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Milind Katti

COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm

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    “There was once a factory that was run by a large engine at its core. One fine day the engine broke, shutting down the entire operation.

    After several engineers failed to solve the problem, the factory owner approached a veteran engine expert as a last-ditch effort.

    The expert inspected the engine for a whole hour, pulled out a hammer from his toolkit, placed it above a specific spot, and tapped once with panache.

    The engine roared and started working again at once.

    The owner, ecstatic at the result, thanked him and inquired about the fees. The expert handed him an invoice for $10,000.

    Angry at the ‘atrocious’ amount, the owner exclaimed, “You hardly did anything! $10,000 for a single tap? I want to see an itemized bill.”

    Without saying anything, the expert simply made another invoice that read:

    Tapping with a hammer: $2
    Knowing where to tap: $9,998”

    Every time I think or read about Sales Intelligence, it reminds me of this story.

    As sales leaders, we come across such scenarios every day. Whether it is about finding qualified leads, pushing customers through their buyer journeys, or boosting the conversion rates, every information about the customer helps to ‘place the hammer’ at the right spot for the ‘decisive tap’.

    Today’s blog takes a look at what Sales Intelligence is all about and how you can leverage it with maximum efficiency to fix your broken sales engine.

    What is Sales Intelligence

    Sales Intelligence collectively refers to the process, tools, and technologies available to salespeople today that help them find, track, and make sense of substantial sales-related data to derive actionable insights about both prospects and existing customers.

    This helps sales leaders and teams to:

    • Track key changes and information bytes of existing accounts
    • Map key stakeholders in prospective organizations
    • Understand the needs and wants of prospects
    • Collate and index real-time company information
    • And much more…

    Sales Intelligence = Intelligent Prospecting

    When done right, Sales Intelligence is all about selling hard and more in the least possible time. Naturally, the benefits extend to a crucial arm of the new-age sales process – Prospecting.

    By overhauling prospecting and equipping it with ‘Intelligence Data’, Sales Intelligence tells salespeople who they should be talking to, the precise conversations that they should be driving, ideal times at which they should be reaching out to prospects, and more.

    Ideal Sales Intelligence tools also go to the extent of eliminating manual processes of scraping for critical insights, verifying for their authenticity, and providing a 360-degree view of the prospect.

    Such benefits have been driving the adoption of Sales Excellence to the point of no return. As per a report from GrandViewResearch, this has witnessed the global market to be valued at $2.29 Billion in 2019 with the expected CAGR to be 10.5% from 2020 to 2027.

    For instance, consider a scenario where a salesperson is in charge of generating new leads. She is armed with a list of ‘potential’ prospects and the blueprint criteria of what the company’s ideal customer profile stands as. By feeding such data into a Sales Intelligence tool, she can be instantly notified when any new company falls under the purview of the ideal customer profile.

    And all this without the customary stalking behavior that we usually exhibit as salespeople!

    Importance of Data in Sales Intelligence

    As you may have caught up by now, data naturally plays a central role here. But long and complex sales cycles often need much more than numbers and addresses.

    And as reported by Salespanel, most sales intelligence platforms focus on providing intent data. This usually includes key behavioral information about the prospect’s digital activities.

    Sales are all about making the right decisions at the most ideal times, a natural habitat for data to thrive in. But while the quantity of data matters here, so does the accuracy. With hyper-contextual marketing and sales data, sales intelligence can drive successful relationship-building that focuses on the correct conversion or engagement parameters.

    And that’s not all.

    Sales Intelligence also seeps into the foundation by transforming how customer profiles are shaped. Hunches, feelings, and opinions are categorically eliminated and all intelligence is driven by a consistent profile that does not deviate from one leader or department to another. Such a stable approach keeps every stakeholder on the same page and channels sales and marketing efforts in the right direction.

    How Sales Intelligence Affects:

    Data Quality and Management

    Poor sales data is one of the foremost challenges that salespeople face. Sales Intelligence places immense focus on assessing data quality and improving it with a data quality strategy that brings positive ROI. Key metrics that are usually leveraged here include:

    • Email Bounce Rates: The number of emails that go undelivered due to bounce backs directly correlates with the health of your sales data.
    • The ratio of Data to Errors: Tracking redundant, missing, or incomplete data entities that are depleting data quality. Improved data health here translates to fewer errors with constant or growing data size.
    • The number of Empty Values: Corresponds to missing information or data that has been entered incorrectly into a field. Keeping a track of empty fields and how this number changes over time is a characteristic of sales intelligence.
    • Data Transformation Error Rates: Converting existing data into a different format can introduce another class of errors. As a sales intelligence metric, it becomes important to keep track of data transformation tasks that fail.
    • Quantity of Dark Data: Dark data refers to complicated data quality issues that may not be resolved easily. They are best resolved with elimination and require close monitoring.
    • Data Storage Costs: If the amount of data that you are leveraging in sales remains constant but the storage costs are rising, it can be a sign of poor quality issues.
    • Data Time-to-Value: Another way to measure quality is the time it takes for salespeople to derive actionable value from a given data set. This should be as low as possible for the best results.

    Lead Generation

    Sales Intelligence tools can transform into entire channels of lead generation by building a consistent pipeline. Many organizations have dedicated teams that work round the clock to unearth critical business insights to convert new prospects. By providing actionable intelligence to salespeople, lead generation is impacted with a top-down approach that is difficult to match.

    Technology Stack and Intent Data

    The sales technology stack, such as the requisite tools, platforms, and OS (along with how they all integrate) is a great way to prioritize sales accounts.

    They help sales leaders to:

    • Identify new sales opportunities
    • Driving targeted campaigns for decision-makers
    • Analyze the prospect’s existing tech

    Similarly, identifying, collecting, and analyzing intent data provides competitive intelligence at scale by getting the ‘Timing’ correct – key sales intelligence ingredient.

    6 Sales Intelligence Best Practices

    Building a sales enablement function by driving sales intelligence is no easy feat. There might be a lot of trial and error before you arrive at a framework that works best for your team and culture. Nonetheless, there are some best practices that you can put to use for optimal results regardless of the implementation stage.

    1. Using multiple sources to collect data

    It is easy for sales reps to fall into the trap of getting “too comfortable” with a single sales tool. This is often the case when they think that a particular tool or data source is bringing them results.

    If that’s the case then using multiple data sources can only make the pot even sweeter. Intent and engagement from as many data sources as possible will ensure that your sales team is loaded with rich activity logs of prospects. This would help them gain a much better understanding of the website visitor’s or email recipient’s needs.

    2. Aligning Sales and Marketing functions

    The buying cycles and journeys of customers are changing quicker than ever. This has caused the processes of companies to be out of alignment with customer needs and buying patterns. At the same time, the rampant availability of automation tools has been pushing the need for change without a coherent implementation or adoption plan in place.

    As a sales leader, your job is now to ensure change management to be included as a core competence of sales to accelerate sales-led growth. Some practical tips here would include:

    • Mapping the buying map of customers while eliminating all complexities
    • Update the map at regular intervals
    • Educate sales teams on how to use customer buying maps
    • Creating accountability of customer success in the form of sharable goals
    • Creating updated processes and standards that are aligned with the customer buying map.

    3. Conducting Win-loss Analysis

    Another common pitfall in sales and marketing is companies concluding their products or services while relying on inaccurate feedback from sales teams. This often leads to lower win rates, poor product development, longer conversion cycles than expected.

    By introducing Win-Loss Analysis in Sales Intelligence, sales leaders can always be in the loop about what is working and what isn’t. Effective decisions can then be driven to understand how competitive intelligence is helping reps.

    4. Collecting Data through relevant sales intelligence tools

    Sales intelligence tools differ in their capabilities when it comes to collecting data. This can be done via:

    • Analyzing the buying behavior and content engagement patterns of prospects.
    • Collecting and using cookie data for usage stats.
    • Monitoring websites and social media channels to identify buying interest from prospects.
    • Interpreting the interest of a prospect on a certain topic with a dedicated tool.

    5. Collect actionable insights in real-time

    Collect timely information in real-time so that no opportunity to contact a prospect or update the existing strategy is ever missed. This is especially the case when data is collected from time-sensitive channels. For instance, buying signals from social media empowers reps to take action only when the information is timely intimated and is intent-based. This increases the chances of engaging and converting prospects.

    6. Implement feedback loops and regular training

    So you have aligned different functions of sales and marketing. The next obvious step is to create more company value and drive customer success. But that can only be achieved at scale with transparent communication and feedback loops.

    What is the best way to do this? By pairing sales with competitive intelligence, monitoring the results, comparing them with set benchmarks, and creating a formal system to provide intelligent feedback to leaders. Once the feedback starts flowing back to the right stakeholders, the performance of both sales and marketing programs can be driven in the right direction!

    Selling With Intelligence

    These practices would set the ball rolling for Sales Intelligence to find deep roots in your organization.

    Eventually, this would shape how your organization (read sales leaders) looks at entire cultures that drive business development and influence success beyond sales and marketing.

    The efficiency with which you sharpen the knife will then dictate how big of a market’s chunk are you able to carve for yourself!

    Ready to discuss your Account Management Needs?

    About The Author

    Milind Katti

    COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm

      Milind is the COO & Co-Founder of DemandFarm. He co-founded DemandFarm to build smart software technology to bring Account Planning and Relationship Intelligence into your CRM, making Key Account Management data-driven, predictable and scalable.Milind has close to 25 years of experience in sales & marketing. He is an Electronics & Communication Engineer with MBA in Marketing. He enjoys long-distance running, loves reading history, and above all else, he is a humanist.