Have you ever received a promotional email offering a discount or free trial? Have you scrolled down your Instagram timeline and viewed a targeted ad? Perhaps you’ve been approached the old fashioned way by a sales rep at a store…
If you’ve experienced any of these things, you’ve been subjected to sales engagement.
Great sales engagement is the difference between losing a customer and making a sale. In this article, we’ll explain what exactly sales engagement is, why it’s so important for small businesses, how to avoid common mistakes and how to leverage it to net you more customers and more revenue.
What is Sales Engagement?
Sales engagement is the process of interacting with potential clients to build relationships and encourage them to purchase a product or service. Essentially, it's the way companies communicate with people (who may turn into customers).
The goal of sales engagement is to move leads through the sales funnel more efficiently and effectively by providing the right information and touchpoints at the right time. The basic idea is that for every potential customer, there’s a certain engagement threshold they must meet to be convinced to make a purchase. Sales engagement is the strategy of moving leads towards that threshold.
What is Sales Engagement Important?
Sales engagement is necessary to achieve sales and stay afloat. Unless your product really is the best thing since sliced bread, you’ll need to do some work to convince potential customers to part with their hard-earned money and buy it.
With a strong, personalized approach to sales engagement, you’ll also build relationships and rapport with future customers. When you spend time talking with these prospects, get to know their pain points and needs, you’ll be able to improve the customer experience across the board, no matter what industry you’re in.
Common Sales Engagement Mistakes
No startup will get their sales engagement perfect on the first go. The road to success is paved with failures. Successful startups are the ones that learn from their mistakes and make the right changes accordingly.
Here are a few mistakes startups consistently make - along with some concrete examples:
Lack of Understanding of Target Audience
Startups often fail to understand their target audience properly. This can lead to ineffective sales engagement, as the messages and tactics used may not resonate with potential customers. Most often, this comes down to poor or inadequate market research.
Sometimes, startups don’t need to zoom in further on a niche - instead, they need to zoom out to a wider audience!
When Airbnb first launched, they marketed themselves as an affordable option for attendees of large conferences who were looking for a place to stay. However, the startup soon realized that their target audience was actually much broader and included all kinds of travelers, including budget-conscious tourists and people looking for unique and authentic travel experiences.
In response, Airbnb pivoted their marketing strategy and began targeting this wider audience, emphasizing the unique and personal experiences that hosts could offer. Today, Airbnb is a global travel powerhouse, with millions of listings in more than 220 countries and regions around the world.
Prioritizing Quantity Over Quality
Many, many startups make the mistake of chasing quantity over quality. The mistake comes from an understandable calculus: more customers = more money, right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. It’s more worth your time and money to pursue leads with a targeted, personalized approach. In a survey by Epsilon, 80% of consumers said they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience.
Failing to Establish Trust
Startups in particular are burdened with the struggle of establishing trust with potential customers for the simple reason that they lack brand recognition and reputation. The goal, then, is to build out these qualities as fast as possible.
Case studies, testimonials, social proof are tried-and-true methods to build credibility. Here’s how some big names did it when they were first starting out:
Dropbox used a referral program to encourage existing customers to refer new users to their service. They also incorporated another popular way of showing social proof: they prominently display the logos of well-known companies that use their service on their homepage. The idea is, Hey, ASU and Moleskine are using Dropbox. They’re real-deal businesses. I guess Dropbox is legit, too.
Even if you don’t think that straightforwardly about it, there’s still an undeniable subliminal effect to seeing this social proof.
Slack used customer testimonials to showcase the benefits of their service, highlighting specific use cases and success stories from people who love the product. They also created a community forum where users could ask questions and share their experiences, providing additional social proof.
Airbnb used user reviews and rating platforms to establish trust with potential customers, as well as a "Verified ID" system that provided additional security and credibility. They also used social media to showcase real photos and stories from customers’ travels, further building their brand and credibility.
3 Ways to Measure and Improve Sales Engagement to Maximize Revenue
Now that you know what sales engagement is and the common mistakes that startups make, here are the best strategies to extract the most value out of your sales engagement process for a quicker speed to lead and maximum return on investment.
Sending Custom Emails at the Right Time
Automated emails are a necessity in today’s world. It’s simply too time-consuming to have marketers and sales reps write emails from scratch every time. However, it’s also incredibly important to personalize outreach as much as you can.
People love being thought of as a person as opposed to a customer. 90% of consumers find personalized content very or somewhat appealing. So, how do you juggle the efficiency of automated emails with a personalized experience?
To get the best of both worlds:
Segment your audience - Group leads by interests, behavior, or demographics and tailor your messages accordingly.
Use personalization tokens - These are placeholders or variables in your email that automatically fill in with your prospect’s name and other personal info, making the emails feel more direct and relevant to the individual.
Use dynamic content - Customize email content based on the receiver's preferences.
Example: You’ve got an ecommerce website that sells clothes. Based on past purchases, browsing history, & other demographic info, you’ll send just one email that shows men’s clothing to customers who buy/browse men’s clothing and shows women’s clothing to customers who buy/browse women’s clothing.
Hubspot is a powerful automation tool that allows for easy deployment of all these personalization features.
Photo by Maxim Ilyahov
Using an Online Meeting Scheduler
The process of scheduling meetings is often arduous - it’s where a lot of leads fall through the cracks. Coordinating a time that works for both parties through back and forth emails is cumbersome and can often result in losing momentum or dropping the lead altogether.
By utilizing online appointment scheduling software like When2Meet, YouCanBookMe, or Calendly, sales representatives can streamline the scheduling process and remove the friction that often comes with scheduling meetings. This has a direct positive effect on sales engagement: your customers receive quicker response times, more convenience, and increased personalization - they choose the meeting time with just a click.
Use AI Tools to Improve Pipeline Management and Forecasting
AI is the future. If you don’t catch the train now, you’ll get left in the dust. There are a bevy of ways to leverage AI right now to improve your sales engagement and streamline your sales process; here are just a few:
AI-powered lead scoring can help sales teams prioritize their leads by identifying those that are most likely to convert into customers. By analyzing a range of data points, such as engagement history, firmographic data (industry type, location, number of employees, revenue, etc.), and demographic info, AI tools can provide a more accurate picture of a lead's potential value to the business.
We’ve already stated the many benefits of personalized outreach efforts, but AI has the power to crunch large amounts of data in a way that we can’t. AI-powered chatbots can analyze customer data and provide tailored responses to inquiries based on the customer's history and preferences. Amazon uses AI-powered product recommendation algorithms to suggest products to customers based on their past purchases and browsing behavior.
AI-powered sales forecasting can help sales teams make more informed decisions by predicting future sales performance based on historical data and other factors.
Sales process optimization
AI can be used to identify inefficiencies in the sales process and suggest improvements. For example, AI-powered tools can analyze sales data and provide recommendations for which outreach tactics are most effective for each type of lead.
Imagine pairing all your sales reps with seasoned coaches to provide insights and recommendations to help them improve their skills. This is possible now thanks to AI. By analyzing swaths of data on calls and emails, AI-powered sales coaching tools can identify areas for improvement - in terms of tone of voice, cadence, use of specific keywords, subject line effectiveness, and more - and provide targeted coaching along with performance tracking to help reps improve their sales skills.
Clearly, sales engagement is crucial for startups to achieve sales and stay afloat. Startups need to understand their target audience and avoid mistakes like chasing too many low-quality leads and neglecting the value of personalization and trust.
If your startup is looking to boost sales, evaluate your sales engagement strategy. Collect feedback from your clients. Are you making any of the mistakes discussed above? Are you optimizing your engagement using the tools and solutions listed in the article? Be sure you’re extracting the most valuable possible out of your sales engagement process to make certain you’re positioned for success.
Andrew Sego is a freelance blogger, screenwriter, and tutor who loves learning about the miraculous world we inhabit and teaching it to others.