Sales Intelligence: A Guide to Smart Selling

If you asked someone what “sales intelligence” was a decade ago, they’d have mostly likely drawn a blank to your question. Sales intelligence as we know it simply did not exist back then. While it was a requirement for which sales teams of the past were yearning to find a solution, the technology to support the requirement was not easy to build.

Today, thanks to the thriving universe of SaaS products and the technological leaps we’ve made, sales intelligence is powerful and accessible—enabling sales teams to sell better, faster, and with more insight than ever before.

But what is sales intelligence, really? What are the building blocks that it is made up of, how can it impact your company, and how will it evolve in the future? That’s exactly what we’ll be exploring in this post. Let’s dive right into it.

What is Sales Intelligence?

Sales intelligence, in a nutshell, refers to the information and insights that companies can have about their prospective buyers.

As a sales representative, manager, or VP, you’d want to have the most up-to-date, relevant, and personalized information about your target accounts’ users, buyers, and decision-makers. The more information you have about your prospects, the more are your chances of closing the sale, just because of that fact that you were able to accurately determine why they want your product/service and how it can help their cause.

Sales intelligence helps you find the right kind of prospects for your company, enables you to reach them on the right platform, build a pitch that addresses their exact pain points, and shorten the time that it takes to close the deal.

While that should give you a well-rounded idea of what sales intelligence is, we often find that several other things are often misconstrued as sales intelligence while they really aren’t. Let’s take a closer look at what those are.

Misconceptions about Sales Intelligence

Several companies out there provide leads or contact information to sales teams and call themselves sales intelligence firms. There are also plenty of tools out there that allow companies to track basic (or perhaps slightly more advanced) sales metrics like Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), average deal size, etc. on “sales intelligence dashboards”.

While these are important facts and metrics that sales teams in any organization can benefit from, they aren’t really sales intelligence. Let’s take a look at the elements that make up sales intelligence, and the benefits of using it.

The Building Blocks of Sales Intelligence

We’ve spoken about what sales intelligence is all about and how it can benefit your company. Now, let’s take a look at some of the key insights that help provide sales intelligence to teams.

1. Organizational Charts
2. Job Posting Alerts
3. Firmographics
4. Psychographics
5. Tech Stacks & Technographics
6. Contract Renewal Alerts
7. Company Updates

What are Organizational Charts?

Organizational charts, also referred to as organigrams or organograms, are a visual representation of a company’s structure. This chart enlists the employees of an organization and maps each of them out with respect to other employees within the organization—may it be peers, subordinates, or reporting managers.

Organizational Chart Example
How Can Organizational Charts Help My Company and Sales Team?

Organograms can help you gain a fair understanding of how the reporting structure in an organization works. In the context of sales intelligence, they can give you insights about the exact person you need to reach out to when you want to close down a sale. They also allow you to understand who your product/service’s users are going to be in that organization, and if you have a product that can help multiple teams or divisions of a company, it paves the path for you to cross-sell and upsell your product across different functions of the company.

What are Job Posting Alerts?

As the name suggests, job posting alerts are notifications about a job listing that are put up by a client, target company, or potential buyer that can benefit from your product/service.

How Can Job Posting Alerts Help My Company and Sales Team?

Let’s say you’re selling a subscription to a social media management software and you receive an alert about one of your prospects (or a competitor’s clients) putting up a job listing for a Social Media Manager. This is an indication of impending change in the structure or tools usage of a brand, and it could also show that the brand is now likely open to purchasing a subscription for a social media management software to help aid their efforts.

Any good sales intelligence software should be able to notify you about job postings that high-intent prospects are putting across the internet.

What are Firmographics?

Firmographics, also called emporographics or firm demographics, are attributes and characteristics that define any company or organization. Some examples of commonly used attributes used in firmographics are company size, company age, location, industry/vertical, annual revenue, customers, etc.

How Can Firmographics Help My Company and Sales Team?

Firmographics allow you to segment your target accounts and prospects based on several criteria, and provide you with a much deeper understanding of your target markets. They also aid in gathering industry trends and build vertical-specific messaging and pitches to improve conversions.

Organizational Chart Example

Firmographics allow you to segment your target accounts and prospects based on several criteria, and provide you with a much deeper understanding of your target markets. They also aid in gathering industry trends and build vertical-specific messaging and pitches to improve conversions.

What are Psychographics?

Psychographics, simply put, is the segmentation and study of consumers based on their activities, interests, and opinions (AIOs).

How Can Psychographics Help My Company and Sales Team?

Consumer behavior is diverse, so content and pitches that your team builds to appeal to one client might not really be well-received by another. Psychographics allow you to customize your content and outreach based on your clients’ AIOs—and this information can be a gamechanger when it comes to capturing your prospects’ attention.

Consumer Psychographics & How It Can Help Marketing

Psychographics can provide in-depth information about what a prospect likes talking about, the channels and platforms on which they engage and interact with others the most, and even deep insights about the type of music they like, sports they watch, etc. This kind of information can help your sales team figure out topics to emphasize or stay away from when making the pitch, or even a conversation with a prospect.

It can also help you create a variety of pitches that appeal to different kinds of customers as well. Here’s a post explaining the most common personality archetypes that might be of additional help.

What are Tech Stacks & Technographics?

Tech stacks are nothing but the chain of tools, software, and technological services that an organization uses to function effectively. Technographics, on the other hand, is the profiling and segmentation of organizations based on the tools and technology that they use.

How Can Technographics Help My Company and Sales Team?
Technographic Data & Insights

Technographics can provide a wealth of information to your company’s sales force—starting from something as simple as understanding the organizations out there that use your competitor’s product/service over yours; thus giving you a list of leads that you can reach out to right away, effectively.

Beyond that, technographics can also help you understand the requirements of a company, and also help you build a more telling pitch about how your product will fit in the ecosystem of a prospect’s tech stack, especially if you’re selling software that has a lot of integrations.

What are Contract Renewal Alerts?

This one’s self explanatory—contract renewal alerts are notifications that remind you that the date of renewal of a competitor’s product contract (or even your own) is nearing.

How Can Contract Renewal Alerts Help My Company and Sales Team?

Staying on top of information about a customer nearing the renewal date of a contract can help you sweep in and upsell your own product in the next renewal cycle. Alternatively, if it’s a competitor’s product that is being used by a prospect, a contract renewal alert will give you a heads-up to jump in and convince them to buy your product instead.

What are Company Updates?

Company updates, in its simplest sense, is any type of news or information about the internal and external affairs of a company. In the context of sales intelligence, company updates are snippets of information that can give you more insight into an organization’s growth trends, hiring process, or pain points that they are facing.

How Can Company Updates Help My Sales Team?

Company updates, which even includes job posting alerts that we discussed earlier, can help you know exactly what’s happening with your clients or target accounts’ organization. This can give you a fair idea of the general direction in which their brand is headed, or give you additional information about opportunities to upsell or cross-sell your product/service as well.

Besides, it always helps to keep yourself informed with a target company’s news—even if it’s going to serve a function as simple as helping your sales rep start a conversation with, “Hey, I heard that you guys just hit 10M in annual revenue; that’s awesome!”. It can be impactful, and help prospects trust that you take a genuine interest in their brand’s well-being and growth.

That wraps up our list of some of the major components of sales intelligence!

The Benefits of Sales Intelligence: How Can Sales Intelligence Impact My Company?

Right off the bat, sales intelligence can:

  • Increase the likelihood of winning a deal
  • Improve your team’s lead-to-deal conversion rate
  • Decrease the duration of your sales cycle
  • Alert you when new sales opportunities arise
  • Help create pitches that appeal the most to the prospect
  • Save time while enriching lead information
  • Provide valuable metrics that will help you determine buyer intent, propensity, etc.

And while all that’s great, one question that may linger in your mind is, “how actionable is sales intelligence, really?”. Allow us to answer that.

Sales Intelligence: How Actionable Is It, Really?

As we saw earlier, sales intelligence is all about improving the efficiency with which your sales force operates—in other words, increasing conversion rates while reducing the time it takes to garner more prospects and close deals. Having raw, unprocessed data can be of no aid to your business if these are the goals that your team sets out to achieve.

Sales intelligence, however, isn’t unprocessed data; it’s a collection of data-driven information and contextual insights that are built with the sole intention of helping your organization’s sales force. Let’s take a deeper look at some examples of actionable sales intelligence, how it is calculated, and how it can help your team sell better.

Buyer intent or purchase intent is a metric that can be determined by taking various purchase intent signals of a buyer or decision-maker in a company into account.

Let’s take the example of a brand that currently has no social media tools in its tech stack. The brand puts out a job posting for a social media manager and releases an end-of-year press filing stating that social media marketing is going to be one of their main focuses for this year.

These are signals that indicate that the brand’s likelihood of purchasing a social media management software over the next three months is high. If you’re part of a sales team of a social media management software company, being notified about this can help you strike while the iron is hot and approach the brand at the right time, thus improving your chances of closing a deal.

Buyer intent is a great example of actionable sales intelligence that can help your company make more informed sales decisions.

Much like the previous example, a buyer’s propensity score is determined by factors that play into increasing their chances of buying one product over another. In addition to just the buyer intent metric, the propensity score aims to look at signals like customer pain points and immediate requirements that will make them favour one product, or a specific feature of a product or service over another.

For example, let’s say your company’s social media management tool allows clients to create multiple users on it while your competitors’ don’t. In a case like this, if your target account’s social media team is one that has several active members in it, then the prospect might be more inclined to buy your product than your competitor’s, thus exhibiting a higher propensity to purchase your product.

While lead scoring has become much more of a marketing function in today’s world, thanks to advances in technology that have helped automate the process, it is still a valuable metric that can help sales teams prioritize high intent leads over others.

Lead scoring is typically calculated by tracking the number of times a customer has interacted or engaged with your company’s website, content, emails, or employees, but can also be formulated using everything that we’ve discussed in this post thus far.

How Lead Scoring Works

A prospect with a high lead score will have a better likelihood of purchasing your product compared to your other leads. Lead scores can also be valuable while identifying “super-users” or “super-leads” that can eventually become your brand’s promoters.

Phew! We’ve finally come to the end of all the elements that constitute sales intelligence as a whole, and how it can enable your sellers to be better at what they do best.

However, no technology is perfect, and sales intelligence is no exception. Here are some of the common problems that brands run into while using sales intel to improve their growth.

Challenges of Using Sales Intelligence & How to Address Them

Trustworthiness of Data

Like it is the case with any other data-powered business solution, the impact and usefulness of sales intelligence is directly reliant on the accuracy, depth, and up-to-dateness of the information presented to your brand. “Bad data” that is out-of-date, incorrect, or wrongly attributed can affect the decisions that your sales force makes, and can negatively impact your sales as well. However, this can be easily tackled by:

  1. Ensuring that your information is gathered from a reliable source
  2. Always having a timestamp that represents when the information was updated last
  3. Manually verifying samples of data to see whether they meet quality standards

Good sales intelligence software has all these in place, so this shouldn’t really be a can of worms as long as you buy your information from a reputable sales intel company.

Return-on-Investment

Sales intelligence is, by all means, valuable information for any company or team, and it isn’t inexpensive by any standards. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful for your company. Sales intelligence can help you gain insights that will save you thousands of man-hours and help million dollar sales that might not have been possible without it—but keep in mind that it works best for companies that have large average deal values.

If you’re a smaller brand that’s just setting out selling software, invest your sales funds wisely. An early-stage startup with less than $20k in ARR might not be able to file ROIs that justify the cost. However, if you’re a larger organization, sales intel could help you go from being neck-to-neck with your biggest competitor to being the industry leader (assuming your competition isn’t using sales intelligence as well

Moving on!

Marketing Intelligence vs Sales Intelligence

If you’ve been in the industry for a while now, chances are that you’ve also come across another similar (and on some level, even related) term called ”marketing intelligence”. Here’s a table enlisting the differences between marketing intelligence and sales intelligence.

Technographic Data & Insights

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what Sales Intelligence is all about and how far it’s come, but where do we see it going from here? These are our predictions for the future of sales intelligence.

The Future of Sales Intelligence

The sales intelligence marketing is rapidly expanding, and users are always on the lookout for more reliable and comprehensive information about their target accounts. Over the next 3 to 5 years, sales intelligence products will focus on improving the quality of the information they provide, and greatly focus on capturing and distributing more data points to clients. After that, though, the industry is wide open and the possibilities are endless.

In a world where AI and predictive analytics are two of the top technologies that companies are invested in, sales intelligence will likely soon include a great deal of AI-assisted personalization that will help sales folks tell their customers exactly what they want to hear to close down sales faster. Bots could also help sales people approach prospects at the most probabilistically opportune moments to improve deal conversion rates.

Data protection is also a hot topic right now, and companies, especially large firms like FAMGA, are taking privacy seriously. This might, in fact, spawn a new industry that’s focused on guarding sales people’s access to all the data we discussed in this post, and gaining these insights and information might by itself be a new challenge for this industry.

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