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sales

GUEST BLOG: Science and sales – A match made in heaven 

It’s no secret that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having an immediate effect on how businesses operate today. However, one area of business where AI is having the biggest impact is sales, with UK sales leaders anticipating AI adoption in their industry to grow over 150% by 2020. 

Executed correctly, AI now has the potential to revolutionise sales and marketing processes, enabling companies to increase the speed, accuracy and output of lead and revenue generation. AI can not only assist in identifying and targeting ideal customers, but it can be leveraged to align sales and marketing activity and deliver integrated campaigns, ensuring the right person can be contacted at the right time, in the right way, with the right message.

James Isilay, Founder and CEO, Cognism, outlines how lead generation has transformed to become far more scientific than ever before, and how companies that use relevant, intelligent, accurate and timely data will reap the rewards.

The sales funnel is broken 

The introduction of GDPR undoubtedly disrupted the way marketing teams carry out inbound digital marketing and sales strategies. However, it has been a long overdue wake up call for the industry: organisations have realised the poor quality of their data which until now, has resulted in inefficient and ineffective marketing outreach.

GDPR has forced companies to take a look at the data they are using and how they are using it. A key aspect of the regulation is ensuring that data is fully up to date; a welcome side effect of this is that it means every outreach is more relevant and effective. And it’s not just about ensuring the contact details are up to date: it is about leveraging detailed, up to date insight to rapidly identify new revenue streams.

Strategy and data 

Customer and prospect data can be an incredibly valuable resource, but it can also be a liability. Poor quality contact and lead data is certainly one of the most frustrating aspects of any B2B outbound sales campaign. From job changes to company acquisitions, data is always in motion. In fact,  approximately a third of CRM data degrades every year with most sales teams using data that is 60% out of date. Improvements to the sales process must be supported by a completely different approach to data sourcing: static CRM is no longer good enough, so B2B sales organisations need access to fresh, accurate and GDPR compliant data.

New business relies on new opportunities. From identifying an existing customer that moves to another company or champions promoted within an existing customer, there is always an opportunity to upsell or find a new prospect. In order to regain data confidence, fix the broken sales funnel and ultimately achieve revenue growth, a more scientific and strategic approach to data sourcing is required.

Data with a fourth dimension

Relevant data is essential if businesses want to ensure they are reaching the right contacts. In addition to the two dimensions of company and people, adding the third dimension of events and fourth dimension of real-time data completely transforms the way in which a business can identify and reach its total addressable market. But how can companies bring the science into their sales strategy and ensure their data is fresh and up to date? The answer is AI.

Bringing science to sales 

From LinkedIn Profile to company websites to corporate announcements, these data points are crucial sources of information for the sales team when it comes down to adding a fourth dimension of time into data. Artificial Intelligence powered data tools can provide a deep data resource, allowing sales teams to access the information they need to ensure strategic and effective outreach. Data profiles include skill sets, education, time in certain roles, even specific technologies that are in use which is everything needed for a successful sales call to identify hot leads.

This sales intelligence extends across the globe and into every industry allowing B2B lead generation to be based on specific triggers allowing the sales team to hone their pitch and improve responses. The fourth dimension of time remains key in this strategy as it enables the sales team to exploit specific events such as funding rounds or geographic expansion and target the right prospect at the right time.

What makes this strategy truly smart and strategic is the feedback that is provided by Revenue AI. With each new outreach campaign, responses are fed back into the system, providing further insight and a better understanding of personas and their reaction to specific messaging – it is Revenue AI’s constant feedback loop that ensures the sales and marketing activity retains momentum and continues to deliver value.

Conclusion

With current outreach activity wasting time by using out of date contacts and failing to maximise revenue growth, the case for sales to be underpinned by a scientific strategy is clear. Few companies have achieved a truly scalable, integrated and harmonised B2B sales operation that maximises opportunities, but those who have are certainly reaping the benefits and seeing significant growth.

Like science, B2B sales success is all about the metrics – it’s about understanding and refining the process and ensuring that the right team structure is in place. With the right sales model that is underpinned by AI, a company can quickly and effectively explore and exploit a source of accurate, fresh, real-time data to achieve fast, targeted and timely B2B lead generation and sales activity that is effective and efficient.

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

GUEST BLOG: Fixing the broken sales funnel

Business agility and the ability to respond fast to new sales opportunities has never been more important and a strong, intelligence-led sales model is essential to maximise opportunities. Yet in this post GDPR era, sales models have never been weaker or less efficient. A lack of data confidence is undermining outbound activity, leaving companies reliant on increasingly expensive inbound campaigns that are not delivering.

To fix the broken sales funnel, organisations clearly need to use to fresh, accurate and GDPR compliant data. But that is just the start: successful sales activity is underpinned by a scientific, structured and metrics driven approach that leverages multi-dimensional real-time data, as James Isilay, CEO, Cognism, explains.

Science not Art

Fewer good prospects. Delayed decision making. Ever lengthening sales cycles. A lack of predictability in the sales process. For many companies, the sales funnel is looking less than impressive. Yet while the temptation is to blame new restrictions of data privacy created by GDPR on the other, there is little value in playing the blame game. What companies require is a solution.

Where is the sales funnel broken and how can it be fixed? Understanding the ‘where’ is key – and something that far too many companies fail to address. How many good sales-people have been fired, when the problem was poor data? How much time has been wasted on prioritising the wrong prospects or failing to correctly identify the total addressable market?

A broken sales funnel cannot be repaired just by adding technology, replacing salespeople, or addressing data quality – although these are without doubt essential components of sales success. Without a robust, clearly defined and, critically, measured sales funnel, organisations will struggle to maximise sales opportunities.

Sales is a science, not an art; and companies need to take a far more metrics-led approach to sales models and management. Breaking the sales funnel down into its constituent parts, measuring performance and comparing results at every stage of the funnel to an equivalent industry standard benchmark is an essential step in understanding the current position.

This means not just tracking the number of phone calls made but the number of dials, number of connections and the number of conversations. How many conversations then convert to meetings or product demonstrations; and meetings to opportunities and then closed deals?  And, of course, never overlook quality – it is essential to measure the quality as well as the volume of leads to optimise sales performance.

Breaking down the prospecting activity into this detail is essential to reveal the specific point – or points – of failure; and to create a clear view of what needs to change to turn sales around and transform bottom line performance.

Intelligence Led

There are three core components of a successful sales funnel: people, process and technology.  Getting the right people to undertake specific components of the sales activity is key.  Break the process down into distinct areas and have specific KPIs for each to measure activity levels and outcomes. Allocate well trained and focused individuals to cold outreach, and more experienced individuals to deal closing. This is a far more effective model that will definitely improve performance.

Provide clear benchmarks to set performance expectations – and use them. If an individual’s performance is not hitting the minimum standard, jump in. Determine the problem and address it – whether that is through training or new messaging. Being proactive is essential to ensuring the funnel continues to perform effectively.

High Quality Data

Supporting these people with great data is, of course, fundamental, especially given the GDPR data privacy compliance requirements. Bad data is one of the most frustrating problems for any sales team. From the time wasted calling contacts who have moved on, to targeting companies that recently spoke to a colleague or, even worse, invested in a competitive product, bad and outdated data is a major barrier to sales success.

Combining good, accurate and continually refreshed data with a CRM system is an essential part of the model, ensuring data is up to date and shared across the sales function. With access to a deep, accurate and GDPR compliant customer data resource, the sales team can gain confidence and avoid time wasted in irrelevant outreach. But that is just the start. By adding events to the typical two dimensional company and people data – and ensuring this information is continually refreshed in real-time – companies can completely reconsider the sales funnel. From transforming the understanding of the total addressable market to using purchase triggers and decision making personas to prioritise activity, the use of revenue driven AI can deliver significant bottom line improvements.

From new job titles to funding rounds, even office expansion, there are a number of triggers that can be used to more effectively drive the timing and messaging of outreach campaigns. And, by feeding persona specific responses to different marketing messages back into the CRM system, the process can be continually improved. Essentially, Revenue AI provides a positive feedback loop.

Conclusion

Extending the metrics led marketing model from inbound, where performance and return on investment is continually assessed, to outbound is perhaps a cultural change for experienced sales people. But a sales funnel reliant upon an old school contacts list and perceived market opportunities is all about the ‘art of sales’ – it will never stand up to a competition embracing a science led, metric driven approach.

There is an enormous universe of prospective customers – and salespeople do not know every single company in the market, whatever their perception. New companies appear, others disappear; new funding rounds fuel growth; big wins result in business expansion. Without intelligence and a robust, process driven sales model, a company will never have an accurate handle on the total addressable market or a way to identify and prioritise outreach.

With current global economic uncertainty, opportunities are thinner on the ground and those companies with a broken sales funnel will struggle. In tough times companies need to be able to effectively and efficiently target the best opportunities, at the best time, with the right message. It is the companies with the smartest sales model that will succeed.