Why You Need to Build a Relationship-First Sales Stack

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Author photo: Copper Staff

Copper Staff

Contributors from members of the Copper team

Many companies still rely on all-in-one sales suites: big, complex pieces of software designed to manage — and homogenize — your entire sales process. Sellers follow a prescribed workflow, and customers share the same uniform sales experience. But often, the way they want to sell isn’t represented in the systems and tools they use every day.

Today's sales process is more dependent on relationships than ever before. Sales ranging from small consumer purchases to million-dollar enterprise deals rely on sellers getting to know their customers, sharing advice and building a genuine rapport. This type of relationship-driven sales is idiosyncratic and personal: no two companies will form customer relationships in the same way.

You see this shift in how we buy from our beloved personal brands: Airbnb, Spotify, Virgin America (RIP), Apple, Nike, Whole Foods. We even have unique relationships with our professional brands: WeWork, Zendesk, Asana, Slack, Google even. But what have we learned from these Relationship-Makers?

Simple: There is no one-size-fits-all sales process, and that creates a problem. The standardized workflow offered by sales suites leaves no room to personalize the sales experience. They try to simplify the customer relationship when we really want to expand upon it and find new ways to share value.

As these tools continue to fall behind, instead of a sales suite, we need a sales stack — a software toolkit designed to complement our own unique approach to relationship selling.

sales suite vs sales stack

We need to stop relying on all-in-one sales suites and start building our own “stacks” of specialized software. Source

Build-your-own software stacks have already transformed marketing and customer success — in the words of Scott Brinker, more companies are choosing to “bake their own, special marketing and customer experience cake” — and now it's time to bring sales technology into the modern, Relationship Era.

Improve the Customer Experience with Smarter Technology

The original CRM systems subscribed to the “closed suite” model of technology: a single piece of software offering everything a team needed to run their sales process. It was designed to record an Account Executive’s (AE) sales activities, and for a VP of Sales/CRO to manage their teams and forecast.

The model works well in theory. All of your sales tools are unified under a single umbrella; everything is compatible with everything else, and you need only manage a single license or subscription fee.

But by relying on sellers to enter data as activity logs, your CRM quickly became a database of backward-looking information, with data that was rarely up to date. To compound the problem, since the heyday of CRM suites, there's been an explosion in sales technology:

  • Pipeline reporting has evolved into forecasting and proactive deal management.
  • Prospecting has been transformed by automated data enrichment services.
  • Lead scoring has become more powerful and predictive as a result of machine learning.
  • Sales campaigns have been powered by services like ZenProspect for finding and engaging with prospects over email .

Many of these innovations were developed by specialized companies and, with so much market fragmentation, no single CRM suite was able to offer everything the modern sales team needs.

sales technology chart

From business intelligence to call tracking, the variety of sales technology on offer is greater than ever before.

While some companies are content to manage without the latest sales technology, many have made the change from a “single rep” mentality to relationship selling teams, where a prospect or customers interacts with multiple team members through the life of their partnership. For these companies, limiting yourself to the functionality offered by a single tool can put you at a real disadvantage.

Spend More Time Building Relationships

All-in-one CRM suites are inherently prescriptive: all of your sales tools are centralized in one place, and your daily workflow is largely determined by how the suite is built, and how complex their framework is. For short, simple customer interactions, it's no problem, but it's a real headache if you want to personalize the sales process for different relationship teams, or develop a unique relationship process.

Accommodating prospects and deviating from the “normal” sales process are an inherent part of relationship-driven sales, but sales suites are only set up to accommodate a traditional selling process designed around Account Executives, introducing frustrations like:

  • Manual data entry every time you want to update a customer record.
  • Managing dozens of APIs and proprietary languages to add missing functionality.
  • Time wasted switching between tools that can't be connected, like SMS, email, documents, and other apps
  • Legacy design, leftover from the database market

By building your own sales stack, you can choose tools that are designed to accommodate a flexible working style, whether that's through a native integration with Gmail, or a sales email automation tool, or by helping to automate time-consuming manual data entry.

gmail integrated crm screenshot

Copper uses Google's own material design principles to seamlessly inject customer data exactly where you need it most: in Gmail.

While CRM suites lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all sales process, building your own sales stacks offers the flexibility to create — and change — your own tailor-made sales process. If you want to make life easier for a potential prospect, you can — without having to fight against your sales suite, or an administrator who is unable to service your department. That means less time wasted on data entry and tool switching and more time spent building meaningful relationships.

Communicate with Customers on Their Terms

Most all-in-one CRM suites date from a time when the sales process was little more than a couple of phone conversations, containing simple interaction logs from email, meetings, presentations and so on. They're designed to take a handful of data points — email exchanges, notes from sales calls — and make them available for a single seller to share with their manager, or during future calls and meetings.

But modern customer relationships can span dozens of different mediums. Over the course of a single conversation, your prospect might choose to:

  • Respond directly to your email newsletter
  • Schedule a meeting with Calendly
  • Fill out a contact form on your website
  • Message your live chat widget
  • Use self-service products like Zendesk
  • Engage with your brand on Twitter or LinkedIn

For the customer, this is a fluid, natural way of communicating; but for you, and your siloed CRM system, this is a nightmare.

Instead of seeing a continuous customer journey, you see a handful of seemingly unrelated events. Many interactions are missed entirely due to the data entry nature of legacy CRM. When you come to talk to a prospect, you realize they're in the middle of an exchange with your technical support team; when you try to share a helpful blog post, you find out they've already read it in this month's newsletter.

In contrast, a specialized tool like Copper is designed as a central hub, a way to pull together each of these disparate threads of insight to create a coherent picture of the buyer's journey.

copper crm screenshot

Copper functions as a communication hub, combining calendar invitations, live chat messages, phone calls and notes into a single interface.

Instead of scrambling for information through dozens of different platforms, you can see a clear, immediate picture of the conversations and resources that have shaped the sales process-to-date. Every conversation builds on the one before it, regardless of where or when it took place, making for more natural, helpful relationships.

Help Your Customers Hit Their Goals

Most all-in-one CRM suites are designed as sales-only tools: they focus on a small portion of the sales funnel and manage customer relationships from first contact through to an initial sale. When that first deal is closed, the customer is left to fend for themselves, and all of the information your sales team learned is relegated to a dark corner of your sales suite, never to be used again.

But the modern sales process doesn't stop at the point of first sale, and the ongoing customer experience — and their ability to hit and keep hitting their goals — has a huge impact on repeat sales and referrals.

Using a sales suite, every customer interaction has to start fresh, and there's no way to easily pass customer insights between sales and support teams. But by building your own sales stack, you can choose tools that make it easier for your whole company to continue supporting customers after the point of first sale:

  • You can make sales data readily available to everyone in the company, adding context and personalization to every ongoing interaction.
  • Native integrations between CRM and support tools create a defined hand-off from sales to customer success, ensuring uninterrupted support for new customers.
  • Customer insights can be easily fed back to the marketing and product teams to improve the website and in-app experience.

Instead of limiting your tools to the sales team, you can build a sales platform that's inherently collaborative, allowing marketers, sellers, product developers and customer success reps to all weigh-in on customer relationships.

intercom customer care experience

Intercom is designed for use across the entire customer relationship, creating a seamless experience as customers transition from prospect to customer and beyond.

The easier it is for your whole company to learn about a customer's likes, dislikes and goals, the easier it is to help customers hit their goals: whether it's a marketer sharing their latest educational blog content or a product manager offering a quick “how-to” on new features.

Build Better Relationships with a Sales Stack

For companies looking to build the best customer relationships possible — adding value throughout the sales process, and for months afterward — all-in-one CRM suites don't cut it.

By building your own sales stack, you can choose modern, best-in-class software that's designed to align with the modern buying process. Instead of simplifying your customer relationships to a couple of cells in a spreadsheet, you can create a collaborative sales platform that's tailor-made to the needs of your sellers, your customers and your entire team.

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