The Ultimate Guide to Sales Tools

No matter how great your product is, it can be hard work for your sales team to close deals without effective sales tools and techniques. As a product manager, an essential part of your job is to provide sales tools that are truly effective in influencing the decision-making of a single buyer. 

Not to be confused with marketing’s role of influencing all buyers in a specific market, sales tools for prospecting should facilitate a 1:1 dialogue and provide answers to the specific questions buyers are asking. The best sales tools boost productivity and profitability, accelerate the sales cycle, help sales reps build trust with prospects and form ongoing customer relationships.

When you understand what makes a sales tool effective and how to measure that efficacy, you can help your sales team succeed. This detailed guide can get you there.

What are sales tools?

At their best, sales tools for prospecting arm your sales reps with the information they need to help individual buyers decide to purchase your product. In a meeting with a prospect, they can take the form of marketing collateral, presentations, demos, whitepapers and ROI calculators. 

But one of the most important sales tools you can provide is something the potential client never sees: accurate buyer persona profiles for the decision-makers within your prospect’s organization.

Armed with this insight into the target audience, effective sales tools anticipate the needs of the salesperson and position your product as uniquely tailored to solve a prospect’s most pressing problems.

Finally, each sales tool should be mapped to a specific step in the customer journey to increase awareness, inform prospects, facilitate their evaluation and decision-making, help the customer get the maximum benefits from your product and increase retention.

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Why are sales tools for prospecting so important?

Without knowing what prospects want, sales reps can’t answer a prospect’s questions or address their major pain points. Sales tools for prospecting—buyer personas, pain sheets, competitive comparisons and demos—provide the sales team with key insights into their target audience, allowing reps to present the product as an ideal solution to a customer’s unique problems.
Sales tools can also serve to shorten the sales cycle by:

  • Enhancing the prospect’s confidence in the company
  • Positioning the product for an easier sell
  • Explaining the product’s benefits
  • Preventing and minimizing objections
  • Standardizing the sales force behind a consistent, tested message

Sales tools are important after the buying decision as well. They can help sales reps nurture customer relationships, develop loyalty and encourage future purchases by promoting product upgrades, add-on products or other offerings.

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Who is responsible for choosing or creating sales tools?

There are three potential groups involved in the sourcing and selection of effective sales tools for an organization:

  • Product managers are usually the critical factor in creating an effective sales toolkit. They do that by translating the generalities of the marketing message down to the specific and practical details of the product’s capabilities and benefits.
  • Marketing helps choose sales tools by helping sales reps sort out the product’s strengths and weaknesses vs. the competition.
  • Sales enablement should work closely with sales teams to ensure that the right tools are selected and implemented internally and that they’ve launched in a way that ensures adoption, use and return on investment.

How to select the right sales tools for your team

Sales reps often face two potential problems: Either they don’t have the right tools or they have too many. The sales tools you select should address sales reps’ pains and frustrations. To select the top sales tools and systems, start by conducting an internal review of all existing sales tools and outlining details such as:
  • How is each tool used?
  • How does the tool affect the business?
  • Who will access the tool?
  • At what stage of the sales cycle will the tool be most effective?
From there, peer-to-peer review sites, which provide side-by-side comparisons of similar vendors with competing products, are a good place to start. Focus on the most recent feedback and look for honest and authentic reviews that highlight the best features of the product or company and provide constructive feedback about needed improvements. When evaluating vendors and tools, be sure to keep in mind the unique needs and pain points of your sales team. The following questions can be helpful in ensuring you make the right choice:
  • What are the most inefficient processes in our business and how will the sales tool address them?
  • Are there any internal operational processes or workflows that the tool will optimize?
  • Can this tool be used globally?
  • Who in our company will use the tool? How many user licenses are required?
  • How does this tool fit into the overall systems and tools landscape? Are integrations with other applications required?
  • What is the budget?
  • Will customers benefit from this sales tool?
  • What does the training rollout plan look like?
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How to create effective sales tools for your sales reps

The key to creating an effective sales tool is ensuring that sales reps are able to use your tools in a flexible and responsive manner with each prospect. To accomplish this:

  • Create separate tools for each special purpose. For example, don’t combine a feature-by-feature competitive comparison with the overall product presentation of benefits and capabilities.
  • Cleanly separate multiple layers of detail, including feature-by-feature comparisons, either within the same document, or into individual materials.
  • Break materials into clearly delineated blocks of content that a sales rep can jump between so the order can be driven by the prospect’s questions and the sales rep’s skillful reading of their reactions.

The core content of effective sales tools typically comes from conducting competitive research, including company financials, marketing positioning, product plans, facilities and partnerships. Use this information to assess the relevant market space and any claims the competitors are making. Check for consistency. Any discrepancy in competing materials should be explored and leveraged.

This competitive intelligence can provide the foundation for building tools that are objective and fact-based. From there, keep these tips in mind when creating and managing sales tools:

  • Keep it concise. Copy tone and voice should be unemotional, centered around hard facts and substantiated claims in simple language. Avoid jargon, vernacular and superlatives.
  • Continually review and revise. Regularly audit your sales tools to ensure they are in the most useful and relevant format for their intended use (i.e., for in-person vs. virtual presentations). Create documents with similar internal organization and sequence to make updating easier. Revise length, design and layout, and delivery method as needed.
  • Make them accessible. To ensure that sales reps always have the most up-to-date version, set up a central document portal that includes the ability for users to subscribe to changes. Clearly state usage guidelines where you post the documents.

How to measure the effectiveness of sales tools

It’s crucial to evaluate your sales tools from a prospect’s perspective. Armed with insight about the most common questions that buyers have, consider these points:
  • Would you read (or listen) to this?
  • Is it easy to find the answers to the questions that will help you make a decision?
  • Is there something about this solution that is compelling and distinct from the competitors’ offerings?
  • Are proof points well-presented and convincing?
These criteria also can be used to judge the quality and effectiveness of sales tools:
  • Ask sales reps periodically what they think about the sales tools. If they don’t like them, it’s time to start fresh.
  • How much do sales reps use each tool? Track the number of downloads of the documents. If they ignore the documents, either they don’t know about them or they are perceived as irrelevant.
  • Look at your prospects’ requests for proposals (RFPs). If your sales tools are good, the content and ideas they present will be reflected in the RFPs you receive.
  • Interview a sales rep about a sale they lost. If the sales tools don’t come up in the conversation, that’s a good sign.

Sales tools examples

Here are examples of some of the most common sales tools:
  • Buyer persona. A buyer persona is a short biography of the typical customer, built by job title, industry and company size. It typically includes information about the buyer’s background, daily activities and how they deal with their current set of problems.
  • Prospecting script. Break prospecting scripts into easily navigable blocks, with separate sections for different kinds of customer segments (for example, price-sensitive versus quality-sensitive).
  • Pain sheets. Pain sheets address the problems prospects are struggling with that would lead them to benefit from your product. These sheets should break struggles down into discrete sections with clear jumps to related topics so sales reps can easily navigate from section to section.
  • Expert sales materials. White papers and other expert sales tools are a powerful way to attract individuals with buying authority. These materials help your target audience of skilled professionals understand the ways in which they would benefit from your product.
  • ROI calculator. This sales tool answers the critical question: Will this make more money for us than we are going to spend on it? Learn more about building an ROI calculator that works for your sales team.
  • Presentations. Provide sales reps with separate presentations for each of the following stakeholders: the consumer, the techie, the buyer, the manager and the senior manager.
  • Competitive comparison. Aim to include information that compares your product to three to five of its competitors.
  • Demos. Arm your sales reps with demo sales software, an effective demo script that is broken into sections or blocks that can stand on their own, and an interactive remote demo. For more on demos and pilots, see Demos, Pilots and the Sales Cycle.
  • Customer reference programs. Reference customers speak to the press about your solutions and the benefits they have received, which helps sales reps build confidence with their prospects.

Learn more about sales tools

By understanding how sales tools are used and how they should be mapped to your buyer’s journey, you can create effective sales tools and systems for your sales team. Register for Pragmatic Institute’s Launch course today to learn more about choosing, creating and managing sales tools to help accelerate the sales cycle and build lasting customer relationships.

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