In 1999, Salesforce changed the game when they launched the first modern CRM—which means today’s generation of sellers has never known a world without this essential sales technology.

John Barrows says it best: we’re in the age of the Sales Ironman.

The Sales Ironman is a modern sales professional who not only deeply understands human psychology and how to influence buying decisions from their ideal prospects, but how to use today’s sales tools to sharpen their skills, sell at scale, and win more deals. 

A History of Game-Changing Sales Tools

We’ve come a long way since the halcyon days of Salesforce. Now more than ever, the demand for sales and enablement tools is growing, as sales organizations increase their tech spend in sales coaching and productivity tools over headcount.

Let’s take a look back at the sales tools and moments in time that launched the value and growth of sales enablement

Salesforce, 1999

The year was 1999. 

While The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync were tearing up hearts on TRL, Marc Benioff was starting a little company that would change the way sales pros worked forever. 
He called it a Customer Relationship Management platform. And within a decade, Salesforce had taken over the world.

Salesforce launched countless innovations and reimagined what B2B software could offer. The AppExchange, Dreamforce, and the San Francisco skyline would forever be changed. And numerous sales technologies would launch on the back of Salesforce. Many on this list.

Modern sales enablement as we know it starts here.

DocuSign, 2003

The harbinger of the forthcoming age of digital selling, DocuSign isn’t exclusively a sales tool— but it’s brought more joy (and in certain cases, despair) to sales pros than almost any other profession. 

Few things feel as good as seeing a DocuSign notification that a major contract has just been signed. Twenty years later, it’s still the undisputed king of the e-signature space. 

Hubspot, 2006

Who knew that a marketing automation platform would morph into an equally valuable sales tool with CRM, sequencing, and sales intelligence capabilities? Credit to the fine folks at Hubspot for seeing the potential for an integrated marketing-sales platform that can capture the full funnel and unify the two functions.

ZoomInfo, 2007

Originating as DiscoverOrg before going through several acquisitions (RainKing, Zoom Information, Chorus, etc.) and rebranding as ZoomInfo in 2019, ZoomInfo is a powerful sales intelligence tool.

Crazy as it may seem, it hasn’t always been easy to find things like prospect email addresses and work phone numbers. That data is now easily accessible for sales teams lucky enough to be using ZoomInfo. The ability to find new prospects based on buying signals is also a game changer for sales reps.

Zoom, 2011

No one could predict that a global pandemic would take Zoom from a high-growth startup to a must-have platform for every sales organization in 2020, but that’s exactly what happened. Zoom made video conferencing simple, affordable, and mainstream in the 2010s. The company deserves props for making life easier for sales reps when every other market condition was making it harder. 

Dialpad, 2011

The phone still reigns supreme in the sales world, and Dialpad has helped modernize it for today’s digital seller. Click-to-call, auto-dialing, and SMS capabilities that all integrate with today’s most popular CRMs? Yes please. Dialpad remains a must-have for sales pros on the go.

Ambition, 2013

In the early 2010s, the sales world was changing in front of our very eyes. Millennial sellers were digital natives, hungry for feedback and validation, and in desperate need of coaching. Ambition brought all of that to the forefront with the first data-powered sales coaching platform. We won Y Combinator and built relationships with many of America’s top sales organizations. Our secret sauce? Helping managers coach reps, helping sales reps win more deals, and celebrating them when they do by integrating with half the sales tools in this article.

Calendly, 2013

Coordinating meetings is one of the most time-consuming, pain-in-the-ass aspects of being a sales professional. So why not automate it? Calendly did this 2013, and millions of sales reps have since benefited from doing less manual calendar work and making lives easier for both themselves and their buyers.

Slack, 2013

Team collaboration has never been the same since the arrival of Slack, which took the tech world by storm in the 2010s before being acquired by Salesforce in 2021. Sales is a team sport, after all, and the ability to seamlessly co-manage deals to completion and celebrate wins in real-time using Slack became nom de rigueur for many sales organizations.

Outreach, 2014

You’d be hard-pressed to find as pure a sales tool as Outreach. Outreach launched in the mid 2010s and rapidly changed the sales landscape. Suddenly, reps could be 50 places at once. The ability to automate follow-ups, track opens and clicks, report on messaging, and give reps clear to-do’s every day was a treasure trove for sales leaders the world over. Outreach emerged from a crowded space as the de facto leader and we’ve never looked back since.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator, 2014

It’s hard to imagine a time before LinkedIn Sales Navigator. LinkedIn has always been the social network for sales pros, but Sales Navigator made it a juggernaut, giving reps the ability to reach out to any buyer who had a profile on the platform. Most sellers have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, but you can’t deny that they elevated social selling in 2014.  

Drift, 2015

Drift took digital selling to the next level upon its release in 2015, enabling sales reps to start chatting with buyers as they perused the company website. Forget email and phone. You could now start closing deals inside a little chat window in your browser. Drift has been a major boon for many sales organizations and is one of the key tools that has made sellers’ lives easier.

Gong, 2015

Gong was a great leap forward for the sales profession in 2015, bringing call recording, analytics, and coaching to the masses and making it infinitely smarter and more efficient than it ever had been before. Time-strapped sales managers loved the ability to leave detailed notes and review calls on their own time. Sales reps loved getting quality coaching and winning more deals, thanks to the world’s top conversation intelligence platform.

Scratchpad, 2019

Scratchpad is a must-have for Salesforce users. The Rev Ops workspace enables sellers to move notes into Salesforce automatically, visualize and adhere to processes, and get critical notifications every time a buyer takes action. 

ChatGPT, 2022

Is your sales team using ChatGPT to better understand your buyer’s pain points? Are they using it to help articulate your value proposition and key differentiators as it specifically applies to your buyers? No? Then, what are you waiting for? Get your team on ChatGPT and leverage the greatest technological advancement since Google to improve your sales performance.

The Past, Present and Future of Sales Enablement

The Ambition Blog has been a wealth of information on sales enablement for nearly a decade now. 

We’re proud to be first-hand witnesses and participants in the evolution of sales enablement into a core function within all modern sales organizations.

Now is the time to double down on your investment in sales enablement and use it to equip your team to become better sellers. 

Take these tools as evidence of what an investment in sales technology means for your team. 

The early adopters of these tools gained distinct advantages in the market. 

The laggards got left behind.

Don’t be a laggard. 

Invest in sales tools for your team early and often, and make the future bright for your sales organization.

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