Sales Engagement Platforms Simplified: The Features You Need
July 6, 2021
It takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer, according to the latest research from Gartner — and only 24% of sales emails are even opened. That’s why it’s so important for salespeople to maximize their time for efficient outreach and a higher chance of engagement. Sales engagement platforms can help you and your sales team wrangle the complexity of the sales cycle and of working in a fully remote or hybrid workplace.
But you don’t necessarily need the most fully featured software on the market. Some of the choices out there have so many features and capabilities they can be challenging to use and implement. You need something that will work with your current systems and processes and that will keep your team agile and high-performing — not slow them down. That’s why choosing a platform based on quantity of features isn’t always the right decision for your business. Whichever product you choose, you’ll be in good company. Gartner reports that 90% of sales leaders plan to invest in technologies and methodologies that help their sellers engage effectively with prospects and customers.
Let’s dig into the most common features in a sales engagement platform and what benefits you can expect from the right implementation.
What is a Sales Engagement Platform?
Sales engagement refers to all your touchpoints with prospects and customers, whether they be via email, phone, in person, on social media, or other channels. 80% of high performing SDRs use at least three channels and deliver 15.5 touches per contact. Software around sales engagement, then, streamlines this outreach and enables higher quality interactions in less time. According to the definition from G2 in their 2021 platform report,
“Sales engagement platforms streamline the sales process through integrations with CRM systems, sales communication channels and tools, management of sales messaging and materials, and automation of tasks, messages and workflows.”
And, Gartner calls them
“the key driver of growth in the sales engagement technology market.”
But the sales engagement category can potentially be confusing because there are so many choices — that same G2 report shows nearly 40 on its Sales Engagement Grid. Plus, they have a variety of different feature sets that can be difficult to compare.
Who uses sales engagement platforms?
Just about any member of the sales team could touch your sales engagement platform, but there are a few roles for which it is central to the job description. Let’s look at the different roles and how they use the SEP:
- Sales reps will probably spend the most time in the software. They use it to automate and streamline their workflows as well as reduce tedious administrative tasks.
- Sales managers use sales engagement software to keep their finger on the pulse of their reps’ activity and performance. With that increased visibility, coaching can become more robust and effective.
- Sales operations can derive a lot of value from SEPs in the data. Having all the data in one place and being able to trust that it’s complete and accurate can bolster sales ops’ ability to refine and forecast.
- Customer success representatives can use SEPs to grow accounts by building and nurturing customer relationships.
Common Sales Engagement Platform Features
Every sales engagement platform will have its own set of features, reflecting its priorities and ideal customer profiles. The features below are some of the most common, included for their ability to create efficiencies in the sales process and help sales professionals meet their quotas.
If you don’t spend all day making phone calls, the time it takes to dial a phone — and the potential time lost on errors like dialing the wrong number — may seem trivial. But multiply that by 50 or 100, and it starts to add up. Click-to-call enables reps to dial prospect numbers with just the click of a button, whether you’re calling from your desktop or mobile device.
Depending on your industry, it might just be easier to connect with your prospects via text — after you’ve established a relationship, that is. (We recommend avoiding cold texts.) SMS messages are also great for reminding prospects about upcoming appointments or sending a quick nudge on an action item.
Momentum is a critical ingredient to a successful day in a sales organization — and taking time for tedious tasks like logging calls and emails in the CRM can be a momentum killer. Sales engagement platforms automate that activity tracking so your team can spend more time doing what they do best: selling. Plus, automated logging means you’ll have better customer data to work from as you coach team members and forecast sales.
For onboarding and for sales coaching — particularly in virtual or hybrid work environments — call recording can be an invaluable tool. Once you identify successful reps, you can share call recordings with the team to highlight best practices (or call out potential landmines).
Omnichannel outreach cadences
Build a sales cadence to usher prospects through a customer journey that requires little to no manual data entry and is less time intensive. Throughout your campaign, use these cadences to maintain the same desired intervals or outcomes across communication channels (e.g., email, phone, SMS). You can also work from content templates to make sure you’re repeating the most successful efforts.
Email and CRM integrations
Sales engagement platforms integrate with your email client and CRM software to streamline activities. That’s how activity is automatically logged, and it means you don’t have to do anything twice. This way, you and your team have a single source of truth to keep the sales cycle running smoothly.
Reports and dashboards
Particularly in a hybrid or virtual world, it can be difficult to know how your reps are spending their time. Reporting through your sales engagement platform can be helpful. And it’s more than monitoring your reps’ ability to make a high volume of calls. You’ll get some insights into the details of the call as well to identify potential issues and coaching opportunities.
Sales Engagement Platform Benefits
Many of the benefits of a sales engagement platform come directly from two main functions: automation and data. In a recent report from DocuSign, 70% of respondents said that automation of sales processes was either a medium or high priority for them. And according to McKinsey, early sales automation adopters consistently report:
- Increases in customer-facing time
- Higher customer satisfaction
- 10-15% efficiency improvements
- Up to 10% sales uplift potential
And when it comes to data, top performing teams are more likely to track metrics like customer communication history (1.5x more likely) and customer purchase history (2.4x more likely) than underperforming sales organizations. Let’s look at how the automation and data analytics and reporting that come along with sales engagement software can lead to rich performance benefits.
Simplify the sales process
Don’t reinvent the wheel every time your team wants to set up a sales cadence or draft a new email. You can set them up within the software to run nearly automatically. Then, keep track of all those communications in one place for a single source of truth — from cold calls to closing.
Work more efficiently
Dialing (or misdialing) the phone, toggling back and forth between windows, and manually logging outreach activity steal precious minutes from busy salespeople and introduce the potential for error. Sales engagement platforms can reduce the amount of time spent on administrative tasks by streamlining activity and automating processes so reps can spend more time selling.
Develop more personalized relationships with leads and prospects
High performing sales reps spend about 20-25% more time with customers than lower performing ones, research shows. Streamlining the sales process means that reps can devote more time to crafting more personalized messages and creating deeper connections with prospects. Following the 80/20 principle, enable your reps to focus their attention on the 80% of their work that creates the most value.
Leverage data to perfect the sales process
Team-wide adoption can be one of the most challenging pieces of a software implementation — unless that software actually makes it easier for people to do their jobs. With an SEP in place to automate activity logging, it becomes much easier to ensure reps are logging activity. It’s a natural part of the workflow. Once you have that consistent data, you can track engagement across digital touchpoints, identify your best reps, and get more quantitative data on what works and what doesn’t.
Replicate top performers
With consistent data on sales performance both team-wide and by specific individuals, you’ll be able to easily see what’s working best. Then, share call recordings and best practices with all team members to replicate your top performers.
Better align sales and marketing
Whether it’s the top item on your priority list or not, better alignment of sales and marketing is still sure to have benefits. The single source of truth within your CRM can provide marketers with better customer data and help them understand the ideal customer profile more deeply. Your marketing team will also benefit from being able to listen to sales calls — even if they’re not there in real time — to understand what messages are resonating, the most common questions they ask, and what objections to head off at the pass.
Do You Need a Sales Engagement Platform?
You know your team best, but sales professionals typically get the most benefit from an SEP if they answer yes to several of the following questions:
- Do you need a better way to understand how your reps are engaging with prospects?
- Do you need more visibility into the objections reps are encountering in the sales cycle?
- Are you looking for a way to re-create the kind of knowledge sharing that happens in a physical office?
- Are the data in your CRM incomplete or out of date?
Once you’ve determined your team is ready for sales engagement software, then you can identify which features you really need.
Some of the options out there are so fully featured they can be challenging to use and implement. You need something that will work with your current systems and processes and that will keep your team agile and high-performing — not slow it down. That’s why choosing the most fully featured software isn’t always the right decision for your business.
What to Look for in a Sales Engagement Platform
SEPs are typically industry-agnostic, so who your business sells to — and what you sell — will be less important than, say, your company and/or team size and your internal processes and procedures. Here are a few specific areas to evaluate as you work through your vendor evaluation:
Enables your preferred communications channels
First and foremost, you’ll want to work with a platform that supports your preferred mode of communication, such as email, phone, or SMS.
Integrates with your CRM
Don’t implement software that makes your reps’ jobs more challenging. Integrating your SEP with your CRM means that activities are streamlined and you have a single source of truth.
Easy to use for all team members
Complexity leads to lack of adoption, which defeats the purpose. Consider implementation, training, and future onboarding. If a piece of software takes too much time to manage on an ongoing basis, you may have to re-evaluate its benefit to your tech stack.
Built-in reporting features
The ability to monitor KPIs such as sales performance and conversion rates is critical for evaluating the success (or failure) of a sales rep’s particular call, email, or overall sales cadence.
Matches your sales organization’s maturity
Every organization is at a different stage in their sales maturity, so it’s important to match the software with your company needs. In addition, software that aligns with your existing processes will not only be easier to use — it’ll better augment your team’s performance.
The sales technology space is expanding rapidly, and you have a lot of choices if you’re looking for ways to augment your selling power. But if you’re just looking to get off the ground with a piece of software like this and are working with a small or growing team, the critical features to look for are:
- Click-to-call and SMS/MMS messaging functionality
- Automated activity logging that syncs with your CRM
- Call recording and the ability to generate playlists of recordings for feedback and training
- Seamless integration with your email client and your CRM
- The ability to create omnichannel outreach sequences in one place
- Dashboards and reports around team and individual performance
With the right sales engagement software, your team can work more efficiently while building stronger relationships with prospects, plan and execute outreach all in one place, and use the reporting and analytics capabilities to make data-driven improvements to your processes and procedures.