One of the key aphorisms in architecture is that form follows function. The quote, attributed to Louis Sullivan, holds that a building’s design should be based upon the underlying purpose of the building, not driven by ornamentation. Twentieth century design took this maxim to heart with similar thinking spreading through industrial and software design.
In the case of information services, a focus on flashy design or “bells and whistles” can be a distraction if the underlying service fails to meet the basic informational and workflow needs of its users. One of the great things about Google is that it returns high precision results from a few words entered into a search box. It was this simplicity that allowed them to grab and hold two-thirds of the search engine market share, leaving Bing and Yahoo! to pick up the scraps.
A well-designed sales intelligence solution supports multiple sales and support workflows. These users span multiple functions and departments (e.g. sales, sales directors, sales operations, sales support, service departments, business development, and marketing). Furthermore, there are multiple types of sales reps within larger organizations so your sales intelligence platform needs to be flexible enough to meet differing information requirements and workflows.
Thus, tactical sales reps need to quickly locate contact information and a few prospect qualification variables. They want to make sure that the contact they are about to call is in their territory and doesn’t work at a subsidiary of a named account.
Conversely, a strategic rep has broad information requirements around companies, company structures, executives, and key events. Strategic reps are focused on who to call, when to call, and what to say. Sales triggers are not only a flashing green light that a prospect is more likely to buy, but conversational material for catching the prospect’s attention and signaling that the rep has prepared for the call. Likewise, SWOT reports, biographies, industry market research reports provide insights into client interests and needs.
Named account reps sell only to a few firms so need a deep understanding of their target accounts. They need to be apprised of key events at an organization that could positively or negatively impact their pipeline. Furthermore, named account reps are looking for additional contacts and locations for extending their corporate footprint. Thus, searching across a company for specific job functions and then reviewing subsidiary profiles and bios is an important task in growing the account. Named account reps also benefit from PDF exportability so they can review the latest information about their client or prospect while traveling. These reports can also be shared with other members of the sales and support team.
Territory reps and financial services relationship managers need to be apprised of sales triggers within their territory, quickly research and qualify companies, and dig deeper on larger opportunities. Furthermore, as they generally sell cross-industry, they also benefit from industry overviews from vendors such as First Research. These primers are written in plain English and provide a set of Q&A sections by topic and job function.
Most reps work within a CRM, so review the capabilities of sales intelligence CRM connectors. The tighter the integration the better. If your CRM is your system of record, you want the sales reps working within the CRM on desktops and mobile devices. Services that bounce the user between a web browser and the CRM are less effective than those that provide most or all of their content and functionality within Salesforce.com, MS Dynamics, or other CRMs. Also, look for “stare and compare” updating of records, batch and real-time synchronization of data, custom fields, and duplicate checking.
Many sales intelligence services also support the marketing department. Standardizing the two functions on a common vendor helps reduce cost and channel conflict. It also provides a basis for successful ABM programs which cross the two departments. Several years ago, sales intelligence vendors only offered prospecting to marketing, but now they also support web forms, real-time and batch enrichment of leads, lead-to-account mapping, marketing automation connectors, lead scoring, segmentation analysis, Ideal Customer Profiling, TAM analysis, and net-new leads and contacts. A few also offer standalone services for the marketing department such as programmatic advertising, visitor id, multi-channel marketing, and SEO.
When evaluating sales intelligence solutions, you should understand the workflows and information requirements of each of your sales groups along with other potential beneficiaries of the service. Don’t evaluate simply on counts and features, but on the information needs and workflows of your various sales and marketing teams.