Sales engagement: What, why, and how + 8 tools that can help

Sales engagement: What, why, and how + 8 tools that can help

How many times does your team interact with prospects before they close the deal?


In most cases, sales professionals need to have multiple conversations with prospects before they decide to purchase. This might include sending emails, making phone calls, giving product demos, or other types of interactions.

Every time your team engages with a prospect in these different ways, they are taking them one step closer to a won deal.

The methods, channels, strategies, and software that your team uses to interact with prospects as they move through the pipeline is known collectively as sales engagement.

So, what exactly does sales engagement involve, and how can you optimize the strategies your team is using to close more deals?

Keep reading to learn:

  • What is sales engagement?
  • Building an effective sales engagement strategy: 6 essential pieces you need
  • How to choose the right sales engagement software for your team
  • Top 8 sales engagement platform options you should consider

What is sales engagement?

Sales engagement is the interaction your sales team has with leads and prospects through the sales process. It’s a combination of sales strategy, good timing, and the right communication channels. The right sales engagement process should be well-monitored and adjusted over time.

Each touchpoint your team has with prospects is essential to closing the deal.

Where in the sales process does sales engagement come into play? Whether your team is making cold calls to outbound leads, following up on inbound leads, interacting with stakeholders during negotiations, or sending over contracts, they’re taking part in sales engagement.

Engagement starts at the first interaction you have with a prospect and ends only when your sales team passes a new customer to the success team.

The goal: get a positive response from the prospect, and move the deal forward.

Different types of sales engagement could include:

  • Sending emails
  • Booking and hosting meetings
  • Running a product demo
  • Leaving voicemails
  • Responding to comments on social media

Sales engagement also includes the automated interactions that leads have with your company, including:

  • Filling out a form on your website
  • Interacting with a chatbot
  • Being added to an email sequence
  • Using a scheduling tool to book a meeting with you

With so many moving parts, how can you make sure your sales engagement strategy builds trust in your prospects and helps move them through the pipeline efficiently?

Building an effective sales engagement strategy: 6 essential pieces you need

The way you set up your sales engagement strategy can build better customer relationships and break down barriers to a closed deal.

Here are some of the essential pieces of a sales engagement strategy that your prospects will love:

1. An optimized process for inbound and outbound interactions

The early stages of your sales process for inbound leads will be different from your process for outbound leads.

In each case, engagement should be adapted to the process that works best for that type of lead.

For example, the first engagement your team has with an inbound lead will probably be through something on your website, such as a form, scheduling tool, or chatbot. Later, your team will interact with them personally through a phone call or an email.

On the other hand, outbound leads are usually contacted first through calls or emails, and the engagement focuses more on sparking their interest in having a deeper conversation. For outbound, more engagement happens at these early stages of the process—according to a study by the RAIN Group, it takes an average of 8 touches to get that initial meeting with an outbound lead. After that, your sales reps can deliver their sales pitch.

Make sure your sales engagement is optimized for both inbound and outbound, and you’ll see much smoother interactions.

2. The right communication channels

As mentioned above, there are plenty of methods and channels included in the web of sales engagement.

Although it’s tempting to throw your efforts across all these different channels, it’s not the most productive use of your (or your team’s) time.

Instead, pick the communication channels that work best for your prospects. Where do they prefer to be contacted? Are they social (media) butterflies who love to connect on LinkedIn? Do they want snappy phone calls where they can get the information they need quickly?

To choose the right communication channels, you need to know your customers. If you’re feeling a bit distanced from your prospects, download our toolkit to develop your own Ideal Customer Profiles:

3. Well-timed communication

Timing is also a key factor in your sales engagement strategy.

For example, let’s say a new lead fills out a form on your website. From your customer profiles, you know that this type of lead prefers to get a phone call from your sales team—but your reps take 5 days to call the new lead back. By that time, the lead has already found another option.

The channel is right, but the timing is all wrong.

To optimize your strategy, find ways to speed up your team’s reaction times. Pay attention to the times of day (or days of the week, or weeks in the month) that your prospects are more likely to be available and interested in talking to you. Know your prospects, understand their schedule, and adapt your sales engagement to meet their timing.

4. Software that saves your team time

Sales engagement should be a combination of manual and automated outreach from your sales team.

So, as a sales manager, you need to choose the software that allows your team to send the most effective outreach in the least amount of time.

We’ll talk more about some of this software below, but just remember that it’s easy to make things complicated for your team—the hard part is making sales engagement simple. So, narrow down your sales stack to include just the engagement tools that really help your team be more productive and cater to the channels your prospects prefer.

5. Real-time analytics

Your sales engagement strategy would be incomplete without sales analytics.

Monitoring engagement metrics such as email response rate, average call length, pipeline stage conversion rates, and others will help you determine how well your sales engagement strategy is working, as well as areas you need to improve.

Pro tip: Sales managers need to know in real-time how their team is interacting with prospects. One of the best ways to do this is to listen to live calls. With new Call Coaching features in Close, it’s easy—simply join in-progress calls to listen to (or take part in) sales calls.

6. A process for making adjustments

After analyzing your sales engagement strategy, you’ll probably find weak spots where your team can improve.

To make sure your team is reaching its full potential, put a regular system in place to organize and test new ideas, or make adjustments based on the data you’re collecting.

For example, why not set up a meeting with your team once every quarter to analyze the sales engagement data you’ve collected over the past three months and discuss what’s working and what’s not?

With a structured process for making improvements, you’ll make sure your team is always engaging productively with prospects.

How to choose the right sales engagement software for your team

If you’re going to succeed at sales engagement, you’ll need the right tools to do it.

But with so many options on the market, how can you decide on the best sales engagement software for your team?

Let’s talk about some factors you should consider when choosing a sales engagement platform:

Find a tool that allows for multi-channel touches

While your prospects may have a preference for communication channels, it’s hardly realistic to expect your sales engagement software to only give you one option.

In reality, your sales team will be having multiple touches with prospects on various channels over the course of your sales process.

So, find a tool that gives you the ability to engage with prospects on different channels, or that integrates well with other tools to give you the combined power of different engagement possibilities.

Define the metrics that matter most to your team

We already talked about how important analytics is to a successful sales engagement strategy. The right software won’t overwhelm you with tons of unnecessary data—it will point you in the right direction with the KPIs that matter most to your team.

Ideally, you’ll be able to customize the sales metrics you see, how it’s delivered to you, or even have the ability to export it to another program for further analysis.

Identify the ideal tool for your unique sales team structure

Your team is unique, so you need a tool that will sharpen their strengths while supporting their weak points.

What does this mean?

For example, if your sales team is remote, you’ll want to make sure your sales engagement software allows for clear team transparency, giving everyone an easy way to view the last interactions their teammates have had with prospects. Also, you’ll want to make sure your software works with remote-first communication tools like Zoom.

Or, if your team consists of SDRs who pass off qualified leads to AEs, you’ll want to make sure you have a system that logs each of those interactions so hand-offs can be smoother.

Also, the ideal sales engagement software will integrate directly with other tools your team is already using—that way, your systems and workflows stay in place, and your overall process for engagement improves.

Find the points in your sales funnel where prospects need more attention

Which touchpoints fit into which stages of your sales funnel? Are you using different communication channels depending on where your leads are in the pipeline?

For example, when prospecting or setting up the initial sales call, reps might work more through email or social media. Inbound leads in these stages would also be engaged through online forms and other sales tools on your website.

Later in the sales process, though, reps will probably communicate more by phone or video conference.

Look at those specific areas of your sales funnel, and identify the key interactions prospects have at each stage. In stages with more touchpoints, such as the early stages of prospecting and qualifying, there will probably be more touches in less time. Wherever there are more touches, make sure your sales engagement software allows for easy automation within those channels.

Look for that perfect balance between automation and personalization

In years past, the typical ‘spray-and-pray’ method still got some responses. Now, sales teams have to really up their game if they want to capture the attention of their leads.

This is why personalizing your engagement is an absolute must. This goes beyond adding [first-name] at the beginning of the email—it means creating a message that tells the prospect, “This is for you!”

Of course, manually building each email (or text, or voicemail, or LinkedIn message) from scratch is way too time-consuming for modern sales teams. That’s why you need a sales engagement platform that uses the best of automation alongside the ability to customize your message to each individual prospect.

Set a clear budget for your sales engagement software

We know it’s not your favorite thing to talk about, but budget is a huge consideration when it comes to adding any new tech to your sales stack.

Deciding in advance how much you are willing to spend on sales engagement software will help you narrow your options earlier and focus on the platforms your team can actually afford.

So, which platforms should you be thinking about?

Top 8 sales engagement platform options you should consider

Now that you’ve thought about the type of platform that would work best for your team, let’s discuss some of the top options when it comes to sales engagement platforms:

1. Close

Main engagement channels: Phone, email, SMS, Zoom

Best feature: Integrated sales engagement inside a flexible CRM

Close is a CRM that’s built for SMB sales teams, and it includes all of your main sales engagement channels directly inside the system itself. That means sales teams can easily send emails, make phone calls with the Power Dialer, and even run Zoom meetings without leaving their CRM.

All of these interactions are automatically logged in the system, so everyone gets full context on the current state of a deal and the full history of your company’s relationship with individual prospects.

Alongside its easy-to-use engagement features, Close also includes:

  • Activity analytics
  • Sales pipeline view
  • Email sequences
  • Simple reporting
  • Flexible customization features
  • Task assignment
  • Integrations with all your favorite sales tech

Wondering what a fully equipped sales engagement and CRM platform could do for your team? Try it for yourself with a free 14-day trial, no strings attached. Start building better sales engagement here.

2. Outreach

Main engagement channels: Phone, email

Best feature: Reporting features show the best times, channels, and sequences to reach prospects

As the name suggests, Outreach is a sales engagement software that helps you get in touch with your prospects and improve those interactions. This platform gives you integrated calling and email, as well as automated email sequences. (They also produce a top sales podcast all about the real-world engagement strategies different sales teams are using to close deals.)

Reporting in Outreach takes the data from previous outreach activities and shows you information such as the average call answered ratio, the best time of day to call based on connection rate, and more. Customizable lead views also give interesting data that’s especially directed to remote sales teams, such as the current time and weather in the lead’s location.

Outreach also includes an integrating scheduling tool for sales teams.

A couple of negative points that sales managers will need to think about when considering Outreach for sales engagement is the high price tag, as well as the fact that this tool must be integrated with your CRM to get the best use out of it.

3. Drift

Main engagement channel: Website chat

Best feature: 24/7 engagement with a customizable chatbot

Drift is known as a platform for conversational sales—if you’re looking to collect more leads from  your website, this is definitely a tool you should consider.

When using Drift for sales engagement, you allow your team to work more productively and focus on the deals that matter in the moment when people are interested. With the automated and highly customizable chatbot features, new inbound leads can be qualified automatically by answering some simple questions, then have the option to book a meeting directly with the sales team.

So, by the time your sales reps start talking to an inbound lead, they’ve already gone through the first steps of the qualifying process and can be given the right priority.

4. Customer.io

Main engagement channels: Email, SMS, in-app messaging

Best feature: Automated email sequence segmentation based on real-time prospect activity

This powerful email automation tool is great for integrated marketing and sales workflows. It allows you to set up highly customized workflows for your emails, linking other tools to update what gets sent to who based on the data it receives in real-time.

So, for example, if a sales lead asks for more information on your website, you can start them on a specific email sequence. Once they book a meeting, they can be moved to another sequence. When they start a trial of your product, they can receive automated, in-app messages, as well as emails that correspond to the specific actions they’re taking within their trial.

This level of automation allows you to have a much higher number of touchpoints with prospects, and keep engaging them over time to close the deal.

Of course, Customer.io must be integrated with a CRM to reach its full potential. Check out how the sales and marketing teams at Customer.io use their own tool alongside Close to set up a high-performing sales process that brings a constant flow of qualified leads.  Discover the Sales Process Showcase →

5. Intercom

Main engagement channel: Email, website chat, in-app messaging

Best feature: Integrated split testing for messaging

Intercom is mainly known as a chat tool, but it comes with other nifty features for sales teams. For example, it includes in-app messaging and push notifications for mobile devices, meaning you can send targeted messages to new trial signups that help them become paying customers.

With advanced customization inside the workflows, your sales team can automate the heck out of their inbound sequences.

6. 99Inbound

Main engagement channel: Online forms

Best feature: Easy drag-and-drop form builder

If you’re looking for a fast and easy solution to build a form that brings in more inbound leads, you should consider 99inbound. This is a solution that works best for inbound sales teams who have high traffic on their website and are looking to pull more of that traffic into the sales process as qualified leads.

The form builder is extremely user-friendly, allowing sales teams to create forms on the fly without the help of a dedicated developer. Plus, it integrates easily to other tools, such as Close and Slack, to make sure your team is always on top of these new inbound leads.

7. Reply

Main engagement channels: Phone, email, SMS, WhatsApp, LinkedIn

Best feature: Integrated multi-channel engagement

For some sales teams, engaging prospects happens over lots of different channels. If this is the case for your sales team, Reply is an interesting option you should consider.

This sales engagement software allows you to connect with prospects wherever you might find them, including on LinkedIn and through WhatsApp (alongside the normal engagement channels).

It also includes tools to discover new leads online, productivity tools for tasks and workflows, and smart reporting that helps you understand your engagement metrics.

8. Calendly

Main engagement channel: Scheduling

Best feature: Integrations make it easy to schedule virtual meetings

To engage with prospects further down the pipeline, it’s essential to meet face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) and close that deal.

Calendly helps sales teams accomplish this with an easy scheduling system that allows you to define the times your available, and let prospects pick the best moment for them. With direct integrations to Zoom, your meeting invitation is automatically linked to a specific Zoom ID that changes with each meeting, meaning your remote video sales calls are both easy to set up and secure.

Improve sales engagement—close more deals

Looking at the options with the sales engagement software above, it can be easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the quantity of sales engagement, rather than quality.

Remember: a good sales engagement strategy includes high-quality touchpoints that encourage prospects to continue through the sales process toward a closed deal. The platforms we’ve discussed above help you scale your outreach with automation, but you should never sacrifice quality simply to get more emails out.

When you improve the overall strategy of sales engagement for your team, you’ll be able to build trust with new leads, show them you care, and encourage them to purchase.

Ready to start improving your sales engagement? Why not begin with the tool that does it all: Calls, emails, and SMS alongside a flexible CRM.

Start your free trial of Close today (we won’t even ask for your credit card).

TRY CLOSE FREE FOR 14 DAYS →