and the Supply Chain. It then expanded to Finance and Customer Service, and lately it has penetrated Marketing. Surprisingly, sales organizations were mostly left untouched by these transformations. Enterprises are now expecting sales departments to measure and improve their productivity. They are embracing technology to automate their processes and maximize the time salespeople actually spend selling.

New roles are emerging

This productivity imperative had caused inside selling to blossom. Inside selling refers to any part of the sales process you do remotely. It often happens through the creation of new roles such as Sales Development or Business Development for prospection, qualification, and renewals. These positions are filled by junior, less expensive employees who leverage modern communication to interact with clients from their office desks.

And those roles require technology

Effective inside selling hinges on using a wide range of channels, from telephone and email to live video meetings and social networks. Inside sales professionals have become completely dependent on technology. Besides helping them interact and sharing information with prospects and clients, SalesTech solutions are emerging to fill the gaps of not being in-person with their customers. It is possible to see if and when people open an email, how long they spend on the different pages of a document, or to gauge interests and personalities through social media.

Sales needs to adapt to the new buyer journey

Much has been said about the new buyer journey. Enterprise buyers want to explore options by themselves. The Corporate Executive Board found that 57 percent of these buyers’ journey takes place before they formally engage vendors. Technology can find the digital footprints of potential buyers and feed salespeople insights; it can also help them address much more pointed and sophisticated questions.

Sales has now become a collaborative effort

With inside selling and customer success management, what used to be a one-man or -women show has become a team effort. Multiple people are involved not only on the selling side but also on the buying side, meaning no single sales rep knows everything that matters about the customer. Compound that with the fact that we’re seeing a growing number of stakeholders on the customer side: SiriusDecisions has found that large enterprise purchase decisions require 6 to 10 or more individuals. Sales tech comes to the rescue here by coordinating the numerous interactions between all of these players and enabling collaboration. It is a critical part of the transition in sales from 1:few to many:many.

Tracking cannot be done by hand anymore

The sheer volume of people and interactions involved can no longer be tracked and managed without software. According to SiriusDecisions, a successful purchase takes between 11 and 17 buyer/seller interactions.

Mastery of big data is paramount to success

An incredible volume of data about buyers is being collected on a vendor’s web site, during the multiple interactions of the sales process, or by third party aggregators. Market leaders have turned to big data to gain a deeper understanding of their customers and the context of their project. In addition, software plays a critical role in equipping salespeople with information so that they can maximize the impact of their interactions, in particular the in-person ones.

The bottom line

As executives at vendor organizations assess options for assembling their “sales stacks,” they must address the dual goal of improving productivity and tuning in to the new way of buying and selling. They will, of course, face a natural tension between the need for proven solutions and the need to innovate quickly in order to capture the advantage these technologies provide. They will need to make quick but smart decisions between established vendors and new entrants in a field that’s ripe for disruption.

And this is all happening while the future of the sales role is being threatened by technologies. When I am asked whether salespeople will still exist in the future, I side with the analysts who think that salespeople will still be a critical part of the process, despite the availability of so many powerful solutions. I am convinced that this new order reinforces the role of human salespeople. Their job has gotten harder, and it is making technology a vital part of selling.

Nicolas De Kouchkovsky is an advisor and marketing consultant. As principal of CaCube Consulting, he helps B2B software companies with their go-to-market strategies and marketing execution.

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