Buyer behavior has gone through some dramatic shifts in recent years. Buyers are informed, research-driven, and have higher expectations for sellers and sales experiences.

To meet new challenges, sellers need all the help they can get — time-saving automations, on-demand insights, and a holistic view of customers’ specific pain points, goals, and decision-making processes.

Sales engagement, when used in combination with sales or revenue enablement tools and CRM technology, provides sellers with an accurate view of buyer engagement across all channels and touchpoints, allowing them to engage buyers with the content, communications, and activities that support them throughout the customer journey.

Here we’ll answer the question, “What is sales engagement?,” highlight key use cases, and look at the transformative benefits it offers.

What is sales engagement?

Sales engagement is a hot topic in the realm of sales technology. But what exactly is sales engagement? Before we get into it, let’s settle on a definition of sales engagement.

Sales engagement definition

While it’s often referred to as a software category, sales engagement includes all interactions between salespeople and buyers. In that way, “sales engagement” may be a bit of a misnomer, or an incomplete title for what the tools and strategies really focus on — improving and measuring buyer engagement so reps can provide better sales experiences.

According to Forrester Research, those interactions now total up to 27 (a 10-point increase from 17 in 2019) and can include anything — meetings and sales calls or e-book downloads and email click-throughs — that can be measured by touchpoint or time.

Sales engagement provides insight about the buyer’s journey so that sales teams can track how messaging, content, timing, and other factors come together to shape the buyer experience. Engagement insights are then used to improve the quality and efficiency of the sales process.

Let’s review a few sales engagement stats to increase our understanding of the importance of a combined engagement, enablement, and CRM system solution.

  • Salesforce found that 78% of B2B buyers expect salespeople to act as trusted advisors, with expert industry knowledge. They also found that 57% of respondents stopped buying from companies because a competitor provided a better experience.
  • In a recent Forrester survey, over 80% of sales leaders have made changes to their sales process to match changing buyer expectations.
  • According to HubSpot, aligning sales and marketing processes stands to generate 208% more revenue.

What is a sales engagement platform?

Sales engagement platforms are a key component in the revenue or sales technology stack and are quickly becoming an expected element in complete sales enablement platforms.

As a major part of sales enablement solutions, these platforms work with marketing automation and CRMs to provide granular visibility into every aspect of the sales process and enable personalization at scale.

This combined technology stack helps unify sales and marketing, track seller activities and buyer behavior, and unifies all communications tools from email and call logs to chat and social media for increased visibility and effectiveness.

In these next few sections, we’ll go over how sales engagement can be used in conjunction with sales enablement to improve results across the entire sales cycle.

Sales engagement vs sales enablement

On the surface, it’s hard to tell the difference between sales engagement and sales enablement.

Sales engagement and sales enablement both help sales teams build relationships with buyers, nurture prospects through the sales process, and streamline selling activities — but there are a few key distinctions between them.

Here’s a quick explainer:

Sales enablement

Sales enablement as a concept came out of the idea that salespeople need certain resources to do their job effectively.

Often, information was stored in multiple locations including email accounts, Excel sheets, local files, and siloed content repositories.

The strategy aims to arm sales teams with the content, training, sales collateral, and tools sellers need to engage with buyers.

The core focus is on making it easier for salespeople to sell. Typical strategies include bridging the gap between marketing and sales while also ensuring that users can quickly locate and access accurate, on-brand content, training materials, and playbooks.

Components of sales enablement platforms include:

  • Sales content management
  • Internal communications
  • Sales coaching & training
  • Document automation
  • Reporting & analytics

Sales engagement

By contrast, sales engagement is customer-centric rather than sales-centric. While sales enablement equips the sales team with everything they need to close deals, sales engagement aims to improve how salespeople connect with customers by tracking, measuring, and quantifying interactions at every touchpoint.

Here, the primary goal is to build genuine relationships with buyers by providing critical insights into the buyer’s journey. This enables teams to learn which messages, content, channels, and strategies are most effective at each touchpoint.

Components of sales engagement platforms include:

  • Sales email, call, and message automation
  • Cadence workflows
  • Opportunity management
  • Reporting & analytics
  • Conversation intelligence

The impact of sales engagement on the sales cycle

For consumers, customer experience, improved as a result of the combination of sales engagement and sales enablement, has the largest impact on the buying decision. The way sellers interact, connect, and follow up with customers is crucial.

For sellers, just getting in contact with a prospect or current customer can be difficult. It takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer and only 24% of sales emails are opened.

Sales engagement platforms reduce friction during the sales process by simplifying and automating the ways in which salespeople engage with customers and prospects.

Here’s how:

  • Prospecting – Sales managers can sync contacts and leads from their CRM or import them from a spreadsheet into the engagement platform where they are automatically routed to the appropriate salespeople for outreach.
  • Connecting – Engagement platforms allow sellers to create automated workflows called “cadences,” that can include a series of calls, emails, and voicemails over a specified period of time and are personalized to each buyer’s schedule and communication preferences. Sellers enroll their prospects into these cadences and each one runs through the cycle until there is a connection or they reach the end. If no connection is made, the seller can assign the lead to a nurture track.
  • Relationship management – Engagement platforms provide sellers insight into the effectiveness of their outreach and past engagements. Sellers can see information such as email open rates, past call data, and meeting notes to better plan and re-engage with their current contacts. With that said, timing is everything, and that’s why sales engagement and enablement software also allows sellers to see when contacts open their emails, how long they look at them, and who they share them with within their organization, so the seller can initiate more timely follow-up.

Sales engagement provides valuable analytics

Another core component of sales engagement is intel.

According to Forrester, 90% of sales leaders lack confidence in their activity data, while over 75% of marketing professionals say they lack access to the analytics required for informed decision-making.

Companies need to know exactly who their buyers are, the purpose behind each purchase, and which factors drive buying decisions.

Once again, the combination of sales enablement and sales engagement solutions addresses this challenge, bringing increased visibility to the end-to-end sales process.

  • Track engagement across channels. Dynamic reporting tools allow you to measure everything from your social selling efforts on LinkedIn to the emails you send, calls you make, and the various pieces of sales collateral used throughout the buyer’s journey. All of that information comes together to help you prioritize promising leads and opportunities for follow-up.
  • Map content to the journey. Combine content usage analytics with data from your CRM, email marketing campaigns, and more, providing deep insights into the entire journey. Users can identify friction points, content gaps, and opportunities to add more value to customer engagements.
  • Fine-tune your strategy in real-time. Sales engagement software brings transparency to the sales pipeline, helping organizations capitalize on growth opportunities, spot at-risk deals, and develop a systematic, scalable process for delivering better buyer outcomes.
  • Better manage your team. Sales engagement platforms also allow sales managers to better track their team’s effectiveness. Managers can see the activity of their team members in terms of number of dials, emails, voicemails and compare that to the number of connections and opportunities that they have created.

How sales engagement works with sales enablement

In addition to the information above.  Consider that up to 70% of B2B content goes unused, with 79% failing to convert leads into sales.

Sales engagement strategies rely on easily accessible sales collateral, marketing assets, and playbooks, as well as data from every channel and touchpoint.

Managing content effectively saves sellers time and allows them to deliver relevant content based on real data, not gut feelings.

This is where sales enablement has a major impact. Combining the sales content management capabilities of a sales enablement platform with sales engagement software ensures that your organization maximizes your content utilization, while also making it easier for sellers to find and share the most relevant content based on their selling situation.

Automated content delivery features can serve up sales plays and new sales collateral as needed, ensuring salespeople always have the customer-facing content at their fingertips.

Admins can set version controls that protect brand standards while allowing sellers to draw on customer insights to modify content based on personal preferences.

To further support the relationship between sales enablement and engagement, some vendors including Bigtincan offer integrations with other sales engagement platforms. The Bigtincan for SalesLoft integration allows users to run Bigtincan Hub right within the SalesLoft interface, and attach content to emails with a click of a button.

You can get a detailed walkthrough of how sales reps use sales enablement alongside sales engagement tools in their daily work here.

The future of sales engagement

Sales engagement is all about understanding the buyer’s goals, pain points, and challenges, then delivering a high-quality experience.

As such, it makes sense that the latest innovations focus on how sellers can further enhance those experiences. Where can sellers reduce friction, offer more personalized solutions, or deliver improved sales presentations?

Improving sales engagement also means always working toward improving customer success — whether that’s creating more personal communications, more compelling presentations, or driving more renewals, referrals, or upsells — and monitoring the results.

With that in mind, here are a few emerging sales engagement solutions we’ll likely see more of in the near-term:

  • Personalized video. Personalized video is an emerging trend in the sales engagement space, and we’ll likely see this become increasingly central to sales engagement platforms. Personalized videos help cut through the noise in the inbox and add a personal touch to cold outreach and follow-ups.
  • Video coaching and training. Video sales coaching and training tools allow sellers to learn on the go, while still getting that vital hands-on support from a mentor who has been through every scenario in the playbook.
  • Conversation intelligence. Voice AI gives multi-participant, post-call insights, so customer-facing teams know how prospects perceive them and the exact areas they need to improve when speaking and presenting.
  • The use of AR content. Augmented reality tools allow sellers to bring complex ideas to life, giving buyers an inside look at exactly what they can expect from your solutions. AR presentations are particularly useful for selling things like medical devices and heavy machinery or helping buyers envision how a piece of equipment might fit into their existing space.