What is Sales Engagement?

Over the past year, Sales Engagement has become the third pillar of my coverage (alongside Sales Intelligence and B2B DaaS). So it is only fair that I write an overview of the space.

Sales Engagement began about four or five years ago as Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) with a focus on automating the SDR function. Its initial functionality consisted of a cadence tool which automated emails and outbound dialing for appointment setting. Cadences, also called sequences, are a set of scheduled steps that usually begin with an email but also include outbound calls, social steps (many vendors have integrated LinkedIn Sales Navigator via SNAP connectors), and direct mail.

Cadences can be paused if the prospect is out of office or halted if the prospect unsubscribes. Outreach just announced out of office functionality which pauses the call and checks whether an alternate contact is listed.
Functionality is similar to that of LeadGnome. Outreach noted that 18% of email responses are out of office emails. 25% of out of office emails include an alternate contact name with over half the names being manager titles or above.  The Out of Office reply detection extracts the return date and alternate names then pauses sequences until the prospect returns.  The sales rep is notified of automated actions.

Email is supported by targeted templates which can be personalized. Thus, reps can call cadences by function, level, industry, etc. and the associated templates are customized by target audience. Reps can view the emails prior to sending and personalize them. This helps bring authenticity to the email. SalesLoft estimates that the peak personalization level is 20%.

Most sales engagement solutions include a digital dialer for outbound calling. The system suggests the best time of day and adjusts for time zones. Other features include local dialing, call recording, and voice mail drops. Upon completion, the rep enters call disposition and sentiment information which is synched with the CRM.

Once calls are recorded, they are transcribed and indexed, allowing sales reps or managers to quickly review calls and quickly locate pain points, objections, pricing, and next steps. Vendors such as Outreach and SalesLoft are going a step further and analyzing the calls, providing a set of team reports. More broadly, machine learning tools are being applied against the calls to determine best sales practices.

Meeting Management is emerging as a key feature set. Some vendors offer simple Calendly-like scheduling while others provide full meeting transcription and analytics.

Video is becoming increasingly important. Vendors support both video meetings (e.g. Webex, Zoom, BlueJeans, JoinMe) and video attachments (e.g. Vidyard, Videolicious).

The Outreach Partner Directory offers ten categories of partners. Sales Intelligence and Data supports lead generation, intelligence, and management.

Other information and decisioning tools include leaderboards, dashboards, AI recommendations (e.g. who to call or email next), CRM synchronization, and A/B testing. Some of these tools are directly integrated into the service while others are available through app directories. Similar to the Salesforce AppExchange or Marketo LaunchPoint, functionality may be free, freemium, or premium. Likewise, you may need to separately license the partner solution prior to enabling the integration. Outreach and SalesLoft offer a broad set of app partners.

There are a broad set of Sales Intelligence partner services which feed leads or display lead intelligence within Sales Engagement platforms. Vendors include DiscoverOrg, Zoominfo, Datanyze, Owler, Crunchbase, and SalesIntel.io.

Sales Engagement platforms are evolving into a system of engagement that sits alongside CRMs (systems of record). There is already a shift taking place from CRMs to Sales Engagement platforms. While Sales Engagement platforms are not looking to displace CRMs, sales reps are increasingly shifting screen time from CRMs to Sales Engagement platforms with the Sales Engagement platforms syncing with the CRMs. This is one of the reasons that Salesforce.com recently launched its High Velocity Sales service which combines cadences, Salesforce Inbox, the Lightning Dialer, work queues, and Einstein. High Velocity Sales starts at $75 per user per month ($90 with outbound calling).

The Salesforce Lighting Dialer supports click-to-call, power dialing, inbound calling, voicemail drops, and call logging.

At the Salesforce World Tour in Boston this week, a sales rep told me that Salesforce is heavily investing in Sales Engagement and hopes to catch up to the market leaders in the next year (I think this is overly optimistic as the leaders are quickly building out functionality and partnerships). While Salesforce could catch up in a few years, I believe it is more likely that SFDC will acquire one of the leaders in the space followed quickly by Microsoft and Oracle acquisitions in the sector (of course, Microsoft or Oracle could be the first movers). Adobe, which recently acquired Marketo, may also be interested in expanding its presence in B2B sales and marketing applications.

The top vendors in the space are SalesLoft, Outreach, and InsideSales. Other vendors include ConnectLeader, Yesware, Toutapp (Marketo), Mixmax, and VanillaSoft.