Sales enablement vs. sales engagement: what's the difference, and which do you need?

Posted April 28, 2021

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By Cari Murray

Senior Editor at Outreach

In today's world of ever-evolving technology, sales teams look to modern solutions that can help them sell more, and do so easier and faster. This shift spurred a new interest in sales enablement and engagement to improve processes and conversions. Like two sides of the same coin, the interrelated systems allow you to optimize your business in distinct ways. But while the concepts are closely related, it’s important to understand the differences between the two and which type of technology will help boost your team’s sales.

What is Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement is the process of increasing sales by properly supporting and preparing your reps to improve job performance. That might sound like a whole lot of jargon, but at its core, sales enablement involves providing your team with everything they need to efficiently close a deal, including training, technologies, and communication tools.

It's common for today's companies to have a specialized sales enablement role or team. Sales representatives have a complex job that often requires effective management of time-consuming and repetitive job tasks. Sales enablement enhances your reps' performance, equipping your team with tools to attract more high-value opportunities, accelerate sales cycles, and produce more revenue for your company.

What is Sales Engagement?

Sales enablement is about supporting the sales team, but sales engagement is about cultivating and optimizing customer interactions. Sales engagement involves improving the buyer-seller relationship through strategic communication, data, and customer feedback. The goal of sales engagement is to provide a quality, customer-centric experience curated for your target audience's interests and needs and ultimately convert leads into prospects.

As the sales world changes, so does technology and the need for an online buying experience that exceeds customer expectations. Engagement helps companies create a framework for connecting with buyers, and also integrates your customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation platforms to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Sales Enablement vs Sales Engagement

Why a CRM and Marketing Automation Won't Cut It

So what about your CRM and marketing automation software? Aren’t they good enough to support your engagement strategy?

Not entirely. These are standard tools that are used for customer management after you've secured the sale. But such platforms can be limiting when attempting to engage during the lead conversion process, as CRM and marketing automation tools alone are not fully capable of sustaining a successful sales engagement strategy. Here’s why:

A CRM Can't Help Reps Engage with Prospects

Your CRM is a data management system that collects customer contact information and tracks activities. With the average sales team using 5-8 tools every day, sales engagement is essential to streamlining interactions across your channels and integrating disjointed tools, ensuring your sales team always has the most recent information and data to fully engage with customers.

Marketing Automation Can't Improve One-on-One Interactions

The purpose of marketing automation is to reach as many leads as possible. But research shows that customers respond to a custom experience, as 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product following a personalized experience. Your customers are looking for a solution that fits their individual challenge, not a one-size-fits-all fix-all. Marketers must provide targeted content (at a personalized cadence) to identify warm leads and move them through the buying cycle.

CRM and Marketing Automation Platforms Can't Handle High-Volume, Valuable Outreach

A CRM captures data but can't support large-scale outreach efforts. This limitation can cause delays in the follow-up process and decrease customer conversion as leads grow cold. Sales engagement platforms integrate your marketing automation systems with your team's workflows, ensuring interactions with warm leads are leveraged at each touchpoint throughout the funnel and helping to close the deal.

Sales Enablement vs. Sales Engagement Technology: Which Should You Choose?

When you compare sales enablement and sales engagement software, consider your company's specific operational needs, challenges, and goals.

Sales Enablement Solutions

High-end enablement solutions empower your sales reps to improve performance. Such platforms can help you free up time and automate the customer experience, giving your sales team the freedom to focus resources and time on high-level tasks, making the entire sales process more efficient.

Common sales enablement tools often solve for customer relationship management, content management, social outlets, training, metrics, and reporting. However, enablement tools can be limiting when building a relationship with customers (e.g. CRM databases are enablement tools for managing customer information, but have few features to support communication.)

Sales Engagement Solutions

A robust CRM solution isn't enough for the average sales team to gain a competitive advantage. Even small businesses need a sustainable, end-to-end solution that enhances existing workflows.

Sales engagement platforms organize your enablement tools (like your email system and CRM) into one central platform, allowing for more customization and potentially improving salesforce productivity. It saves your team time they would otherwise spend logging into various platforms or alternating between different programs. With a sales engagement platform in your toolkit, your sales representatives will have more access to the data, content, and information they need to sell effectively.

Overall, engagement tools optimize your sales process with the content, communication tools, and insights needed to engage customers throughout the buying process. Using the data collected and tracked across various platforms and interactions, your team will have an accurate picture of how your strategies perform to make informed decisions that account for past results and current observations.

How to Choose The Right Tool for Your Team

When choosing a sales enablement or engagement platform, you should first consider which functions your reps will need to improve sales performance.

While the ideal enablement tool will need to be excellent in specialized tasks, your engagement platform should be able to blend seamlessly with your enablement tools. You want a platform you can quickly adopt into your workflow and integrate with existing systems with minimal effort. This will give you the option of sticking with the CRM and email platforms you’ve used in the past while still ensuring that you have access to fresh, innovative features.

The key to amplifying success in your salesforce is leveraging both sales engagement and sales enablement tools at the same time. As your enablement platforms are working to support your team across channels, your engagement platform connects all the moving pieces, giving you a complete picture of performance and customer satisfaction.

Give Your Team the Tools to Convert More Leads into Loyal Customers

Sales enablement and sales engagement are not interchangeable terms, but complementary systems that, when paired together, address customer needs at each stage of the sales cultivation process.

You likely have a CRM, marketing automation, and other enablement tools that are each operating to manage customer information and interaction. Still, without a sales engagement platform to connect these disjointed systems, you likely have gaps in service.

With Outreach’s sales engagement platform, you gain an end-to-end solution that will make it easier for your sales team to process information, manage essential tasks, communicate effectively with customers, and move more leads through the funnel.

Check out this Leadership Report for a deeper dive into creating and implementing a sales engagement strategy, or sign up for a demo today.


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