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What is Sales Intelligence?

6 min read
January 12, 2012

You’ve likely heard the term once or twice, maybe skimmed a tweet about it, or perhaps even read a high level blog post on it, however, the term still leaves business professionals in a cloud of ambiguity. This post has a simple goal: provide clarity to everyone and anyone looking to understand sales intelligence and how it works – the glaring benefits to your sales pipeline will be obvious.

What to tell your grandmother about sales intelligence:

Your grandmother probably doesn’t want to read a healthy-sized blog post about sales intelligence or care about the correlation between sales intelligence and performance-enhancing drugs…that’s okay because we, with the help of saleforce.com’s VP and Head of Platform research, will help you explain it to her.  Peter Coffee (see: VP and Head of Platform research of salesforce.com) provided his best metaphor in describing sales intelligence by masterfully comparing it to driving:

How to explain it to your boss:

Alright, so grandma now knows “enough” about sales intelligence, but what about your VP of Sales who is smart, tech savvy, and exposed to a wide variety of businesses.

We’ll bring in some more experts on this because all three convey it brilliantly.

Take your pick.

Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power:

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“A new science for a lot of sales organizations. Analytics has been very common in the financial suite and in marketing over the past decade, and now that sales effectiveness is front and center of the mindset of sales leaders, they demand that decisions be made on some science and not on hunches. My prediction is that sales analytics and sales intelligence will be the hub of any sales organization.”

Peter Ostrow of the Aberdeen Group:

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“We perceive sales intelligence to represent the information that we need to know so that we’re selling or marketing or servicing our prospects and especially our customers as effectively as possible. The lesson so far after one day at Dreamforce is to move a lot of that information towards a collaborative platform preferably one that has a lot of social content built in to it. From my perspective, what’s most important is having that stuff in hand so that when you are going to have a sales conversation with someone or whether you’re going to take care of a customers who’s already on board as an account but you want to make sure you retain that account and hopefully up-sell or cross-sell them something for the long term you need to know a lot about that customer, not just their name, their email address, their url, that’s almost commoditized information, at this point, but you need to know about the person, their company, the market they work in, their competitors, what are the current political or economic or legislative things that are impacting that organization.”

Jim Dickie of CSO Insight:

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“The things we’re really encouraging companies to do is to focus on how do I focus on not having salesforce do more, how do I have them do better? And the better things wrap around really being able to go in and know who I want to talk to, why I want to talk to them, but also be able to convince them, why do you want to talk to me?”

We do not make this up; click here to reassure yourself.

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This is still high level jargon, how do I close more deals?

Now you have a better idea of sales intelligence, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of the tools.

Here are some of the elements that make up sales intelligence: prospects rankings, job updates, company updates, and blog updates.

#1. Prospect Ranking

Job changes, company updates, and overall chatter about your prospects leave a sales rep sifting through valuable content all morning. At Salesloft, we do the sifting by ranking your prospects on their propensity to buy. How do we know? The secret sauce includes factoring in the company’s growth, the industry, and overall business trends; more specifically: SEM spend, web traffic, inbound links, SEO, Twitter followers, Linkedin headcount increases, job postings, content on the web…just to name a few.

#2. Job Updates:

How many people are you connected to on LinkedIn — 700, 1200, 3000? Don’t you love getting updates on people in your network regarding job changes? Maybe it’s just me, but when I see a lead or customer get a promotion or land a new gig, I send a congratulatory email on their success. Happy customers at company A turn into a fantastic prospect at company B. Promoted dormant prospects can revive sales cycles. This is a great strategy, and one of many, regarding sales intelligence on job changes. The caveat: knowing the job change occurred.

At Salesloft, we scrape the internet (all of it) to find hires, fires and retires in your prospect network…pretty fancy. Intelligence on a prospect’s job change provides an authentic opportunity to catch up on a prospect and make sure their needs are met at their new position.

#3. Company Updates

You’ve got a large list of prospects and they work for a wide variety of companies. Every day, the companies of your prospect list are getting acquired, promote new products, lay off divisions, and sponsor the next week’s PGA Tour event — this is all information you need to know if you want an edge.

From Fortune 100 to one man bands, Salesloft finds relevant information in press releases, company blog posts, and many other resources to make sure our customers are in the know. Your prospects work hard and sacrifice family time to ship a product or execute a new marketing campaign; who doesn’t love recognition of their craft. Knowing valuable company information provides another authentic opportunity to make sure your customer/prospect’s needs are met as well as provides a concrete sales trigger for potential business.

#4. Blog Updates

People talk about your prospects. Sales reps who stay informed on: who is talking and what they’re saying, have a larger number of contextual opportunities to reach out to prospects. Salesloft provides information on not only what prospects say about themselves (see: company updates), but what others are saying as well. Imagine emailing a blog post written by a prospect’s happy customer…what a great way to prove the value of their (future) business.

Hopefully, next time someone asks, “what is sales intelligence?” you can tell your grandma, boss, or fellow sale rep the answer. Let us know if you have any questions about sales intelligence or sign up for our beta list for Salesloft.