Gone are the days when sales reps aggressively pushed people against the wall, demanding to “have a look at the most amazing product ever”. Modern salesmen are smart and they know that the key to the customer’s heart is genuine interest and engagement.
But how do you engage a person that didn’t even approach you or displayed too little interest in your product? Actually, it’s not so difficult unless you’re trying to sell a completely irrelevant product to the wrong person. Let’s have a look at the best engagement practices – but first, let’s jar our memory and remember the good old basics.
Sales engagement: what you need to know about it
Sales engagement is basically an interaction between a sales rep and a customer, aimed at persuading the customer to buy – in other words, turning the prospect into a lead. This interaction, in turn, consists of many other processes aka calls, emails, meetings.
The cornerstones of the sales engagement process are:
- channels: you need to find the right channels to reach your audience
- content: materials that you use to persuade the customer to buy
- automation of sales processes for more efficient work
- platforms: the use of right sales engagement and CRM platforms for optimized work
Some may say: why do I even need sales engagement? I have an awesome CRM and I have a marketing platform, so isn’t it too much?
Well, not at all. Sales engagement closes this tiny gap between the CRM and marketing platforms and that’s one critical factor that impacts the buying decision. Just think about it: you use a marketing platform to reach new prospects who haven’t heard about your product and you use the CRM platform to manage the existing customers. But what do you do with those who learned about the product but didn’t make the decision yet? Without a sales engagement platform, you leave them hanging in the air and hesitating between you and your competitors.
Sales engagement or sales enablement: why not both?
One more thing to clarify before moving on to the best engagement practices is the difference between sales engagement and sales enablement.
Sales engagement is a set of practices to engage the customer and turn him from a prospect into a lead. So it’s safe to say that sales engagement is focused on the customers.
Sales enablement, in turn, is focused on sales reps. It’s a process that is aimed at teaching the sales reps how to sell right and providing them with all the necessary tools and knowledge for successful selling.
One cannot do without the other, meaning, sales enablement cannot be practiced without sales engagement. These are the two interrelated practices that serve one common goal: to help your sales reps sell more efficiently to the right people. And in order to make these two work for you, you need to have extremely organized processes in your company that will help your sales reps instead of confusing or misleading them.
Phew, that was quite complex. So no more theory – let’s get down to practice and see the actual sales engagement methods that help companies win the hearts and minds of the customers in an easy and hassle-free manner.
Join forces with marketing
Turn your enemy into a friend, says a famous phrase, and that’s the exact thing that the sales department needs to do.
First, you should never consider any of your colleagues as an enemy (yes, even Karen who always microwaves her salmon). Second, you really need to make friends with marketing if you want to boost your sales.
Marketing is the never-ending source of priceless data about your customers. After all, marketers constantly track the customers’ activity and know everything about one’s buying habits, preferred “digital habitat”, and the frequency of buying or checking out the product.
Moreover, marketing is responsible for the company’s images and the quality of the leads. After all, it’s the marketing department that forms the vision of a company and presents it to a certain market segment. So if your marketing department generates wrong leads or your sales department approaches the market segment in the wrong way, that’s where your troubles begin.
In order for the two departments to successfully work side by side, here’s what you can do:
- Together with marketing, create the profile of your perfect customer and stick to it. That means, the marketing team has to target this segment and promote the product in the right way, while the sales team has to use the right engagement techniques to appeal to this specific customer.
- Create a user journey for this market segment. Once you have a clear portrait of a perfect customer in mind, together with marketing create a user journey and identify the major points of interaction. Both marketing and sales teams should clearly understand when to interact with the customers and what is the best time to engage them.
- Let marketing take the lead! That doesn’t mean marketing should dictate how to engage the customers and contact them. Here, we mean the following: let marketing do their work by informing the customer about the product and only after that, do the cold calls, emailing, or any other ways of contacting the prospect. After all, if the person has zero knowledge about your product, chances are high you won’t sell much to them despite your best efforts.
- Learn from the customers’ feedback and adjust your sales strategy correspondingly. The marketing department has access to the most valuable kind of data – the actual customers’ thoughts on the product and the company. Use it to optimize your selling (and marketing!) strategy and learn from past mistakes.
Train your employees so they can become real pros
One of the secrets of successful customer engagement is actually knowing what you talk about and how you present it. Unfortunately, companies tend to overlook the importance of training and instead, prefer to jump straight away to selling. So wrong.
Even if the newcomer proved to be a stellar sales rep in the past, your company has a totally different product and the person has to learn how to sell this exact product. Start with providing all the needed information on the product or service and any other additional information that will be useful.
The next step will be to ensure the person knows how to properly perform cold calling or composing a professional and engaging email. Always start with the basics and check whether the person is familiar with the most common selling techniques and practices. If no, provide the needed training and show the right way.
As well, give your sales reps access to the useful online courses and seminars and never grudge money on educational events (the worthy ones, of course). By constantly learning, the employees will significantly level-up their skills, which, in turn, will bring profit to your company.
And finally – keep an eye on the team, track the performance and see whether everyone manages to deliver the set results. For newcomers, it’s important to deliver the needed KPIs to avoid problems with the deal closing in the future.
Don’t forget about the content and its quality
Sales engagement is not only about the personal meetings and cold calls – but it also includes supporting one’s buying decision with relevant information (aka copy) about the product. And if your copy is weak, bland and boring, no one would become interested in your product.
Start with revising your sales material (portfolio or case studies, for example). Do they really show how you managed to help your clients in the past or is it just a marketing bluff? The sales copy should strongly address the real (tangible) value of a product without using cliches like “the number one product in the market”. A piece of advice here: avoid using “the number one” or “the best” characteristics. The reason for that is simple: you’ll need to prove you are the number one – otherwise, you’ll be misleading the customers with the wrong information.
As well, revise the overall content related to your product: your website, newsletters, white papers, etc. See what the customer will find upon researching the product online: is it an informative and engaging website or a poorly performing one? Because content is part of the brand identity, you need to take good care of it so that it helps you lead the customer towards buying (and not the opposite).
When creating content, remember the golden rule: you are writing for people. In an attempt to seem more competent, many companies use cliches, highbrow words, and all the “formal business language”. That’s not the case if you want to engage your readers. Instead, explain what makes you different in a simple and professional tone and you’ll be amazed at the response rate.
Optimize your follow-up processes
That’s probably the most hated yet the most efficient part of the selling process: the follow-ups.
People hate follow-ups – well, most people do. The reason for that is simple: you just keep getting dozens of the annoying “this is my last email” sort of letters in your mailbox and they don’t seem to stop. So what do you do in order to turn the negative experience into a positive one that would bring you closed deals?
First, you follow-up immediately and by that, we really mean immediately. Some sales reps prefer to give it a few days and then approach a person. This method does not work at all. Just think about it: if a person hits the “learn more” button, they are indeed ready to learn more but only at that specific time. A couple of days later they may not be in the mood for buying anymore or they may have found a suitable alternative – but you don’t think about that, do you?
So the first and the most important thing about following-up is doing it right after the customer clicks the button or places a request for a call.
Another important thing is the optimization of the actual follow-up process. In sales, there is just so much going on: the endless calls, hundreds of contacts, arranged meetings and so on. In order to keep your processes transparent and not get lost, start using a reliable CRM and sales engagement platforms to keep all of your processes in one place.
The usage of such platforms is not a luxury but a necessity. You need to always be able to see which sales rep is responsible for which deal and when is the time to call a certain person. This is where automation tools step in and save the day with their computation power and the ability to facilitate all the manual processes that you deal with on a daily basis.
Recreate the user journey and identify the key touchpoints
We’ve mentioned it above but this is a too important subject to leave it aside. The recreation of a potential user journey and the identification of the key touchpoints are the methods that will help you succeed and sell much better than you used to.
In order to create an accurate customer journey map, you really need to portrait your perfect customer and outline his or her main interests, preferences, online habits and basic info like gender, age, or anything else that can help you target better.
Once you have a portrait of your perfect customer, just try and think about their possible steps. Would this person first google the product or ask a friend for a recommendation? And what are the possible places where the person would search for a product?
After outlining the customer journey, there is one more exciting thing waiting for you to do it – identification of the touchpoints aka points of interaction between the customer and your brand. A touchpoint may be an online ad or an online form on your website and all these interactions have to be considered for successful sales.
If you know approximately when and how the customer is getting in touch with the product, it becomes so much easier to approach the person at the right time and engage them, correspondingly. As well, the creation of a customer journey with the touchpoints will help you avoid many problems like calling the customer at a stage when he is not ready at all.
Use personalization (heavily!)
People love to feel special – and who doesn’t? We love knowing that this exact offer was made exclusively for us and for that, we are ready to wait a bit longer, share our personal information, or perform any other actions that a marketer wants us to.
Of course, it’s a bit of exaggeration but personalization indeed works magic in the world of sales and marketing. Once people feel like they are being offered something truly exclusive and “just for them”, they become much more loyal towards a salesperson.
It is, therefore, the ultimate goal of any sales rep to show the customer the value that the product brings specifically for them. And this isn’t an easy task!
To present the product in the best way possible, a sales rep should answer the customer’s questions. And in order to do that, you need to conduct very thorough research on the customer’s interests and try to guess the approximate issues that the customer may have and that your product can solve.
Remember: the key to a customer’s heart is offering them something they need and something that solves their specific problem – not the problem of hundreds of the clients before them. Nobody wants to hear about the benefits of a product for an unknown person but everyone wants to learn what the product can do just for them.
Choose a reliable and high-performing automation tool
The process of choosing an automation tool is like choosing a car. All of them have wheels and can drive but some cars have a fancy convertible top and an incredibly smooth pace while others can barely speed up. Same with the automation tools – or almost the same.
There are dozens (if not more) of sales automation tools in the market and it’s really easy to get lost in them. For the sake of your time and patience, we’ll have a look at the two platforms that are the most critical for any sales rep: CRM and sales engagement platforms.
Choosing the perfect CRM solution
A customer relationship management system is an absolute must for any specialist who works with people. Such a platform is responsible for keeping all your leads and prospects in one place and automating a bunch of workflows like the creation of an email or follow-ups.
When choosing a CRM, you first have to adequately evaluate your business and decide whether you need a complex solution with many fancy features or you’ll be OK with a small but efficient one that is equipped with the basic functionality. Many companies tend to overestimate themselves and choose a huge and over-complicated platform while in reality, they’ll be fine with a smaller solution.
Here are the things to consider when looking at the CRM options:
- On-premise vs cloud solution: the choice will depend on your in-house IT team, scope of work, cost of maintenance, etc.
- Functionality: the set of features that your business really needs (not the one you think it needs).
- Integration with third-party services: the CRM should easily integrate with your existing software.
- An option of a free trial: this will give you the taste of the CRM and will facilitate your decision to buy it (or look for another one).
- User-friendliness: in general, the CRM system should be clear, intuitive and easy for understanding, otherwise, your employees will have a hard time dealing with it.
Choosing the perfect sales engagement platform
As we already said, the sales engagement platform closes the gap between the marketing and CRM platform. The sales engagement solution facilitates and automates your interactions with the prospects and significantly improves a number of your sales processes.
Some of the essential features of a good sales engagement platform are:
- Easy content creation and management,
- Advanced communication features, including the basic ones like email, phone, SMS messages,
- Advanced selling tools like automated lead routing,
- Tools for efficient onboarding and training of the sales reps (establishment of benchmarks, analysis, and reporting),
- Analytics of both the team’s performance and the customers’ behavior.
The ultimate goal of a good sales engagement platform is to guide the sales team towards the result by analyzing the team’s activity, customers’ behavior and reaching the prospect at the right time with the right message.
Make analytics your best friend
Analytics is the best way to see what goes right and what goes wrong. The numbers, diagrams, and graphs are the actual visual representation of your team’s success so you want to keep an eye on the analytics and use it for your benefit.
As a salesperson, you need to know both the marketing and sales analytics. When we talk about marketing, you want to know where your prospects come from, what attracts them and what discourages them from learning about your products or services. You can do that by looking at the bounce rate, a number of page visits, email click-through rate, etc.
As for the sales analytics, you want to closely monitor how the customers respond to your activities. Do they prefer to be contacted by email or do they tend to buy more after you personally call them? All these little things matter as they help you adjust your strategy and sell in a wiser manner.
We’d recommend you to start from Google Analytics and get a grip on it before you move to more complex data, generated by your automation tools. But overall, do not ignore the analytics as it’s your best friend in the matter of understanding the customers.
Do regular reporting and closely monitor the team’s performance
In the companies with a healthy work environment, people do not see their colleagues as competitors but rather understand that everyone is on the same page and moving towards a single goal. Keep that in mind when holding regular meetings and reviewing the performance of the team.
In order to understand what the employees did right and what they did wrong, it’s essential to have regular meetings with informative reports on the completed work and its results. During such meetings, you will be able to identify the most actionable engagement methods and chop off the ones that don’t work so well.
For the managers, it’s important to explain the importance of regular reporting to the team. The employees should not fear it and perceive the reporting as a way of controlling them but rather as a way of understanding the efficiency of their work and the need in its adjustment.
And finally – do not forget about your employees
In pursuit of completed sales and satisfied customers, some companies forget about the most important element in the sales process which is the sales reps.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of training but there is one more thing to keep in mind which is the onboarding process. When a new person comes to your company, they probably have an impressive experience with sales and know their way around it. Or the situation may be the opposite – you are hiring a person with zero or little experience who is willing to learn and do their best. In both situations, you need to teach them how to sell your exact product to your target audience – and this requires proper education, availability of materials, and thorough organization.
Your checklist for the onboarding process would ideally include:
- A sales playbook with all the key processes and information that is obligatory to know,
- Product training to give the person a 360-degree view of it,
- Training from the best reps or mentors,
- Training with your automation tools and platforms.
Add to that the ongoing training of the sales reps and you will have a dream team of pros who know what they are doing.
Sales engagement is an integral part of the successful selling process and you should not overlook it. Because it’s been just too much information to digest, here is a brief checklist of the most important takeaways:
- Ensure your team is knowledgeable and skilled enough to successfully sell. For that, provide well-organized onboarding, informative and ongoing training and supply the team with all the needed tools and materials.
- Use the most suitable CRM and sales engagement platforms. Do not hesitate to use the free trial of the several platforms to see which one is the most comfortable to work with.
- Use analytics to adjust your marketing and sales efforts and get insights into the customers’ behavior.
- Work together with the marketing team. Such an alliance will grant both departments a better insight into the customers’ attraction and engagement processes and will provide valuable information on the customers’ habits and online behavior.
And finally, remember: selling is a process between two people. Whatever your brand identity is, always try to be genuine and honest about your products and services. After seeing such a “human” approach, people tend to be much more loyal towards the offer.