The dynamic sales and marketing landscape is continuously being transformed by cutting-edge technologies that empower sales teams to build more meaningful connections with potential customers throughout the sales cycle.

These powerful tools allow them to leverage comprehensive customer data and insightful metrics while streamlined workflow automation simplifies the sales process and enhances productivity.

However, the question arises: sales engagement vs. sales enablement platform — which one to invest in? To make informed decisions, it’s crucial to understand the distinct purposes of each tool and how they contribute to overall sales success.

Sales technology terminology can be perplexing, so let’s clarify the definitions of “sales enablement” and “sales engagement,” and then delve into the key differences between these two platforms.

What Is Sales Enablement?

The goal of sales enablement is to empower sales teams with the necessary knowledge, skills, and processes to optimize every interaction with potential customers. 

To achieve this, sales enablement encompasses a range of activities, including:

  • Recruiting and hiring. Getting top-performing salespeople on the team.
  • Training and coaching. Providing ongoing education and motivating sales reps to enhance their skills.
  • Equipping. Supplying sales team members with the right tools to do their jobs
  • Assessing. Evaluating individual and team performance to identify areas for improvement and drive sales growth.

As you can see, sales enablement involves different activities with the goal of giving sales teams the tools and resources they need to close more deals.

Recent changes in customer expectations mean that the sales process has become more buyer-centric than ever. 

With this new customer-focused reality, sales teams must closely collaborate with other internal departments or specialties, such as marketing, human resources, product marketing, field marketing, customer service, account-based marketing, and more.

With the need for so much interdepartmental cooperation, a sales enablement platform is essential for the orchestration of these different elements. 

Your sales enablement platform should help sales reps deliver a seamless customer sales experience by bringing these elements together.

What Is Sales Engagement?

Sales engagement goes beyond just sales outreach, that is, how many people sales teams are contacting. The quality of that outreach, the efficiency of prospecting activity, and the effectiveness of conversion efforts are all essential elements of the equation. 

Better sales engagement translates to higher sales, so the correlation is pretty obvious. 

Picking the right sales engagement solution makes all the difference, as it will provide the following must-have features to sales teams:

  • Sales content management. A centralized repository of product and marketing materials that sales representatives can easily access and tailor to individual prospects.
  • Integrated communication features. Seamlessly integrated channels such as email, phone, SMS, and web conferencing to accommodate diverse prospect communication preferences.
  • Guided selling tools. Dynamic call scripting, lead routing, sales cadence management, and other features to guide sales representatives through the sales process.

While sales enablement platforms and practices align the sales process internally with other departments to ensure success, sales engagement platforms focus on aiding sales professionals to reach and communicate effectively with prospects and customers.

Here’s where thinking gets complicated for some sales & marketing leaders. 

After all, they already have a customer relationship management (CRM) tool as well as marketing automation software. 

Although these two solutions should handle all that sales engagement activity, they are not enough to garner one-to-one engagement between salespeople and prospects, and leads. 

In fact, these platforms should be considered “givens” like a phone, computer,  or a workspace. Simply put, while these technologies are fundamental, they lack the specific functionalities required for personalized, one-to-one engagement between sales representatives and potential customers.

Sales engagement platforms bridge the gap between marketing automation and CRM, facilitating the critical phase where leads transition into customers. 

Marketing automation attracts leads, CRM manages established relationships, and sales engagement platforms nurture and convert leads into loyal customers.

In essence, CRM is for managing relationships, while sales engagement is for initiating and building them.

Let’s explore this further.

Why CRM and Marketing Automation Aren’t Enough for Excellent Sales Engagement Experiences

The thing is that CRM and marketing automation simply don’t suffice when it comes to sales engagement activities. Here’s what you should know about this. 

Start by asking yourself these three essential questions.

  1. Does a customer relationship management platform alone help an individual rep engage with his or her prospects?

Hardly. 

Most organizations use CRM as a data library to capture contact information and track sales activities against those contacts. There are very limited features in most CRM tools that help sales reps actively engage with leads.

  1. Can a marketing automation platform improve the one-on-one engagement activities of your sales reps?

Not really. 

Marketing automation is more about large-scale reach and inbound marketing. Although you can create personalized, relevant landing pages and emails, that’s not the same as one-to-one, person-to-person engagement and relationship building.

The right martech solution will help you score leads and move the “sales qualified” ones over to sales quickly. 

However, marketing automation doesn’t empower individual sales reps to engage one-on-one with prospects and leads.

  1. Are your sales reps responding to new leads within minutes rather than days, and are they making a high enough volume of outreaches, based on a defined cadence, to engage with your target audience?

Very unlikely.

Most salespeople take days to follow up on new leads despite research showing conversion rates drop dramatically if the new lead isn’t contacted within an hour of a web form submission.

Ask any marketer, and they will tell you that the sales team doesn’t follow up on leads fast enough, and the leads become stale or lost to the competition. In other words, speed-to-lead is crucial. 

This problem occurs despite there already being a CRM in place. 

Clearly, a CRM solution alone doesn’t facilitate effective sales engagement.

Sales Engagement & Sales Enablement Platforms Can’t Do It All

It would be great if the majority of your sales managerial problems could be alleviated with sales engagement and sales enablement software. 

Unfortunately, that’s not possible. Software alone can’t replace great management practices.

Sales leaders have to take an active role in ensuring their teams are primed and ready to crush their quotas. 

Sales engagement and sales enablement tools can facilitate efficiencies and productivity, but they don’t prepare people to get better sales reps.

Here are tips to help you cultivate sales skills so that you and your team can maximize sales enablement and sales engagement technology.

Provide appropriate onboarding to new sales reps 

Want to get the best sales performance out of your new hires? 

Ensure your sales organization has a solid onboarding program in place. Here’s what you should know when it comes to new rep onboarding best practices:

  1. Great onboarding should start before day one of the job. Call the person before their first day to welcome the new team member. Ensure all tech and tools are ready before they start. Finish up paperwork. Have a “welcome” kit awaiting them.
  2. Allow your new hires to get in-depth product training. Not only should you train them on the product itself, but you should also connect them with other departments that help build and market your offering. Arrange meetings for new reps with marketing, product management, development, and other teams who can give new hires insights into the why/how/what behind your product or service.
  3. Be realistic with your ramp-up time for onboarding and sales training. Acknowledge that mastering the sales role takes time, and avoid rushing new hires into full productivity before they are ready. Set achievable goals and milestones for new reps during onboarding to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.
  4. Give new reps the opportunity to see your best sales reps in action. This allows them to observe successful strategies, techniques, and communication styles firsthand. Shadowing top performers can be an invaluable learning experience, providing real-world examples and insights that can be applied to their own sales approach.
  5. Don’t forget training on your sales technology. Sales engagement, sales enablement, phone systems, and other tools may have their own learning curves.
  6. Connect new reps with current customers, so they can hear firsthand why customers use your brand’s offerings.
  7. Think about creating a mentorship program. Pair new hires with experienced sales reps for guidance and support. This can help new reps learn the ropes faster, feel more connected to the team, and build confidence in their abilities.

Provide ongoing sales training to existing team members

Even your star performers can learn a thing or two. After all, think about how quickly the buyer’s journey has evolved. The most effective sales teams will evolve with buyers. 

Keep your team’s sales readiness in mind and provide them with access to training on classic skills like cold calling as well as modern selling skills like social selling.

Commit to coaching 

A lot of managers think of themselves as “coaches” or embrace a sales coaching mentality. 

However, very few embrace a systematic, formal approach to coaching. 

Sales coaching is one of the best ways to reinforce skills gained during training and to ensure salespeople understand how to be successful in your organization.

Forge an alliance with marketing

Marketing can be your greatest partner or an annoying department you have to “deal with,” and you share responsibility for how that relationship plays out if you’re the sales leader. 

Work with your marketing team to formalize “sales qualified leads” definitions. 

Talk to them about why the leads they deliver may not work for your group. Ask them why they think the leads are good. Both of you may be missing important points — and, therefore, missing sales opportunities. You may be tired of hearing about it, but sales and marketing alignment is important.

Create a formal sales playbook

Your sales team needs a formal, documented playbook. 

And remember — a playbook isn’t a training manual. A training manual builds skills.

A playbook helps you take those skills and apply them to a winning sales strategy.

Your sales playbook should do the following for your sales team:

  • Get your sales team “customer ready”
  • Act as a living, centralized document that’s always up-to-date
  • Be measurable to help you assess its value
  • Provide your company with a high-quality, structured sales process

Take content for sales seriously 

Content isn’t just for marketing these days. 

Your sales engagement and sales enablement strategies rely, to a large degree, on the availability of well-written content for sales reps to use with potential customers.

Even the best sales engagement and sales enablement technology in the world will be ineffective if you haven’t armed your team with the content that leads and customers crave. 

Ensure you have the following types of sales content available to your team and their prospects:

  • Ebooks and white papers
  • Informational and educational blog posts
  • Case studies
  • Customer testimonials
  • Interactive and multimedia content (videos, podcasts, and other audio-visual and interactive content)
  • Social media content
  • Other public-facing content (tip sheets, infographics, and more.)

Also, take time to ensure your salespeople have access to important internal documents such as:

  • Buyer personas
  • Sales scripts
  • Communication templates
  • Product training and mastery of content
  • Competitor research and analysis
  • Analyst reports.

Sales Enablement vs. Sales Engagement: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Although each of these sales platforms has a different focus, sales enablement and sales engagement solutions complement one another. They both play a role in enabling the sales team to engage effectively with prospects and customers to meet revenue goals.

In the case of your sales enablement efforts, work with other internal departments to ensure sales enablement is part of the corporate culture. Work with other executives and managers to find a sales enablement platform that fits the overall sales efforts and goals of your company.

When it comes to sales engagement solutions, the choice is up to your sales management team. 

You own the one-on-one conversations and relationships during the sales cycle. You could opt for a CRM-only approach, but at what cost? Demand the sales engagement platform that will make every conversation count and move the lead closer to a sale.

Closing Words 

Sales engagement and sales enablement are both crucial for the success of your sales efforts. The former refers to helping sales reps communicate effectively with prospects and it serves as a link between marketing and the sales process. The latter is about providing your sales team with the right tools, training, technologies, and all kinds of support to help them close more deals. Obviously, these two terms aren’t interchangeable but complementary, so make sure to implement them in order to address and meet your prospects’ needs at every stage of their buyer’s journey.

what is sales engagement