What is a Sales Portal?
Is there any worse feeling than not being able to find something you desperately need? Whether it’s your car keys when you’re late for an appointment, your phone when you’re expecting a call, or the perfect piece of marketing collateral for a warm lead patiently waiting on the other line.
Sales portals exist to solve this problem. Sales portals are to content what key hooks are to keys – a reliable, trusted place to store your valuables so you never lose them again.
So, what is a sales portal?
Simply put, a sales portal is a central digital repository that stores and supplies information, tools, and assets to help salespeople close more deals.
But a great sales portal is so much more than a dumping ground for digital assets. Today’s sales portal must be a dynamic, collaborative content ecosystem. It must be searchable, intelligent, organized, and timely.
Think of it as a product; something that you’re creating for your stakeholders, the sales team. You want to keep your “customers” happy and supplied with everything they need to sell effectively. You want their experience in the sales portal to be frictionless and empowering.
Sales portals tend to get a bad rap among salespeople today. If you polled 100 random sales reps, odds are the mere mention of “sales portal” would elicit groans and lukewarm responses.
At their worst, sales portals are cumbersome, expensive pieces of software that just get in the way of your team’s workflow. Maybe after years of collecting dust in the ether of your intranet, it gets taken down and discarded.
However, at their best, sales portals help your sellers find exactly what content they need at the perfect moment. A great sales portal is an asset, not a liability.
What goes inside of a sales portal?
A sales portal houses content that can be viewed or consumed by prospects to drive them down the sales funnel. A great sales portal, as we’ll explore later in this post, includes much more.
Here are some examples of content you might find in the average sales portal:
- Pitch decks
- Webinar recordings
- Video testimonials
- PDF case studies
- White papers
- Feature/benefit one-pagers
Each of these content types can be further broken down by product offering, position in the sales funnel, geographical region, or prospect demographic.
Why do sales portals matter?
According to Qvidian, 88% of missed opportunities were because sales couldn’t find or leverage internal resources.
Imagine this: you’re a sales rep on the line with a prospect interested in your product or service. They need to turn in their budget numbers by tomorrow, and they have a specific concern about your product’s compatibility with their current IT system.
You know the marketing team has created a recent case study that will alleviate all your prospects’ concerns and likely seal the deal. The one problem? You have no idea where to find it.
First, you check Google Drive. You see a bunch of things labeled “case study,” but none of them are the correct version. Some aren’t even totally completed.
Next, you search your email. But the keyword “case study” pulls up 56 emails, most of which are totally irrelevant.
The prospect is getting impatient and the clock is ticking.
If you’re getting anxious reading this, you’ve likely been in this scenario before. These are the kinds of missed opportunities sales portals are designed to eliminate.
Even worse than the above scenario is when marketing teams create assets that the sales team has no clue exists.
All the while, months of missed sales opportunities are falling to the wayside because of a perceived lack of content. It seems obvious, but in mid- to large-sized organizations, it’s more common than you’d think.
Examples of sales portals
Sales portals can be as simple as one folder on a shared drive. Or, as complex as proprietary, AI-powered software managed by a full team of employees.
As far as technology goes, many things can be utilized for sales portals, but some are better fits than others.
Some examples of sales portals are:
- Shared drives
- File-sharing systems like Google or Dropbox
- Marketing automation platforms
- Website back-ends (like WordPress)
- Custom-built internal software
- Dedicated sales enablement software (like Accent Connect)
Each of these options have pros and cons, and it’s important to note that for all of the above listed (except option six), the tools aren’t originally intended to be sales portals. Therefore, you will inevitably run into limitations.
We’ll talk more about the “build vs. buy” argument later on in this post.
As a general rule, the more your organization grows, the less likely a “homegrown” solution will sustain your sales team. The more manual the sales portal, the more personnel required to maintain it.
Ten Qualities of a Successful and Profitable Sales Portal
Let’s say you’re sold on the importance and revenue potential of a sales portal. How can you ensure your sales portal’s success?
Remember, your sales reps are your customers. How would you engineer a product so that users continually return to it? Adopting this mindset is critical for making a sales portal that makes a difference to your bottom line.
As you roadmap the creation of your portal, there are some fundamental qualities that will make or break its efficacy. Ensure that whatever you’re planning checks all of the following boxes.
Otherwise, you may be left with nothing more than another expensive piece of software and a cynical sales team.
A great sales portal is relevant
When sales and marketing are disconnected, marketing departments create content that isn’t aligned with the true needs of the sales team. The result is a sales portal with outdated, irrelevant, or ineffective content.
How do you fix this? The best solution is consistent, clear communication between sales and marketing about what content actually performs in the marketplace. In addition to this, it’s important to know what types of content are missing in your sales enablement repertoire.
This is where dedicated sales enablement managers really come in handy. Sales enablement teams serve as a bridge between the two departments, clearly communicating the pulse of the market and specific content needs.
Perhaps this first quality speaks more to the importance of good communication between sales and marketing more than to any specific sales portal technology. Regardless, without relevant content, reps will go back to sharing content informally through email, Slack, or Google Drive.
A great sales portal is easily searchable
Right behind relevance, searchability is by far the most important quality of a successful sales portal. What good is a repository of all the best content if you can’t find it when you need it? Sales reps don’t have time to fiddle with complicated search queries or dig through archives of files. They want to type in a few keywords and find what they’re looking for.
This means whatever solution you choose must include some form of smart search, sometimes referred to as “elastic” or “intelligent” search. You want your sales portal to be able to locate content not just based on the exact title, but keywords, categories, tags, and words within the document itself.
This immediately rules out shared drive or intranet systems, which often rely on exact wording to retrieve files.
The ability to filter by variables like funnel stage, industry, product offering, or content type is a huge bonus.
Consider the above example of the frustrated prospect and the sales rep hunting for the relevant case study. Imagine how much time could be saved if that employee could go to one location, filter by content type and demographic, and immediately find what she was looking for without any fuss.
We understand this pain point. That’s why we’ve built time-saving features into our software. Accent Connect uses AI to suggest relevant content to the sales team based on contextual variables, potentially eliminating an entire step in their workflow.
A great sales portal is organized
Searchability and organization are two sides of the same coin. Being able to logically categorize your content in buckets will make finding it a breeze. Not to mention things will be much more manageable as your revenue scales.
Some helpful ways to organize content are by:
- Publish date
- Target demographic
- Type (case study, webinar, white paper, etc.)
- Customer persona
- Product offering
A great sales portal is easily accessible
If your sales portal doesn’t have an excellent mobile experience, you may as well scrap it and start over. Sales reps are on the go. Even when they’re in the office, they’re on the go. The ability to quickly access sales materials and information from mobile devices is a must-have.
In addition to a positive mobile experience, great sales portals will be easy to navigate. Don’t underestimate the power of an intuitive user interface. If possible, utilize single sign-on to remove any barriers to sales reps getting what they need at a moments’ notice.
Remember, the longer and more frustrating the process, the more likely sales reps are to give up and go back to informal methods of content sharing.
A great sales portal is current
Imagine downloading a pitch deck to show to a prospect. You begin the call and open it up (like you’ve done a hundred times). However, the newest and best feature of your product or service is omitted from the presentation. In a panic, you realize halfway through your presentation that you’re using outdated content.
For anyone who’s worked with marketing content, you know that version control is a high priority. Content can be iterated on and updated dozens of times as it’s passed back and forth from sales to marketing.
With whatever sales portal you use, you need some mechanism for version control. Whether that’s a sales enablement manager going in and manually deleting and archiving old files, or a dedicated software platform that version controls automatically.
All it takes is one frustrating experience with an untimely piece of collateral to break the trust of your sales team.
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A great sales portal integrates with other sales tools
If your sales portal houses timely, relevant content in an organized way, you’re already way ahead of the pack. But how great would it be if your sales portal also integrated with your CRM or marketing automation tool? That means you not only have a central place to access your content, but you can see how your prospects interact with that content.
This opens up a whole new world of possibilities in being able to analyze the efficacy of marketing collateral in closing deals.
Many software solutions have built-in integrations to popular CRMs like Salesforce, Hubspot, and Marketo. If you want this visibility into your prospects’ behavior, you won’t get it with homegrown solutions or more rudimentary file-sharing systems like Google Drive or Dropbox.
A great sales portal is easily supplemented
Business moves fast and demands constant content creation.
Some of the most informative content, market research, or competitor info is sent through informal mediums, especially if sales reps want to quickly communicate timely info.
If getting that content into the sales portal is too cumbersome or technical, sales reps simply won’t bother.
The best sales portals are modular, dynamic, and living. Content can be uploaded, moved, edited, deleted, and collaborated on with just a few clicks.
A sales portal is like the musical score to a movie; it’s functioning at its best when you don’t even realize it’s there.
A great sales portal is collaborative
Collaboration among the sales team is one of the best ways to continually hone content and make it as effective as possible.
A successful sales portal will integrate some form of collaborative functionality across your organization. Whether it’s visibility into the content that other reps are using or the ability to correct, comment, or edit certain assets on the fly.
These features are why platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox have gained massive popularity in the corporate space. The real selling point is not the raw storage of files, but the ability to edit a piece of content in real time without any downloading or uploading hassles.
A great sales portal gives insight into content effectiveness
This is where shared drives, file-sharing platforms, and email all fall short.
The best sales portals not only serve up relevant, contextual content in an easy-to-find way, but offer feedback on how well that content is performing.
That’s truly what sales reps are after. That’s the question that really matters to your organization’s bottom line: is this content really helping to close deals?
Analytics not only motivates sales reps to continue using the portal, but gives intelligent insights into what kind of content actually works so your marketing team can make more of it.
A great sales portal is scalable
Custom sales portals that work for ten-person sales teams often don’t work for twenty-person sales teams.
Perhaps you can build out a functional content repository on your organization’s shared drive. It’s a bit informal, but it works.
Now what happens if your business scales? What happens when your sales team doubles next year because of your massive success?
It will be significantly more expensive to deconstruct your existing system, build or buy a new one, and then retrain your staff. Not to mention the opportunity cost of losing all that selling time.
The build vs. buy dilemma
This last point of scalability begs a question that needs addressing: should you build your own sales portal or should you buy a dedicated sales portal software?
If you’ve made it this far, you can probably figure out where we land on this. Unless you’re a very large organization with a massive IT team dead-set on proprietary technology, it’s more prudent to buy than build.
While on the surface building may seem cheaper, many organizations don’t factor in the labor and opportunity cost of the employees tasked with the building and continued maintenance of the platform. On top of that, it’s important to build a sales portal that’s future-proof and can sustain growth.
When you really crunch the numbers, factoring in salary cost and the potential cost of deconstructing an outdated sales portal, buying is likely the less expensive option.
Nobody notices the hidden opportunity cost of building, they only notice the bump in the software budget line item. The former is hidden and likely far more expensive in the long run.
In addition to this, trying to custom build a fully-scalable sales portal is almost impossible without some form of AI. The reason why dedicated sales platforms work so well is because they’re powered by machine learning.
This means that as users continue to search and the content repository grows, the platform learns more and more about how to connect users with the right content at the right time.
You also have to consider the following questions: Once the portal is built, who will be maintaining it? Does your organization have an IT employee willing to take that responsibility on in perpetuity?
This could mean answering phone calls from frustrated reps, building out new features to the portal when required, and troubleshooting bugs. Do you have a team prepared to shoulder that responsibility?
When you purchase a dedicated software solution, you’re effectively purchasing a dedicated customer support team. These folks are on call to help offload technical burdens from your employees and keep things running smoothly.
Can a custom, proprietary sales portal work for you? Perhaps. Is it the most prudent choice for small- to mid-sized organizations? Probably not.
Now that you understand the value of a sales portal and some actionable steps to take to make it a success, where do you go from here?
We’d love to show you how we’ve taken the above principles to craft a suite of software that fixes all the pitfalls of the average sales portal.
We do more than just store your content. Our platforms provide in-depth analytics into content and sales rep performance and utilizes AI technology to serve up the right content in the right moments.
For more information on how we can help you take your sales team to the next level, contact us today for a live demo.