Demystifying the Modern B2B Go-To-Market Tech Stack
If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the popular Go-to-Market (GTM) tech vendor landscapes that are chock-full of logos far too many to count. There is no question that there is a long list of GTM tools for buyers to pick from and in our conversations with Fortune 500 CIOs and startup revenue leaders alike, we consistently heard how complex this has made the GTM tech buying process. To address this challenge, we have drawn on our experience as investors to present a perspective on the modern B2B GTM tech stack.
We use the term B2B GTM to refer to every function in a B2B enterprise that engages a customer or potential customer, including sales, marketing and post-sales functions like implementation and customer success. For more than a decade, we have had the privilege of partnering with numerous technology companies that have now become core to the B2B GTM motion. From this vantage point we have observed the top trends impacting the industry as well as the products that are at the cutting edge of the B2B GTM tech stack.
Sapphire has a long history of backing B2B GTM technology companies:
Top B2B GTM Tech Trends to Watch
Before we dive into the tech stack itself, here’s what we view as the top trends in the industry today:
- Account-Based Marketing (ABM) in the Limelight. Adoption of ABM has been on a tear. The premise of ABM is that using intent data to personalize engagement with a focused set of accounts yields better results than traditional lead-based GTM, which is more scattershot in nature. Companies like 6sense take ABM a step further by not only providing intent data but also the engagement capability (e.g. email) which previously required separate tools like Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot. The rising tide of ABM is lifting all boats with new intent data providers such as Qualified, Databook and UserGems benefiting as well.
- Product-Led Growth (PLG) is Here to Stay. There is no question that PLG is top of mind for everyone in B2B GTM. But you can’t launch a PLG strategy overnight as it requires its own tech stack as well as changes to personnel and processes. This is where companies like Reprise, Walnut and Demostack can help by providing the capability to embed interactive product tours on your website as a starting point to becoming product-led. Ultimately, the goal of PLG is to get prospects using your product and then analyzing the product usage data they generate to identify the best accounts for your sales team to work on. “PLG CRMs” have emerged to do just that. The top-funded vendors in this category include Endgame, Pocus, Calixa, Correlated, HeadsUp, Groundswell and more that we discuss in our PLG CRM overview.
- Automating GTM Workflows with Customer Data. With the shift to the “modern data stack”, the data warehouse has quickly emerged as the data source-of-truth. However, it has historically been difficult to import customer data from the data warehouse into GTM tools and other SaaS applications. To address this, companies like Hightouch and Census developed “Reverse ETL” pipelines that sync customer data from the data warehouse to SaaS apps where GTM teams can use the data contextually as they work. Reverse ETL tools are now evolving into “Data Activation” platforms and shifting their focus to facilitating data-driven workflows such as notifying team members when a predefined event has occurred, adding/deleting users from marketing audiences etc.
- Connected Websites Accelerate Pipeline. If a CRM is the system of record for every prospect and the website is the digital front door, connecting both provides contextual information that GTM teams can use to personalize engagement with every visitor at their doorstep. By segmenting website visitors using data from the CRM and other sources, GTM teams can personalize how they engage with prospects, for example, deciding in real-time whether a prospect should receive the option for an instant live chat with a sales rep. This strategy, referred to as the “Pipeline Cloud”, results in a bespoke experience for each prospect and ultimately, increased pipeline generation from the website. For more on the Pipeline Cloud, check out this recent keynote from Qualified.
- Finally, New Tech for GTM Operations Teams. While the majority of innovation in GTM tech is focused on pipeline generation and increasing sales productivity, more tools are emerging to replace the spreadsheets that operations teams typically work out of. We recently partnered with CaptivateIQ to tackle sales commissions management which most companies still process in Excel, and in some cases, legacy tools like Xactly. Other companies like Fullcast are springing up to tackle real-time GTM planning. Finally, the abundance of GTM tech makes it easier than ever to trip the wires, which has created demand for products like Sonar that give RevOps the X-ray vision needed to keep the tech stack running smoothly.
- Post-Sales is Also Getting a Refresh. In the early days of the pandemic, it was nearly impossible to sell new deals, and given the circumstances, retaining existing customers became a far more important priority. Involve.ai emerged from this backdrop with a platform that predicts customer health and complements systems of action, such as Gainsight and ChurnZero, by providing data-driven health scores and complete visibility of all customer data. Implementation teams aiming to consistently deliver projects on time now have access to new software like GuideCX and Rocketlane. Mutual Action Plan startups like Recapped, Accord and BuyerAssist also help increase visibility and improve collaboration between sales, post-sales and buyers.
- A Surge in CRM Productivity Tools. Despite how tedious the traditional CRM platforms are to use, there’s just no way for sales reps to avoid keeping them up to date. This has created an opportunity for companies like Dooly and Scratchpad to develop fast, sleek interfaces that sync bi-directionally with CRMs and enable note-taking, task management, pipeline management and more. Other startups like Rattle and Momentum take a different approach by enabling sales reps to update the CRM through Slack. Finally, with new vendors like Vivun and Hub emerging, sales engineers now have an alternative to the dominant CRM platforms as well.
- Content Brought to You by AI. Over the last decade, content has emerged as a key competency for marketing. In general, there is still a dearth of workflow tools for content teams, however, companies like Pepper Content and Contentfly have started to fill that gap by augmenting under-resourced content teams with contract-based marketplaces. The launch of the GPT-3 API in 2020 demonstrated that AI can now generate high-quality text that is nearly indistinguishable from what a human would produce. This has been a boon for vendors like Jasper.ai, Peppertype, Copy.ai, Anyword and Scalenut that specialize in using AI to generate marketing copy.
- Community and Event Marketing Become More Data-Driven. The pandemic created the perfect conditions for virtual communities and events to flourish. While the benefits of increased audience reach and cost effectiveness are clear to see, to fully deliver on the opportunity, we believe community and event marketing teams still need to be empowered with data-driven insights that not only help them improve but also inform the next best actions that the GTM team can take to convert each prospect. Companies like Common Room and Commsor are tackling this for community teams, while Hubilo and Goldcast are focused on this for event marketing teams.
Overview of the Modern B2B GTM Tech Stack
In putting together our perspective on the modern B2B GTM tech stack, we made a few simplifying assumptions:
- This view of the B2B GTM tech landscape is not exhaustive but rather a point of view on what we consider to be the modern B2B GTM tech stack.
- The tech stack presented below represents what we consider a mature GTM organization with near-unlimited resources would be able to instrument. It’s unlikely that a company would need to invest in every single category listed here to run an effective GTM organization. This tech stack is intended to serve as a guide in deciding what categories to invest in based on company constraints or existing investments.
- Finally, our take on the tech stack assumes a completely cold lead that has not previously been engaged with.
The modern B2B GTM tech stack can be broken down into three categories:
- Pipeline Generation. This is the journey from a cold lead to a warm prospect and there are three distinct flavors of engagement: inbound, outbound and product-led growth (PLG). While these approaches appear siloed in our tech stack, in practice, the journey of any prospect traverses from inbound to PLG or outbound to inbound, and all the permutations in between.
- Deal Execution. Once you have a warm prospect that has been qualified and accepted by the sales team, the next question is: how do you close this opportunity? This section is dedicated to the various tools that a sales rep, as well as other members of the GTM team, can use to win a deal, from taking initial meetings with a prospect to performing a demo, generating a proposal, closing the deal and then handing off to the post-sales team.
- GTM Management & Operations. Finally, GTM teams are highly metrics driven which requires various management & operations activities to ensure pipeline generation and deal execution are working as expected. Within this section, we highlight various tools that aid in these processes.
And with that context, we are excited to share our visualization of the modern B2B GTM tech stack along with a link to the full list of companies included in the graphic:
Take a closer look at the modern B2B GTM tech stack here.
We define an inbound lead as a cold lead that engages with a vendor through Inbound Marketing Channels, which include content such as blogs, podcasts and videos, as well as advertising, review sites, events, communities and more.
The goal of inbound pipeline generation is to direct a lead to the Website. On the website, there are various technologies that can be implemented to identify each lead, determine the lead’s level of intent to purchase as well as engage with the lead.
Products in the Account Identification and ABM categories have developed several techniques to identify anonymous website visitors. Data and lead scores from Intent Data vendors as well as ABM vendors can then be used to determine the extent to which a lead is ready to purchase. Using Conversational S&M tools, companies can engage with prospects while they are right on the website either through automated chatbots or by having a sales rep engage directly with the prospect through live chat.
Other website technologies include Personalization tools that dynamically generate a web page customized for each site visitor. In addition, Product Tour vendors have developed technology to create and embed click-through demos on websites so that website visitors can simulate what it’s like to use the product. Companies can also leverage Scheduling tools on their website to enable leads to schedule meetings directly with sales reps.
The final aspect of the Inbound tech stack we highlight is Lead Capture, Scoring and Routing, which occurs in the background as the lead is identified on your website or provides their information in the process of filling out a form, scheduling a call with a sales rep and so on. This category includes CRMs, which serve as the system of record for all sales activities, as well as ABM platforms, which often come with lead scoring functionality of their own.
Lead Enrichment tools provide additional information on each identified lead including firmographic data, technographic data, job title, contact information, job change alerts, etc. Once the lead has been captured, scored and enriched, Account Matching and Lead Routing tools can match the contact to an existing account in the CRM and route the lead to the right sales rep on your team.
We use outbound to refer to the process of a company determining its ideal customer profile (ICP), building a prospect list, and segmenting the list to inform the best tactics to use in engaging these prospects.
Prospect Selection typically starts with a Contact Database that can be filtered down to the subset of accounts that fit the ICP. These accounts, along with any enrichment data in the contact database, can then be pushed into the CRM. The next step is Prospect Segmentation where Intent Data providers and ABM platforms help segment the prospect list using the proprietary intent scores that their algorithms generate.
Based on the segments created in the prior step, companies can then decide exactly how to engage these prospects. For example, a prospect that perfectly matches the ICP and demonstrates a high intent to purchase may warrant an Outbound Call, whereas a prospect that is still in the early stages of researching the market may be best served by a nurture campaign managed through a Marketing Automation Platform or an outbound email sequence using a Sales Engagement tool. Other ways to prospect include using Direct Mail and Gifting, as well as Relationship Selling tools that can help find a connection who has a strong relationship with a particular prospect.
Product-Led Growth (PLG)
We define PLG as a GTM strategy where the product is the primary vehicle for driving customer acquisition, activation, retention and expansion. For a deep dive into what PLG is and why it is important, check out our recent post on the topic here.
Though PLG has elements of inbound and outbound embedded within it, it is distinguished by the fact that leads actually get to use the product while they are still in the early stages of the sales process. In addition, the data generated by these leads as they use the product is at the very heart of the PLG motion.
Similar to inbound, a PLG motion can take advantage of Inbound Marketing Channels to funnel leads to the website for conversion into product signups. Once leads sign up, Product Usage Data can be collected using Product Analytics tools, Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) and Enterprise Data Warehouses (EDW).
The data from any of these sources can then be pushed into a PLG CRM through integrations. Alternatively, Reverse ETL tools can be used as “pipes” for pulling data from the EDW into the PLG CRM (as well as other SaaS applications). Once the data is in the PLG CRM, each account or user can be scored based on previously configured criteria (e.g. number of logins, number of collaborators invited, number of channels created etc.). At this point, a PLG motion starts to look similar to an outbound motion. After a lead has been scored in the PLG CRM, the GTM team can then use customer segmentation to determine the next best action to drive the lead deeper into the sales funnel. This could include engaging with the lead through chat, email, nurture campaigns, etc. depending on the quality of the lead and the results of the segmentation exercise.
Sales & Sales Engineering Meetings
Every new opportunity is vetted by the sales team and opportunities that are accepted move on to meetings between sales, sales engineering and the prospective customer. Sales Enablement vendors provide platforms for marketing and sales to develop presentations, one-pagers etc. that can be used as context for meetings and shared with prospective customers. With the majority of sales conversations happening over the phone, video conferencing and email, Conversational Intelligence tools have emerged to keep a record of every sales touchpoint and provide insight into the health of each deal and the performance of each sales rep.
Sales reps are typically working multiple deals at a time which means that they often fall behind on keeping the CRM up-to-date, causing problems for sales operations and sales leadership who need the latest data to manage the business. Multiple CRM Productivity tools have emerged to solve this by making it easy for sales reps, as well as sales engineers, to keep their pipeline updated – typically by providing an intuitive UI that is connected to the CRM or by leveraging existing tools (e.g. Slack) to collect and sync updates into the CRM.
Additionally, new vendors have emerged to enable sales engineers deliver Live Demos without having to manage and maintain a traditional demo environment which can cost significant time and money. Finally, Value Management products have risen in popularity to enable sales reps build and present an ROI case as well as iterate on the ROI equation in collaboration with prospects.
Proposal, Negotiation & Close
Once an opportunity progresses to the later stages of the sales process, it’s time to generate a proposal, negotiate and close the deal. This starts with the Configure, Price & Quote (CPQ) process. Various standalone vendors are available in this category in addition to the solutions provided by CRM vendors. Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) tools can be used to manage the legal documents and workflows associated with negotiation and collecting signatures. Finally, with Security & Trust reviews now commonplace in the sales process, several vendors have emerged with products that make it easier for sellers to communicate their organization’s security policies, as well as for buyers to evaluate and track their vendors on an ongoing basis.
After a deal is signed, implementation comes to the fore. Leveraging dedicated Implementation and Mutual Action Plan tools is an important way to continue to deliver a best-in-class experience for new customers. These platforms provide visibility into the implementation process, as well as manage key vendor and customer deliverables to ensure that the kickoff or launch is as successful as possible.
From there, the Customer Success team becomes actively involved in managing the customer relationship and ensuring customers realize the ROI case constructed during the sales process. Customer success teams now have a variety of tools they can use to plan and track their activities, as well as programmatically monitor customer health and orchestrate next best actions to enable customers in their journey to adopt and deepen their use of the product.
GTM Managment & Operations
While customer-facing teams are squarely focused on driving pipeline generation and deal execution, there is a constant effort running in the background to monitor the entire sales process and tech stack in order to ensure that it’s operating effectively. This responsibility falls on the GTM Operations teams which could include RevOps, Sales Ops, Marketing Ops etc. depending on the organization.
One of the key roles of operations teams is Pipeline Management and Forecasting, which involves tracking the activity of sales reps in order to develop as accurate a sales forecast as possible.
In GTM Planning & Compensation, multiple vendors have emerged to automate sales commissions management. In addition, there are early-stage companies focused on handling the need for real-time GTM planning given the dynamic nature of GTM orgs.
The complexity and interconnectedness of the modern GTM tech stack has given rise to the Change Intelligence category that gives operations team members who focus on managing GTM systems the ability to visualize how different tools in their stack are connected. This becomes extremely handy when seeking to make changes to integrations, reports, etc. without inadvertently taking down the entire tech stack.
Finally, given that developing an engaged community of users and other stakeholders is becoming a required competency for every business, the new category of Community Management tools is cropping up to provide the capabilities that companies need to manage their communities across disparate channels including chat, social media, forums, events etc.
No Better Time to Build B2B GTM Software
As SaaS investors passionate about B2B GTM, we’re excited about the non-stop innovation in the category due to the step-function improvements new technology can deliver for GTM teams. We don’t expect the pace to slow down because of the opportunities that still exist to improve Pipeline Generation, streamline Deal Execution and empower GTM Management & Operations teams.
The goal of this post is to provide B2B GTM leaders with a clear view of what we believe to be the best-in-class technologies, and how they can be combined to build a highly-productive, modern GTM motion. Though, we suspect that given just how rapidly this space evolves, our findings may very well be soon out of date!
It goes without saying that we continue to be extremely active investors in GTM technology and we look forward to meeting founders seeking to disrupt today’s modern B2B GTM tech stack, yet again.
Please reach out to Rajeev (email@example.com), Demi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Adi (email@example.com) if you are building a company in this category. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Disclaimer: Nothing presented within this article is intended to constitute investment advice, and under no circumstances should any information provided herein be used or considered as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any investment fund managed by Sapphire Ventures (“Sapphire”). Information provided reflects Sapphires’ views as of a time, whereby such views are subject to change at any point and Sapphire shall not be obligated to provide notice of any change. Companies mentioned in this article are a representative sample of portfolio companies in which Sapphire has invested in which the author believes such companies fit the objective criteria stated in commentary, which do not reflect all investments made by Sapphire. A complete alphabetical list of Sapphire’s investments made by its direct growth and sports investing strategies is available here. No assumptions should be made that investments listed above were or will be profitable. Due to various risks and uncertainties, actual events, results or the actual experience may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in these statements. Nothing contained in this article may be relied upon as a guarantee or assurance as to the future success of any particular company. Past performance is not indicative of future results.