The single most important thing you can do to become a successful salesperson

Most people think sales is more art than science. But those at the top of the game are increasingly relying on technology to get an edge.

According to a new LinkedIn survey called “State of Sales 2016,” an overwhelming 82% of the top performing salespeople cited sales software, like CRM or social selling tools, as “critical” to their ability to close deals.

Almost all of them said they spend hours in some sort of sales-related software.

The survey asked 1,017 sales or business development professionals in the US.

“Individuals are recognising the lift they get out of technology, but companies are also starting to recognise the impact of wrapping the sales process around it, in order to make sure that people are using it,” Justin Shriber, Head of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, told Business Insider.

That means salespeople no longer just rely on wining-and-dining tactics to lure prospects into buying their product. Instead, they go through LinkedIn profiles to learn more about potential buyers while joining certain groups to find more leads. They use Twitter and Facebook to gain real-time insights into what they are interested in, and keep track of their contact hisotry with a variety of CRM software like Salesforce. Some of them might even use more sophisticated tools, like Insidesales.com, to predict the best time to make a sales call.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • More than 70 per cent of sales professionals use social selling tools, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, making them the most widely used sales technology.
  • Millennials are 33 per cent more likely to use sales intelligence tools than industry peers aged 35­ to 54.
  • Ninety per cent of top salespeopleuse social selling tools, compared with 71 per cent of overall sales professionals.
  • 26 per cent of email tracking tool users spend 3 to ­5 hours using these tools.
  • One ­third (33 per cent) of CRM users spend 3­5 hours using CRM tools. Almost one quarter (24 per cent) spend more than 10 hours per week using CRM tools.

The results are not too surprising given the trend has been building up for a few years now. LinkedIn’s Shriber said he’s seen technology and software play a bigger role in sales for at least the past 5 years.

In fact, sales software has become one of the most heated battlegrounds for tech companies lately. According to a recent WSJ article, companies are spending $23 billion a year on sales software, while startups in this space have amassed roughly $400 million in funding in the last two years. It’s not too surprising that Salesforce, one of the fastest growing CRM software makers in the world, has more than doubled its stock price over the past 5 years.

And don’t expect a slowdown in this space any time soon. As the survey showed, sales reps are more likely to rely on technology the younger they are, and could make sales software the norm as they grow into more senior roles.

“This is just going to become tablestakes — it won’t necessarily be an advantage but anyone who doesn’t embrace it will be in a tremendous disadvantage,” Shriber said.

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