Now that we have defined what high quality sales intelligence is, let's define its objectives. The value of sales intelligence lies in its ability to help salespeople increase sales pipeline with high quality leads, improve sales performance, increase win rates, shorten sales cycles and make quota.
In order to do these things, the objectives of high quality sales intelligence should be:
1. To help salespeople reach senior executives aka decision makers early in the sales cycle.
This is very difficult to do as these people typically have gatekeepers, tight schedules, are very focused on their own specific issues and challenges, and have little time for salespeople. Whether it is by phone, email or mail, you can get that executive's attention by making sure to refer to their key business problems and ways your company can help address them;
2. To help in creating high quality leads
. By helping the salesperson engage the senior executive on her/his most important business challenges, it leads to the building of a business relationship based on knowledge and professionalism the salesperson demonstrates. That salesperson will be in a position to ask all the right questions to determine if a valid qualified opportunity exists;
3.To increase win rates.
A salesperson's winning percentage is often tied directly to how high in target accounts he/she establishes business relationships. The lower in the organizational chain you sell to, the less likely you are to win business;
4.To give the salesperson a competitive advantage
. Knowledge is power and that applies to professional selling as well. By giving a salesperson knowledge about an executive, their background, interests, past achievements, and their view of critical business problems and challenges, puts that salesperson ahead of his competitors.
To illustrate, if the competitor met with an executive and asked: "Can you tell me your top 3 business challenges? and you instead asked: "I know your top 3 business challenges are X, Y & Z, which one is most important to you and why?" who do you think impresses that executive the most? Who gets invited to return and continue building the relationship?
5. To enable salespeople to align their product or service with the most pressing business challenges of senior executives.
Hitting senior executives with all the features and benefits of your product falls on deaf ears; in fact, the most successful salespeople make sure to spend most of their time talking about the executive's problems and challenges and the ways in which they can help solve them.
Are there other objectives sales intelligence should support? Let me know.
This week I begin a series of posts on what I refer to as High Quality Sales Intelligence, otherwise referred to as in-depth sales intelligence. I will examine what it is, why it is so important, and how it differs from most other types of sales intelligence promoted these days.
The purpose of these posts is not to demean the other types of sales intelligence, but to highlight why High Quality Sales Intelligence complements those other types and gives the salesperson a unique and compelling advantage in their marketplace.
Aberdeen Group defines Sales intelligence as the "various sources of information used by organizations to improve the effectiveness of their sales force, enrich the leads in the sales pipeline, and educate on competitive products and offerings". They go on to say "organizations that leverage sales intelligence within the sales department are better suited to understand the specific business challenges of prospects, map products and services to those business challenges, and speak intelligently about competitive differentiators during the sales process."
Let's take a look at the types of sales intelligence defined in their December, 2009 report, Inside Sales Enablement: "Let Them Drink Coffee!". They listed six types of sales intelligence deployed by 92% of sales teams from a universe of 528 respondents. They are listed below with the percentage used by type:
1. 39%: Basic "business card" information - name, title, address, phone, etc.
2. 33%: Company heirarchy - executives, org charts, divisions
3. 29%: Basic company information - location, financials, headcount, industry
4. 27%: Competitive intelligence - products, leadership changes, significant news
5. 20%: "Ideal prospects" segmented contacts by geography, business model, revenue
6. 17% Trigger events - relevant competitors' announcements
Which of these types of sales intelligence are most valuable for helping salespeople understand the specific business challenges of their prospects & map products and services to those business challenges? While numbers 4,5 & 6 are more valuable than 1,2 or 3, I am hard pressed to pick any of the six types. Why? Because none of them drill down into the specific business challenges of individual prospects within an account.
In order to uncover these business challenges, it is necessary to investigate things such as:
- Annual Reports & 10Ks
- Presentations given by the prospect to investors, stockholders, analysts, and to attendees at conferences
- Quarterly reports, especially earnings call transcripts where significant business issues and business challenges are talked about
- Interviews given by the prospect online and in magazines
- Profiles found in Forbes, Business Week, etc.
- Articles in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, etc.
- Local newspapers in the area where the prospect lives
There are many more sources for collecting valuable information on individual prospects. I should say in these cases, I am referring to prospects as senior executives with the budget and authority to buy in your target accounts. These are the decision makers who you need to build relationships with if you want to win business.
Have you found success with this type of sales intelligence? Have you been able to obtain meetings and use it in those meetings with senior executives to gain their interest & attention?
Let me hear from you.
Bank Technology News reported that Citigroup, the first major bank to evaluate P2P mobile transfers killed a two year old program in December, concluding that consumers are only starting to understand the capabilities of the increasingly sophisticated phones that are now becoming common.
Citi learned that payments are not, in the minds of consumers, a standalone product, and that the demand is not yet explicit. For mobile payments to take off, "lots of banks need to participate."
Aaron McPherson, a research manager for payments at IDC Financial Insights, agrees that few people are clamoring for such capabilities. In a survey of a random sample of 1008 U.S. consumers, he found that just 12.5 percent had a smart phone with a data plan.
In a report by Javelin Strategy & Research, consumers cited speed and convenience as primary incentives for adopting mobile P2P payment services. However, security is a main concern:
* The loss of personal information (62%) and fraudulent transfers (52%) are fears even among “tech savvy” consumers.
* 63% of consumers said enhanced security would encourage them to use mobile P2P payments.
“Perceived security threats are definitely the sticking point for mobile P2P payments right now,” said Mary Monahan, partner and senior analyst at Javelin. “Once the safety and access hurdles are cleared, we expect this technology will become part of everyday life.”
Below are the demographic findings from the report.
* 25-44-year-olds who earn more than $100,000 per year are the most willing to use mobile P2P services.
* Among 45-55-year-olds, 39% said anytime/anywhere access to their money is important, but just 14% of the group said they are likely to use mobile P2P payments.
* In the 55-64-year-old group, 39% value the ability to send and receive money quickly (more so than any other group) - but only 11% are likely to use mobile P2P payments.
* Among 18-23-year-old consumers, 23% are motivated to adopt the service by the prospect of avoiding cash/check use.
The report did point out that unbanked consumers - those without checking or savings accounts - are good candidates for mobile P2P adoption.
Fully 60% of unbanked consumers would be willing to move away from money lenders toward banks to have the ability to conduct mobile P2P payments, more so than banked consumers would be to switch banks (22%).
Is there action in P2P payments? Bank Technology News reported:
iPay Technologies announced it had signed more than 1,000 banks last year (more than half of those in the fourth quarter of 2009) to use its white-label P2P payments technology. All together, iPay boasts more than 2,300 bank customers. In November, at BAI's annual Retail Delivery Show, Fiserv also kicked off its own person-to-person payments offering, ostensibly hoping to appeal to the more than 3,000 banks that already use the vendor's other online payment services.
Despite its well-established position in P2P, eBay unit PayPal has also tossed its hat into the bank market as well, announcing in November deals with popular bank service providers FIS and S1 Corp. to integrate the PayPal system into their bank service offerings. FIS said it had at least three banks planning to pilot the PayPal service.
The real challenge for banks is how to make money offering P2P payments. Most banks are not charging for the service now. The ones that are adopting see it as necessary for customer retention, and gaining the marketing and buzz to promote the service.
Just like Citi learned that P2P payments are not a stand-alone product, the other challenge is how to bundle the service into a wider offering to drive incremental revenues. It will be important to target market to those affluent 25-44 year olds and the 18-23 crowd.
Many salespeople have a "comfort zone" where they feel at ease with contacting prospects at a certain level within an account. Depending on the software they are selling, that could be a Manager of Director, IT or an AVP or manager on the business side or both.
They and their sales managers know that this approach often leads to losing sales to competitors or the status quo. It also leads to longer sales cycles increasing the cost of sales with a lower win rate. So why do it?
There are a host of reasons, but they usually all boil down to one reason: Fear!
That could be fear of rejection, fear of not knowing what to say or what is relevant to a senior executive, fear of getting shut out of the account if things don't go well, etc. What should a sales manager do to help remove this fear and make the salesrep more confident in approaching senior executives?
I would make the case that there is an inverse relationship between the quality of sales intelligence available to the salesrep and the fear they might experience. If that sales intelligence really lets the salesrep know the key business issues, challenges and initiatives that are important to the decision maker, it lowers the odds of rejection, making a mistake or just having a bad sales call.
In other words, the higher quality the sales intelligence, the lower the fear of the salesrep. For example, if that sales intelligence also includes interviews the executive has given, presentations she/he have made to analysts and trade conferences, earnings call transcripts of quarterly earnings announcements, etc. the greater the chance of success in engaging the executive.
Of course. the salesrep has to find a way to align their software product or service as a way of solving the issues the executive is dealing with. That is when he/she can draw upon the pre-sales support staff, product specialists, and success stories similar to that of the prospect.
One thing is for certain - if the salesrep shows she/he has done their homework, the executive's perception of the the value the salesrep can bring will rise and the odds of a good sales call will increase significantly.
Jill Konrath, in her book, Selling to Big Companies, states: "The amount of time you invest researching and learning about a prospective client should be directly proportional to their value to your business. If landing a contract with this big firm puts megabucks into your pocket, has high prestige value, or huge opportunities for growth, it's worth spending lots of time on."
Let's face it - big software sales don't come easy in today's economy. So if your sales team has strategic accounts with large revenue quotas, how do you ensure they get into these accounts at senior management levels where priorities are set and the executives have authority to buy or approve large software purchases?
Some examples would be: President, COO, CFO, EVP, SVP, CMO, CSO, CIO, & President (LOB)
These are the people that are the hardest to reach and gain their attention. Their days are full with important meetings & events. They have no tolerance for anyone trying to sell them anything. In fact, they have gatekeepers whose job it is to make sure you don't gain access to them.
These are the same people who live with the burden of meeting the expectations of stockholders, analysts, and the Board of Directors. During the last year, that has been very hard to do.
These executives have to find solutions for whatever key business issues, problems or challenges they face - or they will face losing market share, declining revenues and in some cases, their jobs in today's competitive environment. So nothing should be more important to them.
It only stands to reason that the salesperson who puts in the time to really learn about the customers' key business issues, high priority initiatives, critical success factors, competitors, important metrics, and industry trends has the greatest chance of engaging an executive at this level and winning the account.
But is it a case of just having more sales intelligence than your competitor, or is there more to it? How do you turn all that information about your target company & corporate executive(s) into an actionable high quality lead and real opportunity that sets the stage for winning the business?
Btw, Jill's book has been ranked as one of the best for those who sell to large companies.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences.
There has been much talk these days about how to generate high quality leads - whether it should be done through inbound marketing or outbound marketing, or both. Brian Carroll, in his B2B Lead Generation Blog
, cited Marketing Sherpa, in its 2009 Marketing Benchmark Survey, showing the # 1 challenge for B2B marketers was generating high quality leads, not more leads. He offers 8 tips for generating high quality leads that salespeople love.
I agree with him that sales and marketing need to have a commonly agreed upon Universal Lead Definition (ULD) and a rigorous process to both pass leads and measure their impact on the sales pipeline.
All things being equal, if lead nurturing brings a lead to the point of being "sale-ready", what really makes the value of one lead much more valuable than another given they both qualify?
I would rather have a lead from the President, Retail Banking than a Director, CRM in a Retail Bank. Both may represent leads for the same high priority initiative around increasing customer profitability, but the former carries much more weight for me for three reasons:
1. The level of decision making, budget authority and ability to purchase rather than just influence or recommend the purchase;
2. The degree of pain the President may be experiencing if there is heavy pressure from the Board to increase profitability of their depositors. The President will put a priority on a timeline to find and implement a solution if that is the case;
3. The opportunity to shorten the buying cycle dramatically by earning "trusted advisor" status from the President; this provides the opportunity to create a real sense of urgency based on what his competitors are doing and speed up the buying cycle. If you take the time to know the performance of other banks and better still, if your company helped any of them improve an important metric like profitability, you become a valued business resource for that bank executive.
How do you prioritize the leads you get? Does your company do lead scoring to take into account the position of the person and prioritize according to that criteria? Let me hear your thoughts.
In the CSO Insights 2009 Sales Performance Optimization Survey of over 1,800 companies, it was stated:
"Sales reps are finding it increasingly difficult to convert qualified leads into opportunities. If you are experiencing subpar results in this area, you may want to review if and how your reps are researching prospects before they call them."
CSO Insights went on to say that only 47% of the participating firms met or exceeded expectations at thoroughly researching accounts, while 93% of companies converting over 50% of their leads to discussions said they met or exceed research expectations.
This has led to a good number of companies that provide sales intelligence, one example being SalesQuest. I recommend their blog
which covers lots of good sales-related topics.
So it appears that the level of research done on accounts is directly correlated to successfully increasing the sales pipeline. How well do you know your bank customer? It depends on the depth and quality of research you do or someone does for you.
Have you or someone you know used sales intelligence to increase their sales pipeline? Let me hear from you.