Nothing describes selling today better than that old standby phrase, “Knowledge is power.”
That’s because the best way for small businesses to sell better is to get to know their prospects and customers better.
It’s almost like you need to know what those prospects and customers want and when they want it before they do. You don’t need to be psychic to do this, however. All you have to do is mine your customer and prospect data, both historical and real-time.
Unfortunately, thanks to the sheer number of data points including emails, social media updates, transactions and hundreds of other behavioral touch points, just managing your customer data — let alone leveraging it — can quickly become an overwhelming task.
Luckily, there are many fine solutions available to help you navigate and leverage this deluge of customer data successfully. We’ve gathered a list of some of the best sales apps below so get your sales hat on and take a look.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Solutions
Since we’re talking about customer and prospect data here, it’s no surprise that we’re focusing on CRM solutions first because, well, that’s where most of the data you’ve collected on your customers and prospects lives.
This is a huge category so we’ve narrowed our list down to the two types of CRM solutions that help small businesses sell better: Sales-Focused CRMs and Social CRMs.
Sales-Focused Customer Relationship Management Systems
These CRM solutions were designed around the sales process. Combining basic CRM features with selling know-how, they’ll help you streamline your sales pipeline by enabling you to focus on the customers and prospects that are most likely to buy right now.
Note: all of the solutions in this section offer integration with many of the popular tools and solutions in use today. So even if you don’t need a new CRM, you can take advantage of the sales process features and functionality found within these solutions.
In addition, each solution offers mobile sales apps so you can use them on the go.
Pipedrive  is a CRM with a laser focus on sales.
Every feature aims to help you stay on top of your sales process — from the sales pipeline view shown below, to sales timelines that tell you which deals to focus on that month. It includes robust sales reporting and easy integration with your email system via a blind BCC.
PipelineDeals  is a robust CRM that offers a lot under the hood including sales automation, team collaboration and lots of reporting. One of their handier features is an API that enables you to collect leads from your website  in real-time.
Pipeliner  focuses on the sales process end-to-end from high-level sales stages to the low-level sales activities required to advance to the next stage.
Pipeliner differs from the other two solutions in this section because it offers you the ability to work offline on both your desktop/laptop computer as well as your mobile devices. Once you reconnect, your data is synched up to the cloud.
Social Customer Relationship Management Systems
While the two solutions listed below do offer tools to help small businesses sell better, their strong, often automatic (goodbye data entry!), customer data gathering capabilities are what earned them a spot on our list.
The area where both tools shine most is in the way they consolidate customer information from many sources into one spot. We’re talking email and social media as well as the more traditional CRM capability to capture your notes and reminders for each contact.
After all, how can you leverage data from your prospects and customers if you can’t collect it?
Nimble  automatically collects every one of your prospect’s emails and social media updates (from many, many platforms) in one spot and then, using its own rules engine, it learns what’s important to you so you can cut through the noise and get right to the heart  of what your prospects and customers are looking for.
Once you discover an opportunity it can be managed using the deals dashboard:
Batchbook  collects both email and tweets from your prospects to give you a big picture view of what’s on their mind. When it comes to selling, they offer a sales pipeline view that helps you manage potential deals:
Sales and Marketing Automation Solutions
Once you’ve collected and mined the data from your customers, the next logical step is to act on what you’ve discovered.
Like data collection, this can become a very time-consuming task that quickly eats away at your schedule. However, taking action is required to close sales so how can you act while also protecting your precious time?
You guessed it — automation. The apps listed below will help you automate many parts of your sales process based on triggers that are driven by the data mined from your customer relationship management system. In fact, they can even serve as a CRM, too.
The only downside to these solutions is their price — they’ll cost you more than the solutions we’ve covered so far. However, when it comes to automating your sales process, paying a bit more is often worth the expense.
Standout features include the intuitive drag-and-drop campaign system for automating tasks based on many types of triggers, both on site and off. Also, there’s the ability to score your leads based on their behavior — the higher the score, the stronger the lead.
Another all-in-one sales and marketing solution, HubSpot ‘s strength is inbound marketing using content. Like Infusionsoft, it offers robust automation and with its free HubSpot CRM , it offers leads management as well.
HubSpot differs from Infusionsoft in that it can host many of your website’s pages. This leads to some super useful features such as alerts that trigger based on a lead’s action on your site:
Contactually  focuses on keeping the relationships with your contacts alive. Offering automation, sales process management and the usual bevy of reports, the solution is smaller in scale than the previous two yet more focused for that.
Connecting It All
Sometimes you can’t find everything you need in one app or solution. That’s where Zapier  comes in. Using “Zaps” you can automate the connections between solutions. For example, the Zap below will add a new Twitter follower to Pipedrive’s “New Activity” stream:
While the sales apps above may not show you the future, they will help you discover which prospects and customers you should focus your sales efforts on first, and when.
That knowledge is truly the key to helping your small business sell better.