Sales Tech You Need For a Minimum Viable Sales Stack (MVS)

Selling is more and more technology dependent. You could go absolutely crazy with the number of tools you try and implement for you and your team, but there are very real diminishing returns the more you pile on.

Instead of asking about everything you could be doing, let’s start with a very different question: what’s the minimum you should be doing???

Your Minimum Viable Sales Stack (MVS) has a few simple, time-tested, productivity-enhancing, and bottom-line-improving components, and in this order:

  • Communication Tools

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

  • Prospecting Tools

  • Document Management

  • Getting Paid

To get started, you have to be able to communicate effectively with everyone who currently wants to do business with you, or might sometime in the future. Communication tools will help you seamlessly call and meet with your clients, remember to follow up, and give you insights into how engaged they are along the way.

Tracking all of those people you’re communicating with can be a real pain in the butt. And if you’re like me, you’re reaching out to and chatting with dozens of people every single week, which becomes impossible to track in your brain or even a spreadsheet. Enter CRM, an important part of your stack that’ll store all of the actions and information you need at your fingertips.

Finding more of the right prospective clients is a constant challenge. Having a prospecting tool or two, even if you’re mostly reliant on inbound leads, will help you identify and learn about the best prospects in your market. With a few bolt-on tools, you’ll also be able to find their contact info in just a few clicks.

My mantra: make it easy for people to do business with you. When you do bring a deal to the contract phase, make it as easy as possible for people to receive your proposal, share it with their team, and sign it. I find document management to be one of the least-sexy but highly-important tools in your sales stack.

And lastly, your sales process isn’t complete until you get paid. Having an easy way for your clients to submit payment will help you reduce the back-and-forth that comes along with receiving payment. Allow your clients to pay any way that suits them – bank transfer, credit card, check – in an effort to have one less point of friction in the sale.

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Full Episode Transcription

In 1989, an MIT undergrad faced the note-taking paradox. He wanted to take great notes, but any time he wrote something down, it became difficult to pay attention and take in new information. So, he created a machine, a kind of augmented superhuman device. Now, that’s a lot of hyperbole for what it really was, a computer strapped to his body. He had a small computer in a bag along with a battery. That bag was strapped across his shoulder and he found a way to mount a small monitor on to safety glasses. You can imagine how cool that must have looked.

But for the following 20 years, Thad Starner lived his life with a computer 24/7. He had a keyboard and one hand, called a twiddler, and a small screen in front of one eye at all times. He even went on to be the lead developer with the Google Glass project, the nerdy glasses that connected to your phones we’re all supposed to be wearing by now. Now, it’s not just a gimmick, though. Starner’s computer, which he named Lizzy, actually supplemented his conversations. He can quickly recall information that comes up in a previous conversation or even site current Boston Red Sox stats when they come up. Maybe Thad’s an enthusiast. Maybe he’s dedicate. Maybe, yes, maybe, he’s a bit overzealous. But what he has done for sure though is extend his capabilities as a human being.

We don’t much think of ourselves that way, but we do it all the time with technology in our lives. It’s just much more socially acceptable than the way Thad use technology in his life. We sit behind a computer. We use our phones. The internet is all around us. Heck, my wife could spot my live location on a map when I went out for a run this last weekend. All of it adds up to enhanced capabilities. We can be superhuman with our sales technology, with our marketing technology. And in today’s episode, I’m going to cover the minimum amount of sales technology that I think you should have in your business, and I’m going to call this the minimum viable sales stack, or MVS, and we’ll get into it right now.

Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics, and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Selling is more and more technology-dependent. Now, you could go absolutely crazy with the number of tools you try and implement for you and your team, but there are very real diminishing returns the more you pile on. So instead of asking how can you be a sale cyborg, what is everything you could be doing, let’s start with a very different question. What’s the minimum you should be doing? Your minimum viable sales stack, or MVS as I’ll be calling it from now on, has a few simple time-tested productivity-enhancing and bottom line improving components, and they are in this order: communication tools, CRM, or customer relationship management, prospecting tools, document management, and the all important getting paid.

Now, to get started, you have to be able to communicate effectively with everyone who currently wants to do business with you, or might some time in the future. Communication tools will help you seamlessly call and meet with your clients, remember to follow up, and give you insights into how engaged they are along the way. Now, part of what I’m going to say today depends a little bit on your particular business, but I’m just going to go out on a freaking limb today and tell you what I think, and I also want to know that the tools I’m recommending I’m either currently using in my business now or have used at some point in my business. So, all of these have been tested. There are way more things that are out there than I could possibly recommend in a 30-minute podcast, or probably even in a 30-hour podcast. But don’t worry, I will not bore you to death with that stuff.

So, first thing I want to cover is communication tools. These are the most important because, obviously, sales is about communication and relationships, and none of it works without communication. So, the absolute number one tool that I recommend if you need to do online meetings is Zoom, Z-O-O-M, Zoom.us. By the way, all the tools that I’m recommending are linked in the show notes, so don’t feel pressure to go and take notes. You can go to the show notes and just click directly on the links. So, Zoom allows you to meet online with video or voice. People don’t need the app. They can call in if they want to, but it’s cross-platform. It works on every single device, and it is by far the most stable video chat experience that I’ve ever had.

I’ve tried Skype. I’ve tried Webex. I’ve tried Google Hangouts. I’ve tried Google Meetups. I’ve tried join.me. I’ve tried seemingly all of them, and the one that is unquestionably and unequivocally the best is Zoom. It also allows you to do things like screen shares and recordings. So, Zoom is what I use for my podcast interviews. It is just incredible. So, zoom.us has some great G Suite integrations. Also, their webinar tool is fantastic. But if you’re just looking for a good meeting solutions, Zoom is the one I recommend.

The second thing I recommend is G Suite, so the Google suite of business apps, which include Gmail, so they can host your email. They power your calendar. You get Google Docs, and Google Slides, and Google Sheets, and all that fun stuff at … I think it starts at like $5 a month. At that price, it’s an absolute no-brainer. I’m assuming if you’re listening to this you’re already on either G Suite or some other tool, maybe Microsoft 365, or Rackspace, private hosted email server, something like that. But what I recommend is G Suite simply because the integrations that you get with Gmail to upgrade your email capabilities are absolutely unmatched, which leads me to my next recommendation under the communication tools banner, and that is Mixmax.

If you’ve listened to this podcast for a while, you’ve probably heard me bring up Mixmax before. First of all, it really does live up to the promise of giving you super powers. So, it really is super powers for your email. So, it allows you to create reminders for yourself, send email later. You can send follow-ups, and email sequences, and create automations within Mixmax. You can really quickly embed videos, and calendar times, and all kinds of other things. But the key things that I want you to take away with Mixmax are the email sequences, the reminders, and the follow-ups.

Now, if you’re working with a team, it’s also great for that. You can share your sequences. You can share your templates with your team, and it’s just really unbelievable. I mean, I couldn’t do it justice. One thing that I’m excited about that they just released is a LinkedIn Sales Navigator integration. I haven’t used it yet because it’s very new at the time of this recording, but the promise of it … And again, I don’t know if this is true or not. But the promise of it is that you can create sequences that allow you to have touches both on LinkedIn and through email straight from your Gmail inbox, which is incredible. So, I’m looking forward to that. If you’re especially interested in that topic, I can revisit it later in multichannel campaigns, and especially how to use LinkedIn and email together. But yeah, Mixmax, couldn’t recommend that highly enough. That is definitely one of my top recommendations on this list.

Now, one thing that Mixmax does have is a online booking solution, which is great, except that they don’t yet give Zapier API integration. I’m not really sure why that’s the case other than they get to charge more and really limit how it integrates with other things. So to me, there’s not a really great reason why they’ve done that, but they have. And since I don’t work there, I can’t say a lot about why they’ve done that. But what I can tell you is if you want a calendar booking widget that allows you to have more control over what happens when people book meetings with you and also allows you to connect it to virtually any other app or create triggers to, say, if someone books a meeting with you, generate a lead in your CRM, the app that I recommend for your appointment booking is Calendly. Very, very simple. You send people a link. It’s connected to your calendar. When they open the link, they see an online booking dashboard that shows times that you’re available. You get to choose, of course, when you’re available and when you’re not. And from that dashboard, people can choose a time to book a meeting with you.

Now, whether you use Calendly, or you use Mixmax, or you use some other app … I’m also going to mention HubSpot in the next section about CRM. They also have a meeting tool. Whatever you decide to use, this is definitely something you should integrate into your sales stack simply because it makes it really easy for people to book meetings with you and avoid the back and forth that comes along with setting meetings because it’s really a pain in the butt, and Calendly solves the problem really elegantly and simply. I think you can still get it for free, if not very cheaply at like five or $9 a month, something like that. So, highly recommend Calendly.

The next category that you need checked in your MVS, your minimum viable sales stack, is your CRM. Now, tracking all of those people you’re communicating with through Zoom, and G Suite, and Mixmax, and Calendly, it can be a real pain in the butt. And if you’re like me, you’re reaching out to and chatting with dozens of people every single week, which becomes impossible to track in your brain or even on a spreadsheet, and that’s why you have a CRM, an important part in your stack that will store all of the actions and information you need at your fingertips.

Now, there are tons, and tons, and did I say tons? Tons of CRMs available out there. The one that I use because it’s so well integrated with G Suite, it lives right on top of my Gmail, it’s called Copper, C-O-P-P-E-R, .com. It’s formerly called prosper works, but now they rebranded to Copper. The thing I love about it is that it automatically ingests all of your emails, all of your calendar appointments that are related to contacts that you’ve saved in the CRM so you don’t have to manually add your emails. You don’t have to manually add your calendar appointments. You can just take notes right in there and everything else automatically gets added.

It also does a really good job of scraping out of your email the contact information of people that you add. It does a pretty good job of enriching the contact information of your leads and contacts. Meaning when you save someone, if it could go out to the internet and find more information about them, it automatically appends their contact record with that information, which I find is massively helpful for my research. So, really recommend Copper. It’s a great, great tool.

Now, if you’re not on G Suite or you don’t like the Google material design or for whatever reason you don’t like Copper, the backup CRM that I would recommend is Pipedrive. Pipedrive is absolutely fantastic. It has some interesting email integration. It’s very, very easy to use, and you and your team will be able to figure out pretty quickly. It also has some nice features with forecasting, and statistics, and products, and inventory. It just has a lot of little extras that maybe you wouldn’t find in Copper. It also seems very, very fast to get started. They do also have a Google Chrome extension, which is a pretty nice add on. So Pipedrive is a good backup if you’re not interested in Copper or you’re not on G Suite.

Obviously, the 800-pound gorilla in the space is Salesforce. I’m not personally a big fan of Salesforce simply because I haven’t had the need for it. But if customization and scale are the top things on your mind and you want ultimate flexibility and you want to be able to hire developers to really extend the use of your CRM, you really should go with Salesforce. Because if you need unlimited growth, that’s really the one that can tackle unlimited growth for you. So Salesforce, great option if you have deeper, more complex, and more custom needs.

Another CRM that’s really nice to use and has a lot of features is HubSpot CRM. Now, the CRM is free, but as you start getting into more and more features, it becomes fairly pricey fairly fast. I think it goes from 50 to $400 a month pretty quickly. They also, in my opinion, sit in this really weird place in the market where they seem to be trying to serve the mid market. It’s not as extensible as Salesforce on the CRM side, but they have a lot of marketing automation features. I feel like the main reason you would buy HubSpot is the integration of marketing automation and CRM. I don’t really think it’s best in class at anything, but the user interface is pretty nice. It is very easy to use. But you’re just not going to get the depth of reporting or the depth of features of any of the previous CRMs that I recommended here in HubSpot.

If you want something relatively small, relatively light but has the integrated value that HubSpot brings, meaning it connects your email marketing, your marketing automation, and your sales pipeline altogether, ActiveCampaign is really the best value that I see in the market. I think their user interface is not fantastic and could use some major updates, but it really does all of the things that you would want a basic CRM to do. The reporting features honestly kind of suck. But if the main thing you’re looking to do is track all your contacts, automatically trigger marketing automation, and track your pipeline, ActiveCampaign really is a great option.

It also does web tracking. So if you have visitors from the European Union, you definitely need to think about GDPR. But, you can do things like lead scoring, so you can score leads based on pages they visit on your website or engagements, like downloads that they make on your website, and then notify your sales team that this lead is ready for a phone call. So of all of the options I mentioned, ActiveCampaign is the most integrated and the most value if you’re looking to do some of the more advanced things like that.

So, that is CRM. The next thing I want to talk about is prospecting tools. Now, finding more of the right prospective clients is a constant challenge, of course. And having a prospecting tool or two, even if you’re mostly reliant on inbound leads, will help you identify and learn about the best prospects in your market and the best prospects on your doorstep. And with a few bolt-on tools, you’ll also be able to find their contact info in just a few clicks.

So when it comes to prospecting tools, the, A, number one thing that I recommend is LinkedIn Sales Navigator. At the time of this recording, I think it’s 80 bucks a month or $65 a month if you pay for an annual plan. It really is a fantastic source of data. So you’re not going to get everybody’s contact information unless they’re your first-degree connections, but what you will get is a pretty good and in-depth search capability, including a very usable Boolean search option within their advanced search capabilities in LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It’s really a good product overall. It sometimes returns some really weird results and results I didn’t ask for. But overall, in terms of B2B data sources of people, LinkedIn Sales Navigator seems to be the absolute best.

Now, if you also need to find people’s contact information, the one tool I recommend for that is LeadIQ. So when you’re in Sales Navigator, in a separate window, LeadIQ will sit right next to your browser, and it’ll find most people’s, at a minimum, email address. It will also find their physical address of their company, and often it can find their work phone or even their mobile phone number. And for I think it’s $60 a month, it’ll find 300 email addresses. I find that they’re fairly accurate to the tune of like 60 to 80% I can email, which is pretty good in terms of lead sources. So, LeadIQ is great. You can then export directly to a Google Sheet. And of course because you’re connected to a Google Sheet, you can connect that through Zapier to just about anything, which is awesome.

There’s also connections to SalesLoft, and Outreach, and lots of other prospecting and SDR-specific tools. So, LeadIQ, really fantastic. If you’re looking to sort of hand-build and curate a list, it’s really a good tool for that and fairly inexpensive for the amount of time it saves you, in my opinion.

The next prospecting tool I recommend is called hunter.io. Now Hunter is one of the early entrance into finding people’s email addresses. I loved the Chrome extension for when I’m on a website. I can look up on the page I’m on just about anybody’s email address, which is pretty awesome. You can put in their first name and the last name of your prospect, and it’ll go out and try to find their email. It also has a verifier. It also has some other tools, but I think it’s really best for looking up email addresses. And if you’re looking for a free tool to find email addresses, Hunter gives you a hundred credits per month, absolutely free, at least at the time of this recording, which is amazing. You can go out and find a hundred email addresses for free every month on hunter.io.

Now, the one thing I’ll tell you about finding email addresses, whether it’s through Hunter, or LeadIQ, or another tool I’m going to recommend shortly here, is that some of them are going to be shit. They’re not going to work. There’s lots of reasons for that. I’m not an email deliverability expert. I know enough to be dangerous. But the bottom line is you’re going to want to check from a third party whether or not the email addresses you generate when you’re prospecting are accurate and are deliverable. So, the tool that I recommend for that is called NeverBounce. It’s really, really cheap. It’s less than 1 cent per email address that it goes out and looks and tries to verify if it’s a legitimate email address or not.

So, your process is you would go … If you’re using Sales Navigator, you go to Sales Navigator. You build your list through LeadIQ. You generate the emails. You’d upload that to NeverBounce, and the NeverBounce would tell you, usually, about two-thirds to 80% of your emails are good and our deliverable, and the rest are junk. That’s going to be the final list that you end up with and send to. So, that’s an important step.

Now, if all of this sounds like a giant pain in the ass … And first of all, I promise you that it is. But if you don’t want to do it and you want someone else to do it, I have two recommendations for you. One is called getsteward, G-E-T-S-T-E-W-A-R-D, .com. and again this is linked in the show notes. But, Get Steward allows you for, I think, a dollar per lead to go out and buy lead lists. All you have to do is send them an email, tell them what you’re looking for. They’ll kind of email you back and forth just to make sure they understand what you want. And then they’ll deliver a list to you in a few days. If you want phone numbers, they can include that for an additional fee. If you want a really refined, difficult-to-find-and-vet list, they can do that for you, too. They may just charge you a little bit more, but it will probably be worth it. So, getsteward.com is a great option.

And the other one, if you’re pretty experienced in building these lists yourself or managing other people to build them for you, is Upwork. So on Upwork, you can go there, and it’s a marketplace for freelancers. You can go and hire someone and tell them, “Hey, I want you to have a quality data source, like discover org or Zoom info.” And if they have these quality data sources, you can tell them who you’re looking to connect with and they can go out and find those types of people. You can also, if you generate a list of domains, say, “I want the CEO at all of these companies. Give me their first name, last name, email address, city, state, country, whatever,” and they can go fill it all in for you.

Get Steward will be much more hands off. You tell them what you want, they come back with a list. If you don’t like the list, they’ll fix it. Upwork, you’ll really need to manage the person a lot more and make sure that you’re getting a good list along the way. One pro tip for you if you decide to hire someone on Upwork is ask them to do maybe the first 50 leads. See what comes back, adjust with them, give them some feedback, and then ask them to do the rest of your list for you. So, that’s prospecting tools. I could keep going on, but those are the ones that I recommend.

Next up is the category of document management. Now, look. My mantra is make it easy for people to do business with you. When you do bring a deal to the contract phase, make it as easy as possible for people to receive your proposal, share it with their team, and sign it. I find document management to be of the least sexy, but highly important tools in your sales stack. And my recommendation for document management is a clear winner here, and that is PandaDoc.

So what PandaDoc allows you to do is send proposals, create templates. You get analytics when people go and view your proposal. It has an integrated verified signature, kind of like a DocuSign or RightSignature. It has Stripe integration. It has all of this stuff. And if you go in and take the time to set it up, let’s say you have, I don’t know, three to five products or services that you’re selling, you can go in and set up templates for that and then make copies of those templates. You know how templates work. Of course you do. And customize them quickly, and send them out to your new clients. So, that’s a big time saver. It’s a big value. It looks fantastic. It’s super professional, and it integrates the whole proposal signature payment equation for you, which is pretty damn valuable in my opinion. So, I’ve tried many of these different tools. The one that I really liked the most is PandaDoc. I think it’s fantastic, so I recommend that.

If you want to go fairly lo-fi, very simple, the one that I would recommend if you want to write proposals and still have the opportunity to, for instance, collaborate with your clients and allow them to comment on the proposal … Now, PandaDoc allows you to do that, but so does Google Docs. So if you do buy G Suite, Google Docs is included. And if I’m working a more complicated sale or the sale of a service for the first or second time, I’ll typically put together a proposal and send it to my client as a Google Doc, nothing fancy, and just tell them, “Look, this is a draft. I want to make sure that I’m giving you exactly what you’re looking for. Feel free to go in and make changes, leave comments, and we’re going to get this proposal together as a collaboration. And after it’s done, then I’ll drop it in PandaDoc for you.”

So, you can just use Google Docs. I did for many years as my main document management tool. What it won’t do is give you verified signatures. It won’t do any payment integration. It won’t do any analytics, and the templates are really poorly implemented for whatever reason in Google Docs. I’m not sure why that is, but it is the case.

Now, if you have a sales team, or you have an assistant, or other people helping you out, the next tool that I recommend for collaboration for really internal purposes is called Notion. Now, Notion is what I used to outline this podcast. So, you can create documents in Notion. You can create web pages that you share. You can create databases. Holy shit, this thing is amazing. They’re a small team. They’re in San Francisco. They’ve been at it for a while, but it is really incredible.

If you want to create a knowledge base, an internal Wiki, if you want to create, say, your sales playbook or your email sequences and have them all saved in a central place, Notion is really unbeatable. It’s amazing. It contains versioning. Multiple people can go in and edit documents at the same time. You can mention people on your documents. You can create Kanban boards, like in Trello. So if you wanted to, you can create a very simple version of a CRM within Notion. It really is just an amazing tool. So, that is the one that I recommend for collaboration and particularly an internal Wiki.

Now, if you’re in sales, the moment you’ve all been waiting for is that, look, your sales process, it’s not complete until you get paid. Having an easy way for your clients to submit payment will help you reduce the back and forth that comes along with receiving payment. My opinion is that you should allow your clients to pay any way that suits them, bank transfer, credit card, check, in an effort to have one less point of friction in the sale. I have three recommendations here for getting paid. Actually, four, but there’s three that I use on a regular basis.

The first is called Stripe. Stripe is just a payment gateway and payment processor. It has an amazing API. it’s kind of an API-first payment processor. It allows you to accept credit card from anybody. I have had some issues accepting credit card payments from people who are not in the US, so that’s a little bit of an issue. But overall, Stripe is far and away the easiest to use and best way to get paid by credit card anywhere on the internet. And of course, PandaDoc has a Stripe integration that makes it really, really easy for anyone to get paid right on their proposal.

The next one that I recommend is called MoonClerk. MoonClerk is a pretty small company, but essentially it’s a front-end application for Stripe. It allows you to set up recurring payments and subscription payments. So, my private coaching clients all pay through MoonClerk. So they go in, they set up their payment information, they fill out a form, and they put in their credit card. I obviously don’t have access to their credit card details. That’s all encrypted. I never see it. But, it continues to charge them on a monthly basis until they cancel. It also allows you to do things like recurring payments for a finite time. You can create coupon codes. It’s a great way to track all of the payments that are coming in. So MoonClerk, really fantastic. Shout-out to those guys. They do a great job. It’s just a wonderfully easy-to-use tool and extremely useful.

The next one that I would recommend is called TransferWise. What TransferWise is especially good at is sending foreign currency payments. So if you’re regularly working with clients overseas, TransferWise is kind of becoming the de facto payment method to do that, other than the next one that I’ll mention, but I’ll get to that in a second. But, TransferWise automatically converts currencies, and it just does a good job of that with, I think, slightly lower fees.

Then, the final one that I’ll recommend, which is the tried-and-true go-to of PayPal. PayPal integrates with everything. It can accept local and foreign payments alike. It can accept credit cards. It can accept all kinds of different ways of paying. It can also be a native PayPal-to-PayPal account transfer. So, PayPal really seems to be, of all of the different ways, one of the most bulletproof. So PayPal, fantastic tool. And that wraps up my getting paid section.

So just to recap, I recommend five big areas where you should really be focused on building your MVS, minimum viable sales stack: number one, communication tools; number two, CRM; number three, prospecting tools; number four, document management; and number five, get paid. Please, go get paid. Like I said at the top of the show, all of the tools that I mentioned in this episode are linked in the show notes. A lot of those are affiliate links, so I might get paid something if you buy them. Of course, I have no affiliation to these companies other than an affiliate link and maybe a very small pittance of a payout if you do decide to buy something. But, just wanted to let you know in full disclosure. Everything I’ve recommended are things that I’ve personally used. Often, I’ve personally implemented them or recommended them to clients. So, these are my top recommendations, not just a laundry list of everything available. Surely, you can find lots of other options out there in the marketplace.

Now, if you listened to this and you got something out of it, I would be very grateful if you just tell someone else about it. And if you’re really feeling charitable, head over to iTunes, leave a review of this podcast, whatever is honest and on your mind. Please do leave a review. It helps me. It helps you. It helps everyone get the word out so more people can be exposed to this content. If you thought it was good, please leave a review.

And finally, I just wanted to say thank you. Thanks for being here. Thanks for listening. My name is Liston. You can learn more about me at my website, www.liston, L-I-S-T-O-N, .io. And I hope you have a fantastic day.