It wasn’t long ago that sales as an industry was driven largely by volume — more leads meant more prospects, which sometimes translated into more revenue. This process was inefficient, time-intensive, and unpredictable.
Today, sales is driven by insights. The most successful sales teams rely on a combination of sophisticated technology and human expertise to ensure they’re selling the right product, to the right prospect, at the right time. In an increasingly competitive business environment, organizations of all sizes are turning to sales engagement platforms to manage this workload.
Whether you’re the proprietor of a family business, launching a pre-seed startup or work for an enterprise firm, sales engagement platforms can help you optimize every stage of the sales cycle and achieve more as a team. But how should you go about evaluating these tools and what factors should you consider before you commit?
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about evaluating a sales engagement solution:
- How your company can benefit from sales automation
- How to determine the ROI of a sales engagement solution
- Why accurate, reliable data is just as important as your choice of platform
First, let’s examine how and why a sales engagement solution can help your organization achieve its goals.
Why Do You Need a Sales Engagement Platform?
Whether your sales team is one person or 100 people, there are limits to how efficient you can get without using modern software solutions.
Even the most effective, dedicated sales representative only has so many hours in the day. When you consider the average sales professional spends less than 40% of their work week actually selling, the pressure on individual sales reps becomes that much more demanding.
“If you’re writing emails and sending them manually, your ability to execute on that workflow is limited by the amount of people you have working on your team,” says Michael Maimone, head of sales for Chorus, Chat, and Engage at ZoomInfo. “When a company realizes they’ve reached the limits of human efficiency, their only choice is to turn to technology and automation.”
Sales engagement platforms allow your reps to sell more effectively by reducing the guesswork inherent to human-centric sales processes. These solutions don’t just enable sales teams to use their time more effectively by automating routine tasks, they help you connect with decision-makers at the time when they have demonstrated an interest in your product or service.
What Kind of ROI Can You Expect from a Sales Engagement Platform?
One of the most common questions among prospective buyers of sales engagement platforms is what kind of return on investment (ROI) they can expect.
“The hardest thing, and the biggest pushback, is that sales automation adoption is almost 100% dependent on quantifying hard ROI, which is incredibly difficult to do if you’re going from zero to one,” Maimone says.
While it can be difficult to measure the hard ROI achieved from implementing a sales engagement solution, one of the most tangible benefits you’ll see is the immediate impact on your sales team efficiency.
A sales force is often among the most considerable expenses facing any business. Base compensation and incentives can add up quickly, which is why maximizing revenues driven by your sales organization is crucial.
“Sales professionals are expensive,” says Christy Green, a senior product marketing manager at ZoomInfo. “They generally make a lot of money. And so a lot of an organization’s overhead goes into paying its sales team. With a sales engagement platform, a company could reach the same number of prospects it would by hiring more sales reps, so it’s a really good investment.”
What Can Sales Engagement Platforms Do for You?
It’s important to explore what sales automation tools are — and what they aren’t — so you know what to look for.
Marketing Automation vs. Sales Engagement
Some people mistakenly confuse sales automation platforms with marketing automation platforms. Although these two software solutions work similarly by automating routine administrative tasks and workflows — and sometimes share similar features — they are not synonymous.
Sales engagement tools automate how and when your sales team engages with prospective buyers. Conversely, as their name implies, marketing automation tools automate your marketing outreach, such as email marketing campaigns, nurture flows, and online advertising. While sales and marketing often work hand-in-glove with one another, there has yet to be cohesive alignment with their respective tools.
“Some prospects will say, ‘Well, we have HubSpot or MailChimp or Pardot or Marketo or Eloqua,’” Maimone says. “There’s no functional parity between sales automation tools and marketing automation tools. It does not exist.”
Although specific features vary from one solution to another, all sales engagement platforms enhance your go-to-market motions by automating many of the time-consuming administrative tasks that your sales team has to execute every day. This includes identifying and qualifying prospective leads, scheduling and email outreach automation, auto-dialing, and more.
By automating those tasks, your sales team can focus on delivering the expertise your customers expect at scale, dramatically increasing the volume of leads that can be processed without losing the vital human touch that separates your business from your competitors.
“Sales automation is to technology what the cotton gin was to the cotton industry,” Maimone says. “You can separate the seed from the pulp a hundred times faster than you did previously. And with sales automation, you may send out 10 times or even 100 times the volume of communications, in a fraction of the time.”
While specific functionality varies from one platform to another, most offer similar features. This typically includes:
- Intelligent call and calendar scheduling
- Follow-up reminders
- CRM integration
Some sales automation solutions go beyond these features and offer greater insights into your sales team’s data. This includes conversational analytics technologies that use natural-language processing to analyze and evaluate areas of opportunity during sales calls. Platforms such as ZoomInfo Engage also offer intent data, including such potential buying signals as prospects’ visits to specific websites, to further contextualize your reps’ calls and maximize the likelihood of a closed deal.
Are Sales Engagement Platforms Difficult to Use?
Given the power of sales automation solutions, many first-time users are often apprehensive about the complexity of adopting a new tool.
Fortunately, the best sales engagement platforms are designed to be as user-friendly as possible. After all, the easier a solution is to use, the more likely a business will continue using it.
While sales engagement platforms are often much easier to use than some first-time buyers expect, there are still potential pitfalls to consider.
Solving the ‘Empty Box’ Problem
According to Maimone, one of the most common problems people experience when implementing a sales automation tool isn’t the complexity of the platform, but rather a lack of data.
“The biggest hurdle that people face is content,” Maimone says. “You can buy the most custom, bespoke system in the world, integrate it into every system in your organization, have everything set up so it’s perfectly balanced and aligned. Then you turn the key … and the gas tank is empty. You’ve got to be thinking about data from the moment you decide to move towards adopting a sales automation platform.”
Regardless of which sales engagement platform you’re considering, it’s vital to think about the kind of data your sales team will need and where you’ll source that data. Ideally, your chosen solution should include:
- Prospects’ name and contact information
- Their role/job title
- Geographic location
- Company and industry/sector
Although these data points are a solid start, it’s far from the only intelligence your sales team will need to close more deals.
Engagement data, such as the number of emails a prospect has opened, provides your sales team with crucial context to meet prospects where they are in the buying journey. Some sales automation platforms, like ZoomInfo Engage, provide highly granular intent data, such as visits to specific web pages and other strong purchasing signals, to arm your sales reps with warm, qualified leads that increase the likelihood of closing a deal and driving revenue.
One of the key advantages of choosing a unified sales engagement platform is the fact that it eliminates the inefficiencies — and potential conflicts — of working across separate systems. It also significantly lowers costs, reduces the risk of working with inaccurate or conflicting data, and streamlines workflows across teams by ensuring that everyone is using the same verified data asset.
Exploring the New World of Insight Sales
With businesses of all sizes in every sector navigating increasingly precarious economic conditions, it has never been more important for organizations to maximize the impact of their go-to-market motions.
That said, no two companies are exactly alike. What works for one organization may not necessarily work for another. That’s why Maimone recommends evaluating various sales engagement platforms thoroughly before making a decision.
“The only thing more disruptive to a business than evaluating and implementing a new technology is replacing it with something else 12 months later,” he says. “Evaluate tools holistically so they fit into the whole stack and will scale with your business.”
To see how ZoomInfo Engage can help you grow your business, contact us today for a completely free, no-obligation free trial.