What’s the difference between sales enablement and sales engagement?

There are lots of buzz words floating around these days to describe the latest and greatest ideas and innovations to power your business.  Sales and marketing are the most recent beneficiaries of this buzz and understanding the difference between sales enablement and sales engagement is essential to operating a high performance customer acquisition process.

“Sales enablement” has been around for a long time and has undergone a bit of a transformation in recent years as the technology to enable and assist sales professionals has become better and more individually meaningful.

To get a good baseline definition of “sales enablement,” let’s go to the experts at Sirius Decisions and their post “What is Sales Enablement.”

…provide guidelines for using sales assets (78 percent of respondents reported this as one of enablement’s responsibilities), share enablement best practices (73 percent), build sales assets (71 percent) and develop product training (68 percent) – reflecting the function’s legacy of supporting product marketing. But more than 50 percent report that the function contributes to various sales effectiveness areas (delivering sales effectiveness training, selecting and deploying sales technology, managing sales communication). This indicates that the function’s role is broadening from providing sales assets to ensuring that reps are competent in using those assets. Based on client feedback, we also see new rep onboarding as a key responsibility of enablement.

So, a critically important function that is designed to truly enable the sales team via support, administration, and training.

“Sales engagement” on the other hand is more focused on improving how sales professionals are communicating with customers by having the most effective content available for the sales situation and giving sales and marketing leaders visibility into what is working and what is not.  Highspot Vice President of Product Oliver Sharp describes sales engagement as follows:

…so that companies engage more effectively with their customers and win more deals. It does that by closing the loop between marketing, sales, and the customer … so you have the visibility and insight that lets you optimize content usage across the entire sales cycle.

If you are a sales enablement professional, adding a sales engagement platform to the mix aligns completely with your focus on supporting and enabling the sales team.  If you are a sales professional, the addition of a sales engagement platform gives you a great new way to have the most effective content at your fingertips and a compelling way to deliver your next pitch.  Sales and marketing leaders both benefit from the visibility provided by adding sales engagement to the mix – they can now know what content is most effective and get a whole new view into sales rep productivity.


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Five Keys to a Great Sales Pitch

Building a great sales pitch is both an art and science.  Sales and marketing professionals work very hard to get to the right person with the right message and have them agree to take time out of their increasingly busy day to hear what they have to say.

With all that effort and such a small window of opportunity, delivering a great sales pitch is essential.

So many times sales calls are bad experiences for both the sales professional and the prospect.  Proper qualification long before getting to a person-to-person discussion goes a long way to avoid mismatched expectations or the dreaded “not the right person” realization.  Using poor communication tools or slide sharing systems only exacerbates the problem and takes precious time out of the agreed upon amount for the meeting.  Salespeople must not just focus on having meetings and delivering sales pitches to show they are doing their jobs but be laser focused on the quality of the interactions and the results produced.

Great sales professionals constantly work to polish and perfect their craft to make the most of every conversation.

The following five keys to a great sales pitch provide the foundation for that process and will help improve the time you spent selling and the results from those efforts.

1. Prepare with Company and Prospect Profiles – so much information is available and curated for use that not being prepared is inexcusable.

2. Address the Need and Desired Outcome – stop talking about what you do and focus on the problem or outcome the prospect seeks.  Set them up for success, not just you.

3. Align with the Buyer Journey – things have changed, buyers collect information long before talking to you, and orchestrating your sales efforts with their journey will help you stand apart and close more deals.

4. Demonstrate Knowledge and Ask Informed Questions – since you are so well prepared, you are in a position to ask meaningful questions that highlight your knowledge and understanding of the problem.  Don’t slack off on this one.

5. Earn the Next Step – each meeting should be about the next step.  What is the desired end state at the conclusion of each meeting.  Know it, live it, judge yourself by it.

Building and delivering a great sales pitch is not as elusive as it may seem.  Apply some discipline, understand how the prospect buys, and deliver the pitch in a format that appeals to them and you are well on your way.  Remember to properly prepare using all the information available, focus on the customer’s need versus what is being sold, map engagement to the buyer’s journey, and always earn the next step.


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How Great Salespeople Earn the Next Step

Great salespeople understand that their success or failure is based on their ability to get to the next step in the sales process as a goal of each interaction.  Focusing on the “desired end state” of the opportunity as a goal of each meeting keeps a discipline in place to always focus on forward progress.

That progress is dependent upon the prospect granting you the next step in the process.  Great salespeople know they must earn the next step through their focus on the prospect’s needs and how they are uniquely positioned to address them.

For each stage of the sales process, keep in mind what needs to be done to get the prospect from their current stage (interested, qualified, forecasted) to the next stage.  More likely than not that is not to closed customer so design the pitch and conclusion to get a commitment to the next stage.

This could be expanding the audience, agreement that the offering addresses the problem, progressing to a pilot or another type of increased commitment.  Even simply agreeing to what the purchase criteria are upfront and agreeing that if you satisfy all of the criteria then you move to contract negotiations can be a very effective technique to drive to the next step and an ultimate decision.

It is essential to understand how your sales pitch and supporting materials are shared and used within an organization even after the meeting.  Often times the decision making can happen without the involvement of the sales professional present so having the right content that can stand on its own is crucial.  A solid sales playbook with the most effective content mapped to each sales stage guides this process and sets you up to successfully earn the next step in the sales process.


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Set Your Sales Pitch Apart by Asking Informed Questions

Although a standard part of any sales pitch, asking questions that are thoughtful and that highlight knowledge of the problem and solution are both rare and differentiating.

Great salespeople ask a lot of questions and spend a great deal of time listening to the answers they receive.  This not only helps to further qualify the prospect but serves to better position the offering as each piece of additional information adds context to the discussion.

Be very prepared to anticipate objections and rejection.  Rehearsing “hard questions” and their answers before getting to the sales pitch is a best practice so be prepared for them and understand there may very well be a trail of very negative experiences from other sales pitches leading up to your conversation.

The goal is to present a credible and knowledgeable perspective about the prospect’s needs as well as how those needs are addressed differently from other options on the market.


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Focus on customer need and desired outcome in your next sales pitch

This is all about focusing on the “why” of the equation vs. the “how.”  There will be plenty of time to get into the details on how a product or service satisfies the need but spend some time understanding the problem being addressed and the specific outcome the prospect is seeking.

Elevating the conversation to this level establishes a common ground for the conversation and an approach to itemize all the things that would define success.

Once those are known and agreed upon, the seller is in a much better position to highlight how their product or service addresses each of the issues and delivers the path to success.

Getting into features or capabilities that are confusing or even irrelevant to the conversation at this stage can distract both parties and lead to a very negative outcome.  Regardless of what is being sold, focus on the solution the prospect is seeking rather than the features you offer.


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The buyer’s journey matters more than your sales process

Now more than ever, prospects have collected information and been influenced by factors beyond the seller’s control well before your first sales conversation. The marketing department should have done its job to surround the prospect with good and worthwhile information ranging from content relevant to them to publicly-available case studies and customer reviews.  If this is lacking, be prepared to play catch up in the first sales conversation…if it gets that far.

Understand and appreciate the concept of the “buyer’s journey” which, simply put, is the set of steps and decisions a prospect goes through to become a customer. If a sales process mindset dominates the conversation hoping to push the prospect through the various sales stages defined by the seller, a conflict between the two processes will quickly materialize.

It is definitely important to have a defined and disciplined sales process to ensure proper reporting and sales pipeline accuracy, but do not lose sight of the buyer in the process. Great salespeople can set themselves apart by being tuned into where prospect is in the process and even anticipating next step, including information needs.

Sales pitches will flow much smoother and be more relevant if they are timed to the prospect’s decision making process versus where the seller is in the sales process.

This can be an institutional mindset shift and must be mapped to the customer acquisition process: low touch, high velocity models with disciplined qualification before getting to a salesperson and higher touch, lower velocity models that require explicit knowledge of what needs to happen when and what content is needed and is most effective.

Remember that even with the best research and qualification, the prospect may not be ready to commit to a buying process when the pitch is delivered. So always follow up. Follow up is such an important part of sales or any type of relationship building so remember to do it, whether you use some type of automated system or work with the marketing department on a more sophisticated email nurture program. Just make sure it is done.

Timing is not always right so being disciplined about 30, 60, even 90 day intervals for follow up with something in context to that prospect can not only set a salesperson apart but position them well when the buying process kicks off in earnest.


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