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In today’s world, many providers are claiming to be sales intelligence solutions. This statement is remarkably convoluted, as the category has quickly become a catchall for many various sub-categories, varying based on actual use cases. In a followup to a previous article that we wrote a while back, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the sales intelligence solution market, and offer our $.02 to try and un-muddy the waters in any way that we can.
Sales Intelligence vs. Sales Enablement: What’s the difference?
Another level of confusion that goes even higher than the term sales intelligence solution, is the attempts at categorizing one’s solution as one or the other. To put some definitions to it:
According to TOPO, “Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively. The foundation of sales enablement is to provide salespeople with what they need to successfully engage the buyer throughout the buying process.”
In our previous sales stack article, we referred to the key requirement of sales enablement solutions of acting as a content and collateral repository for use by the sales team.
On the other hand, Primary Intelligence defines sales intelligence as “Gathering insights (competitive or otherwise) that can and will be used by a sales individual or team to increase the chances of winning a qualified sales opportunity.”
As the category has expanded over time, the definition of it has as well. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) products have been considered as sales intelligence solutions, as many have further developed their own capabilities. We prefer to refer to the category as Customer & Sales Intelligence, but to each their own.
Why do companies use sales intelligence tools?
Companies use these products for precisely the reason in the category’s definition, to increase the chances of winning a qualified sales opportunity. The various applications of this process varies from company to company, and from product to product.
For example, a company utilizes a CRM software for tracking all of their customer relationships as well as powering sales through other various capabilities such as granular reporting, forecasting, workflow management, automation, and even artificial intelligence. The ability to integrate other products expands these capabilities even further, and bolsters some of the existing ones. All of this leads to a sales team that is more informed, and operates more efficiently, all directed towards the end goal of increasing their chances of winning qualified sales opportunities.
How do companies use these tools?
This is perhaps where the highest level of variation comes into the equation. Each implementation tends to differ, as does the actual usage of products by the teams at each company.
For example, Company A implements an enterprise level tier of Salesforce, rolling it out across their entire team. They integrate the various other tools that the team is already using (marketing automation, contract management, etc…) with the tool, so that it becomes the home base for the company’s sales data. A market intelligence team works with the products as well, combing through other database solutions, building account records, and providing key insights to the sales team to act upon.
Company B takes a similar approach, but is much smaller, and doesn’t necessarily have the resources or time to commit to such an expansive (albeit impressive) rollout. They also invest in Salesforce subscriptions, but forego the traditional database solutions for their market research, and integrate a more automated product aimed at identifying new opportunities stemming from actionable intelligence, all while combining it with their existing data.
Since they may not have a market intelligence team feeding them potential leads, the sales reps need to make the most of their limited time, which means spending less time prospecting and more time closing deals with qualified customers. They don’t have the time to be stuck in the bottomless pit of a database. If you’re looking for a quick and easy read at the cottage, do you open War and Peace? Also, because each team (and potentially each rep) has a unique set of sales signals that would indicate the right opportunity and timing to pursue a lead, it is important that they set up their resources to watch for these signals and surface them at the right time. Almost automagically…
Sales Intelligence Players
The sales intelligence market can be broken down even further, with each type of product service it’s own purposes within your team’s sales tech stack. Some of the top players for the different types of products include:
Customer Relationship Management
These are the home of the team’s sales intelligence. The heart of their data (hopefully). When looking for the right solution for the team, one needs to consider how they are supposed to use it, the existing workflows, and how it can be integrated to make the team more effective, rather than hindered. Since this is essentially going to be the center of the entire sales and marketing team’s data that can be used for different operations, so it’s important to maximize the investment. It’s important for the choice to let the team look at things from a market and segment level, and act on insights down to the company and contact level, giving the whole picture. Some key players in the space include:
Speaking of acting at the company level, teams need to have the right information to be able to contact the right people. There are endless solutions on the market offering endless contact data, but which solution actually works? Which solution will fit into those existing workflows and tech stack? It’s another layer that decision makers need to consider. Is the team going to be able to use this data effectively to generate new business? Or is the company going to squander the investment on a database of contact information that has not been relevant since 2007? Of all the products out there, several have become well known for contact identification:
Market Insights & Sales Research
Your team may have their CRM and contact solutions in place, but it’s time to ask: how actionable is the data? How can the team find new opportunities that are right for us to act on? This prospecting for new opportunities can lead to treasure, or just more digging through a database.
If your sales team has the 500 foot and 50 foot views, but wants the 5 000 foot view as well to find new opportunities, how can you make sure that it’s easy to find the right ones and then move in on a more granular level once they’ve been spotted? You might consider a solution to help with market insights and research, but also consider the same questions that you’ve been asking for the other categories. How does this work with our existing workflows? Is it enabling the team, or holding them back? Will this product act more like an assistant, or just present you with a library that you are stuck searching through? One key aspect to consider is the product’s ability to integrate with your other solutions:
Viewpoints of Key Stakeholders
As with any project or solution, there are bound to be multiple stakeholders that are involved in using the solutions to some degree. The structure of sales teams at companies will vary as well, but the questions being asked by the different types of stakeholders remains fairly consistent.
- How do we ensure that we are always marching towards our larger organizational goals?
- Are we achieving proper returns on our investments for these organizational goals?
- Is the company achieving market success in our operational areas?
- How well is my team penetrating our key market segments? Are there any areas that we may be neglecting?
- How can we become more effective at setting sales targets and planning territories?
- How can we better understand the potential of certain segments?
- How do I make sure I’m not letting opportunities slip through the cracks?
- How do I make sure that I’m not missing any key info before a meeting?
- How do I remain relevant to my key accounts?
- How do I drive growth and efficiently hunt for new leads?
- How can I optimize my workflow to identify high priority opportunities?
- Is there a way that the team can collaborate to cover more ground?
- How do we mobilize the business development team toward certain upcoming clinical studies?
- How is the team performing relative to their targets?
- How do we develop a better market understanding?
- How do we target the right audience for our next campaign?
- How do we enable our sales team to follow up on marketing leads?
- How can we maximize our conference ROI?
Taking these questions into account will allow for a much smoother research and implementation process, for whichever solutions are evaluated and ultimately chosen. If there is something that can address all of them, then that’s great! However, this isn’t always the case, which is why we live in a world of integrations and “stacks” being built, letting everything work together.
Is your team utilizing one or more sales intelligence products to become more efficient? How are they rounding out your larger tech stack? Reach out today. We’d love to hear more!