TechTarget Priority Engine Q2 Release

 

 

Priority Engine account profiles combine TechTarget intent signals with HG Data platform insights and DiscoverOrg executives
Priority Engine account profiles combine TechTarget intent signals with HG Data platform insights and DiscoverOrg executives

Technology media and intent purchasing firm TechTarget announced a set of enhancements to its Priority Engine service “that vastly improve ABM performance, increase sales productivity and maximize demand generation success for enterprise B2B technology organizations.” Amongst the enhancements are improvements to the user experience, a new Salesforce widget, persistent URLs, list assignments, user roles, and improved topic filtering.

Priority Engine combines executive intelligence with purchaser specific demand signals spanning 10,000 IT Topics across its technology research sites.  The service marries HG Data technology intent intelligence with DiscoverOrg contacts, Owler firmographics, and TechTarget intent data and prospects.  Priority Engine assists sales and marketing professionals by “expanding access to total buying teams at active accounts and showcasing rich purchase details such as installed technologies, vendor shortlists and specific, relevant topical interests.”

Priority Engine is GDPR compliant across its 18 million professional profiles who have opted into TechTarget partner marketing programs.  Furthermore, because TechTarget has opted-in user profiles, it is able to provide intent data at the individual level.  This contrasts with other intent networks which gather anonymous intent information at the company level.

User Experience enhancements include a left-side navigation menu and search bar.  The navigation bar provides account list management, export functionality, and export monitoring.  The search bar provides a type-ahead company list to expedite account searching.

Account profiles contain Owler headquarters information along with a business description, logo, sizing data, and social media links.  Also displayed in the business summary are an account interest gauge, Buying Team counts, Vendor Interests based upon downloaded vendor content, and Top Interests.  The account Interest gauge evaluates site readership (number of readers, type of content, scope of vendor interest) to determine whether the prospect is Evaluating Vendors, Ramping Up, or Not Active in the segment.

TechTarget also offers a set of intent signals based upon readership patterns: Widespread, Sustained, Late Stage, Stakeholder, and Cross-Vendor.  According to the firm, “the more blue dots that are lit up, the more focus sales should commit to the account.”

TechTarget Priority Engine Intent Signals
TechTarget Priority Engine Intent Signals

At the top of each Account Profile are the licensed segments.  Sales reps can click on any of the segments and the profile is filtered for the segment across TechTarget Buying Teams, DiscoverOrg Contacts, HG Data products, and the business summary.  TechTarget offers 300 technology market segments with over 200 available for North America.

Priority Engine users are now assigned to one of three roles: Administrators, List Builders, and Read-Only.  Administrators have full system functionality along with account management responsibilities.  Both Administrators and List Builders can build and assign account lists to other users.  Only Administrators can export records.  Priority Engine suggests that Administrators are usually marketers and that List Builders are typically Sales Managers.  View only users would be inside sales reps that would be working account lists but not building them.

Account List Building was redesigned with reorganized and expanded filters displayed on a single page.  Filters have been separated into common and advanced screens with common filters spanning firmographic, technographic, and intent variables.  Advanced filters include Last Touch, Purchase Signals, and HQ location.  Within any filter, users may select Includes Any (OR), Include All (AND), and Exclude (NOT) Boolean logic.

Users can also rank results by market segment.  Most Priority Engine subscribers have between one and five licensed segments.  Except for the largest technology firms that operate in many segments, the firm contends that focusing on key segments provides better results than including adjacent technology segments.

Previously defined lists are available for both suppression or sub-list targeting.

TechTarget Priority Engine List Building
TechTarget Priority Engine List Building

Lists are ranked according to intent signal strength for a market segment.  Clicking on a different segment results in a different set of priorities.

The new Ranked Accounts list view includes the navigation bar along with company logos, the top areas of interest, and the company most influencing the account over the past 90 days (based upon TechTarget content viewing patterns).  Clicking on any account takes the user to the account profile.

The persistent URL provides a direct link between sales and marketing platforms to the Priority Engine Dashboard.  “The sales-to-marketing handoff can be one of the most challenging aspects of implementing modern marketing strategies, especially ABM. To properly inform and empower salespeople, you must be able to pass along valuable account-level insights with each lead — and few systems or workflows support this,” said Michael Cotoia, CEO, TechTarget. “Priority Engine addresses this challenge by providing a persistent and portable account link that can be embedded within any existing sales or marketing systems.”


Please continue to Part II which discusses the Priority Engine Salesforce connector, product repackaging, and market momentum.

Gartner Predicts Increasing Sales & Marketing Tension Due to ABM

Todd Berkowitz, Research Vice President at Gartner, sees Account Based Marketing (ABM) as increasing tensions between sales and marketing in the short-term.  While ABM has long been advocated as a facilitator of departmental alignment, he sees ABM as disrupting sales processes and generating friction:

“Between ABM and adoption of various new technologies and data types, there is a lot of disruption that is happening with regards to sales teams. Even if these changes are going to be beneficial to tech companies in the medium-term, and some of the “A sellers” get on board quickly with the changes, there are many sales reps that will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new world. (This is why I always advise trying an ABM pilot with a select set of reps). So even if there is pretty good alignment and agreement between CMOs and sales leaders, don’t expect all reps to magically do what they are being asked to do. There needs to be an adjustment period, along with good sales enablement, before everyone plays nicely.”

So, while ABM will facilitate agreements in process, messaging, and metrics in the medium-term, it will generate resistance amongst sales reps unwilling to adopt new processes and tools or unconvinced of its value.  This friction is probably exacerbated by predictions of sales force reductions due to the implementation of AI and other information and workflow technologies.

WWII Era Poster (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
WWII Era Poster (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Resistance to technological change has long been an issue.  Early in the Industrial Revolution, The Luddites sabotaged British plants, particularly cotton and wool mills.  While sales reps are unlikely to sabotage initiatives (or their careers), they may hesitate to learn new platforms or adopt new processes.  As such, the problem may be more akin to soldiering, the assembly line equivalent of reducing individual productivity to the level of the laggards on the line.  Frederick Taylor, the father of time and motion studies, was very concerned about soldiering and recommended piece work rates to create productivity incentives.  But sales reps are very attuned to incentives.  While they may be hesitant to adopt new technologies, they will do so if they help make them more efficient and effective at selling.  So long as sales reps are paid on a commission basis and long-term employment is tied to making quota, the level of soldiering should be minimal.

This isn’t to say that sales reps won’t resist learning new tools.  If they believe the time invested in such training is less than the incremental revenue for the lost selling time spent in training, then they will avoid training and learning new tools.  However, if they see others on their team benefiting from the new tools, they will not hold out long term.  Thus, tool training needs to be visibly supported by management with an emphasis upon the benefits to sales reps (e.g. less time spent on non-sales tasks and more time interacting with customers and prospects, improved account intelligence, improved account targeting and message timing).  With the proper incentives and information, resistance should be minimal.

To help ensure adoption, vendors should be looking to integrate solutions into CRMs, email, and mobile devices so that new tools are integrated into current workflows.  They should also be providing inline tool tips, initial training focused on their capabilities which provide high levels of efficiency and efficacy improvements, tool-based win stories, and usage tools for tracking training, usage, and ROI.  A few gamification elements may also be in order, but they should be organic to the product and not hokey.

Social Selling Benefits

Sales Research company CSO Insights and Seismic, a sales enablement vendor, asked 400 global B2B professionals about the benefits of social selling tools.  These tools include sales enablement, social listening, and social marketing solutions.  A full 38% weren’t sure of the benefits of these tools speaking to a need for vendors to better explain their value and provide user metrics.

The problem of value attribution has long been an issue with sales intelligence services as well, but as sales intelligence has become more tightly tied into the overall sales and marketing process, clear benefits such as reduced time spent keying and maintaining account information and the direct display of account intelligence within CRM I-frames have helped validate sales intelligence tools.

Likewise, B2B professionals found the biggest benefits of social selling tools to be reduced account / contact research time (39%), an increase in the number of leads (33%) and deeper client relationships (31%).  Broader process improvements were noted at lower rates with improved lead conversion (24%), shorter sales cycles (14%), and increased win rates on forecasted deals (13%) rounding out the benefits.

However, when the sub-group of professionals at firms which have aligned their social marketing and selling strategies was assessed, CSO Insights found a sixteen percent improvement in win rates.  Furthermore, the benefits were better understood with 57% enjoying more leads and 56% found deeper client relationships.  Amongst this group, only 18% were unsure about the benefits of social selling tools.  Thus, CSO Insights concluded that the high percentage of B2B professionals doubting the value of social selling tools was due to “a lack of maturity.”

CSO Insights defined social engagement as “equipping salespeople with skills, tools, and content to successfully navigate the change, decision, and value dynamics along the entire customer’s journey by leveraging social media.”  I find this definition a bit limiting operationally for vendors as it focuses exclusively on social media.  Both social selling and sales intelligence vendors have made the mistake of ignoring each other.  There are a few exceptions such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator adding a news feed and InsideView’s integrated social media Buzz tab, but most vendors either focus on profiles and news alerts/triggers or social monitoring and messaging.  The lack of fully integrated social monitoring and messaging tools within sales intelligence platforms remains a missed opportunity to improve sales intelligence products.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator offers Lead (executive) and company news alongside LinkedIn updates. Sales reps can filter for news or shares.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator offers Lead (executive) and Company News alongside LinkedIn updates. Sales reps can filter for news or shares.

A 2015 CSO Insights study of sales reps found that 33% felt social selling training was in need of a major redesign and 31% felt the training needs improvement.  CSO Insights warns against reducing social selling training to LinkedIn or Twitter training.  Research Director Tamara Schenk cautions that lessons from CRM training were not transferred to social selling training. “Salespeople are again asked to take tool training when at the same time the tool and the required skills have not yet been integrated into the current sales system, methodologies and processes. The result is the same. The new tool, social selling, is then considered as a time-consuming add-on rather than an effective enabler to create more and better business.”

Schenk noted that social strategy needs to be defined with marketing.  “An organization’s social strategy has to be aligned along the customer’s journey. [Sales] Enablement leaders are in an ideal position to orchestrate this process. After that, social selling skills have to be integrated in the current methodologies, engagement principles, and processes. Only then, not earlier, can social selling training services be designed and provided. And using the technology effectively is just one element. Another key element is the content challenge. Relevant and valuable content to attract prospects has to be made available for salespeople, ideally on the sales enablement platform with no further internal obstacles to access this content.”

The CSO Insights research was conducted in July by Schenk and Strategic Advisor Jim Dickie.  The study was based upon responses from B2B sales managers (61%), sales ops (21%), marketing (8%) and other roles located in North America (59%) and rest of world (41%).

Sales and Marketing Alignment

In a research study titled, “2016 B2B Sales & Marketing Collaboration Study,” Samantha Stone and The Marketing Advisory Network found that the misalignment of sales and marketing objectives remains a key problem for B2B companies.  Although this has been a topic of discussion for several years now, misalignment remains a key stumbling block to meeting revenue objectives.  Finger pointing between sales and marketing has long been a blogging meme.

When asked about whether marketing co-workers were doing a “superb job of supporting sales efforts,” sixty percent of marketers agreed while only twenty percent of sales executives agreed.

Other signs of disconnection between the two parties:

  • Only twenty percent of marketers believe that there is a 95% follow up on marketing generated leads while only half of sales executives believe a 95% follow up rate is maintained within their department.  Overall, 57% of respondents believe that no more than 85% of marketing leads are acted upon by sales.
  • Marketers have little confidence that sales reps are using the tools they develop for sales.  While only 15% of marketers believe their tools are broadly adopted (“virtually 100%”), over half of sales reps believe the tools are being fully deployed.
  • While fewer than twenty percent of marketers believe that sales is rewarded for supporting marketing objectives, 55% of sales teams believe their rewards are aligned with marketing.
  • Firms that did not share key performance indicators between sales and marketing were half as likely to exceed revenue targets.
  • Marketing ownership of pipeline acceleration is critical to meeting revenue targets.  “Organizations that exceeded revenue goals in the last 12 months are 3X as likely as those that miss revenue goals for marketing to “own” pipeline acceleration (not just lead generation),” said Stone.

“It’s common sense that organizations that rally together around shared goals will drive more efficiency than those where different functions are at odds with each other. Yet, most sales and marketing teams struggle with achieving this ideal.  That’s almost terrifying given we know fully integrated companies are more profitable, drive faster growth and make happier customers,” said Stone.  “Sales and marketing leaders are smart, yet almost every organization I walk into has some level of unhealthy tension between the two groups. It doesn’t seem to matter the size of the company, the industry they serve or how fast they are growing. In fact, it’s so common we accept it as inevitable.”

Sales and Marketing SLAs (Source: Marketing Advisory Network)
Sales and Marketing SLAs (Source: Marketing Advisory Network)

The study also found that setting Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between sales and marketing are highly correlated with revenue performance.  Firms that took simple steps such as defining lead scoring criteria and lead follow up timeframes were much more likely to exceed goals than fail to do so.  Of the six SLA goal categories defined by Stone, five were associated with “exceeded revenue goals” more commonly than missing revenue goals by more than ten percent.

The one goal that was not associated with outperformance, agreeing on the “number of new contacts added to the database by sales,” doesn’t address the mix of marketing and sales generated leads.  If we assume that there is an optimal percentage of sales generated leads, then agreeing on a percentage that is significantly above or below the target would be sub-optimal.  Absent a way to determine this optimal mix, setting an SLA on sales generated contacts could easily result in too much or too little time spent on contact identification.  If the number is too high, then reps are likely to add contacts of little value to the CRM so as to reach numeric targets.  A smart SLA would be based upon an analysis of the cost of generating sales contact records against the benefit of adding additional contacts.  As such, setting an analytics-free numeric target is no better than having no SLA at all and allowing each rep to determine their optimal contact discovery level.

Teams that perform best, document more service level agreements between sales and marketing than those teams that simply meet or miss revenue goals,” said Stone.  “Those that exceed revenue goals even collect data points such as win/loss data in a formalized manner.  Perhaps the most simple practice they follow is not only agreeing on lead scoring critical for sales follow up, but on time from lead assignment to follow up. It’s this closed loop accountability that clearly makes a difference.”

Finally, one simple step for improving revenue is for marketing to attend sales meetings.  The study found that B2B organizations which outperform on revenue are twice as likely to have marketers attend customer and prospect meetings than firms that fail to meet revenue targets.  Furthermore, marketing departments should be surveying the sales team on tools.  Stone found that firms “that exceed revenue goals are 3.1X as likely as those that just meet revenue goals to survey buyers when evaluating sales tools and 14X as likely as those that miss revenue goals.”

Tibor Shanto, Principal of Renbor Sales Solutions, calls for improved cooperation between sales and marketing under the leadership of a Chief Revenue Officer:

I have always seen sales and marketing as being on a shared mission and fighting the same battle. Like the military, to succeed, marketing has to provide air cover for the ground troops, namely sales, and this requires complete coordination, planning, execution, and review. This needs to extend from lead generation through all stages of the sale. At each stage, marketing offers up different coverage based on the feedback from sales. And sales needs to be sure to provide that feedback every step of the way or the air cover may miss the mark. While each branch of the military has their command, the overall effort is led by the commander. That’s why I am a fan of companies having a Chief Revenue Officer, rather than a distinct VP Marketing and VP Sales.

It is through a recognition of shared goals subject to shared metrics and feedback loops that firms can obtain improved performance from the two departments that own revenue generation.

The research was sponsored by QuotaFactory.