• May 28, 2009
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Doesn't Your Sales Team Want Access to Prospect Data?

Marketing automation provider Eloqua unveiled today its Prospect Profiler tool, which aims to equip sales people with more information about their prospects through a friendlier interface. While sales has not been deprived of data on their prospects -- quite the contrary, they've been completely inundated with information -- it's typically presented to them in long, difficult-to-digest formats, explains Brian Kardon, chief marketing officer of Eloqua. After garnering insight from conversations with dozens of sales people, Eloqua has developed a product that pushes sales and marketing automation further along toward a more intuitive solution with a better, easy-to-use graphical interface.

Just as a sales person must listen and respond to a prospect's physical body language, the Prospect Profiler captures the "digital body language" of a prospect through:

  • Web-site activity (e.g., page views, last visit);
  • form activity (e.g., submissions, last submission);
  • email activity (e.g., opens, clickthroughts); and
  • search activity (e.g., term, engine).

The Prospect Profiler is embedded directly into the sales force automation solution (i.e., where the sales people spends most of their time) and effectively summarizes and organizes the data collected from the marketing automation solutions. Within minutes, sales people care able to get an idea of prospect activity. "It's a different user interface," Ben McPhee, product manager at Eloqua, says. "It's giving access to data that wasn't available before and move through [the data] more quickly." Social media integration isn't available with the first release of Prospect Profiler, but it is in the roadmap, McPhee assures.

According to Laura Ramos, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, few companies have achieved Prospect Profiler's simple interface and its ability to drill activity down to the individual level. "I don't think they're the only ones with this capability," she says, "but the richness is improved with this [release]." While Salesforce.com, for instance, may collect prospect activity, she says, but it has typically been in stored in an Excel sheet. Prospect Profiler, she says, is "more precise, more visual."

Kardon explains that the disconnect between what was previously available and what sales needed was inhibited by the following three factors:

  • relevant data wasn't easy to find;
  • data wasn't intuitive or easily understood; and
  • technology was difficult to use.

With email activity, for example, sales people can see which email customer opened (a preview of the email is included in each activity description), where they clicked, and what actions they made. This ability to follow the digital activity helps sales to "visually empathize" with what piqued the person's interest. "Everything is hoverable and clickable," McPhee says. "The idea is ease of education.... If they want to click on something -- view a summary, a number, a graph -- they have the flexibility that wasn't available before."

Prospect Profiler also allows sales to understand trends of prospect behavior. In doing so, sales can determine where there were spikes in activity. Moreover, by correlating outbound and inbound activity, sales can determine, for example, which campaigns were more effective or what topics the prospect is more interested in. If, for example, a prospect has shown no interest in two weeks, but suddenly clicksthrough on one email, the activity is noted on a visual graph and sales person can easily deduce what the prospect is interested in. "[The tool] makes those nuggets of insight much easier to pull out," McPhee says. Sales is also in charge of its own alerts (e.g., when a prospect comes onto the homepage), a capability typically reserved for the marketing department. In addition, sales can easily email the dashboards and summaries, which can then be pulled up for viewing offline.

What Prospect Profiler doesn't guarantee is a clear understand of what specific activities mean. Even in physical relationships, Ramos says, a smile may be a smile or a smirk. "This still requires an interpretation of what's going on here," Ramos says. This interpretation isn't necessarily dependent on the technology; rather, she believes it needs to happen between marketing and sales. Turning the leads over to sales is just the first step. Marketing, she says, must understand how sales is using information in the Prospect Profiler and how that feeds back into improving marketing campaigns. "Nobody else has this problem solved either," she says. "We need a seamless way of getting that to happen. This is a step in that direction."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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