If you’re a startup founder or the first sales hire at a startup, you know just how harsh the market is. Customers think your product is too immature, your brand has no reputation, your company is too young and your team is too unprofessional. The leverage you have in any deal is so minuscule, it’s almost laughable.
Ideally, you could build out a solid team of Sales Development Reps, Sales Engineers and Account Executives to get leads into the pipeline, qualify them and move each potential customer through the sales cycle. But since you’re the only sales person in the company, you’re doing everything. You need to get resourceful in order to get your foot in the door.
Here are the most useful sales automation tools for startups:
- Clearbit: Clearbit is one of those solutions that really surprise you when you try it. It’s a little difficult to really see the value of their product just by looking at their website, but when you try it out, your eyebrows will perk up and you will silently mouth the word, “whoa!” While you can build very powerful internal tools with their APIs, I’ve mostly used the Google Sheets Integration and Clearbit Connect (Gmail Add-On), and they are incredible. Their Google Sheets Integration helps you populate companies and contacts, while ClearBit Connect is a must-have Gmail Add-On that helps you find email addresses and gives you insight into who you’re reaching out to.
- Rapportive: Though Rapportive has been around for awhile, it’s still one of the best ways to (1) verify email addresses and (2) get quick LinkedIn information about the contact. It’s another Gmail Add-On that takes up space on the right side of your inbox and whenever you start an email or hover over an address, information about the person immediately pops up on the sidebar. It sometimes clashes with other sidebar Add-Ons (Clearbit Connect, Hubspot, etc.), but it’s still my favorite one to have in that location.
- Yesware: Yesware used to have a free plan, but earlier this year, they switched to a paid-only model. But at $12/month, it’s not a huge cost. Out of all the “email tracking” apps out there (ie. Sidekick, Tout, BananaTag, etc.), I find Yesware to be the easiest and simplest one to use. It’s fast and has a no-frills attitude towards email automation.
- Hubspot: If you don’t want to shell out money for Yesware, Hubspot Sales Tools (previously called SideKick), is the next best thing. It’s free and gives you most of the functionality that Yesware provides (email tracking, templates, etc.). However, as a caveat, you’ll also have to deal with all the other Hubspot marketing tools that you may not need or want. It’s a bit cluttered, but it’s still a good alternative to Yesware.
- PersistIQ: This is a relatively new company that provides a simple cold email and follow-up email solution. When you connect it with your email account, you give it permission to start sending emails on your behalf. You can set 4 or 5 follow up emails that will automatically send over the course of a few days if you don’t get a response. Very handy if you’re cold emailing hundreds of people a day.
- Mail Tester: You wouldn’t be the first one to laugh at the sight of this webpage, but I still use it for basic email verification when all other methods fail. It’s not a guarantee as it seems like more and more companies are figuring out ways to thwart this simple email check, but sometimes, it’s all you need to get the job done.
- LinkedIn Premium: LinkedIn has become the de facto source for a person’s job title and employment history. It’s essentially an online resume for almost every professional out there. Over the last couple years, LinkedIn has been slowly limiting “commercial usage” by reducing the number of profiles you can view during a search and is very restrictive when it comes to building in-house scraper tools to generate lead lists. For better or for worse, the LinkedIn Premium plan has becomes a necessity for sales and recruiting teams alike. You have access to unlimited profiles and additional “InMail” messages.
- Email Hunter: Use the Email Hunter LinkedIn plugin tool and you get an “Email Hunter” button that shows up on every LinkedIn profile view. Click it and it tries to “guess” the email address of the contact. It’s not totally accurate (I’d say maybe 60% of the time), but it saves you quite a bit of time if it works.
In a startup, you have to search for and use all resources you can find to help you compete against larger sales teams. There are a lot of tools out there, but not all of them are right for startups. This is the setup that I’ve used and is proven to work.