Sales Intelligence: How Reps Find Insight in Customer Data (Part 4)


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What is Sales Intelligence?

So far in this blog series, we reviewed various data sources that sales reps can access to research their customers and prospects. Part 2 highlighted internal data sources that sales professionals could harvest for customer insight and meaning. We made the distinction that ‘internal’ data refers to data generated by a company’s systems, employees and partners about its customers and prospects. In Part 3, we turned to external data, which emanates from outside the company (e.g., 3rd party databases, company websites, social media, etc.)

By now, I hope you’re getting a feeling for how much data is out already out there. There’s certainly no shortage of ‘homework’ that sales reps could be doing to shine in their next customer interactions. And the magnitude of data will continue to grow, in terms of new sources and better coverage of companies and decision-makers within each source (e.g., just imagine when LinkedIn really goes mainstream with millions of SMBs and their employees actively participating in the network).

So, let’s be clear. Sales Intelligence does NOT mean providing even more raw data to reps, not even if it’s of the much-hyped social variety.

Sales Intelligence enables sales professionals to connect individual data dots into a cohesive picture about underlying customer needs. It weaves the challenges and opportunities facing your customers into a broader story about their business journey. Take, for example, the story of a precision-tool manufacturer that has enjoyed an annual growth rate of 17% over the past three years. A significant driver of this growth has been exports to European markets. The company secured a round of growth capital and is now about to open its first international office. The journey is making the transition from a domestic winner to an international competitor.

If you’re a bank, Sales Intelligence would advise you to avoid a generic pitch on credit, and instead, focus on describing how your trade finance and international payment solutions will accelerate the customer’s expansion. If you’re providing business services, you would want to engage in a discussion on how the customer plans to staff and support their international employees (e.g., recruiting needs, office needs, payroll solutions).

Sales Intelligence not only signals when to engage with each account and but also guides your sales team to articulate how and why your company is best positioned to help each of your customers reach their destinations.

Beyond connecting the data dots into an overall customer narrative, Sales Intelligence needs to be relevant for the day-to-day activities of sales professionals. It must fulfill at least the following operational requirements:

  • Customer-specific: Suggests sales approaches to specific accounts and contacts. In the context of Large Enterprise sales, it identifies buying centers for different types of products and services
  • Actionable: Makes specific recommendations on when, how and with whom to engage. As opposed to just providing a lead, the recommendations provide context and guidance on approaching customers and decision-makers with timely, relevant and compelling messaging. The secret sauce is the ability to digest massive amounts of data and transform it into something intuitive that a sales rep can execute.
  • Comprehensive: Integrates the reams of internal and external data about customers and prospects. For example, it’s great to know that someone downloaded three whitepapers from your website, but it’s much better to know who that person is and how this information will help their company succeed with an important business decision.
  • Prioritizing: Makes calculated trade-offs (i.e., incremental sales X likelihood of close) on which accounts/contacts to engage now and which ones to leave for another day. Selling time is a precious resource which must be aligned to the best account opportunities.
  • Justified: Provides data-driven justifications as to why a sales rep should pick up the phone and call a high-likelihood account. One of the biggest advantages that Sales Intelligence provides is the context behind each customer’s unique story and underlying needs. Sales reps are far more likely to engage on data-driven recommendations if they know the ‘why’ and ‘how’, not just the ‘what’ and ‘when.’
  • Social: Connects people and to help sales reps engage with new contacts (i.e., through warm referrals across social networks), reduce meeting prep time (i.e., by sharing knowledge and sales collateral/presentations), and maximize the chances of closing the deal (i.e., by referencing the most relevant and comparable similar selling situations).
  • Mobile: Delivers intelligence within the evolving mobile workflow of field sales. It almost seems like companies are leap-frogging handheld devices and migrating straight to iPads. Mobile delivery is an essential ingredient for Sales Intelligence.

Sales Intelligence is fast becoming a ‘must-have’ for B2B sales organizations, and has enormous potential to foster data-driven decision making at the front lines.

Is your team benefiting from Sales Intelligence? We look forward to hearing your story.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Andrew Somosi
Andrew Somosi is the SVP of Marketing and Business Development at Lattice Engines. Prior to Lattice Engines, Andrew was an Associate Principal at McKinsey & Company. Andrew has a BA in Economics and Political Science from Columbia University and an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


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