Using a Sales Engagement Platform to Improve Sales Force Onboarding

October 29, 2019

Onboarding is an integral phase for your new Sales reps and your business. You’ve decided to hire these Sales professionals because they have what it takes to sell and generate revenue — but none of that can come to pass until they are fully ramped up on products, services, content, brand, Sales cycle, and other vital aspects of the job.

The problem many sales organizations run into is that such training can take weeks or months. During that time, new reps are more or less sitting on their hands and training up instead of actually closing deals. According to a 2018 study by CSO Insights, it can typically take up to a year to find and onboard new Sales talent to full productivity. The wait can be maddening: new hires want to start proving themselves right away. Your company wants them to be productive. But nobody can do much of anything until reps are sufficiently trained and coached.

The solution? A Sales engagement platform.

A trending piece of technology, Sales engagement solutions are more commonly being implemented to help Sales professionals hit the ground running. While these systems can be leveraged throughout the Sales process, Sales engagement platforms can return incredible value in onboarding by accelerating the ramp-up phase, enhancing Sales team productivity, and providing analytics to track success.

Here’s how:

What is Sales engagement?

Sales engagement is the interaction between leads and Marketing content (or between the buyer and salesperson). While not necessarily a new concept, Sales engagement has certainly come intro greater focus thanks to technology.

It’s always been important to understand how prospects and existing accounts engage with branded content and educational materials, as well as how the personal relationship between the salesperson and the buyer has developed. Yet tools for gaining such insight have often been lacking – until now.

In the past, Sales organizations did not have much ability to see if, when, or how leads and customers took action with content, unless through an actual conversation. In other words, attribution models and conversion tracking were quite primitive relative to what enterprises were looking to achieve. And without proper modeling, reporting, and data insights, it was difficult to determine at which stage the Sales process was grinding to a halt. So Sales managers and executives had limited visibility into whether – quantitatively and qualitatively – sales professionals could use more training, engagement, coaching, or additional support in closing more deals. 

As you can imagine, a brand marketing campaign, for instance, would be dead on arrival. It might be launched, but it would be so aimless and unscientific that measuring its effectiveness would be borderline impossible, and it would likely achieve nothing beyond burning through Marketing spend. Subsequently, that same Marketing campaign, even if well-intentioned, would do little to move the Sales process forward or enhance the customer experience.

Luckily, Sales engagement platforms are filling this gap by granting reps full transparency into the various points of engagement that occur throughout the Sales process, whether with Marketing content, social media, email, in-person meetings, or phone calls. 
 

What can you do with a Sales engagement platform?

At a basic level, salespeople can use engagement tools to drive the Sales cycle. As B2B Sales cycles for more complex industries stretch into six months or even a year (some even two years!), any small improvement in the Sales enablement process could potentially shave weeks or months off the average time-to-close. Imagine shortening the Sales cycle by 20% and what sort of monetary benefits that could provide to your organization’s continued sales development.

Sales engagement platforms also help produce more meaningful interactions with prospects on a very human level. The advancement of personalization technology, for one, enables marketers and Sales teams to create outreach that’s highly targeted, immediately trackable via code, and dynamic to the preferences and user profiles of each specific customer or prospect. Personalization adds that extra touch to every engagement, and the data supports just how effective this type of Sales enablement tool can be. Consider:

How is all this facilitated? Mainly by the Sales engagement platform acting as a one-stop shop for logging all outreach efforts and executing necessary daily activities. Teams can use this system for a number of crucial tasks, including but not limited to:

  • Keeping information organized: Data tends to end up in disparate locations, whether saved in email, PDF, CRM platform, or scribbled in notes. This can hinder the selling process if reps are constantly looking for information they know they have but can’t find. An engagement platform houses all the necessary data in one place for easy storage, access, and analytics.
  • Tracking interaction with content: Prospects receive a lot of content, and to sell according to needs, reps need to know exactly what content leads interact with most. Engagement platforms can neatly display exactly which whitepapers, product sheets, case studies, use cases, videos, blogs, and other content forms customers have engaged with.
  • Automating the Sales process: A shorter Sales cycle equals more time to pursue other Sales leads. By seamlessly scheduling different tasks and communications with prospects, reps can create a smooth buyer experience and save time by automating mundane processes.
  • Analysis: Compiled in the platform with every touchpoint, customer data — the very information marketers say they don’t have access to — is a treasure trove of actionable information. With insights derived from each data point, marketers and Sales professionals can tweak their outreach efforts as needed, in addition to using the newly learned information as a foundation for future Sales training and metrics reporting.
  • Understanding channel Sales enablement: Every channel through which you interact with and engage with prospects has a measurable value assigned to it, as your marketing budget dictates. Some of these channels prove more effective than others, which your Sales engagement platform will help spotlight. Knowing the ROI on each action taken within those channels can help your team better allocate their dollars so that there are no wasted efforts or unused resources.
  • Better branding: Does your brand image align with what your customers expect from you? Are you marketing to the right target audience to begin with? Personalized outreach to high-value prospects is made possible through on-brand messaging. Data from Sales engagement software can validate how ad copy is written, where online ads are displayed, when to deploy remarketing campaigns, and whether your overall branding is resonating with customers and prospects. If not, you can group up with other Sales and Marketing reps to devise ways to make adjustments.

How can Sales engagement platforms improve onboarding?

So what role do Sales engagement platforms have to play in onboarding? They can ensure that newly-hired Sales talent has the information, support, and tools needed to ramp quickly. 

That means a reduction in downtime, stronger employee performance right out of the gate, and lower management overhead, as staff members may be able to get up to speed at a fraction of the cost traditionally resulting from training new hires.

Such platforms are valuable by getting employees primed to sell. According to the Sales Management Association, Sales organizations with effective onboarding processes have 10% greater Sales growth rates, as well as 14% better sales and profit objective achievement.

However, as the 2018 research from CSO notes, just 18.6% of firms “agree” or “strongly agree” that they have effective onboarding. Those businesses could ramp their salespeople up to full productivity in 7.8 months, compared to 9.5 months for those who “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” that they had effective onboarding. That nearly two-month gap could mean dollars lost instead of gained.

An engagement platform can help firms capture those sales by:

  • Limiting the time needed to train and coach reps to full productivity.
  • Providing talent with all the resources they need to ramp in a single solution.
  • Streamlining processes so they can sell more efficiently and effectively.
  • Serving as a launchpad for continual education while on the job.
  • Operating as a knowledge base for current and future employees.
  • Allowing for single-source communications with teammates and other stakeholders

What are the benefits of engagement platforms in onboarding?

Sales engagement platforms can enhance onboarding in several other ways than the fundamental drivers just described. Here are five other benefits to leveraging such systems during onboarding:

  • Improve employee engagement: The last thing a new hire wants is to have a big welcome — only to be left on their own shortly afterward to figure out how things work or train themselves. With an engagement platform, businesses can at once immerse new hires in training content while also giving them the necessary attention and personal coaching. It’s a productive mix of hands-on and hands-off management styles, with, of course, the technology always there to answer questions, facilitate new learning modules, and support with self-guided tutorials.
  • Turn new hires into self-starters: New Sales talent won’t likely want to be micromanaged, even though they’re just starting. An engagement platform can help progress Sales development by giving reps the tools needed to steadily become self-sufficient and masters of the Sales process. With training on various job functions, such as analytics, outreach, branding, KPIs, and more, Sales professionals can quickly become autonomous in record time.
  • Maximize client-facing time: Engagement solutions empower new reps to do what they do best: sell. They can quickly complete training progressions, while automating other tasks, to stay focused on making the most of client interactions. And with more facetime with clients, they can put experience from previous Sales roles to good use: the core selling tactics and proficiencies that got them the job in the first place.
  • Align Sales and Marketing: Working from the same solution can markedly improve the level of collaboration between Sales and Marketing. Oftentimes, internal systems that can’t communicate or integrate with one another cause silos that harm coordination, and, ultimately, Sales and Marketing success. New hires can be on the same page as Marketing from day one with an engagement platform, and this unity snowballs over time. You no longer have skittish, shy new hires uncertain of whether they have the autonomy to work with other departments. From the start, they are empowered to do what it takes to get the job done, an attitude and goal that runs parallel to what the Marketing department is trying to achieve as well. Your organization can do so much more when disparate departments put their heads together. 
  • Deliver performance reporting: Analytics are critical to cultivating high performers from the get-go. With engagement analytics, Sales leaders can monitor how new hires are using training resources, or if they need help in a particular module. Instead of struggling in silence, Sales professionals can receive data-driven onboarding support. There is also an element of guided analytics training, so that the burden isn’t always on a Sales coach or senior-level employee to get newer hires up to speed. So while the platform is collecting analytics from users, Sales reps are similarly able to better understand how their data (and customer data) is being used.

Is there a difference between Sales engagement and Sales enablement?

Sales engagement and Sales enablement both fit into an overall Sales strategy, but an important distinction should be made between the two. 

Sales enablement is the overall idea that salespeople are readily equipped with everything they need to sell, including marketing collateral, personalized content, and coaching and training materials. Sales engagement is a way to realize the greater objective of enablement by facilitating internal optimization and external engagement that ultimately drives sales.

The difference may be subtle, but appreciating what separates enablement from engagement will allow Sales organizations to onboard new hires with ease and efficacy. For instance, try to think of enablement technologies as the hangar, and engagement platforms as the airplane. Everything exists in the enablement environment, including all the different solutions you can deploy – like engagement software.

Engaged employees are usually “enabled” employees, so keeping Sales reps motivated, forward-thinking, and eager to chase the next deal is a productive method for accelerating sales across the board.

How to find Sales engagement tools

Businesses looking to acquire a Sales engagement platform should be careful to research what is becoming a fast-growing market. New solutions are introduced with increasing frequency, making it crucial that you judge potential implementations on a few core criteria. Start by asking yourself:

  • Will the platform automate Sales workflows, processes, and communications?
  • Will it effectively track communications and engagement points regardless of channel?
  • Will it offer a seamless way to manage, share, and monitor content?
  • Will it deliver a robust set of data, reports, and analytics?
  • Will it integrate smoothly into my existing stack?
  • Will it lead to higher uptime when onboarding new Sales professionals?
  • Will it be a holistic platform that’s useful to departments beyond just Sales?
  • Will it positively impact the Sales process in a measurable way without causing too much friction?
  • Will it shorten the Sales cycle based on my company’s needs, not just what a vendor rep promises?

A Sales engagement platform is no longer a luxury for businesses. The modern Sales cycle is more customer-centric than ever, and having a solution to power engagement, personalization, and relationship-building is as much a requirement as having salespeople to market the product or service.

A Sales engagement platform can also serve a tandem goal of being an employee engagement tool. Because a seller is empowered with all the resources they need to excel, they’re more likely to help empower other teammates, mentor new hires, and celebrate wins with the rest of the company. As more workers integrate with the platform, and more success is realized, Sales professionals will be better able to identify cross-selling and upselling opportunities. And they’ll be primed to already know how to pursue and close those deals.

Contact Showpad today to learn more about Sales engagement software and Sales enablement tools, or get a product demo.