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“Sales engagement,” a trendy term loosely tossed around by sales influencers and adopted by vendors as a convenient category for software. But as this trend is starting to gain traction, some are still left wondering, what exactly is sales engagement? Why are there so many different definitions of sales engagement? How do I measure sales engagement? Do I need special sales engagement software?

Let’s get to the bottom of what sales engagement actually is and how to think about sales engagement as it relates to your business and sales force.

What is Sales Engagement?

Sales (noun): the exchange of a commodity for money; the action of selling something.

Engagement (noun): the act of engaging; emotional involvement or commitment

Sales engagement can be defined as the exchanges (both emotional and monetary) between sales reps and their prospects/customers. Beyond the definition, sales engagement is also about understanding the buyer’s journey and helping to shape or support that journey as a salesperson. How you engage, when you engage, and the right way to engage are a function of the buyer and his/her needs at any given time. Sure, as a salesperson you want to shape that process, but you also have to be able to support it and make yourself valuable and helpful at the right time.

Essentially, sales engagement is comprised of these four elements:

  1. The ways which salespeople and buyers communicate
  2. The frequency of rep/buyer exchanges
  3. The understanding and support of the buyer’s journey
  4. The substance of rep/buyer interactions

These elements of sales engagement are critical for recognizing the content, methods, and activities that push your conversions and ultimately grow your revenue.

What Sales Engagement Is Not (and what others turn it in to)

We talked about what engaged selling really is and what it looks like, but what about all those other definitions and examples out there?  

A quick search for ‘sales engagement’ mainly results in an offering of software and platforms, but it’s important to recognize:

Sales engagement is not software automation.

When a smart decision-maker heads to G2 Crowd or Capterra to compare Sales Engagement solutions, it’s crucial they steer away from strict software automation and choose a tool that lets sellers personalize their messaging. When relying on automation alone, sellers lose individuality and lessen their personal interactions with prospects. It’s worth the extra minute or two it takes to craft a personalized statement to really connect with your buyer. Look at the examples below, which email do you think garnered a response from a prospect?

VS

While the first example does appear to be written by a real human, and there is relevant business value presented, salespeople and AMs typically get 100+ of these per month, so it doesn’t stand out.

But I doubt anyone would look at the second email and say “ugh, yet another mail merge…” It’s clear that time and thought went into crafting the message. This shows the recipient that the author has already invested time in understanding both the individual and the business which is more likely to lead to a productive conversation (and yes the guy did take the meeting)!

Obviously, there is more work involved in the second email versus the first sent through an automatic email campaign. One of the main factors that governs how much time you can spend personalizing is the size of the group you’re trying to reach and the value of an individual contact. Which brings us to the next point:

Sales engagement is not building a “hunter culture.”

With the growing adoption of sales engagement, you also see other buzz-word trends flying across the sales industry like “social selling” or “building a hunter culture.” People often mistake sales engagement for aggressive outreach and closing as many deals as fast as possible. Of course, it’s good practice to close deals quickly, but when the quantity of deals start to outweigh their quality, many companies are then faced with higher rates of rep turnover and account churn.

Through sales engagement, you improve the efficiency and quality of your prospecting and conversion efforts. “Sales hunter tactics” don’t lead to higher sales, engaged selling does. Simple as that.

What Sales Engagement Actually Looks Like

Despite what others may tell you, sales engagement does not come in the form of a software package. Sales engagement comes from real salespeople putting in the effort to establish and maintain genuine relationships with clients, not from relying exclusively on software or automation.

In practice, sales engagement is comprised of a number of actions. We see this take shape in ways such as the number of times a rep contacts her prospect (and through what channels), the amount of time she spends on the phone with a buyer, email open and response rates, etc.

Sure, certain platforms can make it much easier for reps to practice engaged selling, but at the end of the day, prospects only engage if the rep is engaged and sincerely trying to connect.

With that said, the other side of the sales engagement coin is figuring out how to best leverage the technology available to increase your effectiveness while practicing engaged selling. By tracking prospects’ engagement with your sales process, your sales team has greater insight into how to better personalize their outreach depending on the level of each lead’s engagement. This data can also be used by marketing teams as it highlights what channels and content have the most interaction and capture the most value.

How Sales Engagement Software Helps You Sell Smarter

We get it. Automation is easy, it saves time and resources, but you shouldn’t have to compromise the quality of your outreach for the quantity of it. That’s where sales engagement platforms can come into play; knowing how to leverage software can empower sellers with relevant prospect data. Look at platforms that integrate with LinkedIn Sales Navigator for instance. Let’s say you’re looking at a prospect’s profile before sending them a cold email, and you see that you both played varsity volleyball. You now have a commonality you can use as a means to “break the ice” and break through the noise of their inbox with a personalized, meaningful message.

Other useful data for engaged selling include email and link tracking to gauge prospects’ interest, personalized multi-touch campaigns, and custom-timed reminders to follow up with prospects if you haven’t heard back from them. With more information right in your inbox, you can take advantage of crucial data that could be the difference in making or breaking your deal.  

The Takeaway

Sales engagement is the practice of building genuine and sincere relationships with prospects through understanding the buyer’s journey– which means executing the right actions at the right time. While software is not required for engaged selling, it most certainly is useful, saving salespeople upwards of two hours a day while simplifying their processes and increasing the information in their inbox. Sales engagement provides critical metrics and data that helps sales teams become more effective while incorporating more personalization into otherwise automated processes. The practice of sales engagement is a balanced give-and-take along the entire journey.

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