Sales Process & Methodology

Sales Success: Aligning Data, Analytics, and Content to Close the Deal

By Gary Skidmore  •  October 3, 2017

To keep pace with rapidly changing technology markets, sales and marketing teams have to respond to a long list of challenges. These include:

  • Prospects who use multiple channels to research and purchase
  • Multiple purchase influencers and decision makers in enterprise prospects
  • Prospects moving in and out of the market
  • Rapidly changing technology
  • On-demand availability of relevant content to help stimulate a buying decision while simultaneously making it more complex

All of these make the demand generation and sales conversion funnel more difficult than ever. Sales and marketing organizations must step up their game – leveraging access to data, market intelligence, and content tools.

The question is, how can the sales and marketing team bring this all together? One answer is to increase the speed of the sales cycle by taking advantage of a combination of accountbased data, predictive analysis, and content assets.

Bringing together account-based intelligence that includes who is “in market” for a specific product or service – with contact data and compelling content – is the formula to generate ready-to-buy leads, convert these leads, and close sales faster.

This emerging discipline is called “engagement science” and it presents a significant opportunity in the sales process. The components include

  • Account-based data intelligence, with real-time “in market” information based in part on predictive analytics
  • Data models that predict who’s most likely ready to buy what you are selling
  • Content that matches a buyer’s or influencer’s interest – complementing any business’s own content assets.

In short, the combination of data, analytics, and content offers tech business marketers the opportunity to identify prospects faster and give their customers more compelling reasons to buy. Such tools have now emerged in the marketplace, working in tandem as software-asa-service.

ACCOUNT-BASED DATA AND PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS
Data-driven sales and marketing intelligence has made prospect and customer databases a norm for every enterprise. While the sophistication of these databases varies, they typically include firmagraphics, contact information, contact preferences, and perhaps some transactional data. Usually, the data is created using a combination of internal and external data sources – and its timeliness and accuracy should regularly be validated. However, in today’s hypercompetitive environment, this basic data (even when accurate) just doesn’t go far enough.

Third-party data sources should be tapped to help enrich an enterprise’s own sales and prospect database. That’s not new. There are many reputable business sources available for such data. But, to turn up the game, it’s important to seek out phone-verified and scored account intelligence aligned to a particular category of interest. This intelligence can provide signals such as purchase likelihood, current technology use, specific technology budget, behavioral data, and more, which can be applied to find just the right accountbased prospects and influencers to fill the top of the funnel with qualified marketing leads.

Comprehensive analytics can help identify the right accounts – and the right contacts in those accounts – to begin the engagement process. When combined with sales and marketing data, newer forms of predictive analytics can even help facilitate a deeper account understanding by allowing companies to identify prospects that are in-market to buy.

USING CONTENT TO ACCELERATE ENGAGEMENT
Once in-market prospects are identified and scored, the next challenge is to offer relevant content that can move the sales process along – engaging the prospect and building ongoing relationships.

Traditionally, companies have only taken their internal content, such as brochures and sales sheets, and offered it to prospects without regard for the “pain points” or educational needs. While the information may be useful and accurate, prospects typically consider third-partysourced content more trustworthy. This may come from analyst firms, primary and secondary research, and other recognized thought leaders in a given technology, vertical, or business area.

An available and comprehensive content library enables a company to share selected, relevant information with each prospect. In accountbased marketing, each purchase influencer and each purchase decision maker receives content pertinent to their immediate needs. Now, instead of a salesperson or other sales organization representative being the vendor of a product or service, he or she is a credible and accessible strategic resource, providing targeted information and engaging prospects with discussions about subjects they care about, and fulfilling the role of a trusted advisor.

For instance, if a solution provider targets sales and marketing software companies, then research reports focused on marketing and sales alignment or how to effectively streamline sales workflows likely will be relevant to individual buyers and influencers in this account – supportive of the lead nurture and sales effort. This content often does double duty, providing information the sales staff can use for prospects as well as for their own education.

Content isn’t always a lengthy white paper or in-depth report. Different prospects have different needs – and time demands. To be most useful to the prospect, a collection of diverse media, such as print, e-books, checklists, assessment tools, social content, videos, or case studies, will help meet the needs of individual influencers. A variety of media – from “snackable” social posts to detailed case studies to video – will help sustain interest.

Different companies have different needs, but so do the individuals within a company. This is especially true in larger companies, where purchase decisions are often made by a group composed of individuals representing different functions. A CFO, for instance, might appreciate cost savings or revenue opportunities information pertinent to the subject, while CMOs might appreciate details on building a better dashboard for targeting and attribution.
As all salespeople know, ongoing communications can be the key to current and future sales.

Relevant content can be the reason to contact a prospect, with a note like “thought youcd be interested in this article/infographic/survey, etc.” The point is to nurture the account, from initial contact, through and beyond the sale. This component of engagement science – valued content, delivered when the prospect is likely in market – can help sustain a relationship and allow the prospect to view the tech company and sales staff as domain experts, helping to establish trust over both the short and long term.

“Triggering” content delivery in a timely manner – based on account intelligence and incoming queries – is also vital. Our studies confirm that conversion rates soar when a followup email or call happens within 30 minutes of a trigger. By the next day, people may forget or have moved on to another concern.

Engagement science combines account-based intelligence, predictive analytics, and relevant research-based content – readily accessible and on demand. Companies that embrace this approach will move from a onesize-fits-all sales cycle to an individualized approach that increases the speed of the lead nurturing and sales cycle and helps develop sustainable relationships with customers.

Gary Skidmore is CEO of Aberdeen.