The Four Stages of Sales Engagement Adoption

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If you haven’t heard of Sales Engagement by now, it’s time to catch up. And quick!  

In the world of B2B sales and marketing, CRM and Marketing Automation tools have become commonplace.  Problem is, these tools provide limited value to sales teams. Sales is the heart of all revenue-generating functions, so why can’t standard B2B technology help them go further, faster?  There’s been a missing piece to this puzzle for too long, but in the past few years, an answer has emerged.

What if you could extend the data in your CRM and provide an easy-to-use tool for sales reps to engage with prospects and customers in an automated fashion?  

What if sales spent more time communicating 1:1 with prospects instead of figuring out who to call and what to say?   

What if a sales team could implement their sales process into a platform that allows them to plan for growth and scale their sales organization? 

That’s where Sales Engagement comes in, and modern B2B sales teams are including it as a necessity in their sales tech stack.  

Why Does Sales Engagement Matter?

Sales Engagement tools connect directly to your CRM, and powerful automation pulls in the right prospects at the right time for reps to engage.  These activities get served up to reps as email, phone call, social, or other “steps” to complete in their workflow.

Reps no longer need to spend so much time managing a manual process, figuring out who to call and what their next steps should be.  Instead, the right steps get served up automatically so they can focus on delivering a highly personalized, targeted message to the buyer.

SalesLoft is one of the leaders in the category, allowing reps to build stronger relationships, have better insight into customer needs, and ultimately generate more revenue.  Surveys are in… and this stuff works.  

According to a study by Forrester, companies who implement SalesLoft achieve 329% ROI in 3 years.  But this success rate doesn’t happen overnight. As with any new technology it takes time, energy, and continual testing and improvements in order to get the most out of the platform.

The Four Stages of Adoption

As a certified SalesLoft consulting partner, InStereo has been fortunate to work with Sales Engagement customers of all shapes and sizes.  Through our experience, we’ve noticed there’s a common trajectory that organizations go through as they implement, adopt, and evolve their usage of sales engagement tools:

  • Smilin’ and Dialin
  • Integrated Lead Generation
  • Personalized Sales Experiences
  • Customer Lifecycle Engagement

Here’s what that journey looks like and what you can do as a SalesLoft user in order to fast-track your way to Customer Lifecycle Engagement.

The Four Stages of Sales Engagement Adoption

Smilin’ and Dialin’

“Smilin’ and dialin’”… a phrase that makes you visualize a team of SDR’s pounding the phones, doing what salespeople do, and what buyers have learned to ignore.  This first stage of the maturity curve occurs when a company attempts to plug in Sales Engagement technologies into archaic sales process for the benefit of certain features and functions, but not necessarily the vision or strategy that these tools enable.

Sometimes we hear from Sales Managers, “It’s the wild west out there,” meaning there is very little process defined and reps control their own destiny.  They look to Sales Engagement to help standardize some of the processes. In the beginning, they can only leverage the basic functions like the dialer, email tracking, email automation, and basic cadences for cold prospecting.  Oftentimes emails will be sent in mass with very little personalization. These features can be valuable, yes. But at this first step, teams are only leveraging a small fraction of the value that Sales Engagement can unlock for the business.

Typically, companies in the Smilin’ and Dialin’ stage will have a few cadences built out for prospecting cold leads.  They will also use Sales Engagement cadences ad-hoc for event invitations, new product launches, and other promotional campaigns.

How do you get to the next stage?

  • Integrate Sales Engagement with your CRM 
  • Set up automation rules for data flow between systems
  • Automate sales follow-up for inbound leads 
  • Add dynamic tags to all emails
  • Train reps to add personalized messages before sending
  • Track sales engagement metrics in weekly sales meetings

Integrated Lead Generation

The Integrated Lead Generation stage is where many companies begin after a robust implementation of Sales Engagement tools.  As a Certified SalesLoft Partner, InStereo has partnered with dozens of companies to help them implement SalesLoft properly, integrate with Salesforce CRM, build out data automation, and launch their first cadences.  

Our opinion is that if customers don’t align Sales Engagement tools with Lead Gen processes upon day one, they’re missing an enormous opportunity to create a better experience for prospective buyers, standardize internal processes, and create efficiencies for reps!

Companies are in the Integrated Lead Gen stage when they have Sales Engagement implemented, integrated with their CRM, and have aligned their sales reps to engage at critical points in their lead generation processes.  For example, when a lead submits a contact form, sales should engage with that lead as quickly as possible. Sales Engagement can manage this.

Or, if leads are not ready to buy they are commonly nurtured by marketing automation programs.  But what happens when they are showing buy signals? Sales Engagement can listen for those signals and trigger steps for the sales rep to re-engage.

Another common strategy used in Integrated Lead Generation is the personalization of messages.  We like to recommend the 80/20 rule, where 80% of an email or social message is templatized and 20% is a custom, personalized message written by the sales rep.  These tactics help ensure that the buyer receives valuable content, but also that the buyer recognizes the human on the other end of the message, helping to foster and build the sales relationship.

How do you get to the next stage?

  • Collaborate with your Marketing Automation leaders to define strategies for marketing and sales touches throughout the buyer journey 
  • Create cadences and/or email templates with targeted content aligned to buyer pain points throughout the buying process
  • Integrate with LinkedIn and leverage personalized social touches in sales cadence
  • Leverage indicators in lead status and opportunity stages to trigger cadences

Personalized Sales Experiences

Ok… so we’re crushing it with lead gen.  What’s next??? Companies in the Personalized Sales Experiences stage understand the power of personalization in their messaging and know when and how to personalize communications across the entire lead and opportunity lifecycle.  

At this stage, sales leaders focus their performance metrics on indicators of quality, not quantity.  Volume becomes less important at this stage, as leaders would prefer that reps take the time to deliver quality, personalized messages vs. “blasting” messages to as many prospective buyers as possible.  Personalization becomes incredibly important here. Reps will conduct research on the person and the account to craft targeted messages for a higher likelihood of positive response.

Also, the use of Sales Engagement capabilities becomes broader in the sales process.  Rather than simply listening for indicators of Marketing Qualified Leads and passing those leads off via a sales cadence, sales teams leverage targeted, personalized cadences across the lead and opportunity lifecycle. 

In a perfect world, every lead would become an opportunity and every opportunity would turn into a customer.  But we all know the world isn’t perfect. Buyers disengage at various points during the sales cycle, and targeted cadences can help reps ensure they continue to deliver value and stay top of mind when a buyer goes dark in the sales process.  

Ever have an amazing discovery call only to get ghosted by your “hot” prospect?  Lack of buyer activity can trigger a follow-up cadence during early stages of the sales process.  And the same is true for demo follow-up, proposal follow-up, and steps of the sales process.  

Oftentimes companies build their sales process with a focus on the “happy path” to a closed deal.  But what if the buyer drops off? Sales cadences can pick up on the lack of engagement and place that buyer into the right cadence so they receive follow-up to continue down the buying path and move the deal forward.

How do you get to the next stage?

  • Leverage reports demonstrating sales engagement influence on revenue
  • Train and empower reps to use a high degree of personalization for their highest-priority buyers.
  • Ensure all engagement channels are used in cadences
  • Explore opportunities to leverage cadences for onboarding, customer service, customer success, and other functions of the business
  • Build out targeted content for your top personas and automate flow of contacts/leads into persona-based cadences

Customer Lifecycle Engagement

And here we’ve reached the holy grail of Sales Engagement… Customer Lifecycle Engagement!  Now that you’ve mastered your sales process, this stage is about leveraging those engagement tactics for retention, account growth, support, and other critical functions of your business.  Companies in this stage use Sales Engagement tools to connect with prospects and customers in meaningful ways across the entire customer lifecycle.  

Sales teams are quite mature in this stage with their ability to engage buyers.  Content is valuable and targeted. Processes are efficient. And reps are highly skilled in their ability to engage buyers and manage their process.  Oftentimes we’ll see a three-phase approach to prospecting activities:  

  1. High-touch and significant research and personalization for warm leads
  2. Moderate-touch, persona-based content, and 80/20 personalization for leads who have not yet engaged
  3. Low-touch, and persona-based nurture content for leads who have not yet engaged

Buyer personas are well developed and may vary based on role, industry, company size, and other factors specific to the company’s go-to-market.  Sales content and cadences are specifically targeted to persona goals and pain points, and sales knows how to leverage this to their advantage.

For customer onboarding, Sales Engagement helps to facilitate the handoff from sales to the onboarding contact and ensures the new customer receives critical information and helpful tips throughout their onboarding process.

For customers, Sales Engagement can automate regular check-in from a Success rep or Account Manager to ensure the relationship stays healthy.  Sales Engagement can also automate touchpoints leading up to contract expiration and renewals to ensure there are no surprises with attrition.

Companies in Customer Lifecycle Engagement will leverage the tools to simply strengthen relationships with the primary point of contact.  Cadences can notify reps when to check in and sharing valuable content, as well as when to engage with customers in social channels.

At the end of the day, Sales Engagement tools are built to drive revenue, and mature organizations with a strong footprint recognize this.  Dedicated Revenue Operations teams will leverage revenue reporting and track sales engagement’s influence to optimize messages and cadences over time.

How do you continue to improve?

  • Regularly test and optimize your messages
  • Continue to build out buyer personas and create targeted, valuable content
  • Regularly update content based on changing buyer triggers and point points

Prepare for the Journey

While many Sales Engagement users aspire to achieve Customer Lifecycle Engagement, few prepare for the time, resources, and focus required to get there.  It’s important to note that Sales Engagement is not unlike many other SaaS technologies– you will not unlock all the value on day one. Companies must leverage the crawl, walk, run mentality and continue to build new functions and learn from what’s working overtime.  

As we work with our customers, we always encourage them to not just focus on the tools, but also their strategy for engaging buyers and processes for executing against it.  Companies must have the right people in place with the right skills and time to devote to these programs. They must have the right processes established across all business functions and the willingness to evolve those processes over time.  And most importantly, they must have targeted content that is engaging and valuable for prospective buyers. 

InStereo has been fortunate to collaborate with Sales Engagement users, big and small across a wide range of industries to help them refine their buyer engagement strategy and get the most out of the tools.  If you’re struggling on your Sales Engagement journey or are eager to get it started, contact us today.  We’d love to help!

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