Sales Intelligence: Mo' Better, Richer, Deeper - Customer Relationship Management

Community knowledge and collaboration aren’t the only things that Sales 2.0 provides. Predictability and direction through improved forecasting need to be part of the equation too. Does that mean better algorithms? Not necessarily,though that would help,wouldn’t it? What it does mean is improved intelligence,gathered from a much wider range of resources that gets fed into the algorithmic furnace,so that “I told you so” is actually something more than infantile. To get that information and then put it in a useful format constitutes sales intelligence.

Jim Dickie,one of the principals at CSO Insights and one of the leading sales analysts and consultants in the world,put it well when he said,“The information salespeople really need is often not accessible.” In the contemporary world,that would mean “not easily visible.” But it can be made visible with the uses of sales intelligence tools. When done well,not only does it provide greater insight into customers—an intangible with substance so to speak—it has measurable benefits that go to the heart of a business (revenue) and to the hearts of salespeople everywhere (achieving quota).

In Early 2009,Aberdeen Group analyst Alex Jeffries released a study on the use of sales intelligence as a best practice called “Sales Intelligence: The Secret to Sales Nirvana.” Best-in-class companies,which Aberdeen Group defined as those that aggregated in the top 20 percent,were seeing year over year improvement in:

  1. The time sales reps spend searching for relevant intelligence/contact information. It was noticeably less.

  2. The rate of lead conversion,i.e., what it took to identify a lead that could become an opportunity was decreased.

  3. Sales cycle time decreased,meaning that the amount of time from the inception of the possibility to the closing of the deal was noticeably less.

  4. The percentage of sales reps achieving quota was increased.

What Aberdeen also found was that the best in class companies had distinctive knowledge of not only how to get sales intelligence but were clear on the criteria they needed to define the intelligence they wanted to get. They found that the best in class:

  1. 79 percent understood prospect’s business challenges (+13 percent better than the norm). This meant that they had a clear picture of what the potential customer needed to solve to make their business better.

  2. 73 percent understood how to map offerings to those business challenges (14 percent over the norm). This meant that they also understood what offerings they could provide made sense when it came to solving the business challenges.

  3. 73 percent had intelligent knowledge of competitive differences (18 percent over the norm). This meant that they knew what the offerings of their competitors were relative to their own.

What exactly does that mean,all in all,for us innocents? What kind of sales intelligence tools are we talking about using here? What do they do?

Before we get into that,there are some things we need to remember. Sales intelligence supports customer insights. The garnering of that information provides the salesperson with a richer,more thorough profile of the accounts,and the people and the competitive landscape that gives the sales team what they need to beat their competitors,if you’re into that kind of thing.

But what distinguishes great sales intelligence tools from the lesser ones is the ability to integrate with CRM systems data so that there are rich customer profiles that will mean a greater chance to exert a more significant influence over the possible success of an opportunity.

That means grabbing data from traditional sources and from all the relevant conversations going on via the Web—and from nontraditional data sources. Note by the way,I said “relevant” conversations,not just conversations. The tools you use need to be able to distinguish what’s important to your company from the ambient noise that might be critical to Mom or the federal government,but meaningless to you.

Probably the best way to get a feel for how sales intelligence is both derived and used is to look at our sales intelligence Superstah! for this chapter,InsideView’s SalesView tool.

Superstah! InsideView
I ran across these guys by accident,if you call an e-mail from a public relations person an accident. When I received the e-mail in mid-2008,it told me a tale of a product called SalesView that was being released by a company called InsideView. I have to admit before I was halfway through the e-mail I was skeptical because as soon as I see a company that uses the word “sales” as an adjective in a product name,I zone out.

But something,perhaps divine intervention,compelled me to keep reading and to this day,I’m glad I did. Because what they did was anything but uncreative.

SalesView,their flagship product,does one thing and does it very well. It accesses resources across the Web and ties the appropriate resulting information to internally acquired customer data. That data is then usable to dynamically identify potential opportunities or even prospects. Not only that,it can provide rich information,integrated directly into the CRM data source that will give you what you need for a competitive edge. That means that it can grab data from external resources like blogs,social networks such as Facebook,LinkedIn and Zoominfo,from data aggregations like Jigsaw’s Open Data Initiative (ODI) data,from more traditional sources like business news wires and company profilers such as Hoovers,Reuters,and Dun and Bradstreet. It then can tie that to the internal data related to account or customer records within varying CRM systems.

Currently,they are integrated with and,interestingly,wisely, with Oracle CRM On Demand,icrosoft Dynamics CRM, Sugar CRM, NetSuite, and with social application Landslide. While you can use the application as a standalone, it actually has an enterprise mash-up that appears as a screen within your internal CRM application so you don’t have to access SalesView separately. Your information is at your fingertips.

This product has to be seen in context. While it monitors 20,000 selective sources and in mid-2009 added Twitter and Google Blog and monitoring functionality, what makes this an important product is the unique scope of integration with CRM products. Once they integrate with SAP, they will pretty much have run the gamut of major CRM players. No one else can make that claim at this time. They are optimized to be able to integrate their results into CRM databases.

To understand how it works,take a look at Figure below,which shows the NetSuite integration dashboard.
Sales-View integration with netsuite
SalesView integration with NetSuite

They’re analyzing masses of unstructured data through a series of what they call “connectors” which then organize that data by “target” (for example,a particular company). They are able to look at the target and get information on things like:

  • Key events related to the target
  • Key selling triggers such as organizational changes
  • Connections between the users you’re speaking with and the decision makers in an account
  • How relevant a piece of information is based on its context and the timing
  • Figuring out who the best bet is as the prospect

The key,which I’m never unhappy to repeat, is that this data is integrated into whatever CRM system you happen to be using—and it pops up via a widget native to the systemImportant. Très important.

Mission 21st Century
Everything that InsideView does is based around their concept of the socialprise—a business that they describe as:
Socialprise is the natural convergence of social media and enterprise applications, emerging as a mash-up of both the information and user experience of these previously separate universes.

Everything they do is motivated by this. Their roadmap reflects it well. As Rand Schulman,chief marketing officer of InsideView and an industry old-timer who truly gets it—all with a major dose of sense of humor—said in an interview:

We are going to continue to legitimize and accelerate the adoption of social media and social networks within the enterprise—by way of not only CRM integration but other enterprise applications as well such as LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter, for example.

They ain’t stopping there either. Continuing their drive for CRM ubiquity,they will be integrating with the other major CRM platforms and even going beyond CRM in the enterprise and beyond sales and marketing by expanding their integration with other business processes. I would have to presume supply chain processes are among their targets. To do this,they’ve built a robust set of APIs that they are using internally and farming out to a growing partner community.

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