- Sales engagement technologies share four core functionalities: calling/dialing, email, calendaring and reporting
- Automatically recording administrative sales tasks – and reducing the time spent on them – increases sales reps’ efficiency and can make them more effective
- Differentiation among vendors goes beyond the core functionalities into other areas, including sales playbooks, chatbots and artificial intelligence
Modern B2B sales reps trying to make their number must maximize their time spent on core selling activities like customer and buyer engagement (see the brief “Introducing the SiriusDecisions Relative Productivity Framework”). Completing too many administrative tasks (e.g. logging calls and sending emails to prospects, duplicating calendar entries for a scheduled meeting) can overburden sales reps and take too much time away from selling.
When deployed and used correctly, sales force automation (SFA) systems increase reps’ efficiency and effectiveness by managing core sales processes (e.g. lead generation, contact management, account management, opportunity management), moving opportunities through the sales process, and collecting data about prospects and customers. However, although SFA systems act as a system of record, their value depends on whether sales reps consistently and accurately enter the data. Widespread data entry issues mean that the promise of decreasing or eliminating the administrative burden on reps has gone largely unfulfilled.
Over the last six months, my colleagues and I have noticed an uptick in client inquiries on the topic of technologies that can help reduce administrative burdens on sales reps through automation, thus giving them more time to sell. These technologies also analyze the habits of reps across the sales organization, which can help make reps more efficient and effective.
These sales engagement technologies have strong integrations with major email, calendaring and SFA systems to help automate data recording and improve workflows. These integrations are really the basis by which the technology functions. Here are the four major functionalities that we see across most vendor offerings:
- Calling/dialing. Despite the hype surrounding non-human buyer interactions, calling still remains a very effective method for reps to reach prospects and move them through the pipeline to close. Sales engagement solutions offer a variety of call- or dialer-centric features, such as power/auto dialing, local area calling, click-to-call (automatically logged in the SFA system) and call recording. Call recording can be used for training purposes and is increasingly becoming a testing ground for artificial intelligence (AI), where the sentiment, speaking times and keywords of a conversation are analyzed and used to improve a rep’s performance on future calls.
- E-mail. Most solutions offer all (or some of) the following features: automatic logging of e-mails sent, opened and replied to into the SFA system (including document tracking); email reminders to prompt sales reps to perform a suggested action (based on a predetermined cadence of actions); automatic email campaigns (similar to nurture found in marketing automation); pre-built email templates for reps; and profile data integration into the e-mail client (i.e. while in the email client, a rep can see the profile data on a prospect contained in the SFA system).
- Calendaring. Most sales engagement solutions offer the ability to integrate with and synchronize to reps’ calendars. This allows reps to semi-automate the scheduling of calls/meetings via email – with available times and embedded click-to-schedule features. Additionally, these meetings are automatically logged to the contact or account within the SFA system, thus eliminating the need for the rep to perform a separate manual task after the call is scheduled on the appropriate calendars.
- Reporting. In addition to providing the automation or semi-automation of many administrative tasks and time-consuming data entry, these solutions can provide sales leaders with additional data and analysis. Understanding what your sales reps are spending their time on is valuable, but the analysis of the data (increasingly using AI) may provide you with more information on what works and doesn’t work when trying to close a deal. Incorporating this information into training and communication to reps can help them better understand the buyer and the buying process – and ultimately make them more effective sellers.
In addition to providing these core functionalities, some vendors are also differentiating themselves through extended functionalities such as live chat, intelligent messaging (chatbots), texting/SMS, sales playbooks, forecast management and opportunity health checks.
SiriusDecisions has been researching sales engagement technology for the last six months, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on functionalities and vendors as we learn more!