Sales Tech is About to Explode

Just when you thought you’d got a cursory grasp of the marketing technology terrain… Here comes the sales stack.

I say “terrain” only to avoid the term “landscape,” scooped up by Chief Martech himself Scott Brinker to describe the extraordinary graphic he puts together annually showing the players in the ever-expanding marketing technology space. There are close to 4,000 separate solutions in the 2016 edition, which means it’s reasonable to shrink from the prospect of an equivalent volume of automated sales solutions.

Not least because marketing and sales stacks surely need to be somewhat integrated. Right?  Not necessarily.

“The sales stack is most definitely independent.” That’s what Max Altschuler told me at the 2016 Sales Machine Summit in New York last week. “Marketing did their thing a few cycles ago,” he went on. “Sales now has the trajectory.”

One might be forgiven for thinking, “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” Altschuler is, after all, founder of Sales Hacker, a catalyst for content and events focused on sales leadership, enablement, operations, strategy, and…well, hacks. Sales Hacker co-hosted the Summit with Salesforce–which, Altschuler observed, would be hugely successful as a standalone Sales Cloud services company. “Compare,” he said, “standalone marketing (automation companies). Marketo, Hubspot… There’s no comparison.”

We were standing somewhere in the vast indoor open space which is Pier 94, surrounded by booths presenting sales tech offerings (“sales enablement” seems to be the preferred term). Apttus, LinkedIn Sales Solutions, RingLead, Aviso; the list goes on. And yes, there are sales tech “landscapes” appearing already–admittedly less cluttered than Scott Brinker’s packed galaxy.

But what hit me hard, as someone who covers marketing technology, was listening to a panel discussion on how to build a sales stack, and really not hear marketing mentioned at all (to be fair, in response to an audience question, the panelists agreed you needed an MA solution). I sought out Vala Afshar, Salesforce’s Chief Digital Evangelist, for a second opinion.

Although Afshar has a CMO and customer service background, he was quick to say that the hardest job in any single company is sales. “Revenue is more important than leads,” he said. However, “in order to accelerate the sales cycle, you have to have sales and marketing hand in glove.” How, he asked, is a busy sales pro going to create content? Is he or she going to be blogging or doing social media? “Collaboration is hard work, but (sales teams) need to lean into their marketing organizations.”  

I pressed him on the question of ownership. If the objective is to have all these technology solutions–for sales, marketing, services, etc–working together (with “CRM as the center of gravity”–this is Salesforce speaking, remember), who owns the stack?

“Ultimately, it has to be the CEO,” said Afshar. In the past, he’d spent a lot of time with CMOs, CIOs, CDOs. “Anecdotally, I’m now having more conversations with CEOs.” 

On one level, that makes sense for any business which pretends to be a digital business.  At another level, as Afshar clearly understands, the CEO may not be the person making granular decisions about onboarding tech tools in an orderly way, and ensuring successful integration.

My prediction? Stand by for an explosion of sales technology point solutions populating a terrain largely siloed from marketing tech–simply because, CEO or no CEO, the vendors will often be selling to sales rather than marketing teams. “The sales stack,” said Altschuler, “is only in the third inning.

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