Digital information technology and the Internet have dramatically altered the landscape of the sales industry, changing the relationship between buyers and sellers. Buyers are much more in control of the purchase process, researching independently, more informed, and more demanding – shifting the industry toward inbound marketing and sales from traditional outbound sales models and creating significant challenges for sellers. To meet the challenges of this new environment, more and more of the sales industry has embraced developing technologies and data science. Enterprises that can actually apply and use the technologies early will be leaders in their industry sectors; those that do not will have significant difficulty remaining competitive. Today’s sales environment is marked by technology, data-driven processes, and decisions, automation, and speed.

The CRM Software Umbrella

Sales departments have widely adopted customer relationship management (CRM) software and systems as tools to organize customer information and sales efforts. These CRM systems form the foundation or ecosystem for developing sales and marketing technologies. This umbrella covers a range of market segments, including lead generation, marketing automation, sales force automation, and sales acceleration. Just as marketing and sales efforts often overlap or cross into one another, the terms of these segments and tools are not absolute.

The rapid adoption and use of CRM systems by sales enterprises have been explosive.

The respected research firm Gartner estimates that the worldwide CRM market grew 13.3% from $20.4 billion in 2013 to $23.2 billion in 2014. Gartner also forecasts the global market is increasing to $36.5 billion by 2017, projecting a compounded annual growth rate of 15 percent from 2012 to 2017 and leading all enterprise software categories in projected growth.

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Marketing and Sales Force Automation

Marketing automation systems were developed so that marketing departments could automate routine and repetitive functions in the scheduling and tracking of campaigns. It is estimated that the marketing automation software market will grow to $5.5 billion by 2019.

Similarly, sales force automation uses software tools to automate and streamline business tasks within the sales process to maximize the efficiency of the repeatable processes a salesperson performs.

The sales force automation market has increasingly moved to cloud-based “software as a service” solutions, including mobile platforms, as salespeople increasingly rely on mobile devices to access data while off-premises. One research firm projects this market to grow from $1.84 billion in 2013 to $4.13 billion by 2018 as cloud-based services become more widely available and small-to-midsize businesses enter the market.

Whether these automation solutions are applied to marketing tasks or sales activities tasks, they also collect data on the performance of those activities and automate the data entry into the system. This in turn, makes information more readily available to marketers, salespeople, and management.

Sales Acceleration Solutions

Sales acceleration software and platforms encompass the rapidly developing category of technologies often said to bridge the gap between the sales department CRM systems and the marketing automation systems. As the name indicates, these are technologies designed to accelerate sales – that is, to make the entire sales process faster and shorten sales cycles so that prospects and opportunities are converted into actual sales and customers more quickly. Some have estimated sales acceleration technology to be a $128 billion market.

These innovative technologies address the sales environment today that is driven by data, technology, and speed. They are designed to improve collaboration between marketing and sales and are often seamless for both sales and marketing teams across a platform. The solutions collect, analyze and present an array of data relating to the sales process, including outreach and a potential customer’s behavior and responses, and then prioritize or implement actions based on that data.

The category covers a variety of solutions do not fit precisely in a CRM or marketing automation label and includes areas such as sales intelligence, analytics, data visualization, automated email, email tracking, gamification, online video conferencing and social media, also encompassing tools to accelerate presentations, proposals, quotations, and contracts.

The digitized information age has rapidly changed the dynamics of most sales environments. Sales organizations must turn to technology, data, and science and take advantage of solutions to address the demands of today’s empowered and demanding buyers and provide them the information they need or require in a quick and timely manner. Sales organizations must implement these technologies in order to be or remain competitive. It is not a matter of whether an organization will embrace these solutions, but when.

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