Why startups need sales automation tools
No matter how great your product idea, how well you set up your infrastructure, or how much funding you secure, all the hard work you put into your startup is wasted if no one’s buying it. Sales is one of the simplest, yet most fundamental workstreams within your business, yet it’s often among the most neglected.
Fortunately, the old-school, pavement-pounding sales reps of ages past have given way to modern software that automates interaction with potential and existing customers. Highly efficient and capable of exponential ROI, they’re indispensable to any leadership team looking to scale their startup to unicorn standards.
In fact, the most successful startups will often plan and pitch their approach to sales automation before ever initiating operations. Indeed, the best approach is to consider it an inextricable part of your infrastructure from day one, not something that “can wait until you’re bigger” — because without prior planning, chances are you’ll never get there.
The good news is, the benefits start almost immediately and include:
- Increased revenue
- More accurate leads
- Better prospect acquisition
- Improved relationship with clients
- A way to gauge the effectiveness of your sales team
But with so many options available, how can you know which one to choose? Let’s break down the major differences to determine the right fit for your startup.
The top 7 best sales automation tools
Salesforce — A surefire CRM solution for startups
Almighty Salesforce has led the pack in customer relationship management software for years. It boasts a comprehensive, modular package that centralizes all customer-related data into easily manageable assets, allowing you to better visualize your prospects’ and clients’ needs and thus how to engage them. The result? Streamlined sales and more man-hours saved.
How it works
Salesforce is divided into many different products. Young startups are well-served by the Sales Cloud, with prices starting as low as $25 per user per month for the most basic pack, up to $300 for the Unlimited version. A separate Service Cloud can be added to integrate Sales and Service.
All editions offer automatic data capture (meaning no more manual entry), lead tracking, guided setup, and access to AppExchange. The pricier options enable features like custom record types, API-based system integration, 24/7 toll-free support, and over 100 admin services.
Zoominfo — A prospecting tool for intelligent sales
Data gathering is Zoominfo’s specialty. It helps you better connect with your target audience by analyzing and profiling their data output in real time for more effective leads and better overall communication.
How it works
Zoominfo sounds an alert whenever your criteria for a new prospect is met, while also analyzing successful searches in order to recommend similar ones. If your startup is B2B, it can also provide insights about companies you’re targeting.
The platform employs modular pricing based on how much information the user needs. The number of users and add-on features impact the price, with a credit system that automatically deducts whenever info is exported from the ZoomInfo platform — consulting is the only exception. Want to check out the fit for yourself? A free trial is offered.
Zapier — The perfect way to automate workflows
Zapier focuses on automating anything and everything. Those small, repetitive, unavoidable tasks? From automatically downloading email attachments to consolidating leads in a database, Zapier’s goal is to minimize unnecessary manual work whenever possible. And trust us: those small increments add up to a ton of time saved.
How it works
Their main solution is the Zap: an algorithm-like workflow that the user programs — no coding required — to automate tasks. For instance, whenever you receive an email lead, it gets added to your CRM...cool, right? But where Zapier really shines is in its integrations with major apps like Google Suite, Slack, Twitter, and 3,000+ others to automate actions within those platforms.
Zapier pricing plans are based on how many tasks it automates, with extra perks unlocked depending on usage. The free version comes with 100 tasks/month; prices then range from $20 for 750 tasks, up to $599 for a whopping 100,000 tasks. Perks include data filters, auto-replay for failed tasks, custom app integrations, and more.
Mailchimp — Automated email campaigns
Email marketing is an incredibly cost-effective form of advertising because it doesn’t require media buying. For budget-constrained startups, it’s invaluable — provided you build up your mail lists. Mailchimp helps small companies grow their lists and leverage that data with a platform that produces well-crafted, automated email campaigns that feel deeply personalized to the end user.
How it works
Although Mailchimp is a full-fledged, design-oriented web platform, their real value is tied to email performance, with automated email triggers (i.e. you can automatically deploy a special promotion email three months after the last point of purchase), personalized transactional emails, and real-time analytics including the percentage of opens, clicks, locations by opens, and more.
Prices depend on the number of contacts and audiences reached. The free plan offers up to 2,000 contacts in one audience; the recommended standard plan starts at $15/month and allows for 100k contacts in five audiences, plus a customer journey builder and data optimization perks. An ultimate, unlimited audience option is also available starting at $299/month.
Adobe Sign — Manage paper and digital signing
Why Adobe Sign?
All sales are final only once they’ve been finalized. Signing contracts and inking deals are part of business, and Adobe Sign boosts your productivity by eliminating a lot of the previously-necessary paperwork.
How it works
Adobe Sign simplifies deal-making with a suite of e-sign features. In the Pro version, PDFs can be created, edited, and e-signed in the same app, making file management a lot easier. More sophisticated perks include embedded custom web forms, online payment collection, real-time deal-tracking, biometric authorization, and more.
Prices range from $10/month for the basic pack, $15 for the Pro, and $20 for the Pro Advanced. Plus, an even more robust enterprise option is available upon inquiry.
Gong.io — AI-powered sales software
Gong’s conversational intelligence improves standard CRM tactics by using AI to convert conversations into hard data. Phone and video calls together with email and text messages from previous deals are broken down and analyzed by the always-improving software, pinpointing patterns of successes and failures alike to boost the company’s sales spiel.
How it works
The platform lets you know in real time whenever you’re performing badly on a sale based on historical interactions, and coaches you back into customer retention — doubling down as a powerful tool to assess and improve the performance of sales team members.
Furthermore, Gong can be programmed to inform sales teams about relevant keywords in conversations, so that the data can be actionably analyzed by Gong or other platforms.
Gong prices vary depending on the number of employees and sales method. A 25-people-sized startup that sells over mail and voice chat should expect a base of around $5,000 plus $100/month per user.
Integrate — The account-based marketing tool
Formerly known as ListenLoop, Integrate helps B2B companies discover their key audience through smart data usage, then enables hyper-targeted ABM social media campaigns to convert those leads. Since all bad leads are automatically rejected, this ensures that all leads generated are valuable.
How it works
Integrate develops highly-personalized creative journeys based on a customer company’s own data. The resulting campaigns’ data output can be closely followed by the sales team, allowing for on-the-fly decisions to improve pipeline efficiency.
Prices for ABM tend to vary widely depending on the campaign scope, so your best option is to contact a representative for a custom quote.
Sales optimization is a massive, never-ending task that only becomes more challenging as a company grows.
But a company only grows when it sells! And that’s why sales automation is so important: because it helps crack the chicken-or-egg conundrum, allowing companies to manage their growth rather than chase after it. Time saved becomes time invested elsewhere, so the idea of growing never seems too big of a challenge.
And that’s exactly what separates the up-and-comers of today from the unicorns of tomorrow.