As companies continue their search for the elusive “360-degree view” of their prospective clients, harvesting all the scattered information from social networks (free) and other content providers (paid) about these prospects can potentially be beneficial for the purposes of deploying more finely targeted sales and marketing campaigns.
In fact, recent Aberdeen research published in December, 2009 — “Inside Sales Enablement: “Let Them Drink Coffee!” — found that users of sales intelligence achieve 56 percent better lead conversion rates than non-users. By augmenting records in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Sales Force Automation (SFA) system with this content, companies are building more complete profiles of their current customers and prospects through the information that is readily available on the internet.
Indeed, research from Aberdeen’s February 2010 benchmark, “Sales Intelligence: Preparing for Smarter Selling,” reflects that the most commonly cited data types reported by the 92 percent of respondents currently deploying sales intelligence solutions, do not represent proprietary information.
Still, selling teams continue searching for ways to reduce the amount of time sales representatives spend uncovering relevant company or contact information before following-up with the leads in the pipeline.
As a result, the use of aggregated business directories and supporting technologies are helping to alleviate the pressure to acquire new and profitable customers, without increasing the cost of identifying and selling to these prospects.
Various online sources, such as social networking sites, financial reports, industry news articles and blogs, often contain information concerning a particular company or contact that is valuable to sales professionals and, perhaps as important, is generally free of charge.
The challenge that businesses face is being able to glean this information without spending extraordinary amounts of time and effort in locating and storing it, so that the data is accessible to the right selling team member at the right time. In order to discover the appropriate contact within a company, or supplement an incomplete profile entry that currently exists in a CRM solution, an increasing number of companies are arming their sales staff with online business directories and customer information aggregators for the purpose of discerning the quickest and most beneficial path to the decision-makers they seek to engage.
By providing sales representatives with this necessary ammunition, companies can hope to positively affect these team members’ ability to effectively map their own products or services to their prospects’ business challenges with a customized message or offer.
This response correlates directly to the most frequently cited business pressures reported by survey respondents, which predominantly focus attention on the difficulty that sales professionals face in, simply put, knowing enough about their selling targets.
Organic Revenue Growth
Indeed, when asked, “In your plan to improve the effectiveness of your sales force, how important is the use of sales intelligence obtained from external sources?” fully 86 percent of Aberdeen’s survey respondents indicated that such solutions were either a medium- or high-priority essential. Moreover, 51 percent of top-performing organizations represented in Aberdeen’s Sales Intelligence data set indicated sales intelligence as a high-priority deployment.
While the traditional utilization by sales and marketing staff are predictably high, it should be noted that a number of other elements within end-user organizations use sales intelligence in double-digit quantities, and some, such as executive management and operations, are not consistently involved in market- or customer-facing activities. In fact, research collected in the fourth quarter of calendar 2009 from more than 1,200 survey respondents for The Aberdeen Business Review reveals high-growth companies supporting customers with CRM 20 percent more often than no-growth companies, validating the importance of this overall family of technology solutions.
Indeed the leading goal reported by all organizations for 2010 is “organic revenue growth,” which suggests a strong focus on servicing and nurturing existing accounts as well as landing new business; both scenarios are well-suited to the use of sales intelligence.
Peter Ostrow is research director of sales effectiveness at the Aberdeen Group.