• April 25, 2010
  • By Juan Martinez, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

Sales Intelligence Is More than Smart Selling

Acquiring comprehensive lead and customer data is no longer the end-game for Best-in-Class companies, according to a recent Aberdeen Group report. Among selling organizations of all maturity classes, the use of CRM tools is near universal, according to the report; what separates the cream from the crop is how organizations implement the deployment of add-on technologies such as sales intelligence solutions. The report finds that the best-performing companies outclass their competition in determining what content about prospects and customers to put in front of their sales forces.  

528 end-user organizations were surveyed in December and January to examine how they deployed their sales intelligence. The report lists the following three key performance criteria used to distinguish the sales teams within Best-in-Class companies:

  • An average 52 percent of sales representatives are currently achieving quota, as compared to a 26 percent average among Laggard companies;
  • 9 percent year-over-year reduction in time sales reps spend searching for relevant company/contact information, as compared to a 5 percent increase in time among Laggard companies;
  • An average 5 percent year-over-year reduction in the sales cycle time, as compared to a 7 percent increase in sales cycle time among Laggard companies.

Peter Ostrow, Aberdeen Research Director and author of the report, identifies the implementation of automated sales intelligence "push" as a major factor in whether or not companies are successful. The report's findings indicate that only 43 percent of Industry Average performers engage in some form of automated push. These companies are 28 percent less likely than the Best-in-Class to "recognize the value of empowering sales staff with customer, prospect and market intelligence that essentially ‘appears before their eyes' when the related CRM or SFA record is opened," writes Ostrow.

"The successful companies are integrating a push technology," says Ostrow. "When I, as a sales rep or manager, log onto my email or CRM tool or mobile versions of sales related applications, I'm seeing relevant information and not just names and phone numbers. That allows me to sell a lot smarter because I've gained the pertinent data about my prospect, customer or industry niche."

The nature of desired sales appointments delivered as leads to companies by external providers differed between the maturity classes, the report found. Best-in-Class organizations were nearly three times as likely as Laggards to demand sales intelligence with scheduled appointments or conference calls, and Laggards were more than five times as likely than the top performers to settle for leads unsupported by data regarding the target company, individual or market.

Ostrow also writes that future Best-in-Class CRM budget dollars will most likely be focused on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployments, as 59 percent of top performers, versus 35 percent of Laggards, anticipate spending additional budget on hosted CRM technologies.

"On-premises CRM deployment projects will be favored by Laggards at a 45 percent rate," the report states, "nearly twice the 23 percent reported by the Best-in-Class, and thus do not represent as likely a path to success in the context of using sales intelligence to achieve smarter selling.

The report lists "Required Actions" to see sales improvements for each defined subgroup. 

Laggard companies should: 

  • Focus on aggregating sales intelligence from third-party sources;
  • Use sales intelligence as a carrot to attract sales practitioners toward more aggressive use of the CRM;
  • Get executive buy-in for a sales intelligence initiative.  

Industry Average companies should: 

  • Invest in a process to bring together different databases owned by marketing, sales, accounting or legal departments;
  • Push intelligence to [their] sales team rather than waiting for them to fetch it;
  • Measure, manage and improve sales productivity by aggressively tracking the impact of sales intelligence investments on revenue, quota attainment and sales team effectiveness.

Best-in-Class companies should: 

  • Update [their] understanding of corporate organizational charts due to merger-and-acquisition activity, or understand how new product releases by [their] accounts impact potential spend;
  • Automate the integration of sales intelligence into the CRM.

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.

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