Sales engagement is a relatively new term in the sales and marketing ecosystem, but it’s gaining traction. Sales engagement refers to how sellers interact with prospects throughout their journey to becoming buyers. It includes the emails, the phone calls, the LinkedIn follows, and all the other tactics that sophisticated sellers employ to inspire their prospects to take a sales meeting with them.
As buyers also become more sophisticated, however, it’s incumbent on forward-thinking sales organizations to employ new methods and technologies to get buyers into their orbit. Without a great first impression, a sales meeting is unlikely — maybe even impossible. As sales engagement technologies become more and more ubiquitous, those who are using the technologies best will win.
Outreach’s Unleash Sales Engagement Conference is set to kick off this Sunday, March 10. With that as a backdrop, I wanted to explore a few of the most important sales engagement trends impacting businesses today:
1. Focus on the right metrics for success: Often, sales and marketing teams are focused on metrics that look impressive but don’t drive outcomes. Metrics like open rates, reply rates, reach, dials, and more can be misleading. According to Jeff Winters, the CEO of Sapper Consulting, a firm that helps companies outsource and leverage the power of sales engagement, “It’s critical, as challenging as it can be due to disparate systems, to focus on the metrics that are the true leading indicators of outcomes.”
Sapper defaults to focusing on two specific metrics: meeting obligation rate (the percentage of meetings a team needs to hit to have its goal secured) and meeting conversion rate (how many prospects a team needs to put in the top of the funnel to schedule a single sales meeting). “When you get these measures dialed in,” Winters explains, “you can easily work backward to ensure you’re hitting new revenue and other customer acquisition targets.”
2. Unite your sales technology stack:Today, companies are using a dozen or more technologies within their sales technology stack. As an entrepreneur, I applaud the sheer number of emerging technologies available — and the fact that they’re all driving value. However, none of them will live up to their potential if used in a silo, and that’s dangerous for both these brands and the businesses that use their products.
The most forward-thinking companies will unify their systems, and for many companies, a CRM platform isn’t enough. Investing in a true sales engagement hub is the natural next evolution in the sales engagement journey. Rather than focus on customer relationship management, companies will zone in on customer experience management. CXM roles and technologies will bring together disparate data sources to create a bigger picture that enables companies to prioritize the customer experience.
3. Leverage AI to drive messaging: There’s too much data available, and there are too many companies with AI capabilities that aren’t leveraging AI for prospect communication. That’s a true lost opportunity in a world increasingly driven by artificial intelligence. Fortunately — or unfortunately — we’re getting to a point where brands that aren’t leveraging AI to drive prospect messaging will be sunk because their competitors will be.
Automation can be a boon to sales teams, as we all know, but sales engagement tools can remove a lot of administrative work from salespeople and enable brands to combine their sales and marketing efforts. “Most of these products began as point solutions for email tracking, sales content management or sales coaching, and have become much more cohesive, strategic solutions for sales teams,” explained Josh Whitaker, research principal at G2 Crowd, which developed a guide to help companies new to sales engagement find the right software.
4. Start thinking about a chief sales development officer: This new title is nearly inevitable. With the rise of the sales development representative (SDR), companies have quickly recognized the impact this role can have on their business. As SDRs sets more meetings for sales reps, companies’ revenues increase, sales goals are met, and executives and investors are happy with the return (or at least on their way there).
Given the impact SDRs have on companies, it stands to reason they’ll one day be represented in the C-suite. The ideal person in a CSDO role will have experience in sales, as well as insight into building the customer experience — people with the ability to both build rapport and understand process design will succeed.
A CSDO can even re-envision your structure to make your sales team more efficient and effective. Jennifer Brandenburg, the VP of inside sales at ServiceMax, uses a “small army” to close sales after ServiceMax’s sales development team hands them off. By combining team members into pods and delegating work, the team automatically has accountability and efficiency. These are the kinds of positive changes a CSDO can identify and implement.
5. Be the first to know when a channel loses its effectiveness: In sales engagement especially, what works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Today, your most effective channel for securing meetings with potential customers might be email. Next week, it could be LinkedIn. How fast your company is able to adjust is a direct reflection of how quickly you’ve realized things have changed.
Therefore, it’s critical to know exactly how different channels are performing relative to others in real time. Continual tracking is useful for noticing when the tide has turned, but an openness to experimentation is also helpful. It’s occasionally the approach or messaging, rather than the tactic itself, that’s causing issues — focusing and experimenting on the “engagement” part can help your team not only recognize a shift happening, but also anticipate one.
Sales engagement is a term that intelligent, growth-focused companies are gravitating toward. As customers become more sophisticated, businesses have to evolve their approach. As sales engagement becomes better known, it pays to get familiar with it — before your competitors do.
Serenity Gibbons is the local lead for NAACP in Northern California with a mission is to ensure economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.