Sales Portals | Overview and Best Practices of Sales Enablement
Since 2005, ScienceSoft designs web portals for different business goals and audiences: sales teams, employees, customers, vendors, and business partners.
Sales Portal: the Essence
A sales portal is a digital workspace to create, store and share your marketing and sales content with a sales team. Depending on your business model, your sales team may include internal sales reps and your business partners (distributors) who sell to end customers. A long-run goal of sales portal implementation is an increase in signed deals and overall sales, owing to:
- Quick and timely access to corporate materials supporting communication with prospects or leads: case studies, customer testimonials, white papers, and more.
- Product knowledge transfer to your distributors.
- A possibility to work with sales and marketing collateral on the go (e.g., from on-site events like conferences and trade shows).
- A unified sales approach established based on best practices and reflected in commonly available guidelines and rules.
- No risk of several document versions stored by different sales reps and spread of incorrect information to prospects and leads.
There are several characteristics of a sales portal that allow it to become one of the tools in a sales kit that facilitate and improve sales processes. By and large, a good sales portal is:
Many teams may participate in the creation and distribution of the materials stored within a sales portal: sales and marketing departments, designers, project managers, to name a few. A portal enables comfortable collaboration in the common space due to:
- Document co-editing.
- Document version control: visibility into all the changes made, a possibility to restore the doc to previous versions.
- Document approval workflow: approval requests to responsible team members and notifications on approval status.
- Team workspaces to collaborate on content, get involved into team discussions, leave comments.
- A possibility to manually share the materials.
Often, sales people have hours, not days, to create comprehensive product/service presentation and showcase the company’s strengths to make their communication with prospects and leads persuasive. It helps when they can find sales enablement materials quickly due to:
- Catalog-like document storage with categories and subcategories.
- Filters and tags to quickly and automatically select materials targeting leads from different countries/regions, industries, with different product/service requests.
- A search box to type search requests.
- A possibility to add frequently used materials to favorites.
- AI-powered content recommendations.
- Personalized search based on chosen factors: user’s search history, location, target customer segment.
Rich content management capabilities are essential for sales portals as sales and marketing materials can be created and stored in the formats of:
- PDF: project descriptions, user guides, white papers.
- PowerPoint: sales presentations.
- Video: team presentation, demos.
- Live video streaming: product trainings for sales reps and external partners, webinars.
- MS Word: different templates like for emails or case studies.
- Excel: pricing sheets.
- Interactive tools: cost calculators, product configurators.
- Recorded voice messages.
Monitoring the up-to-dateness of vast information resources manually is challenging and time-consuming. A sales portal facilitates the task with:
- Indication of document creation date and follow-up updates.
- A possibility to tag a responsible employee and initiate document update if needed.
- Notifications to sales people (the whole team or selected employees) on the release of new or updated materials.
You ensure the security and confidentiality of your sales materials by setting up:
- Differentiated access to certain resources for internal or external users.
- Hierarchy of permissions for access, editing and deleting docs.
- Custom permissions.
The integrations of a sales portal with other business systems and tools are intended either for faster access to the portal’s materials for various teams (via a CRM system) or for convenient collaboration on collateral creation and distribution between teams (via email clients, online editing tools and file storage systems).
Conducting UX research of end users
(In focus groups and one-to-one sessions). There may be a need to group your internal and external sales people separately. The goal is to understand the main bottlenecks in the process that you want to optimize, namely, the collaborative creation of sales and marketing materials as well as the search and spread of these materials to support sales communication. Among the most frequent problems is misalignment between sales and marketing: a sales team is often unaware of created marketing materials and thus don’t use them. UX research will help you look deeper than this general problem and spot smaller, yet significant, details: for example, search criteria sales people use now will be applied as filters in a sales portal.
Testing the portal’s usability with a representative group of end users
(Your internal and external sales people, perhaps also a marketing team). During the usability testing, you actually test your hypothesis regarding user experience and observe the behavior and reactions of real users. To conduct usability testing, you need to elaborate test scenarios that reflect the most common activities of your teams, for example task users to find testimonials from large business clients (1,000 employees and more) but set bounds on the geographical region, industry and date of submitted testimonials.
Power Apps as a business-friendly low-code portal app
- Provides a drag-and-drop development interface with business workflow components and connects to multiple data sources.
- Doesn’t require coding skills to create and manage business apps.
- Still, doesn’t restrict code customization either, which helps create less common business rules and workflows.
- Can reduce portal development costs by up to 74%.
- Promises an average of 188% ROI within three years after app deployment.
- Leader among low-code application platforms recognized by such technology advisors as Forrester and Gartner.
- Companies using Power Apps to build business applications range from startups to market leaders like Toyota, Ikea and Hexion.
Rapid portal development and fast time-to-value
Custom development of a sales portal
- A sales portal can be built as a set of microservices, each responsible for a separate function.
- A modular architecture of such a solution is perfect for iterative development.
- Allows for full flexibility in functionality and user interface design.
- Is easier to maintain down the road than a heavily customized platform-based solution.
Specific business situations (e.g., differentiated experience for internal and external users)
Though each business case is individual, we typically assume $70,000 to be a reasonable starting cost for a full-function sales portal. Investing this much, you will be able to create a repository for your sales and marketing materials existing in different formats and configure the required search capabilities.
The main value that a sales portal creates is an opportunity to earn trust of prospects and leads, and with that increase sales velocity. Each of the factors below can be seen as contributing to general ROI:
Reduced time for response to leads to get ahead of competitors.
Persuasive selling supported by the evidence of the required experience: case studies, customer testimonials, relevant certifications, etc.
Advanced product/service knowledge built with white papers, presentations and other informative resources, and owned by your sales team.
Since 2008, our team is interested in technologies and approaches that assist businesses in complex sales: automate tedious processes, centralize information on leads and customers, raise the efficiency and motivation of sales teams. Feel free to ask for expert help if you want to reorganize and improve sales processes in your organization.