Getting the Conversation - With a Running Start (Part 2)

Aug 15, 2019 | Author Ed Marsh

How does intent data intersect with the challenger sale methodology?

Before you ever get to have a challenger sale-type conversation you have to earn the conversation. That’s getting tougher and tougher — in fact, simply getting the conversation often requires a great outbound sales process which distills steps 1 through 4 (in Part 1) into the prospecting messaging itself.

It’s often the key to even getting the meeting - and then it’s a foundation to move quickly and efficiently into the subsequent steps.

Most companies do with this an approach that sounds something like:

“Experience tells me that companies like yours (CXOs like you / companies in the XYZ industry) are increasingly worried about ABC problems. I help companies like yours meet those challenges and achieve (stats from outcomes or problems overcome.) That frees them up to focus on DEF opportunities. Does it make sense for us to meet?”

You can tweak it in lots of different ways and can use ABC problems and DEF opportunities to “toss stuff on the wall” which will likely resonate. You might modify slightly based on your research about the person and company.

But the bottom line is most BDRs are still just guessing about who they should call and what topics will resonate.

Here’s where Contact-Level™ Intent Data can help.

Imagine if you actually knew! If you knew the problem they were trying to solve or the outcome they sought, you’d be able to craft absolutely killer scripts and templates.

If you knew which competitors they were already engaged with around this, you’d know how to differentiate.

And if you knew who was active, you could even tailor their conversational marketing experience when they hit your site and use paid social for awareness marketing to improve your BDR’s success rate.

Contact-level intent data provides the name of the person who’s taking action that indicates intent, along with their contact details. It also provides important contextual detail on the problem or outcome that they’re taking action around. With their job title, the key insight of what they are specifically working on (and the ability to infer where they are in their buying journey), you’re able to focus your message precisely.

Imagine you find several people from the same company taking related actions.’s analysis of 12 million emails found that:

The most successful outreach campaigns reach out to multiple contacts multiple times. Email sequences with multiple attempts and multiple contacts boost response rates by 160%.

The potential is obviously huge.

It doesn’t happen by chance.

Operationalizing Intent Data for Sales Outreach

Dixon and Adamson, CEB directors, highlighted the role the entire company has to play in accumulating the unique insights and preparing messaging.

This adaptation must be rigorously designed, tested and continuously updated.

You can’t leave script and template modification to chance, nor can you assume that BDRs will fully incorporate all of the contact-level intent data into their approach.

Therefore marketing departments need to collaborate with their sales colleagues (assuming the BDRs live under sales - OK, they need to collaborate anyway!!) to plan the execution.

Typically they’ll need to take these steps:

  1. Segment the data - job titles, stage in buying journey, key issue/outcome focus, specific competitor interactions, etc., can all be factors in slotting a prospect in a complex matrix to optimize the outbound sales message. For a typical company, this might mean five or 10 distinct segments.
  2. Develop messaging - for each segment, the team will have to identify the applicable Challenger “hypothesis” and develop appropriate email templates, call scripts, social outreach messages, SMS messaging and paid social ad creative. (Joanna Bittle of CommCreative offers some helpful tips in the DemandGen Report 2019 “What’s Working in B2B Advertising.)
  3. Plan paid social nurturing - who’s going to aggregate custom audiences? At what interval? Who manages the creative? Ad creation? Limits ad frequency? What’s the goal of the ad? Form conversion? Site visit? Are there subsequent conversion ads for people who engage with awareness ads?
  4. Plan the outreach sequence - I’m sure you’ve got this figured out.
  5. Plan the integration of intent data - Most companies will import some or all directly into their CRM and/or marketing automation. How will you enrich the data and verify email addresses? What happens when it’s there? Will the system provide a list for BDRs to review and manually launch and personalize sequences? Will it coach them on which sequence to use and how to personalize it? Will you leverage capability like’s triggering features which would automatically launch an appropriate sequence on behalf of a rep based on segmentation?
  6. Plan to measure and compare - You’ll want to consistently tweak and improve each sequence, and also compare the results between data sources. Ideally you’ll run two parallel campaigns - with your traditional static and/or predictive data driving one campaign, and contact level intent data driving the other. That’s the only way you’ll quantify the value and impact.

It’s not enough to just pump data into your existing demand gen engine. And the opportunity is only realized when intent data drives specific adaptations of the challenger sale methodology.

A Note on Account Level Data and Topics

I’ve got to confess, I’ve been teasing a bit.

If you currently use intent data in your demand generation efforts, it’s likely data that won’t support this powerful approach. There are two common limitations.

First, if your data is account-level only (even if there are contacts overlayed, appended, predicted...or frankly just guessed at) you can’t simply instruct a BDR or solution to launch a sequence. This only works properly when you’re targeting the actual person with the specific message which we can infer will resonate.

Second, if you are using data that is harvested based on a “topic” you won’t have the granular detail necessary to segment in support of this process. Here’s more detail on the difference between topic-based data and leads that are harvested with a bespoke algorithm.

Building an Organizational Challenger Sale Muscle

The methodology works, and you can train people to succeed.

So why would you not incorporate all of the power into your outbound sales?

Contact-level intent data provides the missing link to putting this powerful approach into action.

Want to talk about how it could work for you? And want a free copy of the book? Let’s talk.


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