Sales intelligence is the term given to the range of tech solutions that provide data to salespeople and marketers in the B2B space. It helps sales and marketing teams discover, analyze, present, and make use of data relating to their potential customers.
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Sales intelligence benefits | Sales intelligence software | Sales intelligence data | Sales intelligence and the sales process | Sales intelligence and salespeople | Sales intelligence and Ideal Customer Profiles | Sales intelligence and closing deals | Sales intelligence and the customer experience | Sales intelligence vs business intelligence | Sales intelligence and your CRM | Choosing a sales intelligence tool | Best sales intelligence platforms | Cognism's sales intelligence
Sales intelligence delivers massive benefits to your sales and marketing teams - and your wider organization. It brings you the data you need in an easily understandable way.
See the infographic below for every sales intelligence benefit 👇
Sales intelligence software works by continuously crawling millions of publicly available websites, gathering relevant data, and matching it to profiles in its database. Simple to use platforms allow salespeople to search, analyze and evaluate the data.
Different sales intelligence platforms work in different ways, but many will work alongside your CRM or sales acceleration software.
When you bring sales intelligence into your B2B sales team, it helps you deliver numerous tasks more effectively, such as:
With sales intelligence software, you can use data to create lists of individuals that match your ideal customer profile (ICP). You can also create lists of profiles that are similar to your existing customer base. It’s lead generation gold.
Sales intelligence provides real-time data on your prospects. If an event happens that you need to know about, it'll notify you.
Sales intelligence keeps your historical customer data updated and fills in any missing gaps.
The more you know about a prospect, the more you can tailor the way you sell to them. Personalized sales approaches often yield higher-quality leads and more conversions.
When you know how many potential leads are out there, you can forecast and allocate resources more accurately. You can also keep an eye on your competitors.
Sales intelligence platforms gather business data on a vast number of individuals and organizations.
From millions of public and private sources.
The best platforms present data in a way that’s simple to understand. The data is already available, but sales intelligence software saves time by bringing it together in one place.
Armed with this data, B2B sales and marketing teams can be more effective at identifying prospects and reaching them at the right time with the correct personalized approach.
Depending on the sales intelligence platform you choose, you can find information on potential customers, including name, job title, email address, telephone number, and more.
The best platforms will also show you real-time data that indicates that they might be interested in making a purchase, such as financial figures, new funding rounds, and new appointments.
They will also provide insights into the buying intentions of your leads. This type of data, called intent data, is invaluable for salespeople who want to know exactly when a prospect is looking to purchase your solution or that of a competitor.
Teams can build lists of leads to target with content, or give to salespeople to cold call.
Sales intelligence brings massive benefits to sales and marketing teams, helping them gain a competitive edge. The teams that have the highest-quality data presented most effectively will have a huge advantage over their rivals.
Data is the fuel for sales intelligence.
If you want to get the best results from your sales intelligence platform, you need the best data available – rich, accurate, and up-to-date.
Make sure you choose a sales intelligence platform that gives you the most detailed picture of your prospects.
With the right data, you can get so much more than simply a contact’s name and job title. You can access their work email address, mobile phone number (which is invaluable now many prospects work remotely), and more. At an organizational level, you can even discover what sales tech solutions they use.
Your data should be as accurate as possible. Incorrect data will only waste your salespeople’s time and make them less effective. Choose a data provider that prioritizes self-entered data, as this is more likely to be accurate. The best data providers use artificial intelligence (AI) to gather and check the reliability of their data.
Having data that is as recent as possible boosts its accuracy. Real-time data will help your sales reps to contact the best prospects at the right time.
Sales intelligence brings benefits throughout your sales process and helps you deliver a buying experience prospects love.
In particular, sales intelligence makes these 3 areas of your sales process more effective:
No B2B company can succeed by being all things to everyone. Companies must begin by targeting a narrow niche (the narrower, the better) and dominating that space until they can use it as a base to expand.
Sales and marketing teams should work together to create an ideal customer profile (ICP), leveraging sales intelligence to make it work. By analysing your current customer base, you can use sales intelligence tools to find commonalities, then create lists of target companies and individuals that fit your ICP.
For example, if your ICP is VPs of Marketing in EMEA-based companies with less than 50 people, sales intelligence will create a list of people that fit the bill exactly. What’s more, it will also give you their mobile numbers, email addresses, and any other relevant piece of information. Then, your marketing team will be able to warm them up with relevant, personalised content.
Once you’re at the stage where you’re engaging with your prospects with personalised content, sales intelligence can help you determine who is genuinely interested and who has you on ignore.
Sales intelligence tools can monitor your prospects’ responses, such as opening an email, reading it to the end or downloading additional content. They can then assign each prospect a score, which shows your marketers which pieces of content are working best and your salespeople they should be reaching out to. When you have this kind of B2B data at your fingertips, it takes the guesswork out of the sales process.
Once your leads are sufficiently warmed up, it’s time for the sales team to take control - with sales intelligence to help them.
The first task is for your SDRs to call the prospect, begin the conversation and qualify them in or out of the process. B2B sales intelligence tools ensure they have the correct contact data, so they’re not wasting their time trying to get hold of prospects who have long since moved on.
In addition, because sales intelligence discovered these prospects when working with the ICP, salespeople know that they’re calling similar prospects who face similar challenges. It’s suddenly easier for salespeople to get their messaging right and truly position your product as the answer to your prospects’ pain.
Finally, sales intelligence tools can perform another valuable task - making sure salespeople reach out at the moment when the prospect is at their most receptive.
Sales intelligence tools monitor millions of data points to identify sales triggers, such as a company raising a new funding round or appointing a new CEO, which signals that a prospect may be interested in buying. Once your sales team discovers these sales triggers, they can launch into action.
Sales intelligence can make the difference at different stages of the sales process, but it also has an overall effect on sales performance.
Because sales intelligence instantly gives salespeople the correct contact details for their prospects and customers, they can have more sales conversations across the day.
Sales intelligence helps salespeople understand when a prospect is most likely to be interested in what they have to say. Then, when they’re speaking with the prospect, sales intelligence helps them craft a message that resonates.
Rather than wasting time contacting buyers when they're not in a position to buy, sales intelligence leverages data to alert the salesperson to that all-important moment when they have an intent to purchase.
This means the time between first contact and winning the deal is much shorter.
Sales intelligence ensures you always have the most up-to-date information on your customers, even after they’ve signed up with you. This information is essential when it’s time to renew.
Sales intelligence produces data on the effectiveness of sales and marketing strategies. This means that business leaders can quickly determine what is or isn’t working, and then experiment with ways to improve future performance.
Knowing your ideal customer is critical to success across your B2B organisation - and sales intelligence helps you identify yours.
Your Ideal Customer Profile (shortened to ICP) is as detailed a description as possible of your perfect customer. It’s the customer who is likely to:
Most of the time in B2B, businesses buy products for one or more of four reasons:
Your ICP will be a company that can maximise the value from your product, while providing you with enough value in return (usually in the form of revenue).
Don’t get mixed up between ICPs and buyer personas. They’re not the same.
Your ICP is your perfect customer. There can be only one. You should have several different buyer personas - these are the people that can get value from your product, but might not be the absolute best fit.
Your ICP tells everyone in your organisation who your best customer is - and therefore where to aim all their efforts. Without it, you may end up firing wide of the target.
Keeping your ICP front and centre of your outreach means you’ll generate targeted leads, then reach them with a message that positions your product as the answer to their problems.
It means you’re more productive, as you waste less time contacting people who have no interest in your product. The result - more revenue and more smashed targets.
Having an ICP means running more narrowly targeted campaigns, crafting content that resonates with the person most likely to buy from you.
It helps you select the right channels at the right time, to reach people who already know you as well as those who don’t.
It’s not just your sales and marketing functions that can benefit from knowing your ICP. It can make a difference across your organisation.
For example, having a detailed picture of who your product is for may help your product team add useful new features, or stop them from making changes that turn your ideal customers away.
However, the overarching goal for your ICP should be to unite your sales and marketing teams around a common target. When your revenue teams work together, you win more deals and drive more revenue.
There are five steps to defining an ICP for sales intelligence.
Your ICP is likely to be a company (or group of companies) that already buy from you.
Look at your customer data to see who...
What commonalities unite your best customers?
If you can narrow your base of super-users to around ten, interview them to discover why they love your product.
Specifically, find out…
Before you interview your super-users, draw up a template of questions. It will make your interview more focused, and you can compare answers from different customers against each other.
Once you’ve finished interviewing your best customers, study the data to look for common attributes. What recurring patterns can you see?
This is the stage where you bring your sales intelligence ICP to life.
Use the following criteria to define your ICP:
Your ICP isn’t something you can set and forget. You should always be looking to improve it.
The needs of your customers and the wider market can change quickly. Be aware of these changes and adapt your ICP to match.
Sales intelligence is the range of tech solutions that provide data to B2B revenue teams to help them win more customers.
Once your ICP is in place, sales intelligence solutions will help you reach more of them, with the right messages at the right time. There are five types of B2B data that can help you get the most from your ICP.
If your ICP gives you a picture of your ideal customer, demographic and firmographic data tell you who they actually are.
Use filters on your sales intelligence platform to discover their names, email addresses, phone numbers and much more. Firmographic data can help you find companies that match the industry, size and revenue of your ICP.
When you bring technographic data into the mix, you can see what technology solutions your ideal customers are using right now.
If they’re using a product that’s a competitor to you, you know they suffer the same pain points as your customers. Then, your job is to position your product as the leader in the field.
These data types show you when your ideal customers are most likely to be interested in your product.
When you get this information, you can launch your sales team into action.
Sales intelligence helps you hit your ideal customers when they want to buy - but you can’t do anything until you know who your perfect customer is. For that, you need an ICP.
See 👇 for an Ideal Customer Profile template from Cognism's archives.
More deals is the goal for every sales team, but with only so many hours in the day, the key is to work smarter.
Sales intelligence helps to boost closed-won deals, in 6 key ways 👇
Your Total Addressable Market (or TAM) is the total amount of revenue that it’s possible for your B2B product or service to bring in.
It’s usually a revenue figure, but sometimes organisations express their TAM as the number of companies in the marketplace that could become customers. Businesses need to know their TAM in order to:
Knowing who is in your TAM keeps your sales team on track and stops them from wasting time trying to sell to people who don't need your product.
Sales intelligence solutions can help you define an accurate TAM using the bottom-up method. Your sales intelligence platform analyses your existing client base and looks for trends.
Based on those trends, you create buyer personas, then use sales intelligence to discover people or businesses that match those personas. You now have a Total Addressable Market that your marketing and sales teams can attack.
If you could know when buyers in your Total Addressable Market are ready to buy, it would mean you close more deals – and faster.
This is because your salespeople wouldn’t waste their time reaching out to prospects when they aren't in a position to become customers.
Sales intelligence solutions can tell your salespeople exactly when it’s the right time to reach out. Sales intelligence monitors company websites, news sources, social networks and more to identify events that could signal that prospects are interested in buying.
For example, if a prospect has just raised a new round of funding, it may mean they have money to spend. Once you have this information, your salespeople can get in touch and make a deal happen.
Intent data is behavioural data on a company level. It shows when a target company may be researching your solution online by analysing the websites they visit and what they do when they get there.
Like buying signals, intent data tells your sales team when it’s the right time to reach out, when prospects will be most receptive to their messages.
The benefits of intent data are:
Your sales intelligence platform can deliver intent data on your prospects in real-time, along with accurate contact details, so your sales team can be fast off the blocks and close the deal.
In sales, time is precious. Anything that can help salespeople save time and be more productive can have a beneficial effect on revenue figures.
The best sales intelligence solutions integrate with your CRM so your salespeople can have all the information they need in one place. It avoids duplication of work, keeps them organised and most importantly, saves time.
For example, you can plug your sales intelligence solution directly into your CRM, so you don’t even have to switch screens to use it. You can also set it to update contact information in your CRM automatically, so you can be sure you have the correct details for all your prospects.
The more you know about a prospect, the simpler it is to sell to them. Detailed information can help you find the right angle to craft a message that resonates with their pain points.
However, often your CRM is full of incomplete or inaccurate data. Things change quickly in the world of B2B; people change jobs frequently, and companies get bought and sold with regularity. It means you could miss opportunities to reach out and close deals.
Your sales intelligence platform will not only fill in the gaps in your CRM and make sure all your contact information is up-to-date, but it will also give you a new dimension of information, including financial information and company news. It helps you uncover new opportunities to get in contact and sell.
Successful sales teams plan for the future and allocate their resources in a way that maximises revenue. Sales intelligence can be an integral part of this, giving sales leaders the ability to forecast with more accuracy, formulate more effective strategies and drive more growth.
Sales intelligence excels in helping sales leaders better understand their prospects and customers, who they are, and how and why they buy. It provides the data that allows sales leaders to shorten the sales cycle and salespeople to close more deals.
Today's B2B buyers don’t always want to be forced to engage with salespeople in a certain way, such as being qualified on the phone by SDRs.
Instead, they want to do their own research, then be met where they are by the company they want to engage with. It’s why today’s B2B salespeople need to be just as good with video, email and social media as they are on the phone. As a result, companies that provide the best B2B customer experience often win the deals over their competitors.
Sales intelligence can help you meet your prospects’ expectations and lead them to become customers. The more you know about your prospect, the easier it is to craft a message that resonates with them - and sales intelligence gives you all the information you need to connect with them on a meaningful level.
With sales triggers and intent data, sales intelligence helps you pick the moment where the prospect may actually be grateful that you called. Then, all you have to do is demonstrate that you can solve their problem.
There are connections between sales intelligence and business intelligence; even some areas where the two may overlap, but there are also clear dividing lines.
Business intelligence is a term covering software and other tools that companies use to gather, store and analyse data on their business and their industry. Companies can use business intelligence to make better short and long-term business decisions.
Examples of BI applications are tools that take data, process it, and make it presentable via dashboards, reports and charts.
Sales intelligence is defined as the range of tech solutions that provide data to salespeople and marketers in the B2B space only.
SI tools help sales and marketing teams make the best use of data relating to prospects and customers. A good example would be a B2B data platform like Cognism, which provides up-to-date contact data for prospects, that marketers can target with relevant content and salespeople can call to convert.
There are five big differences between sales intelligence and business intelligence:
While there are significant differences between sales intelligence and business intelligence, there are also some connections and overlaps, which leads to confusion between the two terms.
Firstly, SI and BI both deal with data, just different types of data. Your organisation’s overarching data strategy should cover SI and BI. Leadership teams will use both to make decisions that have far-reaching effects across the business.
Next, on a strategic level, SI and BI support each other – and vice versa. BI tools give you data that shows how your business is performing (good or bad). When you analyse it correctly and combine it with SI data that shows you why your business is performing the way it is, you can make forecasts for the future and act on them in the right way.
Finally, when you get SI and BI working together on a tactical level, you make more sales and your business performs better. For example, if you find out that a company that could be a good fit for your product has just raised a new funding round (BI), your sales team can grab the contact details for the CMO (SI), make contact and start a relationship.
Data is just words and numbers unless you follow the signals and take action. Here are more ways you can combine SI and BI:
Your customer relationship management (CRM) system plays a valuable role in maximizing the value of your sales intelligence software. To get the most from the detailed, accurate data that sales intelligence solutions produce, you need somewhere to store it.
Once it’s stored and available for you to access and manipulate, you can use it to identify new business and reach your prospects at a time they’re ready to buy. Your CRM is the digital filing cabinet that makes it possible.
Now, we’ll look deeper at the role of CRM in sales intelligence. We’ll also clear up the differences between sales intelligence, business intelligence and CRM.
Whereas Customer Relationship Management (CRM) helps businesses log and administrate interactions with customers, sales intelligence helps sales and marketing teams discover, analyze, and utilize data relating to prospects and customers. So while the two work hand in hand, they are distinct from one another.
To get the most value, make sure the sales intelligence solution you choose can integrate with your CRM.
In an ideal situation, your sales intelligence and CRM will work together without friction, with no need to manually synchronize the two programs. Even better, your sales intelligence may work as a plug-in inside your CRM, with no need to switch windows.
Integrating your sales intelligence tool and your CRM will save time and work, allowing you to maximize the benefits of sales intelligence.
Once your sales intelligence software and CRM are talking to each other, you should be able to import and locate the new data in your CRM. For example, you could use sales intelligence to create a list of leads that match your ICP in a particular sector, then transfer it to your CRM.
The data points that your CRM will display varies depending on the sales intelligence solution you select. You’ll find the basic information:
However, your sales intelligence solution can show you better, more helpful information, including:
Armed with this kind of information in your CRM, you can go to these prospects with a message that will resonate.
With data gathered from sales intelligence in your CRM, you get 4 key benefits.
1) You get complete visibility of your sales intelligence data
Then, using your CRM’s filtering features, you can manipulate the data to find new opportunities.
2) You can use your CRM’s analytics to create reports that bring the data to life.
The more you know about a prospect or customer, the better you can position your product as the solution to their pain. Combining sales intelligence with your CRM gives you the ultimate in customer insight, giving you an accurate picture of your prospect’s past, present, and future.
3) By automating processes in your sales intelligence and CRM, you can save time and improve the accuracy of your outreach.
For example, if a contact in your CRM displays intent to buy in your sector, you can alert your salespeople. They can then swing into action, running outreach cadences to contact the prospect and promote your product as the answer to their problems.
4) Integrating your sales intelligence solution and CRM ensures you have only the most up-to-date data in your CRM.
Data deteriorates quickly as customers change jobs and companies change ownership. Bad data can derail marketing campaigns and cause salespeople to waste time chasing prospects that don’t exist. Sales intelligence eliminates this problem in your CRM, automatically enriching your data to ensure it’s as accurate as possible.
Quite simply, with sales intelligence in your CRM, you close more deals, faster.
With a wide range of products in the marketplace, how can you find the right B2B sales intelligence product for your needs?
Scroll 👇 for guidance on selecting the right tool.
The first thing to do is assess what you need from your new sales intelligence tool. Different solutions work in slightly different ways, so it helps to know which features will bring you the most essential benefits.
Which of these features will help you the most?
Identify the outcomes you want to prioritise and choose a tool that delivers against them.
You’ve figured out what you need from your sales intelligence tool. Now, how do you begin narrowing it down?
There are 3 steps to take:
A great place to start is by visiting software review sites such as G2, Capterra and TrustRadius.
G2 lets you filter the entire sales tech market by function - so you can easily find a list of every sales intelligence tool out there. You can rank that list by price, popularity and, perhaps most importantly, customer review score.
Then, go deeper and read what real customers thought of each product, what works well for them and what doesn’t.
You should also visit the websites and social media feeds for each tool you’re interested in.
Get a feel for the product by watching videos, reading articles and seeing how they promote their solutions. Check if your preferred provider has their own YouTube channel - that can be a great resource for uncovering information quickly.
Remember the B2B sales adage - "people buy from people."
Ask your contacts in the industry about the tools they use and if they like them. You’re more likely to get an honest opinion from a friend or colleague.
Once you've narrowed down your shortlist, it’s time to start engaging with sales teams.
Finding the best sales intelligence tool for you is all about asking the right questions, based on the outcomes you want to achieve. Here are 7 questions to ask when you're on a call or demo:
The more accurate your data, the more effective it is. On the other hand, data deteriorates quickly. Ask how they source their data and how often it gets refreshed.
Make sure your software has the features you need. For example, if you want to create lists that match your ICP, find out what filters you can use to segment your data.
If discovering sales triggers or gauging intent is a priority, make sure your sales intelligence tool can provide the information you need.
How in-depth will your data provider go? For example, some tools may tell you what sales tech a company is using; this can be dynamite information in B2B. But not all tools may give you that level of detail. Ask this question to find out how far your provider's data can stretch.
Make sure your sales intelligence tool is fully compliant with GDPR and all other data regulations. The penalties for non-compliance can be severe.
Your sales intelligence tool is an investment, so work out possible returns. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Avoid going for the cheapest option; when it comes to B2B tech, benefits, features and ROI are more important than price.
When buying new tech for your team, you'll want to make sure that the tool will be giving you the swiftest possible return. Asking this question will allow you to make a judgement based on the only thing that matters in B2B - the bottom line.
In a crowded market, choosing a sales intelligence tool that works for your business can be challenging. Below, we've included 8 of the best on the market, each of which you can compare directly with Cognism.
Cognism is a European go-to-market data specialist, helping revenue teams pinpoint the best B2B prospects with GDPR-compliant, up-to-date contact data. With powerful filtering of its 400 million-strong profile database, you can create narrow Ideal Customer Profiles and contact lists that your marketers can target and your salespeople can reach with ease.
The Cognism platform also allows you to automate real-time sales trigger alerts, so you can reach your ideal prospects at a time when they want to hear from you. This is why over 1k RevOps teams across the globe rely on Cognism to solve their sales intelligence challenges.
ZoomInfo makes sure you always have the correct numbers and addresses, whether it's new leads or long-standing existing customers. This helps reps find the people they want to contact, without wasting time on former employees.
With ZoomInfo, marketers can use filtering to segment contact information, allowing them to create ICPs and target them with messaging that speaks to their pain points. For salespeople, ZoomInfo offers visibility into real-time events, such as new hires and funding rounds.
Lusha offers revenue teams contact data for more than 100 million profiles, including direct-dial phone numbers, with an accuracy rate of 81% .
There’s a browser extension to extract contact details as you comb LinkedIn, as well as CRM integration for time-saving, instant data transfer. Lusha will also enrich your existing customer lists to mitigate data deterioration while complying with GDPR and CCPA.
Clearbit helps revenue teams pinpoint the right accounts to target and grab up-to-date contact details, as well as update existing leads in your CRM. With this data, you can understand more about your customers, identify new prospects and reach out to them efficiently with the most effective messaging.
Some of the company data Clearbit can provide for you includes headcount and technologies used - ideal for SaaS vendors. You can also get real-time information, such as when a contact changes roles.
LeadIQ gives your revenue teams up-to-date contact information for prospects and customers. Because it’s a plug-in rather than a standalone platform, it allows you to see information while you browse LinkedIn or other sites.
LeadIQ connects to your CRM, enabling you to transfer its data into your CRM as you browse online.
SalesIntel data is verified by human beings rather than AI, claiming 95% accuracy for direct dial telephone numbers and mobile numbers. Accuracy is the watchword in everything it does, with the aim to save time for revenue teams, which they can then spend with prospects.
Contact data provided by SalesIntel is verified every 90 days by its team, which isn’t real-time, but still allows for high accuracy.
Apollo.io aims to help salespeople land their dream customers by providing the correct data, fast. It excels at extracting up-to-date email addresses and contact numbers while you browse LinkedIn. What’s more, it allows you to see when they open your emails – handy when you’re prospecting.
With more than 200+ data points that you can filter, Apollo is an excellent list-builder. AI-powered updates give you signals about a contact’s receptiveness. Apollo can also enrich the contact details for your existing leads and customers, ensuring your database remains current.
Seamless.AI's 10-step AI research engine offers verification of your contact data in real-time, so revenue teams can be confident their aiming at the right target.
It’s also a great list-builder, where you can set criteria including industry, size and location, and it will do the rest. A Google Chrome extension helps you locate contact details as you browse LinkedIn and the web while the platform integrates with 1500+ apps.
Trusted by over 1k revenue teams worldwide, Cognism is the perfect choice to solve your sales intelligence challenges.
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