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Home   >Collaboration 101

What is prospect engagement?

January 25, 2024
What is prospect engagement? 
Prospect engagement is both a measure and a process. It gauges how vested a prospect is in the sales process and simultaneously describes the methods used to increase the level of commitment. 

In the sales process, "Prospect Engagement" is a critical concept that refers to the interactions and relationship-building activities between a sales team and a potential customer, or prospect, especially after initial qualification. Also termed as "Sales Engagement" or "Customer Engagement," it not only encompasses the process (which is rarely defined in most organizations!) but also the measure of quality/depth of engagement. Crucially, high levels of prospect engagement are indicative of a greater likelihood of successfully closing a sale, as they reflect a prospect's genuine interest and commitment to the potential business relationship.

Defining the Prospect Engagement Process

As a process, prospect engagement entails a series of external collaborations aimed at establishing and nurturing the relationship between the sales team and the prospect. It focuses on deepening the sales team's insight into the prospect’s unique needs and challenges, while also enhancing the prospect's understanding of how the offered solutions fit their specific requirements. The success of this process hinges on effective external collaborations, such as those where documents — mutual success plans, go-live plans — record this shared understanding. Lastly, this process is not a CRM-centric, internal sales process that has been successfully standardized across most sales organizations. In fact, for sales teams to be successful, they must configure the engagement process to fit the various buying processes of different prospects.

Defining the Prospect Engagement Measures 

On an individual prospect level, it’s about the degree and quality of the prospect’s commitment to these interactions. It reflects how deeply and effectively the prospect is involved in the engagement process. High-level engagement is typically marked by accountability and active participation. This can include a prospect taking ownership of their role in the engagement process, participating actively in document authoring/co-authoring, and contributing to solution exploration–such as defining objectives, and requirements, establishing POC success criteria, and providing concrete feedback.  High engagement is also characterized by consistent involvement, quality interactions, proactive feedback, and a drive to move the project forward.  Importantly, the higher the level of engagement, the higher the probability of success. 

Practical Example of Prospect Engagement

Let’s consider an example that illustrates both the process and level of prospect engagement in a practical scenario. Imagine an enterprise software company engaged with a prospective client. Here, the prospect engagement process begins with solution mapping, progresses through demos or proof of concept, and culminates in a proposal.

After initial qualification, the sales team embarks on a detailed exploration to align their software’s capabilities with the specific needs and challenges of the prospect, i.e., solution mapping. A high level of prospect engagement is demonstrated by the prospect's active collaboration with the sales team as they refine the solution fit document collaboratively with revisions and suggestions. At this step, the prospect’s active participation and feedback are clear indicators of their commitment and interest in the solution.

As the team moves towards a custom demonstration, proof of concept, or both—depending on the prospect’s buying process—a high level of prospect engagement would be further demonstrated by their involvement in defining demo requirements or co-authoring the PoC success plans. While these documents are collaborative efforts, highly engaged prospects would co-own these documents; with less engaged prospects, the sales team does all the driving.  These documents detail the success criteria they expect from the software implementation, laying out a clear roadmap for a successful outcome from their perspective. This step is significant, as it reveals that the prospect is not just passively considering the software but actively planning its integration into their operations. This active planning and collaboration in defining the success criteria directly reflect the high engagement level of the prospect.

Finally, with successful demos and, or POC completed, the team — the sales team and prospect — can move on to the sales proposal and close with confidence. Being able to confidently forecast an opportunity comes from the high level of engagement the prospect has demonstrated throughout the entire buying cycle. This level of engagement is not just about active participation; it's about the prospect taking a leading role in shaping the solution, which significantly impacts the sales team's ability to accurately predict outcomes. The prospect’s confidence stems from having been deeply involved in the purchase process and instrumental in shaping the solution to their needs.

Successful sales management teams will have objectively measurable but flexible prospect engagement processes. Within these processes, they will have the requisite external collaboration support to encourage, support, and monitor high prospect engagement levels. This engagement goes beyond mere interaction; it's about creating a partnership where both parties are equally invested in defining the right solution leading to higher close rates and predictable revenue generation.

Why It Should Be Called Prospect Engagement, Not Sales Engagement

At the core of every value-based selling process is an external collaboration between the sales team and the prospect.  For sales teams, using the term "Prospect Engagement" centers them on the prospect’s involvement, interest, and commitment to that collaboration.  Using "Sales Engagement" shifts focus to the sales team.  It can misleadingly suggest that more effort, activity (tracked in the CRM, of course), or aggressiveness from the sales side is the key to successful outcomes.  

"Prospect Engagement" reinforces the importance of a collaboration-centric sales approach that’s focused on aligning solutions with the prospect's needs. This term more accurately reflects what should be the reciprocal nature of the selling and buying processes and the role a prospect's engagement plays in achieving a successful outcome. By adopting "Prospect Engagement," sales teams are reminded that true success in sales comes not just from their efforts but from how effectively they can engage and resonate with the prospect.  It represents an adjustment to a sales philosophy applicable to whatever sales methodology is used.

TakeTurns improves the effectiveness of value based selling processes

Conclusion: The Essential Role of Prospect Engagement in Sales

In conclusion, prospect engagement is a pivotal element in the sales process, emphasizing the importance of the prospect’s active participation and interest. It shifts the focus from traditional sales-driven tactics to a more collaborative and relationship-oriented approach. This shift is not just a change in strategy but a fundamental realignment towards a more effective, reciprocal, and customer-centric sales philosophy. 

Embracing prospect engagement means understanding and valuing the prospect's perspective, leading to more meaningful interactions and ultimately, successful sales outcomes. By prioritizing prospect engagement, sales teams can achieve not only higher close rates but also build lasting and fruitful relationships with customers.


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