Let’s be honest, we all want to buy every shiny new SaaS tool on the market.  

We read their product page and want to believe 100% in the dream they’re selling: Build the ultimate business team - a mythological beast that gets you high fives from the CFO at every board meeting.

Does it connect to Slack? Does it predictively analyze the weather? Does it give me a prospect’s real-time heart rate? Will it let me know if my lead recently went through a breakup? The real question is - does any of this stuff make a difference?


The reality for most of us sales leaders is this: We are hanging on for dear life. Hit the target this quarter. Hire 8 new BDRs by next month. Hit the next annual milestone. Make sure those BDRs are ramped. Show continued growth in the current team’s output. Rinse, repeat.

Like I said, just trying to survive.

Another difficult reality? Many sales leaders at the dynamic organizations I work with are under a constant pressure of organizational change, competitors evolving, and business cycles, all of which are beyond their control.

I hear this when I’m listening to sales leaders describe their challenges. Sure, they fantasize about the dream: The predictable revenue machine, Belichick-esque precision block-and-tackle system, the intoxicating mix of competitive-yet-collaborative culture. But when they stop daydreaming? They are dealing with a slim budget, a handful of underperforming reps they can’t replace for a few quarters, and a target from the C-suite that “they need to go out there and make happen.”

bill belichick

A Sales Director at a Fortune 500 insurance company told me last week: “I get so excited reading product launch articles. But it’s not like we have the budget or bandwidth for limitless tools and gadgets - it’s getting so hard to truly identify what we need.”

Which - when you lay the cards on the table - is the the real question most sales leaders must ask: “What do I really need? What are the absolute basic necessities I have to have for my team and our organization to be successful?”

1. Sales Process

I’m going to keep this simple, because while it is the most important piece of the puzzle, its also the most case by case.

Your sales process is your map. If you head off into the wilderness with no map - just an ethereal destination out there in the distance where you want to be - I can promise you’re not going to get there. And if by some miracle you do, it definitely won’t be with any consistency.

treasure maps

Your reps need their map - a sales process that efficiently guides prospects to the right destination in their buyer’s journey. If the process is well-designed, your reps will be able to consistently guide prospects to Closed Won Opportunities.

2. An Optimized CRM

CRMs take a lot of heat for being clunky, cumbersome, or just a waste of time, in general. I’ve suffered the frustration firsthand. But if you take the time (and it really doesn’t have to be an extensive amount of time) to optimize your CRM, you are giving your reps a compass to navigate that sales process map and move prospects through their journey to closing deals.

An optimized CRM gives reps a clear workflow and provides managers the data they need to distil actionable insights into sales performance (more on this later). It’s incredibly important to equip your teams (and yourself) with a CRM that’s configurable to your needs and syncs tightly with other sales and marketing technology that can serve as a force multiplier for your reps.

For large or growing sales teams, you really can’t go wrong with Salesforce or Dynamics from Microsoft. Both are serious investments but allow for a variety of specialized apps (next category) and customization. For smaller teams or budget-constrained organizations, PipedriveBase CRM, and Streak are all fantastic options.

3. Sales Automation: Emails, Calls, & Updating

Sales is already hard enough, so removing repetitive tasks make life dramatically easier for your reps and affords them extra time to increase prospect touches and personalize communication.

Tools like OutreachPersistIQSalesLoftRingDNACirrus Insight, and ToutApp are important for taking some of the routine burden off of reps. These tools automate simple, repetitive tasks that take time (such as high-volume call campaigns and extensive email cadences), as well as additional benefits like proactively setting follow-up reminders for individual prospects.

Tools like Outreach or Cirrus give you the ability to easily add notes to a prospect from Gmail on the fly. Put simply, these tools multiply rep productivity by making their daily workflow easier significantly easier to manage.

4. Performance Metrics, Goal Management, Recognition & Coaching

Would you watch a sport that doesn’t keep score? Of course not.

The same concept holds true for sales. Keeping score by tracking rep progress to goals is critical.

As previously mentioned, once reps are moving prospects through your sales process and data is consistently flowing through your CRM, you have the ability to derive powerful insights from that data.  

The most actionable intelligence tells you which behaviors to focus on, which conversion rates to improve, and where to implement culture-building growth levers such as team challenges or progress tracking toward organizational goals.

For reps and teams, real-time insights into sales KPIs grant reps two advantages: Clear pathways to success and the reinforced competitive drive that occurs once you start keeping score.

For the Google Maps, Fitbit, and Fantasy Football generation, the inability to see a clear path to success, track one’s progress, or understand where they stand compared to their peers is a foreign, disorienting concept.

Transparently tracking metric performance not only empowers your team, but serves as a key reinforcement method that helps reps stick to the sales process (the map), utilize your CRM (the compass), and hopefully double down on the sales automation tools that maximize their effort.

Last but not least, providing reps with timely recognition, progressive and personalized coaching, and a fully aligned goal structure at the rep, team and organizational levels simply makes work that much more engaging and rewarding. Studies show employees feel more satisfied and positive about their work when they understand the clear relationship between their goals and those of the team and company.

Ambition (spoiler alert: my company), has been recognized by Harvard Business Review and the AA-ISP as a proven way to deliver performance increases by aligning goals, sustaining rep engagement, and giving teams and easy way to set, track and score their performance metrics. Other great tools include InsightSquared for analytics, WideAngle for goal management, or LevelEleven for gamification.

The Bare Bones Toolkit for Your Scaling Sales Team

We’ve covered everything. That’s it. That’s all you need.

And yes, I’m leaving out the marketing and training side of things. You probably need a steady inbound lead flow or lead generation tools. If your reps aren’t using LinkedIn … (shakes head sadly). I am also assuming you’re running some form sales on-boarding and ongoing training - which may include an amazing LMS product (like LearnCore). All great tools. But don’t lose sight of the core 4 essential, bare bones needs we just covered.

Yes, you’ll need to commit some budget - but with a solid sales process (free as air), a CRM that is optimized for your workflow, a sales automation tool to simplify your reps daily life, and a sales performance management platform to constantly refine and engage your people, you are putting yourself and your team in the position to thrive. And you can ignore the app fatigue or the sticker shock of the constant shiny new tools.

Keeping it simple allows you to zero in on what matters: your people, your process, and moving those prospects to Closed Won.

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