Forrester’s 2020 sales engagement wave was released at a point in the COVID-19 epidemic where sellers could no longer visit customers and 53% of white-collar workers were planning to work from home for the foreseeable future. One year later, the Forrester/Human Resource Executive© Magazine Q3 2021 US HR Decision-Maker Survey reported that 66% of companies will work in a remote or hybrid environment and the rest are back in the office. Our 2022 evaluation of Sales Engagement Platforms happened at a time where the world is going hybrid and now requires tools that can adapt to this environment. Sales engagement (SE) platforms rose to the challenge of supporting those sellers working remotely and are now adapting to support sellers in this new hybrid environment. Here are a few things that stood out when reviewing these companies.
- Leaders widened the gap. In this wave, the three leading sales engagement providers separated themselves from the rest of their competitors in capabilities and strategy. With such a big gap in capabilities, it will be difficult for others to catch up. Instead, leaders will compete with revenue intelligence providers that have advanced sales engagement capabilities but lack the integration and cadence features needed to be included in this category. It will be easier for them to add those features and compete with sales engagement leaders. The rest of the vendors either had strong solutions to solve specific use cases, like sellers who need advanced mobile capabilities or were focused on adding sales engagement as a feature to their core product.
- Improved activity capture: Sales engagement platforms have made it easy for sellers to log activities as they execute the steps in their cadences. This is becoming more complicated as buying groups expand and start demanding more customized interactions. The top providers are doubling down on these capabilities by integrating data with custom objects and other sources to aggregate and analyze interactions.
- Marketing integrations are still limited: Despite a lot of talk around integrations with marketing data, not much progress has been made. Only one company has integrated data from an intent provider into their insight’s engine. Half of buyer interactions are digital, which makes this a sizeable gap that prevents these solutions from fully understanding buyer intent. The walls around this data still seem to be up for marketing technology companies that are still not willing to integrate with sales technology companies.
- Content creation is still a gap: One of the biggest challenges to executing cadences is the time and resources required to create content to support advanced cadence execution. Despite new AI capabilities that are improving this process, only one vendor showed they are experimenting with tools like GPT to make it easier to create content and even that is still very early stage. Time will tell if Sales Engagement platforms create these capabilities or leave it to sales enablement or management providers.
- Enterprise is the new frontier for growth. Sales engagement platforms have become standard in SMB organizations, leading providers will focus on enterprise companies to drive future growth. Some have already started in this segment and have a product built to support the requirements of these large complex organizations. Others will need to enhance their products to support the requirements before selling into enterprise. As we progress in this new hybrid environment, sales engagement platforms will be a key technology to support seller productivity. With the buying process becoming more complex, the capabilities available in these platforms are no longer a nice to have. While features are still developing, it’s clear that a seller with a sales engagement platform is better positioned to succeed than one without it.
For a detailed assessment of the Sales engagement platform vendors, please read our wave.