The B2B landscape has significantly changed. Marketers need to understand today’s buyer’s needs and develop their strategies. This is where sales intelligence helps. Here, Rekha Thomas, vice president, Web, Seismic, discusses how B2B marketers can benefit from sales intelligence.
The B2B buying landscape has been upended over the last couple of years. Tried and true tactics of the pre-pandemic years don’t work today. According to Forrester’s Predictions 2022, “persistent digital engagement will become the norm, with 70% of marketers adopting an always-on digital engagement strategy.” Marketing leaders who understand the needs of the modern digital buyer are well-positioned to develop strategies and execute programs that set them apart from their competitors and drive revenue growth. This article highlights a few ways savvy leaders make sales intelligence a must-have part of their marketing strategy.
At the highest level, marketing strategy provides the framework for how a company will sell its portfolio of products and/or services to customers. There are many important inputs that can go into any given marketing strategy, including company/product vision, ideal customer profile, and competitive landscape.
That’s where sales intelligence comes in. Broadly speaking, sales intelligence encompasses the technology and associated data that allows marketers and sellers to target and engage with their ideal customers more effectively; a deep understanding of customers is the most important part of any marketing strategy.
Seller-customer Interaction Data
A byproduct of the shift from face-to-face interaction to digital engagement is greater visibility into seller-customer interactions. Historically, this “last mile” data has been challenging to capture since sellers and customers interact directly with each other, which used to primarily occur in person in B2B. With the surge in digital selling, we see increased visibility into this data through sales, engagement, and enablement platforms such as CRMs, sales content management platforms, and conversational intelligence tools.
Findings from McKinsey’s Global B2B Pulse found that the “rule of thirds” has become entrenched when it comes to customers’ channel preferences: “Given the choice of traditional (for example, in-person), remote (for example, video conference or phone) and self-service (for example, ecommerce) interactions, buyers globally have shown they want them all — and in equal measure throughout the purchasing journey.” In a nutshell, customers want choice. The omnichannel world appears to be here to stay.
With roughly two-thirds of all seller-customer interactions occurring online or digitally, there is a greater amount of valuable data that can be mined for powerful insights. This quantitative data can also be enriched with qualitative input from sellers to optimize marketing strategy and efforts. This seller-customer interaction data offers marketers a powerful, new way to understand customers in the digital era.
Three Areas of Marketing Strategy That Can Benefit From Sales Intelligence
1. Product marketing strategy
The win-loss analysis involves parsing through a combination of historical sales data (often from CRMs) and qualitative insights from sellers and others involved in the sales process. Looking back at wins and losses provides several layers of actionable information. Quantitative data on customer targeting and sales effectiveness may shed light on areas to dive into through conversations with sellers.
Customer targeting: Does the data show that you consistently win more deals in certain industries or when your buyer is a particular persona?
- Why don’t you perform well in certain industries or with certain personas? Is product-market fit an issue? Are you better off targeting a smaller set of industries? Is your messaging focused on the right set of use cases for each persona?
Answers to these questions may be the clues you need to revisit your go-to-market strategy, including ideal customer profile, positioning, and messaging.
- Alternatively, it could be that your customer targeting is on point. But underperforming sellers are not equipped with the industry-specific messaging, use cases, and content they need to engage prospects effectively.
Issues in this area may indicate that you may need to revisit your content strategy and create personalized content for certain industries and personas.
Sales effectiveness: Are there certain sales teams that perform better than others?
- Do underperforming sellers have the training materials they need to upskill? Are they proficient in telling your product story, and are they consistently using the latest messaging from product marketing? Are sellers using marketing-approved, top-performing content when engaging with buyers? Are they able to demo your product effectively? Would they benefit from sales training on these materials?
Problems in these areas indicate that more sales training and coaching may be necessary for certain sellers for them to land the product story successfully. If they aren’t using the prescribed narrative, what are they using instead? Does your narrative need to be updated to reflect market reality?
Competitive landscape: What competitors are being evaluated along with you in deal cycles?
- Are you seeing the same competitor show up? Are there product or user experience gaps between your company’s product and the competition? Who got to the deal first? Does your company have an awareness problem in the market?
Here the issues may be multifold: You may need to rethink your brand and thought leadership strategy to increase your share of voice. You may also need to provide your sellers with competitive battle cards that empower them to sell on product value rather than feature comparisons.
2. Content strategy
Let’s take a look at real-time data. All-in-one enablement platforms with robust enablement intelligence capabilities provide “in the moment” content engagement and content effectiveness insights.
- What content is your seller sharing with customers? Is the prospective buyer actually consuming the information? What topics are they most interested in? Are there patterns — do successful sellers tend to share the same content? Are there certain assets that work particularly well for certain industries, target personas, or at certain stages in the customer journey? Equally important, what content is not being shared by sellers?
- Do certain types of content like videos or interactive content perform better than static content?
- What is the open rate for seller-customer emails? What content are buyers engaging within emails? If you use digital sales rooms as a communication vehicle, what are the pieces of content that get the most views? Is your content getting shared more broadly?
Answers to these questions may result in a shift in your content strategy. Your content mix may need to include more interactive content and video. If content engagement is low, you may need to create personalized sales content that better resonates with your customers. You may need to use an AI-powered recommendation engine that suggests top-performing content that’s worked for others.
3. Campaign activation strategy
Sales intelligence information useful for product marketing and content strategy is also valuable for campaign strategy and planning. If certain industries have a much higher number of closed-won deals than others, it’s a signal that you may want to double down on what’s working.
Sales intelligence can provide the rationale to halt “spray and pray” generic campaigns in favor of targeted, integrated campaigns. Campaigns that focus on a more narrowly defined customer profile benefit from personalized content that speaks to the needs of the personas and industries targeted. Part of a targeted campaign strategy includes producing full-funnel content to meet the needs of customers at all different buying stages as long as they fit the profile. Focused campaigns are also an effective way to build alignment between marketing and sales, where marketing provides sales with more of the leads that ultimately close.
Sales intelligence, whether through historical or real-time data, has become a must-have tool in the modern marketer’s toolkit. Organizations at all stages of sales analytics maturity can benefit. What’s critical is that marketing leaders set the expectation that their teams use data to inform their efforts. In the early stages of sales intelligence maturity, increased visibility into what’s working and what’s not will allow real-time tactical optimizations. Although that’s useful, what makes sales intelligence essential is that teams with a data-driven mindset can fundamentally optimize their product marketing, content marketing, and campaign strategies. Transforming marketing strategy can have long-term effects that span years and a wide-ranging impact that extends beyond marketing to the entire go-to-market organization.