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Ask HN: What is your “sales stack”?
147 points by oliverx0 46 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments
As a technical founder going into a more sales-oriented role, I would like advice on the tools other founders / sales teams use in their day-to-day to give them an advantage in lead-generation and sales automation.

Although CRM suggestions would be OK, I am more interested in tools that help you do things such as:

- Create easily customizable email templates and their follow-up sequence.

- Automation software for LinkedIn outreach / email sending.

- Automation software for generating leads. For example: easily identifying companies' email formats, easily gathering companies' and their competitors' information, landing page generation automation, gathering lists of companies based on size, industry, needs, etc.

Essentially, if someone asks you what your day-to-day sales operations look like for a B2B SaaS product, how would you respond with hands-on suggestions? Assume that such person has no idea of the current trends of sales software.

If someone asked me the same question for a software tech stack, I would answer for example:

- Bitbucket / Github for version control

- Travis CI for continuous integration deployment

- React JS for front-end, combined with parcel as a bundler, Mobx State Tree for state management, etc.

- Ruby on Rails for back-end, combined with PostgreSQL.

Ideally, if you have information on how that product / strategy gives you some advantage it would be really hepful. If you have any resources that could also help a technical founder get into sales, with a step-by-step process, that would also be great!




At Appsmith, we use: - Website and Blog hosted on Webflow

- ActiveCampaign for email automation and tagging of lists (typically one off emails like churn prevention or onboarding campaigns etc).

- Reply.io for engagement emails

- Segment for data pipes

- Mixpanel for product analytics, which feeds data back to ActiveCampaign for campaigns

- Integromat for some integrations.

- Canva for some basic images, templates etc.

- Google Analytics (for website traffic analysis, SEO etc)

- Asana + Slack for project management and alerts. Grammarly for well, grammar.

- Appsmith for dashboards and workflows. Ex. how we used Appsmith + Reply + ActiveCampaign to make a churn prevention engagement workflow https://blog.appsmith.com/connecting-mixpanel-replyio-and-ac...

We're now thinking of moving away from ActiveCampaign to Hubspot for marketing automation soon (90% off 1st year pricing for small startups)

We'll have to figure out a sales CRM sometime (Salesforce is sorta expensive, maybe Pipedrive?)


One gotcha that turned one of my clients away from hubspot was that contacts can only have one business. Especially if your targeting certain segments, there really needs to be a many-to-many relationship on contacts and businesses.


Love the stack, thank you as these are very helpful. Appsmith looks quite interesting.


Yea. I mean you can obviously make it more complex (coz honestly there's no end to sales enablement or marketing automation) and a lot of this stuff ends up also overlapping with product in product led growth companies...

Yea, I'm stoked about Appsmith too haha. It's my first time being part of an open source initiative, so been very interesting!


I don’t know why Hubspots sales CRM wouldn’t be sufficient. I’ve never seen a sales force instance work better than the hubspot sales package.


HubSpot, has a great sales CRM. Something to keep in mind if you’re already considering adopting them.


Yea, long time user for Hubspot. Had moved on from them in my previous startup because it didn't have lead to account matching and so wasn't suitable for ABM type stuff. But I see that they've recently implemented that, so all's good.


1. Telephone.

Dial-type or better. Proven exponential growth tool first personally revalidated 50 full years ago.

2. Briefcase. Halliburton or better.

Only if No. 1 alone is insufficient.

3. Portable computer, Compaq original issue "luggable" DOS or better.

Haven't needed this yet.


What briefcase is better than a Halliburton?


Roger.


You mentioned 'Automation' multiple times. There's no magic solution out there. CRM system(any of the bigger names really) will do email automation,lead tracking, sales funnel,etc.

What's your product?

Is it an easy to use utility that doesn't cost much or is it huge enterprise software that'd require at least 5 rounds of lunches with CTOs before they even consider?

If it's former- invest in marketing, if it's latter- start thinking how you'll get in touch with leads,etc.

Don't try to automate everything,or you'll be just another one on LinkedIn who sends these standard,off the mill sales cadence messages with the hopes someone will pick it up.


> Don't try to automate everything,or you'll be just another one on LinkedIn who sends these standard,off the mill sales cadence messages with the hopes someone will pick it up.

This times 1000x. Don’t automate your sales. It’s a technical founder trap. Sales = people = genuine connections. Read their LinkedIn, try and find a connection / shared interest and craft a tailor made message. You’ll think this costs a lot of time, but it’s well worth it.

If anything study people / interaction dynamics. A good timeless book is “How To Make Friends and Influence People”.

With that you’ll quench your automation thirst when you realise that there _are_ psychological frameworks that you can utilise to “automate” your interactions and take away some of the magic and randomness.

Other than that, it’s just a numbers game ;-)


I 75% agree :-) Sales (like public relations and many other things is mostly about relationships--at least unless it's basically a B2C numbers game but now we're more into marketing than sales). And it's probably more useful to default to that mindset than to assume that if you just have the right tech stack you'll never need to talk to anyone.

That said, you do probably want content marketing (e.g. a blog), emails, data of various sorts, etc. so it's not just about making personal connections--again depending upon the nature of the product.


Fair point, I mentioned automation probably because of my background. But honestly, I am asking more in general about tooling. To make an analogy, I could write code in Notepad or in Sublime Text / Vim. If I were to start coding today, I would like someone to point me in the Sublime Text direction.

Does that make sense? Is there anything similar for Sales in terms of recommended tooling?


Ran sales at Predictable Revenue for 4 years, here's what we use:

- process first - then train people - then find software to enable the process

I imagine dev may be similar so apologies for the covering the bases. I find many people jump into tools without building good process first.

For process - start with your pipe and qualification stages (if you want a helpful breakdown search Jaimie Buss MEDDPICC - she's VP Sales at Zendesk and forecasts quarterly rev within 1%).

Then figure out your call plans (scripts/outlines) based on above qual methodology.

If you do those two manually in Google sheets you'll be better off than wasting time implementing tech.

FWIW:

CRM = salesforce Engagement = outreach Data = zoominfo Notes = Dooly

That last one is more important than it seems because it ties together your methodology and your CRM when done well.


> - process first - then train people - then find software to enable the process

This is golden advise. Most companies go in opposite direction - good salespeople sell BS, software is purchased, frustrated people work with it, and noone reaches the process part, which is of outmost importance here.

It's much easier to rely on salespeople who promise "revenue increase XX% after buying" which is at least misleading.


Thank you for the process first suggestion. Looked into MEDDPICC and looks quite interesting. Any other recommendations on resources to get started on a good sales process for someone without a sales background?


+1.


I ran sales for Pagely for 5yrs and we used:

- GetProspect.io and hunter.io for lead research

- Reply.io for cold outreach automation

- Segment.io for routing data to various services (eventually replaced with BigPicture.io as it was cheaper and yielded various intel on site visitors)

- Zapier for glue amongst systems

- Clearbit for lead enrichment

- Optimizely for A/B testing landing pages

- Olark -> Intercom -> Drift -> Intercom for presales chat (Drift has sophisticated bot capabilities but it was overkill)

- Socedo for social media engagement automation (horrible fine print lock-in terms however - don't recommend)

- ActiveCampaign for cross-medium, intelligent lead nurture. I built a fairly sophisticated set of automations for this that's demo'd here: https://pagely.com/blog/b2b-sales-process/ They've subsequently switched to Hubspot

- Google Analytics / Google Data Studio for monitoring metrics and old fashioned Google Sheets for tracking KPI's

FWIW you can find all this publicly here: https://builtwith.com/pagely.com <- there's a few services out there like BuiltWith that show the tech stack employed by domain. Useful for researching what technology your competitors are using. Get their Chrome Ext here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/builtwith-technolo...


Thank you for the blog post / demo, very insightful.


For our company (we have a SAAS product for university researchers to run experiments online), the big ones that are working for us at the moment are:

- ActiveCampaign (https://www.activecampaign.com/)

Marketing Automation - you can create email campaigns (send this, then in a week send this, and then if they clicked on email A then send email C, otherwise email D, etc etc). I know you asked for sales stack, but this does the first two bullets in your list.

- Pipedrive (https://www.pipedrive.com/)

This lets you manage your sales funnel, move things from stage to stage as you get closer to closing, and so on. Also has automations where you can e.g. change properties on a deal automatically when it moves to a new stage

The other big part is Zapier - in my experience there are TONS of sales/marketing tools and sooner or later you end up using a few and then glueing bits of your process together using Zapier (if they don't have the integrations built in). There are also big, all-in-one platforms like HubSpot, but they tend to be dauntingly expensive for small companies.

In general, we've found that we've needed to experiment a bit to get the internal process right, and then figure out which tools fit us, rather than starting with the tools and bending what we do to how they're set up.

In our case, the basic idea is that if someone interacts with our site and signs up for a newsletter, say, they get put into ActiveCampaign so we can send them an email campaign. If they do something a bit more meaningful (e.g. request for pricing, or fill in a form for a sales enquiry) we might automatically then add a deal to Pipedrive which the sales team can then follow up on.

EDIT: links


@nikoraisu so you use Pipedrive in addition to ActiveCampaign for the kanban aspect of managing deals through the sales cycle? @rishabhkaul1 also mentioned that he's trying to figure out how to manage his funnel process and looking at adding Pipedrive. I'm just curious why you don't use the kanban-style deal tracking pipelines in AC for this rather than bolt on additional software? You can trigger stage moves, status changes, etc or have those events as goals in automations that trigger emails/slack messages/etc. Do you gain some other benefit by adding Pipedrive to your stack vs. just using the native AC functionality for this? Given that both of you mentioned it maybe I'm missing something...


Thank you so much! These are very helpful. I am quite familiar with Integromat which works similar to Zapier so it should be simple to glue the rest of our tools together.


Also a HubSpot user here. HubSpot seems ubiquitous, but extremely restrictive. I don’t know if I want to stay on it long-term. The contact pricing seems laughable to me. I want to automate reaching out to thousands of contacts, not dozens or hundreds.

Founder of a consultancy, so we’re lead heavy and not marketing heavy as another poster here mentions. I have the same questions. I don’t enjoy most email campaign websites. So I’m hoping some people have some good feedback to share here. I don’t think there’s a good marketing solution in that space. It’s best to stick with what is cheapest or who everyone uses, but I can’t decide between any of the existing incumbents.

As for generating leads, almost all of the existing platforms out there are so poor that I’d rather just scan the local corporation commission’s business entity search and go from there.


Assuming you've got opt-in, one of the ways is to split your lists among between 2 providers. One list for core Hubspot type CRM, and the other list for something like mailchimp. You'll have to figure out some logic as to which one goes where. That's basically what we did at our previous startup.


So you want to spam thousands of people?


At my company (StoragePug) we use:

-HubSpot for sales CRM, for email marketing, and for our website. Easy to set up email templates and automated follow-up sequences, and there's a huge benefit to having your sales CRM be the same system you're using for email marketing & website because you have a really granular view of what a lead has engaged with that isn't there if you have a separate email marketing tool.

-JustCall for dialer/phone system.

-Canva for presentation decks (a designer can set up great templates that will look good even when folks like me who are design-challenged are building a new deck)

-Zoom for discovery calls / product demos (and Zoom webinars for marketing events)

-Loom for video sales letters (and for internal training videos)

-Google Workspace


- A simple Static webpage for general information. This is updated about once a year.

- email for writing to customers. No automated emails or boilerplate.

- smartphone for speaking to customers. We use a combination of FaceTime, WhatsApp, and Signal so the calls are free but also because the audio quality is way better than a normal telephone call. We also use IM’s. This seems to mostly happen on WhatsApp and is customer driven.

- Word, Excel, and Keynote for documents.

- Pixelmator Pro for graphics.


As a technical cofounder also going into sales the first time, I'd love to also hear advice on the basics (i.e., not a bunch of apps to buy, but how to organize your thinking and approach to at least get started). I'm also selling B2B SaaS - remote work collaboration; https://asyncgo.com for reference.


Check out Predictable Revenue - I was spinning my wheels as a technical guy for many years, and that book really clicked for me:

https://www.amazon.com/Predictable-Revenue-Business-Practice...

Also, stay away from comment boards online that denigrate sales and other normal, necessary activities for your business. If you can find a community of folks doing the same thing, that is also very helpful to keep your head in the game.

For others who are reading who may not be in SaaS yet, or who are in more services-oriented businesses, check out Built to Sell:

https://www.amazon.com/Built-Sell-Creating-Business-Without/...

Sales is a skill, like programming, running, or playing an instrument. Anything learn to do it, and if you can tie decent sales ability to good technical chops to build and create, you'll be unstoppable.


I am just a sole proprietor for my “business.”

I love to write (love it!) so I have written 20+ books on topics that most interest me.

Writing has opened so many doors for me: allowed me to do paid for AI work since 1982 even though my degree is in physics; I have met many interesting people because I am an author (famous people very much better than I am in almost any metric who still seem happy to talk with me); some income generated (but my primary life income is occasional highly paid work - since graduating from college in the 1970s I have probably averaged working about 20 hours a week).

There is so much interesting and creative work in the world that the big problem for individuals and small companies is getting noticed. Writing fixes this problem for me.

Pardon the self promotion, but my recent books are available for free on my personal web site https://markwatson.com where I also offer free mentoring. I think the Dali Lama has it exactly right: the more you give, the more you receive.


Prospect Identification:

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Custom scraping scripts to build lists from other online sources (relevant to our niche)

Email searching:

Hunter: https://hunter.io/

CRM:

Close.io https://www.close.com

Handles everything, emails, sequences, opens, follow ups, calls, notes, etc. Has a nice API to customise workflows with other tools if needed.

People (The most important):

Hungry, and motivated to help. We can train other skills, but we can't teach desire to sell or close, and we can't teach the "helpful" mindset that is so key to consultative selling. We're solving problems, not presenting the solution and its features, so we hire people who genuinely want to help our target customers, not just any rando who can dial phones and talk smoothly.


At some point, when and if you're paying commissions or other variable compensation, I have to recommend QuotaPath (quotapath.com). Coming from a technical background, you might be confused and slightly horrified to discover how often people run commissions out of complicated, semi-sentient Excel spreadsheets that are often incorrect let alone unwieldy. Having a an easy commissions process can make a sales organization easier to run, sure, but earnings transparency can make sales people more effective at selling. Getting it right early on can pay dividends going forward.

It's probably obvious, but I should disclose that I'm a co-founder at QuotaPath. If anyone from HN ends up giving it a shot, let me know. We're always happy to get feedback.


I enjoy how on quota path you can enter infinite amounts of seats, now it says my pricing will be $3.240000000000001e+76T/yr USD


Lots of good tools mentioned already in this thread, but one I don't see listed yet (that I use) is Apollo.io. It has lead list building, email verification and automation built in to a single tool that is very reasonably priced relative to the competition.


Love the Apollo.io suggestion! It really seems to have a lot of great features including linkedin prospecting and email sequences. Will definitely check it out.


Feedly Buffer Google docs (script) Trello (list) Phone

Check out "one page marketing plan" - "how to become a rainmaker" - "traction" -

"way of the wolf" is a bit manipulative but can help write the sales script


Sales is no engineering problem you can just automate my dude, here is a brief description what to do https://youtu.be/8snbL_kVmXw


I don't have a "stack" yet but I have run across a few tools in my searches. One, Rasa.io, seems particularly interesting and not so pricey as 12,500 contacts are currently $142/mo. The other, Encharge, seems to be priced similarly. For me, neither would have worked. Rasa uses Fb, Twitter etc to pull from and I prefer more obscure sources and Encharge does the emailing for you...it's not self hosted. But both look like they might fit your criteria. hth


At RudderStack

- CRM: Salesforce

- Marketing: Customer.IO for engagement emails, MailChimp for newsletter

- Google Analytics: Web Analytics

- Amplitude: Product Analytics

- Snowflake + Looker : For cross business dashboarding. Every interaction on the website/product is dumped into Snowflake. Also pull data from our CRM

- Slack + Zoom: For all internal and customer communication

Everything is integrated via RudderStack (not surprisingly :)

We also have some lead scoring (based on product usage) models running on Snowflake using DBT which we sync back to Salesforce using RudderStack.


- Salesclover.com for BDRs/MRAs

- Linkedin Premium for Outreach

- Outreach.io for e-mail outreach

- Salesforce for Pipeline

- Gong for sales training on calls

- Founders for leads that have been through the funnel that we deem high value.

We saw a huge advantage as soon as we moved the bulk of the process to BDRs/MRAs and let our founders focus on the most impactful deals in the funnel.


I have some materials and a full process I can share with you Andrew @ AM Escher .com no spaces. It’s a full step by step process including how to set up positioning and scripts which are important.


At my company (Saas for SMBs), we use:

Webflow - marketing site, blog, help docs, changelog

Audienceful for Webflow - for publishing content to Webflow, sending email newsletters, capturing email sign ups, social post automation, and other stuff (we're in the beta and know the founders, killer tool: https://audienceful.com )

Crisp - Live chat and shared team inbox for inbound leads

Lemlist/Reply.io - For cold email (outbound)

Builtwith - For finding leads who use our competitors

Fathom - GDPR friendly analytics for our landing page (so much easier to understand than Google analytics, especially the horrible new GA4)

Keyword listening - we use a bunch of tools for this to find leads outbound, like F5Bot, PMAlerts, Google Alerts, Tweetdeck, etc.

Hubspot CRM - but are not loving how clunky the UI is

Slack - for all team notifications (eg. new inbound lead from Crisp, etc)

Notion/Airtable - for project management and creating mini-CRMs for quick outbound experiments

Here's how our sales process works:

Inbound, we attract visitors from Google with SEO content published to Webflow via Audienceful, then collect email leads on that content. We keep those leads warm and eventually convert them with email newsletters (where we share valuable information, not sales offers) created via Audienceful.

On the inbound side, we also get some leads from Live Chat and social, but most customers are coming in from the SEO content and email newsletter.

Outbound, we assemble leads off Linkedin/Niche industry sites/Builtwith/our newsletter/etc. then qualify those leads and put them into Hubspot (or just airtable if it needs to be quick) to systematically reach out and track email communication we have with them.


Since you use four (!) keyword listening tools, I'd be happy to show you another. In addition to the ones you use, syften.com supports Slack communities, dev.to, stack exchange, upwork and a few other places. I'm happy to onboard you personally, I'd really appreciate your feedback and would love to see how you set it up.


Thanks for mentioning PMAlerts! If you'd like to connect and try out a leadgen feature (currently in private preview), I'd love to see if we can turn some of the signals you're catching into qualified leads. Feel free to email me if you're interested: m@pmalerts.com


Thanks for sharing this. Audienceful looks promising, will definitely check it out.

Hubspot CRM is indeed an eyebleed :( wish there were better alternatives.


Wow this list is super useful. Thanks for sharing.


This question would be a good one for the RevGenius community. Are you a member yet? No costs and a bunch of folks will hop on zoom to walk you through.


Thanks Jared, I will give it a shot.


Here's something that works great and is free/cheap/supereconomical with great user experience and ease of use

CRM, telephony, online sales - https://Bitrix24.com

Email marketing - https://Mailchimp.com

Customer surveys - https://Surveymonkey.com

Whatsapp/SMS - https://Twilio.com


CRM: Salesforce

MAP: Marketo

Conversational AI: Drift

Call recording/analysis: Gong

Salesforce dashboard/forecasting: Clari

Outbound/sequencing: Outreach & LinkedIn Navigator

Customer calls: Zoom

Data: Clearbit/Demandbase/6sense


Are you big game hunting or dialing for dollars? Different set of criteria


A good handshake, and industry knowledge


God, I miss a good handshake, getting pretty tired of the ALWAYS awkward elbows or fistbumb introductions


FB ads - nothing matches with facebook.


What is your business/sector? Blanket statements like this are rarely useful, even if they are true


Thank you for asking this.


My personal tech stack is asking the hiring manager 'Is there any sales involved?' And then declining the job if there is.

I really admire people who do sales, because it's one thing I'm just not suited for.


This is a really unuseful answer and I’m really curious to know why you even bothered responding.

For those of us who are technical people moving into sales this is a valuable question.


I found it useful. "Being in sales" is a moral grey area for a lot of us, so it's interesting to see the response when someone indirectly challenges those that don't share that viewpoint.


Also super useful for technical founders.




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