The guide to sales engagement

Posted October 20, 2021

By Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices at Outreach

Engaging prospects and customers is a vital aspect of any sales process. But getting it right doesn’t come without its challenges. From workflow inefficiencies to communication gaps, tool sprawl, and data silos, you might be left wondering if it’s even possible to improve the impact of your customer-facing and revenue-generating teams.

At the center of a multibillion dollar industry, the sales engagement platform is the force multiplier companies need to drive efficiency and improve results at every stage of the sales cycle. For sales leaders, managers, and reps, sales engagement provides insights that increase momentum for every goal in the process. It can streamline workflows across different teams and stages, driving interdepartmental synergies and helping individual reps improve productivity.

What is Sales Engagement?

Before you put sales engagement into practice, it’s crucial to fully understand what it entails and how it differs from other sales concepts. Sales engagement is the umbrella that covers all interactions between sales reps and buyers, including calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings. It’s important to note that sales engagement extends far beyond traditional outreach to include outreach quality and consistent measurements of feedback and data.

The sales engagement technology sector has grown exponentially, with 90% of sales leaders claiming they plan to invest in tools to help their reps more effectively engage prospects and customers. This only makes sense, given that companies that successfully engage customers perform 23% better than their competitors, report 63% lower customer attrition, and achieve 55% higher wallet share.

Without the proper processes and tools for support, sales engagement can feel like an unattainable dream — particularly for already-busy sales managers, sellers, and marketing teams. Thus, more and more organizations have started leveraging sales engagement technology in an effort to align their teams, improve visibility into processes, and gain more predictability over business outcomes.

What is Prospect Engagement? 

Prospect engagement is a small but mighty piece of the overall sales engagement puzzle, as it focuses on the early stages of the buyer’s journey. There are two significant challenges that can hinder sellers’ ability to successfully engage prospects: the overabundance of competition at this stage in the funnel, and the recent increase of buyer expectations.

Tips for prospect engagement

Fortunately, there are some best practices you can follow for improving prospect engagement:

  • Identify the Right Buyers - Your first instinct might be to cast the widest net possible, but that can easily lead to wasting precious time that would be better spent engaging high-value prospects or closing more deals. When you make an effort to understand your ideal buyers’ pain points, goals, and motivations, you can better personalize your engagement methods for more valuable interactions.
  • Use an Omni-channel Strategy - Prioritizing your customers’ preferences is essential, and your prospects are no different. Each individual prefers to connect in a particular manner, so don’t limit your potential by putting all of your outreach eggs in one basket. Instead, use a combination of emails, phone calls, videos, and social media interactions to ensure you reach your prospects in the way they actually want to be reached.
  • Don’t Just Rely on Your CRM - While your CRM system is great for collecting and managing customer data and activity information after you make a sale, it doesn’t offer everything you need to effectively engage prospects. In addition to your CRM tool, you should leverage technology that can handle high-value outreach, integrate with other systems for a streamlined workflow, and ensure efficient lead follow-up.

What is a Sales Engagement Platform?

In the past, sales managers armed their reps with CRM systems and marketing automation software to support their efforts. But modern organizations have realized that, while these tools certainly offer value for certain parts of the sales process, they just don’t cut it when it comes to successful sales engagement.

Thus, a new kind of technology was born to fully address the challenges of end-to-end sales engagement. A sales engagement platform (SEP) helps sales teams avoid the issues that arise from disjointed, one-size-fits-all tools by improving existing workflows, streamlining communications, increasing efficiency, and more—all in one centralized place. SEPs offer time-saving functionalities that keep reps organized, prepared, and ready to meet (or exceed) their quotas.

But it’s important to remember that not all sales engagement platforms are created equally. Before you run out and invest in the first SEP you come across, make sure it includes these critical elements:

  • Integrations with Existing Systems - The tools your team already uses (e.g. CRM system, email, marketing automation solution, sales productivity software, etc.) are valuable and shouldn’t fall by the wayside in favor of your SEP. Instead, your sales engagement platform should integrate and work with these existing technologies to pass important data back and forth, as needed. It should work as a centralized source of truth from which reps can organize and conduct their daily activities without needing to switch between myriad, disparate tools.
  • Strategic Outreach - A strong sales engagement platform should make it easy to reach prospects, regardless of where they’re at in the customer journey. It should enable teams to track successful (and unsuccessful) sequences to build out their playbook, fine-tune messaging, and drive deeper engagement—all while automatically updating your CRM system.
  • Analytics - Some SEPs only offer data on broader sales results, but it’s important to find a tool that also tracks data across individual sales activities. With that kind of granular data, sales teams can determine if they’re conducting enough sales activities, if those types of activities are working, and whether or not they need to tweak parts of their workflow for better outcomes.
  • Prospect Intelligence - Customizing your communications with prospects is a crucial part of a strong sales engagement strategy, but is difficult if your platform doesn’t have the right intelligence capabilities. Look for a tool that combines both prospect and account intelligence (from multiple sources), and allows sales reps and managers to access it in one, user-friendly place.
  • Machine Learning - Data is incredibly powerful when it’s used to improve your processes. The right sales engagement platform should offer machine learning (ML) that analyzes the myriad data points it collects to identify trends and patterns, then suggests next steps to help improve rep performance.

If you’re operating within the sales industry, you likely already know the importance of maintaining a competitive edge, as today’s global marketplace offers countless options from which buyers can choose. But if your teams still rely on SEP-alternatives, they’re likely in a vicious cycle of underachievement.

Your sellers simply can’t maximize performance if they’re using inconsistent, siloed processes that require multiple, disjointed apps to build pipeline, track and manage opportunities, and close deals. Too often, well-intentioned leaders invest in and deploy a variety of fragmented apps, but this strategy just doesn’t provide a holistic, data-driven view of what’s working and what needs to change.

The bottom line for your bottom line? A robust sales engagement platform mitigates the challenges often associated with inefficient sales processes, weak execution, and dissatisfied buyers. Ideally, your sales engagement platform runs on top of and parallel to your sales process. It shares the same playbooks, milestones, and customer touchpoints. The only difference is the amount of science it lends to your selling activities and the superpowers it grants your sales reps.

Sales Engagement vs Sales Enablement

The terms ‘sales engagement’ and ‘sales enablement’ are sometimes conflated, but while the two are certainly related, it’s important to understand how they differ from one another.

Sales enablement is the practice of preparing your reps for increased job performance and overall sales through proper support. Enablement focuses on arming reps with the right training, technologies, and tools for communication to ensure they can close deals as efficiently as possible.

While sales enablement hinges on your organization’s ability to support its sales team, sales engagement instead aims to help reps foster and enrich each customer interaction. At each stage of the buyer’s journey, a sales engagement strategy enables sellers to provide a valuable, highly-personalized customer experience through systematic communication, actional data, and regular feedback. 

In a nutshell, the goal of sales enablement is to boost rep performance and company revenue by properly equipping them with everything they need; sales engagement instead helps organizations build a better framework for connecting with buyers, integrate existing systems for a seamless customer experience, and convert more leads into prospects.

The Impact of Sales Engagement on Business Outcomes

Organizations that implement a solid sales engagement strategy — backed by a powerful SEP — gain a variety of key benefits. In fact, 92% of sales development organizations say that their sales engagement platform is critical to their team’s success. For those on revenue teams (e.g. sales leaders, managers, reps), a sales engagement platform can offer several distinct advantages:

Greater Efficiency 

When you equip reps with a single platform from which they can execute all of their daily activities, you remove the barriers that often impede efficiency. SEPs don’t have to shuffle between multiple tools to complete their work, and can instead access and manage all activities — across phone, direct mail, email, text, social media, and more — in one streamlined place.

Modern sales engagement platforms can also automate repetitive, administrative tasks that eat into reps’ time. They can automatically send follow ups and other communications on the reps’ behalf, freeing them up to focus on high-value customer engagement and sales.

Improved Visibility into Performance 

It can be difficult (if not impossible) to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not if you don’t have transparency into your reps’ daily activities. A strong SEP provides real-time analytics so sales leadership and managers can identify the activities that lead to more opportunities, those that are falling flat, and where they need to tweak their strategies.

Reps, too, can view which engagements are successful to build a collection of best practices from which they can operate and scale. What’s more, managers can easily access data to help them provide individual or team coaching, as needed.

Playbooks for Success

Because sales engagement platforms offer such deep insights, organizations can make more comprehensive, strategic decisions based on industry, vertical, or buyer persona. Actionable data makes it easy to build effective playbooks based on specific business needs and goals by determining which strategies have generated the most revenue.

The Future of Sales Engagement

Without the right tools, sales engagement can feel like a shot in the dark. Most traditional revenue organizations just don’t have the technology they need to remain competitive, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As business models change and more organizations look to digital technology initiatives to drive growth (yes, even in the face of budget cuts and waning profits), those who fail to keep up will likely be left behind. Sales organizations that still have point solutions that create gaps and more friction simply can’t offer the customer experience that those backed by a unified platform can. 

Modern revenue teams need an integrated, seamless platform that helps them make the right call in the moment (based on real-time data), close the sales execution gap, and leave the guessing in the past. Powerful sales engagement platforms ensure a system of action that merges engagement and intelligence — both of which are needed for true visibility into their deals, their buyers, and their teams.

Combine Engagement and Intelligence to Improve Sales Velocity and Customer Success

Successful sales engagement starts with a strong process for ensuring great customer interactions at every stage of the buyer’s journey — but it certainly doesn’t end there. To gain a competitive edge and help reps sell more efficiently, boost communication, and drive stronger results, you need intelligent technology that pulls everything together.

Outreach’s Sales Execution Platform equips your team with a robust, end-to-end solution that helps sales teams manage essential day-to-day tasks, communicate more efficiently with customers, and refine their strategies for better outcomes.

Learn how Outreach can help your sales team move more leads through the funnel, or request a demo to get started today.


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