More sales tools don’t translate to more sales. In fact, it’s often just the opposite.
 
According to a 2018 Inside Sales study of 720 sales representatives, the average salesperson spends just 35 percent of her time on revenue-generating activities. What does she do with the remaining two-thirds? Almost all of it — 63 percent of sales reps’ total time — is spent using sales technologies, with email clients claiming the most time.

The reason salespeople spend that much time with sales tools becomes obvious when you consider their tool set. The average enterprise uses 43 cloud-based CRM or sales tools and a whopping 91 marketing tools. Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll notice something: Top-performing enterprises tend to use far fewer. Microsoft, for instance, uses about 40 tools in its sales and marketing stack; Cisco uses 39.

Slim Down Your Stack

Importing, exporting, and toggling between sales and marketing tools takes more time than many leaders realize. To consolidate your sales and marketing stack:

1. Make the most of your foundation with workflow automation.

The first and most critical choice you’ll make when paring down your sales and marketing tool kit? Which tool will be your “home.” At most companies, this will be a CRM. Because CRMs store customer data and track touchpoints, they tend to be the most time-consuming part of a sales stack to swap out. 

Once you’ve settled on your foundation, try to accomplish as much within it as possible. Salesforce users, for instance, don’t need a separate suite to manage their drip email campaigns. Workflow automation with an integrative tool like Mixmax can help users get the most out of their CRM foundation; salespeople, for example, can book meetings, automate follow-ups, and save time logging information with the right integrative tool. Automation can also help prevent the human error of a missed connection that could lead to lost deals. Workflow automation software ensures salespeople always send effective emails to the right people at the right time, schedule more meaningful meetings, and keep CRM data updated.

2. Give up on “shelfware.”

Once you’ve determined what you definitely want to keep, your next step is to identify tools that you definitely don’t. If you’re not sure, ask your team which tools they haven’t used in a month or more. Rather than push people to start using them, accept that they aren’t part of your team’s workflow. According to a Flexera study, 93 percent of enterprise companies struggle with so-called “shelfware,” or purchased software products that rarely or never get used.

Why does shelfware happen, and where should you look? Product innovations are a big cause. A company that now sells an online service instead of a physical product, for instance, probably doesn’t need point-of-sale software any longer. Another is canceled initiatives. If your company tried and moved on from experiential marketing, it may still be paying for pricey tools like Limelight or MainEvent. Others may simply be the result of miscommunications or role transitions, such as a CRM system that was purchased by mistake or abandoned after a prior leader left the company.

3. Use “need” statements to spot overlaps. 

The toughest part of slimming down a sales stack is identifying tools that see use but still aren’t necessary. These redundancies, to be fair, often occur after a tool is originally purchased. Because cloud software products are updated regularly and without some users’ knowledge, they often grow into areas that are already covered by another tool in the company’s stack. To find overlaps between them, jot down what each application can do and compare them.

For years, a friend of mine who’s a sales director used Anaplan for territory planning. To its credit, Anaplan makes it easy to assign territories, forecast revenue per territory, and ensure complete coverage. But my friend was also using Salesforce, which includes a territory forecasting tool. Not only can Salesforce’s tool do those same things, but it also displays “child” territories, forecasts product family revenue in each territory, and drills down to individual representatives’ forecasts if a given territory doesn’t have an assigned salesperson.

4. Don’t compromise when it comes to data. 

Should you always get rid of a tool that accomplishes the same thing as one you like more? Not necessarily. There’s one case when it might make sense to use a companion tool — or even swap out your “hub” system: additional relevant data feeds.

Say you do most of your sales at trade shows. Well, Zoho may be a minor player in the CRM space, but it easily captures data from a couple of places that most of its peers don’t: trade show documents and live chat. Even if your team spends just a few hours a week entering trade show touchpoints into your CRM, it might make sense to switch. It doesn’t take many weeks for the hours your team saves through automated data entry to make up for the time cost of switching. 

Which sales and marketing tools are “right” for your company is a question with no easy answer. Which sales candidates are right for your team? Is it time to expand into new territory? As with those topics, bigger and broader isn’t always better. Sometimes, sticking with tried-and-true performers while saying “no” to the rest really is the best strategy.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.