What is a Sales Portal?
Is there any worse feeling than not being able to find something you need? 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 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 place to store your valuables so you never lose them again.
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
We can break down these content types even further by:
- Product offering
- Position in the sales funnel
- Geographical region
- 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. Tomorrow is the deadline for their decision and they have a concern about your product’s compatibility with their IT system.
You know the marketing team has created a recent case study that will ease 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 is the correct version. Some aren’t even completed.
Next, you search your email. But the keyword “case study” pulls up 56 emails, most of which are 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 has pros and cons. It’s important to note that for all the above listed (except option six), the tools aren’t intended to be sales portals. So you will 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
There are many consequences of disconnected sales and marketing teams. One is that 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? Clear communication between sales and marketing about what content performs in the marketplace. It’s also important to know what types of content are missing in your sales enablement repertoire.
This is where dedicated sales enablement managers come in handy. Sales enablement teams serve as a bridge between the two departments. Their whole job is to articulate the pulse of the market and specific content needs.
This first quality speaks more to the importance of good communication between sales and marketing.
Without relevant content, reps will go back to sharing content through email, Slack, or Google Drive. This isn’t sustainable or efficient.
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. Vendors like to call this “elastic” or “intelligent” search.
You’ll need 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. What if the employee could go to one location, filter by content type and demographic, and find what she was looking for in seconds?
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. Contextual variables inform these recommendations.
These can further remove an entire step in the sellers’ 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. That may mean a sales enablement manager deleting and archiving old files. Or, even better, 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.
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 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.
You definitely won’t get it with consumer-level systems like Google Drive or Dropbox.
A great sales portal is easily supplemented
Business moves fast and demands constant content creation. In my experience, sellers send the best content through informal mediums. Things like email, Slack, or an internal file sharing system.
Why? Because the cream of the crop rises to the top. Sellers know best which content performs. They’re on the frontlines talking to prospects every single day.
When time is of the essence, they reach for the most convenient tool. Oftentimes, that’s email.
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 offer 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. It’s 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 don’t just serve up relevant, contextual content in an easy-to-find way. They also 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. It also gives insights into what kind of content actually works. This way, 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.
Traditional Sales Portal vs Full Digital Sales Room
As sales enablement technologies continue to evolve, a new player has entered the scene: digital sales rooms. Gartner coined this term in their July 2020 study of sales trends.
So what exactly is a digital sales room? How does it overlap with sales portals?
According to Gartner, digital sales rooms are client-facing, customizable microsites. These sites are often “adorned” with collateral suited to a given prospect’s needs.
In other words, you don’t just send them content. You send them a trackable environment filled with all the content they could ever want.
This may be a customized slide deck embedded on a landing page. Or, a gallery of explorable sales collateral.
A digital sales room is anything that gives the prospect autonomy to do research on their own terms (yet still under your microscope).
Traditional sales portals are dynamic for the seller and static for the end-user. That is to say, the end-user only receives one or two pieces of collateral based on their needs. The rep must locate these assets in the portal and manually send them to the prospect.
The common result is back-and-forth email chains and requests for more content. None of this is trackable within a controlled environment. You can’t see when the prospect shares content, or with whom the content is shared.
Digital sales rooms coupled with sales portals make things dynamic for both the seller and the prospect.
Sellers can easily find the most performant content for the particular prospect they’re selling to. They can search their sales portal for the best content by demographic, psychographic, and funnel location.
By searching these keywords, the seller can easily find content in the sales portal. But rather than sending over one or two static decks, videos, or PDFs, the seller can spin up a complete microsite.
You’ve empowered the seller to explore multiple pieces of content at their discretion. Every action on the site is trackable, giving marketers more data points about how prospects engage.
Accent Technologies allows reps to create custom microsites and slide decks with only the most relevant and contextual content.
Then, they can send a single link to the prospect. The future customer sees a bespoke deck within a contained microsite environment.
From there, they can explore more content, share the content with others, or take action on the next step (getting a demo or requesting a quote).
This not only helps further automate the content curation process for the sellers but serves the buyers in a tailored way. There’s no better way to make them feel heard and answer their specific pain points.
Not to mention the fact that it contains the seller-prospect interaction to a trackable environment. This eliminates the inefficiencies of deep email threads with attached content.
When the prospect shares the content with their coworker, the DSR will track all that data. This helps you build out a selling map of the organization and other potential stakeholders.
Digital sales rooms coupled with robust sales portals should be the norm for forward-thinking firms.
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.
On the surface, building a bespoke solution seems cheaper. We have the talent to do it in-house, right?
Consider the labor and opportunity cost of building and continued maintenance of the platform.
Who supports it? Who’s job is it to troubleshoot? What if that employee leaves the organization?
Unless you’re swimming in capital, this can start to feel like building your house on the sand. On top of that, it’s important to build a sales portal that’s future-proof and can sustain growth. Considering all the costs 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 a hidden cost and likely far more expensive in the long run.
Trying to build a fully scalable sales portal is almost impossible without some form of AI. The reason why dedicated sales platforms work so well is that 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 and building out new features to the portal when required. Do you have a team prepared to shoulder that responsibility?
When you buy a dedicated software solution, you’re purchasing a dedicated customer support team. More to the point, you’re purchasing security and peace of mind. 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.
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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. We’re also huge AI nerds. We use machine learning to serve up the right content in the right moments. We’d love to show you how it works. For more information on how we can help you take your sales team to the next level, contact us today for a live demo.