Acquiring a Sales Intelligence solution is a relevant investment for your company, especially if you hope to generate even more and better quality leads, and convert prospective customers into long-term ones.
Sales Intelligence tools are a fantastic resource for developing your sales in a targeted and relevant way, and improving commercial productivity. They enable you to have better knowledge of what is happening in your market, to win leads and to take suitable sales actions at the right moment, based on the context of companies targeted.
That said, you have to realise that not all the B2B Sales Intelligence solutions are the same. Depending on your needs, budget, business sector and numerous other factors, the right solution is not the same from one company to another.
But whatever your business, there are certain generic questions to be asked when you are considering buying one of these solutions.
With what frequency do you update your data?
Did you know that on average 35% of data present in a CRM are obsolete by the end of just one year? So this is a good reason to make sure that the solution which you are about to acquire has a regular, or continuous, updating system to keep information up-to-date and therefore relevant to your sales canvassing.
Continuous updating is the ideal configuration. This is in fact what happens with the solution offered by Sparklane. Sparklane benefits from having been the publisher of its data from the outset, and has used an algorithmic system for years which is unique in its market and enables data to be updated continuously.
If you choose a different solution, still make sure that the data are updated at least every 2 or 3 months. If not, you risk finding yourself with incorrect data, or simply missing data. Some publishers in fact base their solutions on external databases which they cannot necessarily control. So you should definitely ask questions about the frequency of updates before you buy your solution.
How can you avoid duplication of data?
If you already have your own database, you certainly won’t want to pay for leads suggested by your Sales Intelligence solution which you already have available internally. Make sure that you ask the seller whether his tool has a system for filtering your database, so that doubling-up can be avoided, or as a minimum that he will carry out an audit of your database beforehand. This action should be taken before your tool is installed, as it’s not up to you to carry out a manual sort afterwards.
What is the solution’s degree of compatibility with my CRM?
This is also an important question. Today the vast majority of companies have a CRM used by their sales staff to canvas for business. In general, Sales Intelligence solutions offer two ways of using them.
The first, called “Stand Alone” is the interface for the tool itself, and is accessible in SaaS (Software As A Service) via a web connection not connected to the CRM.
The other method of making it available is to use the solution encapsulated in the CRM via a dedicated connector. This enables you to benefit directly from the functions in the CRM interface, via tabs and specific fields. This second option is the most practical, as it doesn’t disorientate sales staff, keeping them within the CRM system which they know by heart. And in particular, it enables the enriched data to be centralised on a single medium, which means that staff do not have to keep moving from one to the other, which can be a waste of time and could also result in loss of data. In fact, sales staff are not always prompt in manually enriching data accounts and contacts in their CRM. It is therefore best to have a solution which automatically enters them where they should be in real time.
The connectivity of Sales Intelligence solutions with the CRM is an important topic. Not all of them allow this. Some, such as Sparklane, have developed dedicated connectors which do not require any IT development work. Others, on the other hand, will ask for ad hoc gateways to be created, and therefore need technical resources to set these up.
How are the data and information collected?
There are ways for Sales Intelligence to collect information, but these are not all necessarily in your best interests. Some of them can even “pollute” your sales team with a deluge of inappropriate information. Ideally, this kind of solution should use multiple information sources such as crowdsourcing, social networks, trawling the web and even a manual selection stage. If you can find a company which offers a solution combining these methods, that’s perfect.
Again, let’s look at the Sparklane solution. This is based on a huge database of companies and decision-making contacts, published by Sparklane and continuously updated. Semantic algorithms have been installed on this database which go to search for all the information available on these 3 million companies, then analyse them, select them, classify them by categories (with reference to “business signals”: the raising of funds, appointments, moves, partnerships, growth data etc.) and finally restore them company by company. To do this, the solution looks for information in the press, on company websites, social networks, blogs and specialised sites, official publications, the register of trade etc. All in all there are more than 3,500 information flows (pre-tested for the quality of the information generated) which are processed in real time by the algorithm engine.
The result is to enrich each company present in the solution with contextual information, accessible in real time via a system of notifications. This gives the user the ability to know exactly what is happening with his contacts, to evaluate their potential immediately on the basis of their immediate context, and then to have a list of hot leads which are ready to be contacted.
Not all the Sales Intelligence solutions present on the market have such advanced technology at their disposal. In particular, because this type of technology is the result of long and costly research and development work. There is therefore a real “entry barrier” in terms of investment. Most solutions interrogate the web and social networks using more basic algorithms which search by key words. The result is ultimately that you yourself have to sort out the relevant information from that which is not. For instance, researching the company “Orange” could lead you to a mass of information, not only about the company but also about the colour orange, the town of Orange, orange juice etc. Imagine searching for the “Total” group….
In short, when you are thinking of buying a Sales Intelligence solution, remember to ask the seller about the scope of sources used, and the technology employed to collect the information.
What should I do if I have a question or a concern about using the solution?
A good Sales Intelligence solution should be intuitive and easy to use. That said, as with any software, getting to grips with it and its adoption by your sales team will require support from a customer service department. Over and above the initial training session required, make sure that your supplier is capable of assisting you and answering any questions when the need arises. Whether you have a question about the use of some function or other, or a query about invoicing, you must in all circumstances be able to get a quick reply via a telephone call or email. And if these exchanges can take place in French, that is even better for clarity and effectiveness…. Be aware that some American publishers only offer customer service in English, based in the USA. This can sometimes lead to frustration in the response time (the time difference makes it inevitable), or lack of understanding due to the language barrier (not everyone has sufficient mastery of the language of Shakespeare!).
In conclusion, if you are about go looking for information with a view to acquiring a Sales Intelligence solution, and you don’t really know where to start in understanding the differences between the various products on the market, these few essential questions should help you shed some light on the matter.
Based on the replies you get, you will be in a better position to choose the most relevant solution for your company, whether it is a small firm, an SME or a major company.