The traditional sales pressures of lengthening sales cycles and low quota achievement have only been exacerbated by the recent economic downturn. Many businesses have been forced to cut costs, eliminate waste and often freeze spending. The few organizations that might be looking to spend are increasingly engaging in intense due diligence through various online sources, such as consumer-generated content forums and other third-party information providers, to inform their purchasing decisions.
The hardened reality for sales representatives is that the time-tested practice of “putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time” is becoming more of a challenge.
In order to meet the demands of this new selling environment, top companies are implementing sales intelligence initiatives as a way to improve the effectiveness of the sales force and enrich the quality leads in the sales pipeline.
Enriching the Pipeline
The phrase “sales intelligence” refers to the various sources of information a company can collect and use to improve the performance of the sales department and enrich the leads in the sales pipeline. This includes, but is not limited to, news on industry trends, consumer-generated content, analyst reports, prospect lists, trigger events, and general company and contact information.
The successful use of sales intelligence, however, depends on how well an organization can aggregate relevant information and deliver it to a rep in a manner that is unobtrusive and within the daily workflow.
A recent Aberdeen Group report, entitled “Sales Intelligence: The Secret to Sales Nirvana,” revealed that 76 percent of respondents consider the use of sales intelligence, such as prospecting tools or industry news sources, a priority for improving sales effectiveness. In fact, only 1 percent of respondents indicated sales intelligence wasn’t important at all. Furthermore, 59 percent of respondents also cited the current economic climate as a prominent factor in the decision to incorporate sales intelligence into the sales plan.
By building more complete profiles of current customers and prospects for segmentation purposes or equipping sales reps with relevant information to key accounts or industries, top performing organizations better understand the business challenges and corporate hierarchies of prospective clients. The result is a more effective method of mapping products and services to the prospect’s needs and a shortened sales cycle.
4 Key Sales Intelligence Requirements
An upcoming webinar hosted by InsideView and Aberdeen Group, entitled “Value Selling with Sales Intelligence: The Key to Sales Survival in a Downturn Economy,” will address the four key sales intelligence requirements necessary to spark sales productivity. The free webinar, scheduled for April 7, will provide end-users with an overview of Aberdeen’s report findings, as well as highlight the best practices and requirements for success that emerged in the research. The webinar content will touch on the following crucial areas:
- Quality: Data quality is at the heart of sales intelligence initiatives. In the end, the usefulness of prospect and account information is contingent upon the reliability of the source. Poor data quality can lead to a lot of wasted time and effort on the part of sales representatives. Seventy-four percent of survey respondents indicated that improving the quality of leads in the sales pipeline is a top-two strategic action for alleviating business challenges. By focusing resources on initiatives designed to improve lead quality, not quantity, organizations are putting their sales representatives in a position to succeed from the outset.
- Readiness: The success or failure of any sales initiative oftentimes depends on the readiness of the organization at the most fundamental level. Companies must ensure that the proper processes, procedures and organizational support are in place to minimize the number of bottlenecks that can stunt productivity. For instance, 81 percent of Best-in-Class companies, compared to 65 percent of all others, have formalized and documented sales processes in place. Formal and documented sales processes that mirror the organization’s sales methodology are essential to sales operations. Organizations that do not have formalized sales processes in place risk errors or inconsistencies on the part of sales representatives and ultimately reduce the amount of time reps spend actually selling.
- Relevance: Organizations as a whole, particularly within sales, are already burdened by information overload. The sheer number of emails alone can overwhelm representatives who are only concerned with the account and prospect information that matters to them. The ability to gather the information that pertains to key industries or company sizes, for instance, allows representatives to focus only on those things that enable their own success. As a result of this strategy, Best-in-Class companies are 1.6 times more likely than Laggards to effectively map their products and services to the prospect’s business challenges.
- Delivery: As long as email remains the top collaborative technology for sharing and dispersing information, sales representatives will be burdened with searching for relevant information. An added challenge for organizations is the fact that dispersing key information via email is a bad process that does not ensure repeatable success. After all, the information shared between employees via email is not visible to others within the organization. The key to the success of any sales intelligence initiative is ensuring that representatives get the information they need in a way that is unobtrusive and within their daily workflow.
Join InsideView and Aberdeen Group on April 7 at 10:00 a.m. PST/1:00 p.m. EST for an interactive discussion on the key requirements for a sales intelligence initiative. The webinar will examine the economic realities for sales representatives and use the data collected from over 300 end-user surveys to highlight best practices for sales success.
Alex Jefferies is a senior research associate for Aberdeen Group’s customer management technologies group.