Highspot Blog

Don’t Ignore the Last Mile of Your Sales Process

last mile, sales process

The “last mile” is a phrase that can trace its origins to the communications industry characterizing “the final leg of the telecommunications networks delivering communications connectivity to retail customers, the part that actually reaches the customer.

It can often be a bandwidth bottleneck as the network tries to deliver communication services to the customer.  This last mile wouldn’t be possible without the network in place but ignoring it jeopardizes the customer experience.

How does this apply to a sales process?

In a very similar way, actually.

You may have spent significant time and money building out a process and system to attract prospects, nurture them to a point they are ready for sales interaction, and report on costs, actions, and outcomes but if you bottleneck in the “last mile” of the sales process – the point at which a salesperson is directly engaging with prospect in order to convert them to a customer –  you are creating friction at a critical point in the buying process.

Over the last several years there has been considerable investment and optimization of the lead management process with marketing automation systems.  These pieces of technology are designed to optimize the middle part of the funnel and nurture a prospect until they are ready to engage in the sales process.  They capture and score online behaviors like web site visits, collateral downloads, and email campaign opens/clicks until they meet a threshold to be considered a “sales ready lead.”

At this point of hand off from marketing to sales, many processes shift gears to the customer relationship management (CRM) system as the focal point of activity where opportunity management, tasks, pipeline status and forecasting are maintained.  This also is where the marketing’s role shifts from demand creation to supporting the sales process through Sales Enablement.

But too often, intentionally or unintentionally, marketing’s effort in sales enablement is akin to the ugly stepchild of lore. Marketing loves to focus on creating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), but spends much less time ensuring that Sales has everything they need to close those leads. Sales representatives, meanwhile, are asking for more content and better tools to help them close sales. (And, yes, sadly, we realize that often the problem exists in the sales representatives not being able to find the great content that Marketing creates.) Therein lies the bottleneck of the last mile.

The marketing team should take a “full funnel” view and have a keen interest in everything occurring at every point in the process.  This is the promise of the Revenue Lifecycle Marketer.

Similar to the communications network, the amount of time, money, and effort expended to get to this “last mile” interaction is irrelevant if the sales representative is not prepared, doesn’t have the right content available, or is not making the most out of every sales pitch.

Crucial to completing the “last mile” is a sales enablment platform designed to deliver the most effective content to the sales representative for each individual sales opportunity and to engage the prospect via a compelling sales pitch that provides signals when it is viewed or shared.  Wrapping all this together is a set of reporting and analytics that constantly informs the marketing team and sales managers of what content works best, where gaps exist, and how sales representatives are actually using the content marketing creates for “last mile” engagement.

Before Marketing teams spend hundreds of thousands more dollars for incrementally more leads, they should fix the any bottlenecks they have in the last mile, and make their sales teams more effective closing the leads they spent so much money to obtain. Not only will this improve their conversion rates and ROI across all existing campaigns, but might, just might, garner a “Hey thanks, Marketing! Nice work!” from the Sales team.


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Why Context Is So Important In Sales Engagement

sales engagement sales trigger sales enablement

Sales and marketing operations have progressed to a point where we can readily access the contact information of those who we are trying to target with our sales pitch or offer.  In best-in-class scenarios, there is an active mapping of buyer personas to the buying journey so an intelligent mapping of who is going to be involved is any decision process is understood.

We even have the ability to “score” these leads based on implied interest like web site visits, email campaign activity like opens or clicks, and downloading of collateral pieces.  There are even advanced scenarios where predictive analytics can be used to intelligently lead score prospects based on their potential interest and match to your target customer.  This is all done in an effort to improve targeting – who should be contacted first, who has the greatest probability of converting into an opportunity and ultimately becoming a customer.

This is fantastic technology for getting the customer to engage and become a sales opportunity.  The signals, activities and demographics that these technologies leverage are great pieces of information to be maintained as the lead is passed to sales.

How can we better leverage this information in the sales and sales enablement processes to help close deals?

Enter context.  Context is “the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation.”  Great salespeople know how critical context is for a first touch and subsequent sales interactions.  Timing is crucial and knowing when the right time is to follow up or engage makes the difference between exceeding quota and struggling to keep up.

As leads are passed from marketing to sales, a clear set of qualification criteria makes all the difference in the world and provides needed context to something moving from a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) to a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).  This could be a threshold reached on a lead score or some attribute that makes it immediately actionable.

Once the prospect enters sales pursuit, understanding the buyer’s journey and what content is most effective at what sales stage continues to add needed context to the discussion.  If a prospect is in a certain region and interested in a certain product line, having the data to confirm what piece of content is most effective to move the prospect to the next stage provides crucial context to the sales representative.

Once a sales pitch is delivered be it live via webcast or sent along in an email as a link, understanding when that presentation is viewed, shared, or forwarded also provides important to context that arms the sales representative with the knowledge to act and engage.

Knitting all this context together can be a challenge so leveraging a “context-aware” sales engagement platform like Highspot makes aligning sales with the right content easy.  Context-aware solutions constantly learn what content is most effective in each given sales situation and apply contextual data points as criteria for their recommendations, such that content that is appropriate to the industry, company size, sales process stage, integrating platforms, etc. is presented to the sales professional for prospect engagement.

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How To Structure Your Sales Enablement Team

sales enablement sales operations

Making the decision to invest in sales enablement is a huge step towards truly accelerating your customer acquisition efforts but how do you structure this organization?  What are their core objectives and responsibilities?

Sales enablement is different than sales operations.  According to SiriusDecisions, the difference is as follows:

Generally, sales enablement focuses on onboarding and certification, sales asset management, sales communications, and coaching and training skills. Sales operations, on the other hand, handles planning, territory optimization, compensation, sales analytics and technology.

With this in mind, the following three core areas of responsibility lay the foundation for how to structure and staff your sales enablement group.  The roles and responsibilities will vary based on the size of company, sales and distribution model, and markets served but these three areas will remain constant.

1. Optimize Each Sales Interaction

This includes having the right type and quality of sales lead delivered by marketing as well as the tools and techniques to make the most of every sales interaction.  Having defined sales qualification criteria agreed upon by both sales and marketing sets the sales team up for success in their interactions.

Using information to better prepare for and execute sales calls also falls in this category.  This includes access to sales tools that provide company and prospect insights, details on triggering events like the opening of an email or the viewing of a presentation as well as ensuring that the actual engagement with a prospect unfolds without obstacle or interruption.  Having a seamless interaction from email to phone to screen sharing of a presentation keeps prospects engaged and demonstrates that your own operations are running smoothly.

2. Facilitate Access to Sales Content Needed to Move Opportunities Through the Sales Cycle

The work is not done when marketing creates new content and places it in a sales portal for the sales team to access.  The constant flow of new information, copy revisions, document versions, and the day-in-the-life realities of sales representatives create situations where the latest and greatest never gets in the hands of the field and where personal versions on hard drives and cloud storage options become the go to sales content.

Sales enablement teams not only facilitate the flow of information from marketing to sales but work to map that content to the various deal stages in the sales cycle.  By understanding what content works the best at each deal stage, prospects move through the sales cycle faster and sales teams are much more productive.

3. Train the Sales Team on Buyer Needs and Their Desired Outcomes

While important to understand the features of the product or capabilities of the service the sales team is selling, understanding the buyer’s needs in detail is essential.  Demonstrating expertise in the challenge faced by the prospect and then mapping that directly to the outcomes they are seeking makes introducing the product or service being sold much more compelling.  Becoming a trusted advisor vs. a salesperson is the goal for training so making sure the sales team is not just confident in the latest release and how to explain it but in truly understanding the buyer, their needs, and how they buy is core to the sales enablement function.

For more perspectives on how to structure and staff a sales enablement team, check out this great LinkedIn discussion in their Sales Enablement Leaders group where a question was asked about the optimal way to design a sales enablement organization including structure, roles, and responsibilities.  Robert Racine, Vice President and Global Head of Sales Enablement at Wipro Technologies shared details on the six teams that make up his organizational structure which include:

  1. Sales Systems and Data Management
  2. Sales Process Excellence and Sales Coaching
  3. Sales Training and Talent Management
  4. Sales Report Design and Analytics
  5. Sales Knowledge Management
  6. Sales Process and Operations Deployment

We previously covered the difference between sales enablement and sales engagement here on the Highspot blog and a sales engagement platform is a crucial building block for any sales enablement team to meet the three objectives above.


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How to prove your B2B marketing is actually working

b2b marketing, content effectiveness, cost of customer acquisition

It’s a common question asked in executive team meetings, board meetings, and even in marketing staff meetings.

“How do we know our marketing is working?”

“Is the expense worth it?”

“Is the investment delivering the results we expected?”

Marketing is a way to scale a business and requires an investment to do so that rarely pays off instantly.  Good B2B marketing is built on a strong foundation of brand, messaging, and positioning that is then driven into the market through various tactics ultimately paying off in sales funnel activity and customer wins.

There are many steps to the process especially in complex B2B sales environments where there are many decision makers, lots of reviews, and frequent gaps between requirements and what is offered.

While there are many metrics that highlight performance and investment return to choose from, the two key measures that will reveal if your B2B marketing is working are:

1. Customer Acquisition Cost

An area that has received much attention over the past several years is around lead management and attribution.  There is still a huge amount of work to do here but at least most companies know they need to connect the dots between the cost of generating a lead and the resulting revenue.  Unfortunately, many companies don’t include this in a core set of reporting metrics with only 25% of companies reporting Cost per Lead and an even more disappointing 22% reporting Cost per Customer according to a recent survey of over 250 B2B marketing professionals by consulting firm Heinz Marketing.

These are the investments made to attract qualified leads and convert them into customers.  Not knowing this information makes profitability reporting difficult and creates a blind spot around total customer lifetime value.

Knowing what it costs to acquire a customer is an essential data point to determining if “marketing is working.”  If it costs too much to acquire a customer or there is no possibility of payback on the investment, then time to optimize programs, refine offerings, and think differently about distribution.

2. Content Effectiveness

Every B2B marketing organization should be aware they need content and a coherent content marketing plan.  But to truly understand content effectiveness, a full funnel view is required.  So think beyond just what content or collateral is being used to generate top of the funnel interest like whitepapers, webinars, or case studies and include a full inventory of all content used throughout the sales cycle.  This includes both what marketing uses to identify, engage, and capture leads but also what the sales team uses to further qualify, differentiate, and win business.

Knowing what is available and used is just half the battle.  To truly understand if “marketing is working,” the usage and effectiveness of this content must be tracked and analyzed with the best pieces being identified by both their original content and any derivative works.  When marketing creates a 20 slide presentation and the EMEA sales team takes four slides from it to use in their market because they know they are effective, marketing needs to know this to demonstrate that the investment to build that presentation was worthwhile but not as great as it could have been given the utilization.

Unlike lead management which has benefited from years of technology enabled reporting and optimization, content effectiveness is still evolving as it relates to marketing teams understanding what to measure and how to measure it.  An integrated sales engagement platform can go a long way in terms of consolidating, optimizing, and reporting on content use and performance with the ultimate goal of mapping specific content investments to closed business and measurable revenue.


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CIO magazine: Getting a handle on marketing technology

Great ideas

Interesting article from Tom Kaneshige at CIO magazine highlighting Highspot and how we score content based on its performance in the sales cycle.

“This attribution problem is real,” says Highspot co-founder and CEO Robert Wahbe. “One of the ways we try to solve this is to shorten the time horizon. Did this brochure help close a 9-month deal? Hard to say. But did this brochure move to a conversation or proof-of-concept? That’s better.”

Read the article at http://www.cio.com/article/2899092/marketing/getting-a-handle-on-marketing-technology.html.

The Four Pillars of the Sales Technology Stack

Companies have made significant investments to date in tools and technologies to enable their marketing and sales processes.  Usually the core of this investment is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system deployed with high expectations of streamlined selling and new insights.  Unfortunately, CRM systems are rarely fully utilized and often fall short of these expectations.

Shouldn’t sales technology actually help salespeople sell?

Rather than become a chore to update and merely a means to provide activity and pipeline reports to management, why not make an investment in something that actually drives and optimizes sales activity?

Companies need to embrace the sales technology stack to truly take advantage of technology-enabled selling.

The concept of a sales stack has been around for a while with sales expert Jim Keenan sharing a great post on “The Sales Stack” back in 2012 on his A Sales Guy blog.  His seven layers include both enabling technology as well as rewards, recognition, and compensation programs.  Max Altschuler published a more recent take on it on the Sales Hacker blog titled “Welcome to the Era of the Sales Stack.”  He maps the stack to each stage of the sales lifecycle and highlights some great tools to enable the various pieces of it.

To truly take advantage of sales technology, you must break it down into its foundational parts and map it to your particular sales model and buyer journey.  To do this, view the sales technology stack as four pillars to build upon:

1. Targets

This pillar focuses on who should be a customer.  From sizing the total addressable market to developing buyer personas to contact details, core to any sales stack is information regarding targets and prospects that is both detailed and actionable.  Inputs to this pillar include marketing automation systems which help capture and prioritize leads for follow up as well as any other types of inbound inquiries or list development processes.  Knowing who to target, their interest level, and how best to contact them is crucial.

Adding context to this information is even more important.  Merely having someone’s correct contact information who fits the profile of a target customer does not mean they know who you are or are ready to buy from you.  Adding context based on shared relationships (including sites like LinkedIn), previous interactions with other people in the company, or a warm introduction via a referral makes starting a conversation much easier.

2. Engagement

To best start and continue the conversation requires this second pillar in the sales technology stack focused on engagement and communication.  This includes tools and techniques that drive one-to-many engagement like social publishing as well one-to-one engagement via email, phone, screen sharing, or face-to-face meetings.

Having a variety of engagement options available to the sales professional allows them to move from channel to channel in order to best connect and interact with a sales prospect.

3. Content

Knowing who to contact and how to engage with them leads to this third pillar of the sales technology stack.  This includes the materials produced by the marketing team like whitepapers, case studies,  and data sheets as well as the content used by the sales team to engage and drive the buying process like prospecting emails, calling scripts and demonstration plans.

All of these materials must be organized and accessible for the marketing team to manage and the sales team to access.  Also critical here is the ability to measure content effectiveness as evidenced not just by usage but by contribution to closed deals and any derivative works created by the sales team for their specific needs (including industry and geography).

4. Insights

Without a level of intelligence and analytics, sales technology also runs a risk of not meeting its expectations.  The fourth pillar includes the insights necessary to know the best time to contact a prospect, what piece of content is most effective for that prospect at a particular deal stage and when the optimal time for follow up engagement arises.

Merely having a list of targets with contact information and a means to reach them via email or screenshare with some prepared content does not translate into an high performance sales operation.  To truly accelerate sales and understand performance, data and analytics are critical.  This includes knowing what sales reps are doing when, when those activities are most effective, and even what a prospect is doing with your content after it is shared.  Sending a presentation attached to an email without any way to track that email or the viewing of the presentation creates a sales “blind spot” and limits visibility into engagement opportunities.  In addition to these “sales triggering” events, rolling all of this up and making it available for both sales and marketing teams to review and understand is essential.

Ultimately this is about enabling your sales team to spend more time selling and less time doing non-sales related activities.  Sales technology should help your team sell and constantly optimize itself to improve selling efforts.

Highspot is built to do just that.  By closing the loop from marketing to sales to the customer we provide a full view of engagement and what content is performing best while continually optimizing the system to improve overall sales effectiveness.  We make sales technology that actually helps you sell.


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3 Things the Marketing Team Can Teach Sales Reps

This post is a follow up to our recent 3 Things Sales Reps Can Teach the Marketing Team and continues to reinforce a core theme around sales and marketing alignment.  Different functional groups with different incentives and reporting structures are ripe for miscommunication and incorrect assumptions.  Creating a common denominator based on shared purpose and an integrated view of the customer lifecycle from contact to close goes a long way towards creating and keeping alignment between sales and marketing.

Marketing should view itself as a service provider to sales building awareness in the market, attracting interested buyers, and providing the tools and supporting content to drive the process from top of funnel engagement through to a closed/won deal…and beyond.  Given that mindset, the three main things that marketing teams need to teach sales representatives about marketing are:

1. Most leads are not in active buying mode

In fact, only a small percentage are interested in buying so the probability of engaging with someone at the exact moment they need what you sell is very low.  Feedback on the leads that is broad, general, or otherwise not actionable is not helpful.  As long as a proper set of sales qualification criteria is in place and agreed upon, the leads entering the funnel will all match the target customer.  The hard part is finding those actually ready to buy now.

According to Steve Richard of B2B sales training firm Vorsight, at any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying, 56% are not ready, and 40% are poised to begin.  More great statistics on sales engagement and the buyer’s journey from the the AA-ISP Front Lines Conference available here.

This reality requires a focused and disciplined sales process where a prospect is guided through the buying journey first by the marketing team and their content that frames the problem or highlights the benefits of solving it then by the sales team to prove the value, overcome objections, and win the business.  That is easier said than done in most cases so this requires frequent and constant coordination between sales and marketing leadership to choreograph this process correctly.

There is rarely a scenario in B2B sales where a lead enters the sales process and is immediately ready to buy without some level of sales engagement.  Knowing this and planning accordingly is essential to an aligned sales and marketing process.

2. It is very important to share why a customer said “yes” and even more important to know why they said “no”

You can call this “win/loss analysis” or whatever you like but having a constant flow of information to understand what led to a customer win and what happened to create a customer loss is crucial.  The efforts of the marketing team to attract potential customers, create content to engage with them, and develop sales tools to enable the sales process must be mapped to these winning outcomes and focused on any gaps that are in place causing losses.

These gaps could simply be an absence of proper case studies to highlight success with a particular industry or business scenario.  These gaps may also exist among sales representatives where some have created their own materials to address objections they know will arise or where some just don’t know what is available because the existing sales portal is difficult to use and does not provide proactive help by highlighting what is most effective at what stage of a deal.

If the sales team is expending huge effort to move a prospect through the buying cycle only to lose at the end due to circumstances that should have been highlighted at the beginning of the process, then a revisit of the qualification criteria and what makes a good customer is required.

3. What is available to support the sales process and help close more deals

Best in class marketing teams are focused on creating the content and materials that map to top of funnel campaigns, middle of the funnel nurturing, and bottom of the funnel sales pursuit.  This “revenue-centric” mindset in the marketing team means that there is a constant focus on developing tools and measuring their effectiveness.

Making these materials available to the sales team and building awareness among how to access them and best times to use them is a constant challenge.  Preparing a packaged sales kit and distributing via email can create versioning issues and pushes the materials into a black hole with no feedback on their usefulness or role in the sales process.  Posting them to a central portal or file share does not proactively insert tools into a sales reps workflow.

Sales representatives know from the front lines what is needed, what is working, and what is missing.  Sometimes things thought missing are available, just difficult to locate.  Often times, there is absolutely no feedback to the marketing team on what is being used or even what parts of a particular slide deck have been re-purposed in what way.

All of this can be addressed via an integrated sales engagement platform that inserts the best content and materials into the sales representatives daily activities (directly into a CRM system like Salesforce.com), provides constant feedback on effectiveness including metrics around actual sales pitches, and creates a unified view across all sales representatives about what is working and the rate of usage.


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3 Things Sales Reps Can Teach the Marketing Team

Communication can make or break an organization and having a direct line between the marketing team and sales representatives is essential to truly understand customer needs.  Beyond hearing the “voice of the customer,” this communication line helps to constantly refine and improve message, content, and programs focused on customer acquisition.

Great marketers know that constant and ad hoc conversations with sales representatives generates insights not seen from “top of funnel” activities like awareness building and lead generation.  Understanding middle funnel and, more importantly, end of funnel dynamics and issues is key to building a well oiled sales and marketing machine.

Organizations that have geographically concentrated inside sales teams can easily build and maintain these lines of communication.  Large, geographically distributed sales teams are a bit more difficult but there are an abundance of technology options to surface and share what is working and not working in the field.  At a minimum, adding this to the priority list of inputs to the marketing team will force the inclusion of this information in the next messaging iteration, product launch, or campaign design.

So, what can sales reps teach marketing?  Sales has a different compensation structure than marketing (in most cases) so distilling this down to three core areas creates a common language for sales reps and the marketing team to speak.

1. What a truly qualified lead looks like

All leads are not created equally and sales reps have a keen understanding of those who are actually going to be engagement worthy.  Lead scoring from marketing automation systems is designed to help reps prioritize engagement and outreach but often fails due to poor scoring models or lack of a closed loop feedback process.

A defined set of qualification criteria that marketing and sales agrees upon goes a long way to surface and utilize the institutional knowledge resident in the sales organization.  Qualification criteria for MQLs and SQLs should be designed and agreed upon by both marketing and sales.

Even with defined qualification criteria, marketing teams should constantly ask about what characteristics of leads are most important – role, title, industry, and company age to name a few.  Sales reps should proactively share these characteristics with the marketing team so that they can tune and focus lead and demand generation programs.

2. What actually works and is useful

Marketing teams spend significant time, energy, and money building sales tools and developing content to support the sales team.  In many cases, the content gets published to a sales portal that is rarely used and, if it is, is cumbersome and lacks any intelligence around what is actually useful for the sales rep.

Sales reps know what works…at least for them.  Odds are they have their presentation, their email copy, and use variants of a script as prospects move through the sales cycle.

Marketing teams should proactively find out what is most effective and sale reps shouldn’t be shy about sharing what is most effective and what is not.  In many cases, there is a lack of understanding of what is available and where it is located.  Again, this takes cycles for the sales reps to communicate these things but adding a bit of technology to the mix that tracks and reports on content usage not just by sales reps but by customers is a crucial component here.

3. The real buyer’s journey and how to overcome obstacles

Sales reps know all too well where deals get hung up and the objections that arise in the sales process.  Marketing teams should be very focused on the buyer’s journey and what is needed to enable and accelerate it.  Rarely do prospects move through a sales process as assumed so sales reps need to educate the marketing team on how it actually works.

Is the primary point of contact the ultimate decision maker?  Are the criteria for making a buying decision known and predictable?  How important are customer case studies or competitive points of differentiation in the journey?

Sales reps are in a unique position to inform and improve the company’s understanding of the buyer journey and need to be aware of how prospects are (or are not) moving from one sales stage to the next and what drives that movement.

How this information flows from sales reps back to the marketing team can range from meetings to a shared sales engagement platform designed to facilitate the sales process and capture actionable insights.  The important piece here is that the information needs to flow and the three topics above are essential for sales reps to share with the marketing team.

Up next….what marketing teams can teach sales reps.

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Sales and Marketing Alignment is Still a Problem

sales marketing alignment

“Sales and marketing alignment” is not a new problem for businesses.  Even though the discussion of the topic has intensified over the last several years as new technologies emerged to address it, it remains a challenge for B2B organizations.

Driving this point home are the results of a recent survey published on Marketingprofs that highlights that only 35% of salespeople are satisfied or very satisfied with Marketing.

As covered in our recent post providing an agenda for the next meeting between the VP of Sales and CMO, there are many reasons for this lack of alignment ranging from incentives and compensation to the natural friction that can occur between any two organizational groups with different labels and reporting structures.

One way to begin to align people and process is a unified view of the data that flows between sales and marketing teams.  This includes the entire lead life cycle from prospect to customer as well as the how effective the organization is at engaging during this life cycle through both marketing campaigns as well as sales interactions.

Knowing the source of the highest quality leads is important.  Understanding which turn into the highest long term value customers is critical and informs the entire process.  Understanding what materials and content are most effective at moving a prospect through the buying journey based on need, product line, or geography delivers an entirely new level of visibility to efforts that have often times been activities lacking concrete and measurable outcomes.  Did that ebook really work?  How useful was the customer case study at overcoming objections and reinforcing the company’s value proposition?

A unified view from creation of content all the way through how that content is used in “day in the life” sales pitches and follow up activities is the way to align sales and marketing where everyone understands their role and is continually focusing on improving the process and outcomes.


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Reinvent Your Sales Portal

Reinvent your sales portal

We’ve talked to hundreds of companies about sales portals, and what we’ve heard is remarkably consistent. If they have a portal, they hate it. If they don’t have a portal, it’s because they are pretty sure they’re going to hate it.

Everyone knows that there must be a better answer. We live in a time when technology has revolutionized our ability to get the information we need .. in our personal lives. Want to learn about almost any topic in the entire pantheon of human endeavor? No problem, you can get what you want in seconds on the Internet. Need to find a crucial document to help close a deal? Sorry, good luck with that.

It doesn’t have to be that way. A modern sales engagement platform connects sellers to the most effective content and makes sure that it is working hard to deliver the sales results you need. You can take advantage of the same techniques that Internet services use to connect millions of people to the information they want. The right solution also integrates with and enhances the tools your company already relies on – services that track your sales activities (like Salesforce), that manage your files (like Box), and that you use for Web conferencing (like join.me).

A sales engagement platform should deliver on these five essentials, to make sure that your sales team gets the maximum value from the content you work so hard to create.

1. Search That Works

What do you do when you need to find something on the Internet? You search for it, and you’ll probably find what you need, almost instantly. All of your employees do that dozens of times a day .. unless it is something they need at work. Then they glumly wade through piles of largely irrelevant content or send an email to their friends hoping somebody might know where it is.

Let your content live in the modern age. Your sellers should be supported by the same kind of technology that they take for granted in their personal life. It should do the work to dig through all the content used by your company and find the most relevant results. It should know which content other people are finding the most interesting and useful, and rank it at the top. Then reps can spend their time at work doing their job, not sifting through useless content or recreating documents that already exist (somewhere).

2. Intelligent and Relevant Recommendations

The field seller who is pitching solutions in Korea doesn’t need the same content as an inside sales rep working the phones in Texas. The system should adapt to the needs of each user, intelligently recommending the best content based on their role. It should analyze and score how content is performing with other reps and with customers, so that every seller can find the information that will most effectively move deals forward.

3. Only the Good Stuff

Are there five versions of the pitch deck floating around in your company, and three of them are completely off message? Do your reps give up on wading through mountains of mostly useless files and just throw something together on their own? A great system should help you make sure that only the most recent, most effective content is available. It should let you update items so everyone has the latest and greatest version. It should help you track down content that is out of date, that is being ignored, or that is not resonating with customers, so you can fix it or get rid of it.

4. Evolve Without Requiring IT Support

Changing most portals requires costly and scarce IT resources, so they soon freeze in place and are left behind. The way you organize and share your content needs to keep up with the speed of your business. Do you sell exactly the same products you did in the past? Face competitors who never change their approach? As business conditions evolve, so must your content and the way it is organized. You can never keep up if you need to ask for IT support every time you want to update something.

And it isn’t just one centralized portal that needs to move forward. Regional teams often need to remix and supplement the content. Maybe they have decks on local market conditions and documents in their own language – whatever is needed to drive the business. But regional teams usually have very limited access to IT resources .. so they are often forced to cobble together an alternative solution that takes the place of the centralized portal. Now you don’t have one bad portal, you have many of them. Prevent “portal sprawl” with a system that can be easily and quickly adapted by everyone in the business who needs to manage information.

5. Integrate With the Tools You Use

Keeping your files in a cloud file system is a great way for people to collaborate on creating the best possible content. A sales engagement platform should integrate with those systems, so you aren’t forced to maintain multiple silos of content. You should be able to publish or update files directly when they are ready for the rest of the world to see. Similarly, if you use Salesforce to track sales activity, reps should be able to get access to all the content they need right from the environment where they live.

You don’t have to settle for a sales portal that you hate. Use a sales engagement platform that supports these five essentials, and your sellers will be able to find what they need to close a deal … as quickly as they can find a great cat video.