CRM platforms and marketing automation software are essential to your organization’s sales and marketing success, but if you only rely on these two applications, you’re missing an important piece of the puzzle.

While a CRM system allows you to collect and analyze customer data and a marketing automation tool helps you reach out to prospects in a one-to-many format to nurture and qualify leads, you still need a way for sales reps to engage with qualified prospects at the right place with the right message at the right time. After all, traditional CRM technology is really just a database where leads and prospects get placed, and where sales development reps (SDRs) cherry pick which leads they want to call. CRM offers very limited controls over the way leads get worked by SDRs.

Did you know that new leads contacted within the first hour of submitting an inquiry have a higher conversion rate? Yet, the average first response time of B2B companies to their leads is 42 hours and 23% never respond at all!

Why You Need a Sales Engagement Platform

For most organizations, Marketing creates the leads with the help of a Marketing Automation system, and subsequently pass each new lead off to the CRM system for Sales to follow up on them. However, a common lament according to Marketing is that Sales reps take too long to follow up on the leads. The leads become stale. When Sales finally follows up on the leads, they quickly learn the leads are dead, and they blame Marketing. Both sides blame the other. The truth is, both sides are right. The issue is that Marketing didn’t immediately engage with the lead for a live one-on-one qualification, and Sales didn’t run with the lead while they were hot (waiting 42 hours to respond to a new lead is a good example of that). What’s missing is a piece of technology that bridges this gap.

A sales engagement platform allows your sales reps to engage with qualified leads at the right time using content that matches a prospect’s progress in the buyer’s journey.

A sales engagement platform helps standardize the sales process through sales cadence automation that ensures multiple touchpoints from the lead to the sale.

In short, a sales engagement solution enables reps to engage with prospects faster and more effectively, increasing their productivity and leading to more sales.

Best Practices For Implementing a Sales Engagement Platform

Just like any sales technology, the effectiveness of a sales engagement platform is only as good as how well it’s implemented. Here are ten best practices to sales engagement platform deployment to help you get the most out of your investment:

1. Involve All Stakeholders

In this day and age where customer relationships and sales experience can make or break a sale, you need to design a seamless sales experience that incorporates input from each of the business units that interact with customers during their purchasing journey.

In particular, a close partnership between the Sales and Marketing departments is essential to convert more customers successfully.

Sales teams can no longer work in a silo. They need to collaborate closely with other departments to deliver an outstanding customer experience that will lead to conversions.

To set up your sales engagement platform for success, gather input from all stakeholders involved in the marketing, sales, and customer support processes to help you design a customer experience that covers all stages of the customer journey and critical touchpoints. We strongly suggest the use of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between departments. This commits each team to a guaranteed response time.

2. Define Roles & Responsibilities

Even with an easy-to-implement sales engagement platform like VanillaSoft, you still need to define roles and responsibilities to ensure a successful launch and adoption. Here are a few ideas for the roles and responsibilities to consider:

  • Implementation and deployment project manager. Even the simplest of solutions benefit from project management. What’s simple and obvious to you may not be so clear cut to other members of the sales team. Assign a project manager to ensure implementation and change management steps occur to make your solution a success.
  • Sales engagement solution administrator. The platform administrator has a variety of duties. These can include managing password changes, creating and removing users from the system, adding custom fields, setting up email templates, managing staff training and inquiries, onboarding new users, integrating with other systems (CRM, ERP, marketing automation). These duties may be very similar to what your CRM administrator does, so it may be possible that the same person could handle both systems.
  • Subject matter experts (SMEs). Recruit marketing, customer service, and sales leaders and SMEs to participate in the implementation and launch of the sales engagement platform. These SMEs will help ensure that all data and processes that impact the sales, marketing, and support processes are considered.

3. Map the buyer’s journey and sales touch points

Your prospects don’t want a sales pitch. Instead, they want information that will help them solve a problem.

Design your sales content to help customers understand their challenges, educate them on the solution, and help them make the right purchasing decisions.

Work with your Marketing team to create content and templates that make it easy for your SDRs to generate interest and increase engagement throughout the sales cadence workflow.

Incorporate a feedback loop focused on content management, so sales reps can share input with the Marketing team on what content is or isn’t effective for each persona at the various stages of the buyer’s journey. Work with Marketing to provide recommendations, based on context, so your Sales team can determine what to do next regarding what content will drive better results and empower your sales reps to communicate more effectively with prospects.

In addition, set up analytics to track the effectiveness of the content in real-time throughout the entire sales funnel, so your Sales team can expedite their actions in pursuing a lead or prospect.

4. Focus on Sales & Marketing Alignment

If you’re sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned before you deploy your sales engagement platform, then you’ve got some work to do. If marketing isn’t delivering the right leads or enough leads, your sales engagement platform will be a little lonely. By including marketing team members in the deployment process, you’ll take a big first step toward alignment — or strengthen the bond you already have.

  1. Support Change Management

Very few people in life enjoy change. Even an exciting change comes with growing pains. When you decide to launch a new sales technology, ask yourself, “what will reps think and do?” Then ask yourself again because the first time you probably thought about it from your point of view. Be realistic. You know somebody — maybe just one loud, squeaky wheel — is going to:

  1. Groan like a teenager and ask “why????”
  2. Roll his or her eyes and think, “not again.” (If your organization is the type to chase every new tech solution in search of better sales, this is going to happen.)
  3. Smirk and think, “whatevs, I’m still going to do things my way, boss.”
  4. Freak out and assume some larger conspiracy is at play that leads to robots taking over sales jobs and layoffs on the way.

Instead of just thrusting a new solution upon your team, think about the five stages that people go through when faced with making a change.

  1. Awareness that a change needs to occur. You have to explain why the change must occur and what benefits will come from the change (or negative consequences that come from not changing).
  2. Desire to be part of the change through participation and support. It’s up to you to drum up support among your staff. Find advocates who can help you spread positivity about the upcoming change.
  3. Understanding of how to go about making the change. You have to set aside time to train your sales team to use the new sales engagement platform. Set expectations around participating in training.
  4. The ability to actually use the new skills and behaviors. Give your team an idea of when they need to be up-to-speed on the new system. Give them one-on-one assistance with any problems they run into during the first week or two after launch.
  5. Reinforcement of new behaviors to maintain the change long term. Find the right mix of praise and consequences to keep people using the system correctly. While it’s preferable to go the praise route, reps may need negative consequences for working outside of the new norm.
  1. Use Data to Track Gains and Optimizations

With change comes the need to monitor and optimize. No matter what type of software solution you’re dealing with, you should be looking at pre- and post-implementation metrics to identify the impact of the new system. If the results are not in line with your expectations, dig deeper to determine where your solution or sales reps may be experiencing a hiccup.

  1. Create a scalable and organized naming structure

With your new sales engagement platform, you’ll likely be creating email templates, projects, and other files and processes. To keep your solution easy-to-manage and build upon, set up a taxonomy that helps you quickly organize and find the items you need. Make things easy on yourself, and consider setting up an index of templates, files, and other elements in an easy-to-search spreadsheet or database where you also capture any standard operating procedures and changelog details.

8. Create a Sales Cadence

The sales cadence workflow in your sales engagement platform should reflect your prospects’ needs and pain points to help you deliver the right message at the right time. Take all engagement methods into consideration – calls, emails, downloads, social media, etc. Each type of interaction your team initiates with prospects should be based on a sales cadence workflow.

Start with an audit of existing sales touchpoints. Are your SDRs connecting with your prospects at the right time, with the right frequency, using the right channel?

According to research done by the Telfer School of Management, salespeople are more likely to close sales if they consistently contact leads with persistency and immediacy.

The sales engagement platform embeds your desired process. To ensure a positive outcome, you must design a repeatable cadence. Once implemented, every new lead added to the system adheres to this process without exception.

Make, on average, 20 call attempts – especially on inbound leads. Don’t give up after one or even five call attempts.

Contact an inbound lead within the first hour. You have a 38% chance of a positive outcome if you contact within the first-hour versus 8% after the first hour. The best time to reach out to a new inbound lead within the first hour is within the first 10-60 minutes.

Have a higher frequency of touchpoints in the first five days of a lead expressing interest.

Incorporate multiple channels (email, phone, SMS, etc.) for contacting leads.

Map out the sales process and make sure you have the right sales cadence workflows in place to get a positive outcome. Identify gaps so you can update workflows to reflect the sales journey and cadence requirements.

9. Set Up Proper Reporting

Most sales engagement systems provide reporting capabilities to monitor individual and team performance, evaluate call activity metrics and identify trends for greater control over the sales process. Unlike traditional CRM, a best-in-class sales engagement platform helps SDRs qualify more leads and move them through the sales funnel more quickly thanks to intelligent workflows and automation.

Set up reporting procedures so Sales Managers can use real-time data to assess sales activity and pinpoint trends related to sales workflows. Real-time data reporting gives Sales Managers the ability to be more proactive and respond immediately when a sales cadence or specific content type isn’t working for the team. The right reporting can also help managers pinpoint when individual SDRs may need more coaching or training.

Standardize the regular use of reporting and metrics on the sales engagement system to help you keep track of your reps’ productivity and ability to hit their goals. The right kind of reporting offers the visibility and accountability you need to manage your sales teams effectively.

  1. Keep up with Training and Onboarding

Any good sales technology will evolve — that means new features, changes to the interface, and more. Sometimes a rep may just need a little refresher. Make sure your sales reps are taking advantage of the product education offered by your solution vendor. VanillaSoft, for example, offers monthly product education webinars. However, don’t leave all of the training up to the software provider.

Your team likely has specific ways in which you use your sales engagement solution. Train your team members on any new templates, scripts, naming conventions, or new procedures you put in place.

Also, don’t forget to properly onboard your new reps. Even if your new hires have experience with a piece of software from a past job, don’t take for granted that they will use the system the same way you need them to on your team.

Don’t Just “Set It and Forget It”

Sales and Marketing teams have the opportunity to enhance their existing CRM and marketing automation tools by bridging the gap between them with a sales engagement platform. Without a sales engagement solution, all those leads Marketing generated sit in a CRM database waiting for a rep to pick them up for a call. A sales engagement platform increases your team’s “speed to lead” and prevents you from wasting thousands of dollars in marketing spend on leads that go untouched.

Follow these four steps and watch a dramatic increase in lead activity, pipeline, and deal flow all because you’re engaging your leads when, where, and how they want to be engaged.