The Top Sales Trends: AI Gives Sales Teams a Boost
Sales enablement, basically defined, provides a centralized platform to manage and align sales processes, people, and technology behind a common goal of shortening sales cycles while also removing the traditional barriers between sales, marketing, customer service and support, and other departments. Some vendors also include communications tools like web conferencing, screen sharing, autodialers, and email tracking into their sales enablement suites.
By some accounts, more than 75 percent of companies using sales enablement tools have reported higher sales volumes year over year, so the technology is definitely worth a look.
Though there are possibly hundreds of vendors offering sales enablement solutions, the major ones include Accent Technologies, Bigtincan, Brainshark, Chorus.ai, ClearSlide, ClientPoint, CloudShare, DealHub, Highspot, InsideSales, LevelJump, Mediafly, Membrain, Mindmatrix, MindTickle, Modus, Qorus Software, Qstream, Rallyware, Salesforce.com, SAP, Seismic, Showpad, and Upland Software.
While sales enablement aligns internal sales processes, people, and technology, it doesn’t address a key element of the modern sales cycle—the actual contact with customers and prospects. For that, another technology stack, called sales engagement, emerged within the past two or three years.
“Sales enablement is about improving how sales reps spend their day,” Dickie says. “It’s about looking for ways to eliminate some of the tedium with automation…to give salespeople more time to sell. Then, once they get the time, they need sales engagement to improve how they interact with customers.”
As such, sales engagement is less about the number of people that sales reps are contacting and more about the quality of that outreach and how customers and prospects respond to it.
The right sales engagement solution will provide sales content management; integrated omnichannel communication features; guided selling tools such as dynamic call scripting, automatic lead routing, and sales cadence management; and tracking and analytics.
Sales engagement is currently a $1.6 billion market that is expected to reach $5.6 billion by 2023, growing at a compound annual rate of 23.5 percent, according to Aragon Research. Sales engagement platforms, the firm says, offer “a targeted digital work hub for sales teams that improves productivity and streamlines customer journeys.”
“The [sales engagement platform] market is continuing to grow because sales professionals are demanding sophisticated sales tools to help them win over savvy customers,” said Jim Lundy, founder and CEO of Aragon Research.
Some of the top vendors in sales engagement include ClearSlide, Engagio, Groove, Highspot, InsideSales, Lead411, Outreach, PersistIQ, SalesLoft, Salesforce.com, and VanillaSoft.
A GOOD COMBINATION
Although the two segments focus on different processes, sales enablement and sales engagement solutions actually complement one another, experts point out. They both play a role in enabling sales teams to engage more effectively with prospects and customers to meet revenue goals.
“Sales engagement and sales enablement are both equal steps in the sales process,” Dickie states.
The distinction is made largely by vendors, who have fragmented the sales technology space based on the pieces that they provide. Time is running out on that scenario, though.
“Companies are looking for one suite that will enable them to do both enablement and engagement,” Dickie says. “They might take point solutions now, but down the road they will reward the vendors that offer a single suite of the sales tools they need.”
And it’s not just about improving the lives of sales reps. Going forward, sales technology will need to improve sales leadership functions as well.
“While sales technology has traditionally focused on what reps need to do differently, now a lot if it needs to focus on how managers can work better, too,” Dickie says. “Managers need to be able to see what is happening in real time and coach their reps proactively.”
Greenberg also sees the need for real-time data as a guiding factor in where the sales technology market is headed. “Now, most of the trends in sales are focused around customer knowledge and bidirectional communication,” he says. “Data capture and analysis in real time or near real time becomes important, as does the ability to provide an offer in real time or near real time, too. Real time is really what is new.”
So the bottom line is that if your sales reps haven’t had any of this new technology added to their toolkits lately, your organization is long overdue for a software update.
But be warned: Much of this new technology isn’t cheap. “Sales technology is expensive,” Dickie says, “but it costs more to do nothing. The cost today of just letting sales [reps] do what they’ve always done is huge.”
To help put the economics in perspective, Dickie recommends a change in thinking. “Don’t think of [sales technology] as just an expense. You need to think of it in terms of the ROI it can generate.”
Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.