How to Build Your Startup’s Sales Tech Stack
When your business is just getting started, you have to be smart with all your resources. This is a given you’ve probably heard a billion times (that may or may not keep you up at night), but it bears repeating because it’s easier than ever to let budget slip away. When looking for what’s to blame for a leaky bottom line, it’s probably not Ted drinking all the office La Croix. It could be all your apps.
Apps, platforms, SaaS (software as a service)—whatever you call ‘em, they’re more prevalent than ever when it comes to Doing Business. It can be tempting to sign up for every shiny new tool that promises to help you sell more and scale faster, especially when you’re champing at the bit to do both of those things.
In 2022, the average number of SaaS apps used in a company stood at 80—which is a lot of pocket change, even if the monthly fee is modest for each app. Without a good grip on which apps you’re committing to, your tech stack costs can start to look a lot like your bill for streaming apps you don’t recall subscribing to.
If you’re just starting your search for tools to pack your tech stack with or if you’re just curious what exists and want to fill some gaps, keep on readin’.
What Is a Tech Stack (and How Do You Prioritize Tools)?
The term “tech stack” refers to all of the technical tools you use to run your business. This includes all the apps, software, and even coding language used across teams. The roster of tools in your unique stack can (and should!) improve your internal experiences and the experience of your users. But most importantly, your stack should help you run and grow your company smoothly.
Listing your priorities is typically the first part to piecing together your collection of tools. Once you understand your most pressing priorities, then you can start to research tools that fill your technological gaps and further filter by price. Ask yourself essential questions and jot down your answers to:
- What manual tasks are eating up the majority of my time? What tools exist that could streamline those time-eaters?
- Which parts of the customer journey can be improved? Where does friction exist and what would smooth it out?
- What key performance indicators (KPIs) do I want to measure? Conversion rates? Repeat customer rates? Surveys and feedback? What tools measure those numbers I care about?
- How easy are these tools to use so I can quickly revise, optimize, and iterate at the rate my startup needs?
- How well do I need the tools I choose to play together? How important are those integrations?
This is just the bare minimum list of questions to ask as you create your stack. The questions you ask as you assemble all your tools could vary dramatically based on your business stage, your industry, and your customers.
While the answer to “What tools should I use?” seems like a big “It depends,” rest assured that even asking yourself questions at the start of this process is the perfect first step. Thinking critically about every tool you use will put you on the right path of adopting useful, effective tools in lieu of being another company using a measly 45% of your tech stack.
“Organizations can’t just go and spend money on technology without a plan. Too often we see brands buying technology for the sake of technology. Technology is easy to purchase and install but often brands forget about the people, process and data needed to do this.” — Pete Rogers, SVP service line lead technology consulting at Merkle warned on his vlog.
For example, if I’m starting a business where I’m selling homemade ice cream on my bike, one of the first tools I’ll need beyond ingredients and appliances is a point of sale (POS) system to make payments super slick for my customers and easily organized for me.
Next, I’ll want to look into tools that help me gain awareness and stay in touch with hungry customers, like a website builder and email marketing tools. And as cool as I think they are, I wouldn’t prioritize an AI app as it would be a cost that wouldn’t give me much-needed ROI during a time when every penny counts.
If you’re ever looking for inspiration or are simply curious what other beloved brands have tucked in their tech strategy, cruise these popular tech stacks. See the tools that many household names use to scale their brands and have peace of mind that these tools are reliable and effective should you choose to include them in your own mix.
5 Tools to Outfit Your Startup's Sales Tech Stack
When you wade into the waters of the Software Sea (a fake place, don’t Google it), you might feel instantly overwhelmed by the variety and sheer number of choices to help you hit your goals.
If you enter into the process with a clear list of your business priorities and budget, you’ll greatly narrow down the playing field. With a little more head-to-head research, and perhaps a few sales demos of your top contenders, you’ll find that picking your perfect mix of platforms becomes a lot easier.
You may even find that shopping for your next piece of software is a lot like shopping for the piece of your wardrobe:
- Is it the right fit for the activity?
- Will I use it often enough to justify the cost?
- Is it in my budget?
- Does the brand match my vibe?
- Is the customer experience what I want it to be while buying, using, etc.?
- What are the reviews like?
When it comes to your sales stack, or your sales enablement tech stack, here are five tools we recommend to help you grow and scale your startup.
1. Customer relationship management (CRM): Monday
When you’re trying to sell your product or services, keeping track of your outreach efforts, contact info, deal stages, and more can quickly get out of hand. As your sales flywheel picks up momentum, you’ll regret not having all the details as organized as possible from your very first pitch.
When it comes to choosing the right CRM for your startup, you may turn to standbys like Salesforce and HubSpot. These behemoths have been around roughly 20 years, which is the equivalent to 80 tech years. They’re both great CRMs, are market leaders, and have proven longevity for a reason, but their size and cost may mean they aren’t the best fit for your startup.
Monday CRM is one you should scope out for your startup. The Basic Plan starts at just $10 per seat per month, and even as you start to grow your business and need a bit more oomph, the Pro Plan is still a reasonable $24 per seat per month. This is a modest increase that won’t eat away large chunks of your budget every time you add a person to your sales squad.
While Monday claims to be an “all-in-one” solution like most CRMs, it does have a good mix of organizational and outreach tools like templates and optimized pipelines. Plus, the majority of Monday users are small businesses, which is a great signal that the features Monday creates are catered toward businesses like yours and you won’t be inundated with features built for massive enterprises (read: you’ll actually use all of Monday’s features instead of just a few that fit your needs).
You’ll get the most juice for your squeeze with Monday CRM, and you won’t be quick to outgrow it as your startup takes off.
2. Outreach and engagement: Cognism
Now that your CRM is set up, let’s stuff it. There are times where you may have people already in your network to reach out to and pitch, but beyond your professional network (and maybe bugging your mom or dad), you’ll need a hand finding people to sell to. Outreach is one of the trickiest parts of sales and is also a culprit for eating up a lot of time for little ROI.
Imagine just dialing numbers for hours on end only to end up speaking with a handful of folks? Sounds draining and like a waste of your precious resources. To help out, we recommend an outreach tool like Cognism.
Cognism is a sales intelligence platform that “connects you with dream prospects by providing premium contact, company and event information, including firmographics, technographics, sales trigger events, intent data, verified business emails and phone-verified mobile numbers.” What a mouthful! That’s all to say that you won’t be wasting time with bad outreach info.
Another top contender in our books is ZoomInfo. While ZoomInfo has a roster of heavy hitters like Paypal and Unilever using it, Cognism has a slight edge on ZoomInfo in nearly every category along with a slightly higher overall rating.
Neither platform has pricing readily available, so you’ll need to hop on the horn to hammer out a deal that’s right for your budget.Cognism is a preferred fit for startups and small businesses, though, so it’s unlikely their pricing is a mismatch to their user base.
3. Demos and video recordings: Walnut
Once you have a long list of contacts on your outreach list, what do you share with them? Generic cold emails are getting tossed into the virtual incinerator almost as quickly as they land in your lead’s inbox (if they land in the inbox, that is), so you need a way to get to the meat of your pitch and stand out at the same time.
Creating personalized videos and demos for every lead is one method that’s been proven effective, but recording, editing, and sending off a unique video for each prospect could take days, weeks, or months of time. This simply isn’t feasible for the average startup.
Walnut is a fool-proof platform empowering small teams to send out loads of personalized demos without having to record a new video every time. Walnut has some great behind-the-scenes techy stuff to make the magic happen, but the best part is that deploying highly personalized videos with minimal tweaks will save you mountains of time. Walnut made this list because of the immense ROI potential and time savings, which are huge benefits for any startup.
4. Communication and marketing: SendGrid
As a startup, you may be relying on your very own personal business Gmail account to send outreach emails. It won’t take too long before your inbox implodes, though. Between email outreach, follow-up threads, non-sales-related emails, and more, it’s an overwhelming mess. This doesn’t bode well for staying organized or growing through other strategies like your email marketing.
Roughing out a plan to send one-off and group emails from the start of your startup can help you dodge a tragic inbox situation.
SendGrid is a hot pick for startups looking to make the most of every email send. This is a versatile email tool that is just as capable of sending one-off, plain text sales emails as it is large-batch newsletters outfitted with fancy-shmancy design.
Upload your contact lists and you’re off to the communication races. You can start your strategy by sending personalized emails to prospects and, as your list grows, advance to creating automated sequences and handsomely designed email newsletters that strengthen your blossoming community.
SendGrid won out in this list over other popular (and powerful!) options like Salesloft, Mailchimp, or Outreach because of its focus on email. Many platforms have built on email features to include landing page creation, website builders, ads, social media, and more. If your focus is on having a cost-efficient tool dedicated to improving your sales and engagement emails, you won’t be using the rest of those bells and whistles despite paying for them.
Proactively engaging and keeping people in the know about feature updates, company news, new products, and more is a crucial part of the experience people have with your company. With a tool like SendGrid, you are empowered to communicate on as needed as well as automate sending valuable content, insights, or updates to your contacts. Every touch strengthens your relationships to not just grow your business fast but earn the long-term loyalty you need to survive.
5. Differentiation and engagement: Zest
As a startup, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face in the sales process is standing out. Especially if you’re entering a crowded space, you could find yourself pitted against some big names and trusted companies. Elbowing into a room that’s already at capacity isn’t a walk in the park, but there are tools you can add to your tech stack from the get-go that make it a heckuva lot easier.
Zest is the gratification platform that delivers gifts, rewards, incentives, and delight at any point in your sales cycle. Gifting isn’t an entirely new concept as a sales strategy, but Zest is the first-of-its-kind platform that makes meaningful gifting easy to do in just a few clicks. Unlike the gifting of yore, you can be on your way to standing out, saying thanks, or celebrating customer milestones without the time-consuming hassle of:
- Tracking down accurate addresses
- Figuring out shipping logistics
- Finding the perfect gift
- Painstakingly gifting multiple people
- Handling gift swapping
- Creating sales gifting campaigns through ad hoc tools
- Guessing the ROI or impact of a thoughtful gift
Sending branded swag or generic giveaways have their time and place, but when it comes to cutting through the noise and helping your startup standout, nothing beats the instant human connection made with a thoughtful gift.
With a tool in your tech stack that takes just minutes to send the right gift to the right person at the right time, you’re able to amplify every part of your pipeline. From first touch to post-purchase and renewal cycles, Zest is the foolproof platform that builds deeper relationships and puts your business top of mind right when it’s never been harder to do so.
As a startup, odds are good your brand name, experience, use, and more are relatively unknown. People searching for a product or service like yours may not be seeing your content or ads yet, and they most likely aren’t seeing your company in comparison pages, user reviews, or even Reddit threads.
The point is, startups have limited tactics in their playbooks that help them truly stand out and make connections with the decision makers who will help their company grow. Sending gifts not only starts conversations and increases replies, but doing so also shows that you're a company that cares and is willing to invest in the relationship on a human level—traits increasingly hard to find with enterprise companies relying on automated everything.
Bonus: Connect the tech stack dots with Zapier
In the world of platforms and software, it’s not always true that the tool you pick for one task will natively communicate with the tool you pick for another. If triggering events in one tool after action’s been taken in another is useful to you, a tool like Zapier can help you connect your stack.
Instead of constantly monitoring what’s happening in one app and making changes in the rest of your apps as a result, see what connections you can automate with Zapier (or for those keen to the jargon, what Zaps can you create?). As your business and tech stack grow, these handy automations will help your internal operations tremendously.
What Will Your Tech Stack Look Like?
There are many categories of tech stack you’ll need to outfit for your startup. While we just shared our five must-have apps for your sales tech stack, you should also consider the tech stack you need for things like running your website, customer experience, and more.
No matter which part of your startup you’re building out, though, it all begins with pumping the brakes and laying out what tasks are taking more than their fair share of resources, your goals, and your budget. With those constraints in place, you’ll have some fat stacks helping your unique business run smoothly and scale big.