Closing Time

Lessons From Sales History: How To Build a B2B Sales Tech Stack That Works

The average B2B sales tech stack continues to grow and become more powerful – with research showing that high-performing sales teams use 3x more sales tools than underperforming teams. But is that a good thing? Or is it getting in the way of viewing the world through the eyes of the buyer?

In this episode of Closing Time, Todd Caponi will use sales history as a guide to optimize our tech stack decisions, talk about building a winning tech stack that’s right for your team, and restore the sales profession to its once-admired roots.

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History of the Telephone in Sales

The history of B2B sales technology is a story of innovation and progress, but it’s also a cautionary tale about the dangers of losing sight of the customer in our quest for growth and efficiency.

One invention stands out as the biggest sales technology revolution of all time: the telephone. When Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call on March 10th, 1876, it changed the way businesses communicate with each other forever.

However, despite the potential of the telephone, salespeople have ruined it and other technologies, such as email, by becoming too focused on scale and ignoring the needs of the customer. For example, there are currently 221 million phone numbers on the do-not-call registry because salespeople have abused the technology.

As we look to the future of sales technology, it’s important to learn from our mistakes and think about how we’ve used technology in the past to optimize it in the future. Rather than just focusing on scale, we need to prioritize the needs of the customer and use technology in a way that enhances the sales process, rather than detracts from it.

History of B2B Sales Technology

Let’s take a little trip down sales history lane: In 1916, a sales conference took place in Detroit, attended by 3000 people, including President Woodrow Wilson as the keynote speaker. At the time, sales was considered a respected and admired profession, and salespeople were seen as the vessel for establishing the US as a world power during World War One. The idea was that selling the right products to the right people at the right time and price, honestly and transparently, would lead to success for all.

However, with the proliferation of technology, this trust has eroded – technology has allowed salespeople to lose their face-to-face, human-to-human connection with customers. The creation of caller ID, the do-not-call registry, and spam filters were all necessary because of salespeople.

Looking forward, there is an opportunity to use technology for good by ensuring we maintain a human connection with customers and using technology to make us more efficient and effective.

Ultimately, the purpose of sales is to be responsible for selling the right products to the right people at the right time and price, with transparency and honesty.

The Future of B2B Sales

The role of salespeople is evolving, and the future of sales is centered around the idea of salespeople acting as Sherpas for their buyers. This means doing the homework for the buyer and helping them reach a conclusion on whether a solution is worth pursuing, regardless of whether it’s with you or with someone else.

To achieve this, salespeople need to focus on two things: using technology to help buyers reach better conclusions and reaching those conclusions faster. Unfortunately, many technology investments are based solely on the idea of scale, which leads organizations to focus on pitching to as many people as possible. This approach can be harmful to the buyer, as seen with the abuse of email.

Instead, the buyer needs to be put first, and technology should be used to enhance the sales process. By focusing on the buyer and using technology to support them in their decision-making process, salespeople can provide greater value and establish themselves as trusted advisors. In this way, sales technology can help salespeople achieve their ultimate goal of helping buyers reach better outcomes sooner.

What to Consider BEFORE Buying the Tool

If you’re a sales leader considering adding to your tech stack, there are some things you should consider before investing in yet another platform.

The first step is to analyze your own buyer journeys with empathy. As a buyer, it can be challenging to make purchases, so think about how you can ease that journey. Ask yourself: will this technology help buyers buy more effectively with better outcomes? If the answer is no, move on. If yes, then ask: will this technology make your sales organization more effective and efficient?

Scale can be a dirty word if it’s blind to whether the buyer is experiencing a better outcome, but it can be a great word if it helps more buyers reach better outcomes. So always start with the buyer and think about how technology can help them before considering any new tech for your sales tech stack.

Keeping a Pulse on New Tech

As a sales leader, it can be overwhelming to keep up with all the sales platforms and innovations out there. However, it’s important to stay on the pulse of new technology to ensure you don’t miss out on something that can benefit your team. So, what can you do to stay informed and build a winning tech stack for your teams?

1. Be a part of communities where people share their experiences with new technologies. These communities can offer valuable insights and help you keep track of new tools that could be beneficial for your team. Also, it’s important not to live in your own little bubble, only viewing the world through the four walls of your work. This will lead to you missing out on useful information.

2. Buying everything in sight is not the answer either. The key is finding those great salespeople who can guide you through the upsides and downsides of new technology. It’s important to interact and share experiences with others in similar situations.

3. Think carefully about the technologies you add to your sales stack. While some technology can be incredibly useful, it’s essential to consider the potential risks and how it could be used for evil. By taking a thoughtful approach to your tech stack, you can ensure that you are choosing tools that will help your team and your buyers reach better outcomes.


Let’s talk about the good and the evil of the sales tech stack. It’s up next in this episode of Closing Time Welcome to Closing Time, the show for go-to-market leaders. I’m Val Riley, head of content marketing at Insightly. and today I’m joined by Todd Caponi. He is an author and a speaker in the sales field and a self-described transparency nerd. Welcome to the show, Todd. Thanks for having me. And this topic I can’t wait to dig into because I’m also a bit of a sales history nerd, too. And there’s a lot that we can dig into as it relates to today’s sales tech stack. Which I know sounds weird, but I can’t wait to jump in. Yeah. So on our pre call for this one, Todd, you kind of blew me away the way you positioned the telephone. So I think we should start there. Yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. So today, when you look across the sales landscape, right? Technology is filling every remaining crevice that remains in the sales. Like there was a chart that I saw that had like all the different sales technologies available and the logos are so tiny on it, you’d need a high powered microscope to look. And that’s, that’s wild to me. And when you see those things, people are like, wow, we’re in a sales technology revolution. I would argue something different. I would argue that the greatest sales technology revolution actually was kicked off on March 10th of 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call. Right. Like sales tech revolution, the telephone was probably the biggest one of all time. And fast forward to today, the end of 2021. There were 221 million phone numbers on the do not call registry. Right. And those people they put their name on it because, I think salespeople ruined right. They ruined the telephone.. We’ve done this over and over again, where we’ve taken this technology and we’ve gotten blinded by this idea of scale and we stopped thinking about the customer and we did it with the telephone, we did it with email. We can dig into a little bit more. And I see us doing it over and over again with other technologies and, and that to me, if I was Alexander. Graham Bell, I’d be rolling over right now going, what happened? This is a great investment, a great invention. And the next thing you know, salespeople, they ruined it. And so that’s my perspective from like when we think about the future of technology, we got to think about how we’ve used technology before as a lens to how we can best optimize in the future, because I don’t think technology is bad. Yeah. You know, it took us a long time to ruin the telephone, but I feel like we ruined email pretty quickly. Yeah, you know, it’s funny. So let me tell you another little quick story. So 1916, it was July of 1916 there was a sales conference that was taking place in Detroit, Michigan, attended by 3000 people, and it was the first of its kind. So imagine a sales conference today, 3000 people. The keynote speaker was then. President Woodrow Wilson. Now that’s like imagine a conference today where like the sitting president of the United States shows up and is doing the keynote. Like why would that happen. Well in 1916, sales was actually a respected, trusted and in some cases even admired profession, meaning that at the time Woodrow. Wilson’s message and really the message throughout the sales community was listen the rest of the world is diving into World. War One, right? So they’re distracted. We as an economy and as a country had an opportunity to really take advantage of that and establish ourselves as a world power. And most people looked at the sales profession as the vessel for that to happen, sales people selling the right products to the right people at the right time, at the right price, and doing it honestly and transparently would lift all boats, because when those customers, those customers in those companies succeed, they hire more, they spend more, the economy grows, and we all grow from that. Right. And so that is the lens that I look at. What was the difference? Well, thinking about that chart that. I talked about that’s got all the logos on it, I labored and created a very similar chart. Oh, actually, it was a blank piece of paper. The technology chart in 1916. There was nothing on it. Right. That’s the difference. I think with this proliferation of technology, we’ve eroded that trust that people have with the sales profession too. And I believe it comes down to this salespeople in 1916 if you were going to sell, you had to do it face to face. You had to do it door to door, human to human, you had to look at people in the eyes. Technology allowed us to lose our face, to lose our eye contact, to lose that human to human. We can make phone calls right and even have to look at you. I could send emails. Well, I could sell a million of them in a minute. Right? That was the beginning of the end. And the erosion of the relationship that buyers started to have with salespeople. And to your point, we did it with the telephone. We needed technologies invented to help prevent salespeople from making calls like Dr. Shirley Jackson’s invention that led to the creation of caller ID. That didn’t work. We needed the government to get involved with the do not call registry. Email. Same thing, credible gift given to salespeople. We ruined it. We needed technologies created to help prevent salespeople from selling through, you know, spam filters and IP blacklists. And that didn’t work. And the government had to get involved again with 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. Right. And other countries have very similar ones. That’s because of salespeople, right? They’re a big contributor to that. I think to your point, we did that pretty fast. I look at LinkedIn. Incredible gift, right?. I can see your résumé. I can see your face,. I can see where you are. I see what you’re interested in. And my LinkedIn connection requests gross me out. Video, like all of these things. And to your point,. I think there’s an opportunity to use those gifts for good, not evil. And it’s not too late. Yeah. So I think what I hear you saying is we have to make sure we’re so human, right? We have all this plethora of this MarTech stack that can be, you know, overwhelming. But we still have to make sure we’re getting that human to human connection and then use those tools to make us more efficient in doing that, make us more effective in doing that. Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think the purpose of everything is to start with the purpose of what our responsibility is as a salesperson. And we’ve talked about it in some of these other episodes, but I just viewed that the kind of the future of sales is this idea that the sales person really should act as a Sherpa. Do the homework for the buyer, help them reach a conclusion or a prediction as to whether or not a solution is worthy, whether an outcome is worthy of going after, and whether it’s with you or with somebody else. Reach that conclusion by doing the homework for the buyer. Now, when we start there and work backwards and go at what technologies will help buyers reach a better conclusion and us being able to get to more buyers so they can reach those conclusions faster, I think those are really the two lenses that we need to think about because most technology investments that I see, a lot I guess most of them are based on this idea of scale, right? Like I almost feel like scale is a dirty word where organizations are so focused on let’s get to as many people as possible pitch as many people as possible. And it’s like, you know how we ruined email, let’s send out a million emails. And even if 1% say yes, that’s 1% we wouldn’t have gotten if we wouldn’t have sent a million emails. The sales profession seems to take that same lens and use technology to do that. And I think we’ve got to reverse course on that. And again, put the buyer first. So if I’m a sales leader and I’m considering adding to my tech stack, what are the questions? What are the litmus tests that I should do before I say, OK, we’re going to add yet another platform? Well, yeah, I think it starts with analyzing your own buyer journeys that your buyers go through. It starts with that level of empathy that says, hey, as a buyer,. I’ve got a lot of priorities. It’s hard for me to make purchases. We’ve talked about this in a recent episode about this idea that consensus buying is hard. Remote consensus buying is harder. What can we do to ease that journey for our buyers? Start there, analyze that, and then start to take that lens. Whenever we’re thinking about any technology, we’re going to bring it right. Is this technology that we’re bringing in going to help buyers buy more effectively with better outcomes? A. And then if the answer is no, stop, move on. If the answer is yes, then go. All right. Is this a technology that we can bring in that’s going to make our sales organization more effective, more efficient, and help buyers reach better outcomes? And get some more buyers right? Like scale can be a dirty word. It’s blind to whether the buyer is experiencing a better outcome scale could be a great word when it’s, hey, we can help more buyers reach better outcomes and do this much more cleanly. That’s the lens. Does it help buyers if yes, go to the second question. If no, move on. The second question again is, all right, does this allow our organization to achieve better outcomes for more buyers? Do it more effectively, more efficiently, less cost. But it’s always got to start with the buyer. Those are really actionable steps for our listeners. And I actually appreciate it. I know that sometimes sales leaders might feel like if they don’t keep a pulse on like all of the sales platforms out there, that they might miss something, they might miss that next technology or miss the boat on something that can really help their team. So what are some things that sales leaders can do to make sure that they’re kind of staying on the pulse of things? But obviously, as you mentioned, so many techs out there that could get overwhelming very quickly. Yeah, I mean,. I think it’s just a matter of you know, one of the things that’s great about the 2020s is all of the communities that we see rising up everywhere. I mean, even for me personally, I’m a member of a couple where I get opportunities to ask questions and have, you know, some of these communities that people are sharing like, Hey, I just used this tech and it helped me here and right, like get involved. I think for any leader, any salesperson, any marketer, anybody that if all we’re doing is living in our own little bubble and viewing the world through only the four walls of what we do every single day, we are absolutely going to miss those. But the alternative which I see companies doing is let’s freaking buy everything right, we’ll try everything right and see how it goes. And like, I think that’s crazy, too. There’s people out there that are a lot like you that are experiencing things and getting gains that you’ve got an opportunity to interact with and share and then find those great salespeople that can be a Sherpa and aren’t afraid to tell you what the downside is along with the upside. That combination, I think, is a killer when it comes to the future of selling. But more importantly, the way that we think about growing our tech stocks, because again, some of it is really good, but a lot of it that’s good can still be used for evil. And we’ve just got to think about that. Todd, this is great. I really do feel like we gave our viewers some actionable takeaways. Thank you for your time. Yeah. And thanks for letting me get a little history nerdy, too. That was fun. I love it. The telephone. You know, I guess it’s a good thing. Alexander Graham Bell, his assistant, didn’t like kick it to voicemail or not pick up right. Would have been funny. Yes. All right, everybody, thanks for joining us on this episode of Closing Time, the show for go-to-market leaders. Don’t forget, subscribe, hit that bell for notifications so you don’t miss a thing. We’ll see you next time.

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