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Defining Sales Engagement

The notion of sales engagement is still emerging across sales organizations. According to Forrester, less than just 10% of sales leaders are truly confident in their sales activity data.

Sales teams want and deserve better data.

The vast majority (70%) of companies leading the charge in implementing and optimizing sales engagement platforms (SEPs) are seeing higher win rates and more streamlined processes.

What is Sales Engagement?

Sales engagement can be defined as the interactions that take place between a buyer and seller, and can be measured in time and touch points. For example, a buyer’s view time on a presentation or webinar, or whether he or she viewed or clicked on an email. These are measurements of sales engagement.

A sales engagement platform is a system of engagement that compliments a system of record—like a CRM—and is comprised of five key components: content management, communications, predictive analytics, CRM integration, and partner applications.

Sales Enablement to Sales Engagement Platform

A Modern History of Sales Engagement
If we look at the entire history of sales, it would be worthwhile to mention the revolutionary transitions of sales materials from handwritten to printed to digitized, as well as door-to-door selling to emailing, to calling, to screensharing. Nevertheless, modern advances—depicted here—illustrate the major events in recent history that have led us to the current state of sales engagement.

Sales Engagement History Timeline

Sales engagement started as just the name of function and has now become its own technology sector. As selling and buying cycles became more complicated, this function was ripe for the introduction of software to help alleviate the complexity. With the introduction of technology vendors around 2009, a new sector of tools was born. As sales engagement platforms gain exposure and traction, they’ll continue to revolutionize the sales process as we know it.

Sales Engagement vs Sales Enablement

The genesis of sales enablement was founded on the idea that sales professionals need to be appropriately equipped with certain resources in order to effectively do their jobs. Thus, there have always been two distinct areas of focus when it comes to sales enablement: internally empowering the sales force and externally engaging with prospects.

The problem is, that while most sales enablement technologies are designed to facilitate the creation and management of necessary materials and processes for sales, they forget about the most important part— measuring the efficacy of those materials and processes during prospect and customer interactions. This is the key difference between sales enablement and sales engagement, and where sales engagement technology comes in.

As Aragon Research puts it:

“While Sales Enablement is the current buzzword in the sales space, the Sales Engagement Platform (SEP), a new Digital Selling Platform that integrates with CRM, is the key to empowering sales professionals in the digital era.”

The Impact of Sales Engagement on the Sales Force

How Sales Engagement Improves Coaching & Onboarding
According to CSO Insights, over 70% of companies take six months or longer to ramp new sales reps to productivity—with the opportunity to reach proficiency at about 9 months. And with an average annual sales turnover of 25–30% across industries as reported by the Harvard Business Review, sales leaders must be sure to hire and train wisely during the six to nine month ramp up time.

Many sales leaders may think they are dedicating the appropriate amount of time and resources to onboarding and coaching their new sales reps, but industry data suggests otherwise. CSO Insights reports that only 24% of firms claim to have a formal process for sharing best practices. These trends are negatively impacting sales teams, as SiriusDecisions states that 64% of high-performing sales professionals cite a lack of on-going training as impactful on their decision to leave their jobs.

A sales engagement platform can help create better onboarding and coaching by:

  • Identifying which activities, content, and tactics drive successful customer interactions
  • Establishing benchmarks for every stage of sales talent management lifecycle
  • Monitoring and comparing individual and team results, identifying top performers and struggling reps, and setting performance benchmarks
  • Tracking training usage and gaining visibility into how sales reps consume content and training with engagement analytics
  • Combining sales and customer usage and engagement analytics to optimize future training and sales effectiveness investments

According to SiriusDecisions, by appropriately training and supporting your sales force with a sales engagement platform, you can potentially increase the tenure of your sales reps by 40%-65%.

How Sales Engagement Optimizes Content Management
The rollercoaster relationship between sales and marketing is full of its ups and downs. Sales enablement can help to bridge gaps among the two departments, but often there are still holes to be filled. In fact, the CMO Council reports that 56% of sales and marketing professionals claim their companies don’t have prescriptive processes to align the two. One of the business aspects that suffers the most in these situations is content.

Content has always been a struggle for sales, and for that reason, it is a primary function of sales engagement. Still, sales reps spend on average 440 hours per year, or 22% of their time, searching for the right content according to the Aberdeen Group. In many cases, marketing is providing sales with most of the content they need, but CSO Insights reports that only 35% of content created by marketing meets the expectations of sales.

A sales engagement platform can greatly improve the quantity and quality of content by:

  • Housing sales content, marketing collateral, tools, and customer-facing materials in a single place that supports all file types
  • Creating and recommending marketing collateral by sales stage, customer-facing role, or industry
  • Recommending content based on engagement analytics to guide reps to the appropriate next step
  • Updating and controlling content access to ensure that customer facing content is always accurate and up to date

How Sales Engagement Powers Email Campaigns
Though communication channels have expanded, the Harvard Business Review reports that 60% of customers still prefer to interact with sales reps by email. Sales engagement goes beyond tracking open and click rates to providing granular visibility into how prospects and customers actually interact with the content that sales and marketing distribute.

A sales engagement platform can transform the way email campaigns are conducted by:

  • Customizing templates with integrates content which reps can quickly access for large blasts or 1:1 communication with prospects and customers
  • Controlling content by collecting viewer contact information, limiting forwards, restricting downloads, and setting content expirations
  • Getting advanced tracking metrics like real-time alerts of email stats (opens, clicks, and forwards) and detailed email content engagement (page-by-page analytics) to prioritize and customize follow-up

Sales teams can now go beyond tedious email practices to leveraging state-of-the-art technology powered by sales engagement platforms to reach a more target audience with personalized content.

How Sales Engagement Saves Reps Time with Autolog
If you were to ask a sales rep if they spend enough time with prospects and customers, if they’re honest, they’d more than likely say no. According to CSO Insights, only 35% of a sales rep’s time is spent interacting with customers. That’s because there are many other administrative tasks that take up their time.

Sales engagement platforms help alleviate the time a sales rep spends logging information back into the CRM by:

  • Automatically capturing and logging activity and engagement data across all communication channels
  • All rep activity—including emails, online and in-person meetings, content used, and resulting customer engagement—are all auto-logged back to the appropriate records
  • Improving CRM data quality so all new activity is clean and up to date

Sales reps will have more time to dedicate to prospecting and moving opportunities further along in the sales cycle, and of course, closing more deals.

How Sales Engagement Provides Valuable Analytics
We know that teams are hungry for good data. Forrester reports that over 90% of sales leaders lack confidence in their activity data and that 77% of marketers rate a lack of analytics to guide their marketing decision-making as a top challenge.

customer engagement analytics data

A sales engagement platform delivers granular analytics, providing insight for sales and marketing teams with:

  • Integration of real-time engagement and activity data with CRM data for a complete view of buyers and sales cycle progression
  • Access to aggregated data for benchmarking or drilling into specifics down to the opportunity or specific activity
  • Dashboards to easily map deal size against engagement to manage pipeline, focus resources on deals at risk, and improve forecasting
  • Visualization of opportunity engagement across sales stages
  • Views into activity and engagement history, allowing teams across the organization to share insight on prospect and customer health

With this type of cutting-edge insight, sales teams are poised for more fluid processes and higher win rates.

The Future of Sales Engagement: What’s Next?

Because sales engagement is all about diving deep into how prospects and customers are interacting with content— and then tracking it, it makes sense that the newest advancements in sales engagement revolve around optimized methods of communication.

Video mail is the latest technology being leveraged among sales engagement platforms. At ClearSlide, we analyzed more than 10,000 recorded videos and saw a 60% improvement in open rates, and a forward rate of 70-90% of emails that contained personalized sales videos.

Best-in-class companies are taking notice of the video mail trend and Aragon Research reports that by the end of 2019, 40% of enterprises will take advantage of customizable video content as a one of the key ways to drive customer and prospect engagement.

How Will You Leverage Sales Engagement?
With a sales engagement platform, most, if not all, of the burdens that weigh sales enablement functions down are lifted. Teams are able to have better coaching and onboarding, content is easily created, accessed, and measured, and the entire process is optimizable thanks to engagement analytics.

SiriusDecisions reports that over 70% of organizations with an enablement function plan to invest more in enablement in the coming year. What most organizations still don’t realize is that that without a sales engagement platform, their sales enablement is at a massive disadvantage.

Read The Aragon Report Summary

Digitize the Sales Force: Leverage Sales Engagement Platforms to Gain a Competitive Advantage

Future of Sales Guide - Sales Engagement Platforms