Your Sales Tech Shopping Spree - A Buyer’s Guide

Tis the season to buy sales tech


'Tis the season to be shopping. Not just for your friends and family, but spending some cash to supercharge your sales team.


Maybe you have end-of-year budget to spend, or you’re planning your sales tech spend for 2020.


Where sales tech should you buy?

Do you know the differences between Sales Engagement, Sales Enablement or Sales Readiness Platforms? What about a Learning Experience Platform (LEP) or a Learning Management System (LMS)?


What about the overlap from the more Sales-focused LMS platforms? Confused yet?


You’re not alone.


What we’ve noticed is there’s a lot of confusion on what kind of platforms are available, what each sales tech platform does, when to buy, and who to buy from to build a sales tech stack that works for you. 


And because of this, nobody knows how to label what they’re looking for. The result? Sales tech that’s cool, but doesn’t solve the problem you have and ends up needing to be ripped out later in the year, putting your personal brand at risk.


Let’s use a fun analogy to set the scene - 'tis the season after all.


You’re running down Rodeo Drive, or through a shopping mall. There are so many options to choose from! Where should you shop? (TL;DR: See Sales Tech Mall)


Most of you won’t have Richard Gere spotting the bill. So let’s make sure your upcoming shopping spree gets you all of the outfits you’ll need.  

The Sales Tech Stack 

Having done hundreds of conversations and feedback calls, here’s how we view the market.

The buckets of sales tech

(PS - we’re just focusing on sales tech here. For the full picture, check out Nancy Nardin’s Tech Landscape or Nicholas de Kouchkovsky's Sales Hacker article).


Here are the tool categories we’re going to focus on in this article.


Now first off, no tool is perfect and no bucket is going to do every single thing and then some. There are no easy fixes here.


So do your research and understand what’s in style.


If you do have the time, here are the resources you should review.


But for those that don’t have the time right now, skip these links and keep reading!

There seems to be some overlap... 

You might be struggling to tell these acronyms apart.


And that’s pretty fair. 


Historically, Sales bought a CRM and other sales tech, marketing bought a CMS and HR bought an LMS. 


But the continued emergence of the sales enablement role and function has muddied the waters.

There's a lot of overlap in the sales tech stack

So as you dive in, you quickly realize that these traditional buckets don’t map onto the categories of engagement, enablement, and corporate learning anymore. Not only that, but analysts and vendors all seem to disagree even on what goes where. For example, vendors are listed as Sales Enablement from some analysts, then the same vendors are listed in Sales Readiness or LMS from other analysts.


The result? Sales, enablement, and RevOps leaders end up not knowing who / what to follow when it comes to evaluating the tech stack.


But this isn’t just a disconnect around names. We’re also beginning to see functionality overlaps, further contributing to the confusion. 


For instance, in many cases, sales enablement teams don’t need an LMS to solve their training problems. But they don’t know what else to call it, so they default to LMS platforms.

Sales tech simplified

Ok - how about with the good ol’ donuts analogy:

  Sales tech explained with donuts

Where’s the market going?


Here’s where we see the market going, based on our research and talking with customers.


Sales Engagement

This category has gone completely mainstream and is going to get even more interesting now that Salesforce entered the market in 2019. SalesLoft and Outreach have built the market, with newer and smaller players now entering the mix as well.

Conversation Intelligence (Think Gong and Chorus)

This could go several ways. It could be grouped as part of the sales enablement suite or the sales engagement suite. We have seen Conversation Intelligence and Sales Engagement partnerships (Gong and Outreach) along with consolidation (SalesLoft and NoteNinja). This space is heavily funded and innovating at a rapid pace. It’s not inconceivable for Conversation Intelligence to become its category in the future, or it could become a critical foundation/enhancement to either the Sales Enablement or Sales Engagement space.

Sales Enablement (SAM/CMS)

Analysts have labeled the Sales Asset Management or Content Management System categories as Sales Enablement for the better part of the last decade. But any modern sales enablement practitioner will tell you enablement includes process, people, content, tools, coaching, and training. As such, we believe that Sales Readiness & CMS go hand and hand and together make up the Sales Enablement Suite. We’ve seen the beginnings of this validation from recent partnerships and consolidation (e.g. Showpad and Learncore).

Sales Readiness & LMS

These are not the same, but do have some overlapping features, which is ultimately creating confusion. Some have referred to Sales Readiness as a “Specialty LMS” or an “LMS for Sales”. I’m not convinced Sales Readiness is the best description, but it is better than LMS. The easiest way to differentiate is to ask yourself “is the tool for the entire company or just our customer-facing, go-to-market team?” Sales Readiness can be complementary to your typical and even more modernized LMS. The big difference is pricing - because it’s a specialty tool, sales readiness tools come at a higher price tag. But they solve sales needs far more effectively than a generic LMS.


Here comes myTrailhead! Salesforce entered the learning engagement platform (LEP) market with its highly anticipated launch of myTrailhead in 2019. myTrailhead will be the first to tell you that it is NOT an LMS, but an enriched learning experience for your employees. Similar to Sales Readiness, an LEP can be complementary to your corporate LMS.


Our point of view is that as the market keeps developing, and the definition of sales enablement becomes clearer, you’ll see a delineation between corporate learning, sales enablement & sales engagement categories. What’s becoming clear to us is innovative sales enablement leaders will create a mandate to drive revenue and measure outcomes in the CRM.

How to get the sales tech for you

Now we have a clearer picture of the options and the market trends, let’s get down to brass tacks and figure out what technology you need to buy.


  • Do you have a large outbound sales team and go-to-market strategy? Consider starting with a Sales Engagement platform (Outreach, SalesLoft).


  • Do your buyers LOVE content, assets, and collateral as part of their journey? Consider starting with a CMS (Seismic, Highspot).


  • Is your sales process a complex, tech/demo-heavy sale with multiple stakeholders? Look for Sales Readiness (A-hem, LevelJump, anyone?).


  • Is your go-to-market strategy heavily reliant on distribution through a channel partner? Go the LMS route (Lessonly).


  • Do you have a curious workforce looking for a modern, fun and easy way to engage and gamify corporate learning? Check out the emerging LEP category (myTrailhead).

What Should You Do Before Giving Your Credit Card? 

Before you commit to any solution, know your why.  Are you going to a wedding, or are you backpacking around New Zealand? This will determine which shoe store you’ll enter.


Just like you don’t expect The North Face to have blue suede shoes for your wedding, don’t expect to solve your ramp time challenges with a corporate LMS. Don’t get me wrong, a corporate LMS is a great too… it’s just not the right tool for the job since you’re looking for a sales readiness platform.

Final piece of shopping advice…

Don’t take my word for it. 


Before you go on your shopping spree, check out what others are saying on sites like G2Crowd.


The last thing you want to do is show up at a wedding wearing hiking boots or end up at the base of a mountain wearing blue suede shoes.


Happy shoppin'