When There's Too Much in the Technology Toolbox

August 24, 2016 Mark Emmons


It’s never a good feeling when you’re working on a job and you don’t have the right tool.

But these days in the B2B sales tech space, that really should never be a problem. The marketplace has been inundated with sales solutions designed to make every facet of a reps’ job easier and enable businesses to sell in a more structured, efficient manner.

So many tools on the digital shelves, though, is having the opposite effect on the lives of sales ops specialists. It’s giving them headaches. That’s because they’re the people who have to wade through all those products and listen to vendor pitches as they try to determine which ones will work best for their businesses.

And it’s easy to become captivated by the latest shiny new toy.

“There’s just so much out there,” said Jin Daikoku, director of inside sales at cloud app security company Netskope. “It’s easy to become a shopaholic and say, ‘If I buy this, this and this, it will be awesome!’ Theoretically, they all add leverage, will make you more money and pay for themselves. But reps can only use so many tools at one time. And you can only teach them so much.”


Shiny Toy

More isn’t always better. And too much can definitely cause problems.

The reality is an increasingly large portion of the operations role revolves around everything that goes into tool stacks. Sales Ops pros have to make sure applications are operating properly. They need to incorporate them with other solutions. Reps need to be trained in their use.

Then there’s the never-ending cycle of comparing and testing products. Blame that on our SaaS-based world. With solutions now sold on a year-long license basis, there’s always something in the tool stack coming up for renewal, which means there is constant re-evaluation.

“It seems like these days everyone is always talking about tool, tool, tool,” Kelsey Barber, the Salesforce administrator at Datanyze. “What can we buy? What do we need to improve our process? But a lot of times I feel like tools sit on the shelf and collect dust. So a big part of my job is figuring out how we can best utilize what we already have by creating a better process around it.”

Barber has spoken previously about how she focuses on differentiating between the “cool to have” and the “need to have.” That’s a challenge because the right ones for businesses can be real game-changers. The wrong ones? Dust-collectors.

But some leaders in the sales enablement world talk about not falling into the trap of “he who has the most tools wins.” Instead, it’s more important to maximize the impact of a fewer number of solutions.

It’s the philosophy of quality over quantity.

Online file storage company Box was one of Silicon Valley’s best-known privately held “unicorn” companies before going public in 2015. Box currently has less than a dozen solutions in its sales stack, said Doug Landis, the company’s vice president of sales productivity and chief storyteller.

But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, they previously had so many tools that there was an overlap in functionality and capability. It was confusing.

“You honestly just can’t keep buying stuff,” Landis said. “It’s too much to manage. We had too much stuff and it was creating havoc because we were trying to hook in all of these different tools with our CRM. So for us, it was better to be really diligent about what we needed and then consolidate. I think we’re pretty lean now. We’re hyper-focused on making our people extremely efficient in using what we have.”

The key, he added, is being smart about the money you do spend and have a clear expectation of what ROI you intend to leverage from those tools.

Another important consideration, sales ops specialists also say, is weighing the potential trade offs between adding something new and any potential ripple effect with the existing stack. In other words, does it “play nice” with other applications?

Alex Miller, the sales operations manager at messaging app startup Zinc, studied environmental science in college. He learned how tiny alterations can result in widespread changes throughout an entire ecosystem. That proved to be surprisingly good preparation when it comes to thinking through a sales process, Miller said.

And tools are a great example of that principle because of the way they interact with one another.

More isn’t always better when it comes to Sales Ops tools. And too much can definitely cause problems.

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“The biggest challenge we’ve had to date is getting all the tools to work together,” said Miller, who oversees about 15 applications in the Zinc stack. “Can they talk to our other systems and unify our process? You also don’t want to bring on tools that are distractions, have a long ramp time and ultimately don’t bring value. At the end of the day, we want our reps doing more selling activities and not acting like Salesforce administrators.”

Daikoku said it often makes more sense to figure out how to get more out of an existing tool rather than replacing it or layering something else on top of it. That’s especially the case if the sales team is comfortable using the application — even if it has flaws.

“You’re not going to want to go through the process of ripping something out if you can avoid it,” he said. “There’s a real cost associated with retooling and jumping to something new.”

Then the next thing you know, your toolbox might be overflowing.

What’s in your tool stack? Let us know by taking the short LeanData Sales Ops Stack Down 2016 survey. Help us identify what are the hottest tech tools.



About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at mark@leandatainc.com.

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