Many sales teams end up wasting precious time and energy on chasing the wrong prospects. This time trap is easy to avoid, by ensuring your sales team has access to the right data and information throughout their sales cycle. This article offers you an overview of the benefits of leveraging data driven B2B sales and explains the most important data ingredients.
Marketing and sales departments in the B2B arena are experiencing unprecedented changes. The environment in which they operate is becoming increasingly complex and competitive. This impacts the way in which sellers and, especially, buyers operate.
For example: Before buyers get in touch with a seller, they have already researched two thirds of the information online and narrowed down their choice. Employees in the sales department do not negotiate with just one person in most cases, but generally need to engage several decision-makers or even entire purchasing teams. The buying decision is made that much more challenging, with every additional stakeholder that needs to be involved.
Another reality of modern-day sales is the fact that employees working in the sales department spend almost two thirds of their time doing things other than selling. This revolves primarily around administration or searching for the next best, most promising prospects. Researching companies is very time-consuming. In the current more digital environment buyers are increasingly sophisticated, with ever higher expectations.
What are the greatest challenges in B2B sales?
Marketing and sales teams are facing major challenges. Yet despite this, they must find a way to accelerate the sales process. This can, for example, be achieved by focusing on those companies with a short sales cycle that are likely to make a purchase. After all, nobody today has the time or is willing to engage in the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. The key in the B2B sales space is to contact the right prospects at the right time when they’re in the market to buy – and not already in contract with another solution provider.
The greatest challenges of modern B2B sales.
Many marketing and sales departments are today still battling with the quality of the data in their systems. Indeed, some 60% of marketers consider their own data unreliable (source: SiriusDecisions), while 40% believe that the sales teams do not really know their own accounts properly (source: Dun & Bradstreet).
It therefore comes as no surprise that only 1% of leads generated by B2B marketing ultimately become customers.
However, there are companies that have improved the quality of their data pool and enhanced it with additional, useful information. This is precisely what makes them successful and differentiates them from their less successful competitors.
Digitalisation in B2B marketing and sales
Digitalisation now affects all business functions, including marketing and sales. Those companies that consistently seek to digitalise these areas stand to gain an immense advantage over their competition. Here, campaigns with static offline data have long since given way to digitally oriented and targeted activities with integrated systems, relevant data and buyer insights. Our customer, EASY Software, confirms this. As Managing Director Michael C. Reiserer explains: “Those that are efficient and achieve the best results with the least effort are ultimately the winners.” This is particularly true of small and mid-sized enterprises, such as EASY Software.
However, many companies still have a long way to go to catch up. The Digital Maturity & Transformation Report 2019 investigated the digital maturity of companies and determined that almost three quarters of all firms display only moderate digital maturity.
Stages of digital maturity in B2B marketing and sales: Stage 1: Still working with paper and printing many documents. Stages 2 and 3: Started work on digitalising processes and documents. Some initial processes are already completely digital. Stages 4 and 5: Innovative companies with agile work methods and a digital-first strategy. Innovation is part of the organisation. This also applies to products. Source: Digital Maturity & Transformation Report 2019.
This aligns with our own perception of the market. Many marketing and sales departments are still in stages 1, 2 and 3. They use traditional prospecting approaches, working to unqualified lists based on traditional selections such as sector, region or number of employees. Only very few companies have managed to digitalise, automate or even completely transform their most important approaches.
Yet despite this, the digital wave is breaking over the B2B world. Anyone that fails to act and transform their operations will be left holding a weak hand that will make future success more difficult.
Master data + online data + timing information = success
So what differentiates truly successful sales organisations from those that are less successful? This is an easy question to answer, as we see it on a daily basis in our interactions with our customers: data usage. The key here is making the right information available to the right person in the right format at the right time.
When combined correctly and with a high level of quality, data can offer a 360° view of both existing and potential customers. This then forms the basis of your data driven B2B sales strategy, enabling you to contact the right companies at the right time with the right message.
Data is admittedly a very broad term. The objective in B2B sales is to gain a complete and meaningful picture of the market and, in particular, maintain a 360° view of your target prospects. Three categories of data are required for a complete and meaningful picture of your relevant target market.
1 Company data
The foundation of your company’s high quality master data should exist within your CRM. This corner stone of data enables you to extract key firmographic information on your customers and prospects such as:
Number of employees
2 Dynamic Online data
Although master data enables segmentation and development of prospecting lists, the leads generated from only this information tend to be far too unqualified as they are based solely on static information about the organisation itself.
Clearly more information is needed to secure better quality of leads. In B2B sales, this is dynamic online data such as what website content they’re sharing, the technologies they’re using, and news about their company. This type of data provides a complete picture of what motivates these companies, what objectives they pursue and what they are striving to achieve.
3 Timing Insights
We’ve established how important company and online data is in generating higher quality prospecting lists or leads. Additional timing insights can then be used to alert you to companies that are in the market for your solutions. This can, for example, be achieved with following types of timing insights.
Intent data, which depicts the research activities of your target companies. It also shows who currently has a requirement for a specific solution.
Buying signals: These are events or occurrences that indicate a specific need for products or services. For example, when a company moves or opens a branch, it is very likely to need office furniture.
Combining data and information in the sales funnel
All three of these data components – company, dynamic online, and timing insights – are used in the various phases of the sales funnel. They help secure an increasingly sophisticated qualification of the leads originally generated. The objective is for sales to focus exclusively on those companies that are most likely to purchase your solutions, with the shortest sales cycle.
If you’re currently using only the company data from your CRM system to produce prospecting lists, which are pushed into the top of your sales funnel – you'll likely find the volume of these prospects to be too large to handle efficiently.
Further qualification of the leads is therefore required in the middle of the funnel, which can be performed using dynamic online data to reduce the volumes.
Yet even following further qualification by applying the dynamic online data, your sales team may still be left with too many potential prospects to effectively follow up with. This is where the third data component, timing insights, comes into play, for example intent, trigger or signals data. This type of information can tell us which of the identified target companies are currently in the market for solutions similar to yours.
The success of data driven sales is measurable
The introduction and consistent use of data and information has a measurably positive impact on performance in B2B marketing and sales. The costs of data acquisition are lower, as are those of generating leads. At the same time, efficiency in sales is increased by 12%, while the number of qualified offers increases by 50%.
The benefits associated with data driven sales are measurable. Source: Dun & Bradstreet.
Data not only helps increase efficiency in sales, but also minimise potential business risks. After all, nobody really wishes to enter into important and long-term business relationships with companies that are, for example, financially unstable.
It is therefore important to eliminate unstable companies and potential defaulting payers as part of the lead qualification process. This then prevents sales from working with or even contacting companies of this kind and is based on data or, to be more specific, risk indicators, which are absolutely vital in data driven sales approaches.
The five benefits of data driven sales:
High quality and more relevant leads (with shorter sales cycle and higher likelihood of purchasing)
Increased pipeline velocity
Increased sales productivity and efficiency
Better informative sales for more productive conversations with existing and potential customers
Enable your sales teams to stay one step ahead of the competition by being able to contact the right prospects, at the right time, with the right message.