Sales Engagement vs. Sales Enablement: What’s the Difference?

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The sales and marketing landscape is fast evolving thanks to new technologies that enable sales teams to engage prospects during the sales process. Access to customer data, metrics and workflow automation makes selling easier. You just need to purchase sales engagement software . . . or do you need a sales enablement platform? Do reps make more sales because they are enabled or because they can more easily engage?

Sometimes terminology can be a bit confusing, so let’s get to the bottom of things.


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What’s Sales Enablement?

Nancy Maluso of SiriusDecisions recently said, “The goal of sales enablement is to ensure sales reps have the right knowledge, skills, and process to maximize every buyer interaction.” So what does that actually require? It really depends on the expert you ask.

For the sake of this post, we’ll use the following list of activity categories provided by Salesforce.com to define what sales enablement entails:

  • Recruiting and hiring — getting the right people
  • Training and coaching — educating and motivating reps
  • Equipping — providing them with the right tools to do their jobs
  • Assessing — measuring who’s working and what’s working to increase sales

As you can see, sales enablement involves different activities with the goal of giving sales teams the tools and resources they need to close more deals.

Recent changes in customer expectations mean the sales process has become more buyer-centric, necessitating close collaboration between sales teams and other internal departments or specialties, such as marketing, human resources, product marketing, field marketing, customer service, account-based marketing, and more.

As such, sales enablement is essential for the orchestration of these different elements, so they all work together for sales reps to deliver a seamless customer experience.

What’s Sales Engagement?

While sales enablement aligns the sales process internally to ensure success, sales engagement focuses on aiding sales professionals to communicate effectively with prospects and customers.

Maybe you’re thinking, “We have CRM and marketing automation. We’re all set.” No. These two technologies alone are not enough. In fact, they should be considered “givens” like a phone or a computer. Effectively, Sales Engagement bridges the gap between Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management.

What a Sales Engagement Tool Isn’t

You may not believe me when I say that CRM and marketing automation simply don’t do the trick when it comes to sales engagement. Ask yourself these three questions before you roll your eyes and click over to LinkedIn to peruse your activity feed:

  1. Does a CRM alone help an individual rep engage with his or her prospects? Hardly. Most organizations use CRM as a data repository to capture contact information and track sales activities against those contacts.
  2. Can a marketing automation platform improve the one-on-one engagement activities of your sales reps? Not really. Marketing automation is more about large-scale reach and inbound marketing. The right solution will help you score leads and move the qualified ones over to sales, but marketing automation doesn’t empower the individual rep to engage one-on-one.
  3. Are your reps responding to new leads within minutes rather than days, and are they making a high enough volume of outreaches, based on a defined cadence, to engage with your target audience? Doubtful. Most reps take days to follow-up on new leads despite research showing conversion rates being dramatically higher if the new lead is contacted within five minutes of submission. Ask any Marketer and they’ll tell you their number one complaint is that Sales doesn’t follow up on leads fast enough and they become stale or lost to the competition; this happens despite there being a CRM in place hence it’s clear the CRM solution alone doesn’t facilitate effective sales engagement.

Then What Is a Sales Engagement Solution?

Let’s start with this sales engagement definition on CIO.com:

“Sales engagement is more than just sales outreach (how many people sales teams are contacting). It also involves the quality of that outreach, the efficiency of prospecting activity, and the effectiveness of conversion efforts. Better sales engagement generates higher sales, a pretty straightforward correlation.”

CIO.com shares that the right sales engagement solution encompasses the following:

  • Content management — easily accessible product and marketing information — a content or document library — that provides content the rep can modify to address each prospect.
  • Integrated communication features — email, phone, SMS text, and web conferencing to meet a variety of prospect preferences.
  • Guided selling tools — scripting, automated lead routing, sales cadence management, and other features that help guide the sales representative on what to do next in the sales process.

Sales Enablement and Sales Engagement: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Although each has a different focus, sales enablement and sales engagement solutions complement one another. They both play a role in enabling the sales team to engage effectively with prospects and customers to meet revenue goals.

In the case of sales enablement, work with other internal departments to ensure sales enablement is part of the corporate culture. Work with other executives and managers to find solutions that support the overall sales efforts and goals.

When it comes to sales engagement solutions, the choice is up to your sales management team. You own the one-on-one conversations and relationships during the sales cycle. Demand the platform that will make every conversation count and move the prospect closer to a sale.


Darryl Praill

Darryl Praill, Chief Marketing Officer of VanillaSoft, is a high-tech marketing executive with over 25 years’ experience spanning startups, re-starts, consolidations, acquisitions, divestments and IPO’s. He has been widely quoted in the media including television, press, and trade publications. He is a guest lecturer, public speaker, and radio personality and has been featured in numerous podcasts, case studies, and best-selling books.

Praill is a former recipient of the coveted Forty Under 40 Award, and has held senior executive roles in leading companies including Sybase, Cognos (now IBM), webPLAN (now Kinaxis), and CML Emergency Services (now AIRBUS). He has raised over $50 million in venture funding across multiple organizations and consulted with world-class corporations including Salesforce, SAP, and Nielsen. He is a Computer Science graduate from Sheridan College.

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