An introductory conversation about your brand.
An email chock full of information about your best product.
A mention on social media.
A high-five. In the right context, at least.
What do these things have in common?
They’re all sales engagements. And the way they go down will have a massive impact on your sales strategy’s bottom-line success.
Imagine your prospect’s journey from total stranger to loyal customer as a TV show with several seasons. Over the course of five seasons, a character like Walter White of Breaking Bad can go from mild-mannered chemistry teacher to ruthless drug lord.
We’re not going to put your customer through that same journey, thank goodness. But we are going to take them from totally unfamiliar buyer to full-on brand evangelist, which is a similarly (if watered-down) dramatic transformation.
Why the dumb analogy?
Because each sales engagement is like an episode of that TV show. And from season to season, your target will go from stranger to prospect to lead to customer and beyond.
See why sales engagements matter? They’re the stepping stones of the customer journey.
But wait. How the heck are you supposed to keep track of them?
With the right sales engagement platform.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Sales Engagement Platform?
- Sales Engagement Platforms vs. CRMs: What’s the Difference?
- The Best Sales Engagement Platforms
- Which Sales Engagement Platform Is Right for You?
- Now What?
What Is a Sales Engagement Platform?
A sales engagement platform is a software tool that enables and guides the optimization of communication shared with sales prospects, leads, or customers for the purpose of increasing sales.
They coordinate multiple communication channels and consolidate them in a single, manageable platform. That means email, phone calls, video chats, social media, brain-to-brain interbrain technology—okay, not that last one. But all the others!
The basic idea of a sales engagement platform is to:
- Enable communication with your customers & prospects (such as through email, text, phone calls, social media, etc.).
- Track your customers & prospects and your interactions with them.
- Coordinate interactions among your agents so you’re not stepping on each other’s toes or leaving any customers neglected.
- Evaluate your efforts and improve.
Sales Engagement Platforms vs. CRMs: What’s the Difference?
Hmmm, you’re thinking.
You skimmed this article a bit and are now saying to yourself, “isn’t that just a fancy term for a CRM?”
A CRM (customer relationship management platform) is designed to be the “one source of truth” for customer information, keeping track of prospects, leads, and customers, and providing analytics across a range of metrics. CRMs are used by all customer-facing teams, such as customer support, sales, marketing, billing, and tech support.
Sales engagement platform
A sales engagement platform, in contrast, is designed to be used exclusively by the sales and marketing teams. It integrates with the CRM, sitting on top of it, and feeds data into it, but generally doesn’t act as a CRM in and of itself.
Sales engagement platforms streamline, enable, and provide insights on the interactions the sales team has with prospects and leads (see our guide where we describe the differences between leads vs prospects).
You can find CRM platforms that are so robust they also work as sales engagement platforms.
And you can find sales engagement platforms that have such great customer information tracking, you don’t even need a CRM – depending on the size of your company.
The Best Sales Engagement Platforms
Some of these are “pure” sales engagement platforms. Others are somewhere on the CRM-sales engagement spectrum.
Wherever they fall, they’re all awesome tools that can help your salespeople start and manage better interactions with your customers.
1. Hubspot Sales Hub.
Hubspot always has a way of making it into lists like these.
Let’s face it, they make good software.
Hubspot Sales Hub is primarily a CRM (yes, I know, that’s cheating) but it’s also probably got everything you’ll need from a sales engagement platform. It’s usable no matter how big (or small) your sales team is and there are multiple “tiers” depending on the features you want—and how much you’re willing to pay.
There are lots of automation tools to use and plenty of customization options as well. No matter what your sales goals are, this platform can help you achieve them.
Automation is the greatest tool you have for productivity improvement. And Reply gives it to you.
With Reply, you can automate your email search, LinkedIn outreach, personal emails, SMS text message threads, WhatsApp feeds, phone calls, tasks, and probably a bunch of other things.
The main goal here is to eliminate manual work and streamline the customer/prospect interaction process. You’ll save time, have better conversations, and presumably, earn more sales.
Close is a CRM that has plenty of sales engagement platform functionality.
It enables you to track and manage all your customer interactions, including SMS, phone calls, emails, and video chats—all from one shared platform. You can also set up email sequences, saving time, and use advanced auto-dialing to reach out to new leads faster.
Want to perfect your sales outreach strategy? The aptly-named Outreach can help.
This platform is designed for remote sales teams, coordinating your efforts and optimizing the customer lifecycle to earn more revenue. It’s also designed to scale effectively, so you can use it whether you’re working by yourself out of a garage or while you’re getting ready to open your 100th office building.
You’ll also get detailed analytics and recommendations for how to improve your strategy!
Use it to track all your customer interactions in one spot, automate your outreach, personalize your offers, and measure your success. It also has custom roles for people in your organization like salespeople, team leaders, managers, marketers, and even executives.
Yesware is an “all-in-one toolkit for sales professionals,” and boy, do they mean it.
Add it to Outlook or Gmail, then start tracking your interactions with prospects and customers. Using a variety of different tools, you can reach out to more people (and send messages faster), and ultimately win more deals.
Follow-up templates, automatic meeting scheduling, and recommended prospect campaigns are just the beginning. And when you’re wrapping up a campaign, you can easily analyze your efforts and see where you excelled—or what you messed up.
Apollo is a data-driven sales engagement platform designed to help you manage campaigns from the ground up, find new leads, and engage with those leads.
With it, you’ll be able to prospect through its own proprietary database, or use their Chrome plugin to prospect on LinkedIn. Then, you can automate your sales outreach, and analyze and experiment with your outreach. It’s simple, but highly effective.
It’s not a Decepticon—it’s a sales engagement platform that bills itself as “email for closers.”
MixMax will help you master the art of email sales. With it, you can share your calendar, collect information from polls and surveys, track your emails, schedule drip campaigns, and automate your busywork.
It also integrates with all the tools you’re currently using. And it’s not exclusively for sales; you can also use it for recruiting, marketing, and ongoing customer experience management.
Billing itself as the number one sales engagement platform for Salesforce, Groove offers native Salesforce integration.
Use it to track and coordinate all your customer interactions, no matter who initiates them, and automate your sales meeting scheduling all in one place.
Klenty coordinates all your outreach, whether you use email, phone calls, or other modes of communication. There are tons of personalization options, so you can reach out with unique offers and messages, and follow-up automation to make things like drip campaigns simple.
It’s a great tool to kick off your new data-based sales strategy, regardless of how much experience you have.
Which Sales Engagement Platform Is Right for You?
So many sales engagement platforms, so little time.
I’d tell you to try the free trials of all the platforms I listed above, but hey, I know I don’t have time for that. I’m sure you don’t either.
Instead, make a list of “must have” features for your platform, check out prices, check out reviews, and try out the trials for the 3-4 platforms that look coolest and most affordable.
I did list these in the order that I recommend you try them.
Okay, so after you’ve got the right sales engagement platform… now what?
There’s no such thing as a perfect sales strategy or a perfect salesperson. We’re all incrementally getting better and learning more—though some of us are evolving quicker than others.
Why the discrepancy?
Because some salespeople have access to awesome analytics tools that show them exactly how they’re performing. Analytics tools like EmailAnalytics.
With EmailAnalytics, you’ll learn details about your email activity and daily habits, from the number of emails you send to your average email response time. Sign up for a free trial today, and learn more than you ever thought you needed to know about your email habits!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.