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What is a Successful Sales Engagement Platform?

8 min read
Updated Aug. 25, 2021
Published Oct. 2, 2018

Maybe you’ve already adopted a sales engagement platform. Perhaps you’ve heard about it in a presentation from a software vendor. The odds are that if you lead a sales team, you’re somewhat familiar with the concept of a sales engagement platform. But how would you comprehensively define the function? What is a successful sales engagement platform? How do you use it effectively?

Sales engagement “consists of the various interactions that sellers have with prospects and customers. Sales engagement technology enables sales departments to efficiently deliver high-quality interactions with prospects and customers at scale.” (TOPO)

A sales engagement platform enables the consistent and systematic execution of an organization’s living sales playbook. It increases productivity and scalability within a sales organization.

The desire to build and execute on a sales playbook is not new. However, thanks to today’s software and computer-savvy salespeople, it’s now possible to codify an entire sales organization’s processes and rulesets and deploy them across your go-to-market team efficiently and effectively.

Formalizing a sales engagement process requires a systematic approach to converting your target accounts into customer accounts. If you aim to transform your team into a high-performing sales organization, aligning the sales process with the customer journey is imperative.

Just seven years ago, less than 20% of organizations invested in sales enablement. According to CSO Insights, in 2017 more than 50% have a dedicated sales enablement person, program, or function. However, organizations reporting achievement of their sales enablement goals has only increased slightly, from 31% to 34%.

Growth in dedicated enablement person, program or function
For clarity, here’s what sales engagement does not involve:

  • It isn’t spamming emails.
  • It isn’t cold-calling lists (it’s not executing lists at all, in fact).
  • It’s not selfish, sloppy, dishonest, insincere or robotic.
  • It’s definitely not turning your sales team into the wild west, where everyone goes their own way, hoping that the brightest and best rising to the top.

Effective sales engagement is:

  • Human, empathetic, engaging, informed, value-first, account-based.
  • Scientific, systematic, repeatable, scalable, data-centric, process-oriented.
  • Responsive, adaptive, and living.

Above all, sales engagement is customer-centric. CSO Insights found that when sales enablement efforts are aligned with how customers make decisions, quota attainment rates are “up to 14% greater than the average.”

Sales engagement delivers a higher quantity and quality of selling time. The good news is that it’s not difficult to build an organization around it.

The structure of a successful sales engagement function encompasses seven pillars:

Pillar 1: Primary and Secondary Data

Target contacts, accounts, opportunities, funding, competitors, news, growth rates, etc.

The most overlooked element of the sales and business development process is data. You want accurate data, drawn from multiple sources, validated routinely to keep it fresh. This data must be relevant to your workflow; it needs to provide insights that are valuable to the organization. Used properly, data empowers sales reps to improve communication with customers and have more relevant and meaningful interactions.

The data component of sales engagement is valuable when it converts and humanizes data into qualified opportunities and new accounts.

Pillar 2: Orchestrated Workflow & Playbooks

Coordinated actions and plans of high-performing sales organizations.

A high-performing sales organization is one that has an orchestrated sales process. Meaning, your SDRs, AEs, AMs, marketers, and executives all know the status of an account. Primary reps know which communication steps to take and when, and each buyer persona receives the right level of messaging.

An orchestrated workflow is a combined series of plays. For example, a play might be a “triple-touch” of phone, email, and LinkedIn. The workflow injects this sequence alongside the other channels in your playbook. For most systems, this process is prescribed. In the future, the orchestration engine of sales engagement will use machine learning and artificial intelligence to recommend the most effective course of action.

The workflow component of sales engagement links communication channels to form one cohesive rhythm or cadence.

Pillar 3: Your Communication Channels

Email, phone, direct mail, SMS, social, in-app messages, video, and more.

You’ve built a playbook. Next, the sales team must understand how to execute the plays, the cadence of communication through specific channels. Organizations should measure prospecting efforts by the success of the overall campaign, not merely by individual channels. For example, if you only look at phone connect and call back rates, you might conclude that “cold calling is dead.” The reality is that calls often drive email replies and vice versa.

It seems like every day on LinkedIn there is a comment-filled post discussing how some prospecting methodology is “dead” – cold-calling, social-selling. It’s either dead, dying, or suddenly en vogue once more. The only thing that is “dead” is single channel prospecting. Consider the triple-touch play of phone, email, and social media. TOPO reports that 81% of the surveyed fastest growing SaaS companies are using all three (if not more) in their sales communications.

Channels used in sales communication
The communication channels you use for sales engagement form one cohesive rhythm or cadence.

Pillar 4: Messaging and Content

Emails, voicemails, case studies, landing pages, templates, snippets… anything going to a customer.

We have our target account data, we’ve codified our plan of account correspondence, and we know our channels. The next step is architecting the message. Messaging includes email subject lines and bodies, but it’s also voicemails, call opening tactics, objection handling, discovery navigation, custom landing page copy… anything to support sales engagement. Innovations like text snippets and slash commands are making templates easier to access and inject into customer communications than ever before.

Your message should be unique and consistent across the organization. Copying another company’s cadence or asking reps to write their own copy risks causing your customers confusion and/or detracts from valuable selling time.

There are three primary elements of exceptionally written cadences:

  1. The message is customer-centric, meaning it demonstrates an understanding of the customer’s needs and wants, and that you are there to add value.
  2. The copy is prescriptive, introducing a way you can satisfy the customers need or want based on what you know today.
  3. The communication is coordinated, meaning the message from your AE is in line with what your SDRs, executives, and marketing folks are saying.

A sales engagement platform allows messages to be easily accessed and edited centrally across the whole organization, eliminating sourcing and quality concerns.

Pillar 5: APIs & Integrations

Apps, integrations, overlays, and other additions to the sales stack.

I’m sure you’re aware of the mind-numbing amount of sales and marketing tools that exist in the marketplace. Once you wade through the choices, you will likely find that many can offer value to your revenue mission.

Streamlining your sales stack and integrating specific tools can be life-changing (only a slight exaggeration) for your sales organization. Whether it’s connecting your apps (CRM, email, phone system, calendar, etc.), migrating data (importing, exporting, or enrichment), or enlisting webhooks for other app endpoints, connecting the whole stack will save everyone time (and a few headaches).

Sales engagement bring all of these tools together into one cohesive platform, integrating everything your sales stack.

Pillar 6: Reports & Analytics

Metrics, data, stats, snapshots, winners and losers, undeniable facts.

The next piece of this puzzle is turning data into actionable insights. It’s hyper-critical to know what works and what can be improved in your sales process. This can have the most direct impact on revenue.

However, all of the data in the world won’t benefit an organization unless it can be understood and applied. Sales organizations must determine the metrics that impact the business. Limits reports to a few analytics. Analysis paralysis handicaps everyone! Use a sales engagement platform to provide sales leaders with the actionable insights they need to optimize performance, improve effectiveness, and scale success.

A successful sales engagement process is scientific, analytical, and data-centric.

Pillar 7: Artificial Intelligence

Behavioral, sales, and profile data to deliver a better sales experience.

According to Forrester Research, marketing and sales organizations are leading the charge when it comes to adopting artificial intelligence (AI) systems. According to recent TOPO research, salespeople spend 47% of their time on non-selling activities. Using AI, reps have access to insights that can provide more targeted communications, leading to a better buying experience. Moreover, today’s buyers expect more personalized communication.

Tools like Conversation Intelligence enable sales teams to improve their engagement with buyers during and after sales meetings. The best salespeople are using smart data to learn from their customers, to understand their business and their challenges, and to improve overall sales engagement.

With AI comes a new sales engagement channel that allows sales professionals to be more human in their interactions with prospects.

Where do I start with a sales engagement platform?

Investing in a sales engagement platform designed to meet the needs of your sales team is a critical step toward a better sales experience. Such a solution can help your sales team continuously improve and more effectively engage with buyers. By implementing a sales engagement platform like Salesloft, sales leaders can transform their sales teams into high-performing sales organizations.

Interested in learning more about cadence best practices and benchmarks? Check out our latest report here.
Best Practice & Benchmarks for Sales Cadences