A Slew of New Technologies Is Making a Science of the Art of Sales The better you know your prospect before pitching, the likelier you are to connect.

By Bobby Alvarez

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sales teams across the country are faced with an interesting conundrum. There are more tools in the market than ever before. The trick is figuring out which ones are worth the investment.

The right measurement for judging a new tool is whether it increases the likelihood of making connections because, at the core, sales is about relationships. A new technology that helps create and build connections with prospects and clients is worth the investment.

Related: 3 Low-Cost Sales Lead Tools for Startups

There are three main categories of relationship-focused technologies for sales professionals.

Sales intelligence

With sales intelligence, its all about getting the fullest picture of a client or prospect as fast as possible. Some of the top tools in this field are InsideView and Data.com. Separately, these sales technologies are good, but combined they provide a complete understanding of a target business.

Data.com is a powerful database full of company and contact information for potential leads and prospects. Updated daily, it provides salespeople with a clear view of who they should consider reaching out to next. But while Data.com helps users find the right contacts to target within an organization, it's still up to the sales individual to discern how best to approach the new prospects.

Enter InsideView. The sales intelligence platform pulls insights into CRM from across the web, everything from recent press appearances to new features, acquisitions and beyond. This provides a glimpse into the state of a company, where it may be headed and more. this level of detail is a must when it is necessary to build out a profile of a company to understand how to best engage.

Tools like Data.com and InsideView allow salespeople to step back and examine the overall landscape before diving in to pitching new prospects. Rather than wading through millions of organizations for leads, these tools put the individuals and companies salespeople should go after front-and-center.

Once the decision is made to approach a prospect, there's a new layer of sales technologies that come into play to help salespeople understand the individual on the other end of the pitch.

Sales empowerment

Sales empowerment tools "empower" salespeople with data and technology to help turn the art of sales into a science. It's not about simply having more information, but rather having the ability to analyze and use that data immediately to increase connectivity and build relationships.

One great example of a sales empowerment technology is Yesware, a Gmail-based sales platform for tracking emails, creating templates, syncing to CRM and more.

With Yesware, a salesperson is notified when a sent email is opened by a prospect. Yesware also provides detail on what device type the prospect used to open the email. This information may seem trivial but it has had a huge impact on my team's ability to make valuable connections with prospects.

Related: When You're Hungry for Sales, Consider These Lead-Gen Tools

For example, with Yesware, I realized 95 percent of emails opened by prospects on a mobile phone go unanswered if the email content exceeds the size of the phone screen. This knowledge helps my sales team write emails with mobile in mind. We now have heightened awareness of what I call "optic response," the overall impression or mood an email's design, style and layout relays, regardless of the specific information presented.

Additional Yesware features, like mail merge, speed up the sales process by allowing us to automatically follow-up with a specific segment within a given message group, such as those who have not yet opened the initial email.

We also use templates to keep track of which subject lines are doing the best throughout the company, and to create specific examples of a portable device email versus a desktop message. All of these features help us engage the right targets with the right message, enhancing our relationships with prospects.

Social sales

These days, social media impacts every industry and individual. Sales is no exception. The upside to everyone over-sharing online is that prospects participate, too.

"Social selling" creates 45 percent more opportunities, with 51 percent of representatives more likely to hit their quotas, according to LinkedIn's Social Selling Index. With that context, understanding human behaviors, degrees of connection and how prospects share content to communicate are some of a salesperson's best tools.

Three of the top social platforms in the world -- LinkedIn, Twitter and Salesforce's Chatter -- are my trifecta for building and strengthening connections, providing unique background on prospects and clients, and establishing a forum for internal communication.

On the surface, LinkedIn gives salespeople a look into a prospect's background, such as where they went to college, the cities where they have lived, work background, shared contacts and if they are even the right person at their organization to reach out to.

The true advantage, however, is in obtaining a genuine interpretation of the person's style, what they value, organizations and activities in common, etc. This is also the single best way for a salesperson to understand whom he or she knows in common with a prospect, so as to build a direct path for engagement.

Twitter is second to none when it comes to understanding the actual behavior of a prospect. From vacation plans to beloved pets to milestones, thousands of random factoids are shared over Twitter. In fact, many individuals will post life's little annoyances, such as a salesperson in the past who approached them in a way they found less than appealing. When the goal is establishing connection, understanding what not to do is often more important than anything else!

Salesforce has many helpful attributes but Chatter is a feature often overlooked and underutilized. Chatter may appear to be "just another instant messaging platform" but it offers far more by allowing an entire business to share stories and develop communities of learning.

How often in sales is it said that teamwork is not just encouraged, but required? As often as not, a powerful learning moment is lost in a sea of emails. New employees never even get a chance to be exposed to the wisdom of many past experiences. Chatter preserves these lessons for everyone within a company to find. When incorporating social selling into the mix, just "@mentioning" someone on a thread creates an unstoppable force. Conversations grow organically.

My belief is that the most critical aspect of a salesperson's day-to-day is simply making the connection. Or, as Eminem reminds us on "One Shot," "If you had one shot, one opportunity / To seize everything you ever wanted, one moment / Would you capture it or just let it slip?"

Related: 3 Low-Cost Sales Lead Tools for Startups

Wavy Line
Bobby Alvarez

Sales Coach, Training and Development; Global Enablement Manager, New Relic

Bobby Alvarez has spent the past 20 years hitting quotas and now helps other hit theirs. Formerly of SuccessFactors, Bobby now brings his experience to New Relic, where he has built the Sales Enablement team and on-boarding process from the ground up with amazing results.

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