Top Sales Tools of 2020 and the Digital Sales Revolution

Today, I’m announcing the solution providers I’ve selected for the final cut of the Top Sales Tools of 2020 list. I include more than 20 solutions that can make a huge impact on sales. Whether you want to move more leads into the top of the funnel, optimize sales processes in the middle of the funnel, close more deals at the bottom of the funnel, or improve sales knowledge and skills improvement, this guide has you covered.

Congratulations go to the hardworking people at the following companies:

The solutions above are reflective of the exciting innovation we’re seeing in the industry. With over 700 sales technology solutions on the market, there are certainly others we could add to the list. The objective is to give you a good place to start as you evaluate technologies that can impact sales in a variety of ways.

At no other time in the history of sales have we seen this magnitude of choice in digital selling technology. Let’s take a look back over time.

The digital sales revolution began in the late 1970’s with the proliferation of the personal computer and shortly after, the world’s first laptop computers – which allowed mobile sales reps to take their work with them.

Digital, at the time was largely confined to typing and storing word processing documents and creating spreadsheets to keep track of sales forecasts and booked revenue.

Then came a new type of “App” created by GRiD Systems for its proprietary GRiD laptop that allowed salespeople to do away with carousels of physical slides. With the GRiDShow app, digital slides could be created, easily modified, and presented on the laptop screen (small and monochrome though they may have been) in front of the customer.

Around the same time, Sales Force Automation (SFA) was the first sales-specific application. It made it possible to use a computer connected to a local area network (LAN) to store notes, contact information and next steps into a centralized system. The fact that it was a centralized system made it possible for others to view and protect this very important corporate asset and for sellers to manage their sales activities more easily.

Progress made during the 10 years between 1989 and 1999 was primarily related to hardware (better, faster PCs, LANs and WANS, and Mini and mainframe computers).

Then came Salesforce. Salesforce was founded in 1999 and changed the world of selling as we know it. One way it changed selling was that it crafted a new model to deliver software known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)  which made it possible for companies of all sizes to have access to CRM by paying a simple per-user license fee.

The second way it changed selling as we know it was by creating the AppExchange (in 2005) which BusinessWeek referred to at the time as “ebay for business software.” [1] The AppExchange offered partners a place for Salesforce customers to easily find their solutions.

Ten of the first twenty applications on the AppExchange were focused on Sales[2] including:

  1. Altify Opportunity Manager (Now an Upland Software solution)
  2. Apttus CPQ
  3. D&B Hoovers
  4. DemandTools
  5. InsideView Sales
  6. LinkPoint Connect
  7. Sage Intacct Cloud Financial Manager
  8. SalesFolder
  9. Qvidian (Now an Upland Software solution)
  10. Xactly Incent

Typing “Sales” into the AppExchange search box today results in 1986 solutions. It’s important to note, however, that the number includes add-on apps, apps that are aimed at niche markets and apps that are tertiary to sales. Still, it’s a lot.

No question, that launching the Salesforce Appexchange in 2005 altered the industry forever.

It was in 2009, after two-decades of sales experience, and 4 years after the launch of the AppExchange, that I started Smart Selling Tools. In 2010, I published my first ebook curating the different sales technologies available. That ebook included 58 solutions, 27 of which have since been purchased or have otherwise gone away. In my 2011 “Guide to Business Building Tools for Salesforce Users” I reported that Salesforce had reached $2B in revenue.

In 2012, Smart Selling Tools ran a sweepstakes – the first and only sweepstakes of its kind to-date – to give away $100,000 of sales software licenses. 3 winners were offered licenses to one of 6 solutions; DocuSign, Front Row Solutions, Qvidian, Sales Contest Builder, OneSource, and IntroRocket).

In an upcoming post, I’ll take a look at what happened in the world of digital selling technologies between 2012 and today.

In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk down memory lane. Be sure to do yourself a favor and check-out the Top Sales Tools of 2020 Final Cut Guide. 2021 will be a pivotal year for many companies. Technology can make the difference between

[1] A Brief History of Salesforce.com

[2] 20 Early AppExchange Apps to Celebrate 20 Years