By Meera Mehta
When I first started working in CRM, the technology landscape for sales was relatively simple (if inefficient). IT would provide sales with standard software – email, Web conferencing, and a productivity suite. Content lived on sales reps’ laptops and desktops and we ended up sharing and storing content in email. Sales operations teams would implement and institute CRM methodologies and systems – and mandate/encourage/cajole sales teams to adhere to processes.
Suddenly, the “sales tech” landscape has exploded with new vendors and solutions emerging every day. We have become inundated with vendor pitches and complicated frameworks on trends and tools. The proliferation of tools is exciting as we finally have the opportunity to move beyond “generic” software to technology specifically designed for sales teams – their roles, needs, and processes.
At the same time, navigating your organization’s needs and sorting through the vendor chaos is daunting. And the last thing we want to risk is complicated evaluations – or worse – investing in a new tool that only complicates the sales process further, slows down rep productivity, or doesn’t fit with how sales, marketing, and sales operations work together to support customers.
A new report from leading analyst firm Aragon Research, Digitize the Sales Force: Leverage Sales Engagement Platforms to Gain a Competitive Advantage, provides insights on how sales leaders can shift toward modern tools optimized for selling effectively in a digital, always-on world.
Aragon Research predicts that Sales Engagement Platforms will grow into a five-billion dollar industry over the next five years. This growth will be fueled by demands from sales and marketing teams to better communicate and engage with customers through an integrated, easy-to-use, highly mobile platform – one that enables the sharing of high-impact content, delivers insights for what to do next, and integrates and auto-logs to CRM.
There are hundreds of sales enablement tools available, but most only accomplish a small part of the selling process. Stitching together disjointed tools can be confusing for sales rep adoption, hard for enablement and operations teams to manage, and may actually limit productivity. In fact, Aragon Research reports that the average sales rep must use anywhere from five to eight different tools to reach prospects.
The Sales Engagement Platform supports the customer lifecycle from prospect, to close, to support and expansion, and consists of sales communications, sales content management, and analytics, including:
- Content management and customization for unique customer needs
- Communicating with prospects and customers (phone, email, and face to face); and
- Advanced engagement analytics data.
A critical component is ensuring the data is seamlessly integrated to CRM systems and other partner applications to fit within existing workflow and processes (especially between different departments servicing customers). The Sales Engagement Platform becomes the ideal platform to support guided selling and predictive analytics – as the platform centralizes the customer engagement data needed to inform the sales cycle based on the customer’s unique needs, response, and engagement.
Source: Aragon Research, 2016
Sales Engagement Platforms can also help shorten sales cycles, as reps are equipped with customer engagement data to more effectively respond to prospect signals (regardless of the channel) throughout sales cycles.
Business applications, such as the Sales Engagement Platform ClearSlide offers, are the answer to the challenge of connecting with and engaging with sophisticated buyers. Aragon Research also finds that shifting to more modern and advanced sales engagement solutions can be more cost effective than general-purpose tools (e.g., Web conferencing, email tracking) and improve productivity by seamlessly integrating within sales reps’ existing processes.
We have seen this transition before. Today, we can’t even imagine starting our day without Microsoft Office or Google Apps. Yet we used to rely on separate, individual tools for word processing, email, spreadsheets, and presentations. It’s finally time for a digital sales suite specifically tailored for driving rep productivity, delivering sales analytics, connecting marketing and sales operations, and empowering sales teams to more effectively engage and deliver value to our customers. Don’t we all deserve something as easy and useful as “Office for Sales”?
To learn more about the requirements and best practices for digitizing sales and recommendations for navigating the latest trends, download the Aragon Research report here.
Today’s post is by Meera Mehta, senior director, product marketing at ClearSlide, the leading provider of Sales Engagement Platforms. Meera has more than 15 years of experience leading sales and marketing teams, and her passion and focus are to help ClearSlide transform the business of selling by producing quantifiable results in sales rep productivity, leader insights, and marketing impact.