Tl;dr - Intent data holds amazing promise for B2B sales as well as marketing. Too often it's wasted though, by resource constrained marketing teams that simply send it to sales without explanation, training, implementation plans or adequate sales enablement execution. Here's how to not only avoid wasting it, but to use it as an opportunity to foster appreciation and collaboration between marketing and sales.
Data Without Context Is Noise
Great sales people, whether BDRs or AEs know that time is their most precious resource. They therefore guard it zealously, and take a dim view of anyone who disrespects it - for instance by sending them junk leads or data which can't be effectively actioned.
Yet that's precisely what many marketing departments and sales leaders do with intent data. When data gets dumped on the sales team it's typically first embraced, soon creates frustration, and is ignored in short order.
That's the worst outcome for everyone because there's often great value in the data. The key is to surface the right data, in the right way, with the right recommendations so that sales can use it efficiently - following a carefully developed process and well-executed sales enablement.
To help with that, here are 5 sales enablement approaches we've seen work - that deliver results and actually foster the kind of sales and marketing alignment to which everyone aspires!
First, a few general recommendations.
- Don't send bulk data - your sales enablement process should tactically surface key signals for your sales team.
- Don't hope they happen to see it in the CRM - you need to alert them to important signals
- Unify data from your full data stack - the most actionable data will be found at the intersection of first party and third party data, but your reps won't stumble across that at scale
- Outline your inferences - when you see activity from certain job titles, a certain threshold number of people from the same account, specific competitor interactions, key Contextual™ Technographic data signals, certain key terms, etc. - you'll start to hypothesize about what's happening. Share your thoughts and your reasoning to give your sales colleagues momentum
- Make recommendations - based on the inferences, what questions should they ask? what content should they share? what cadence should they launch? etc.
- Provide air cover - if it's important enough to forward to sales, then it's important enough for you to support them with some custom audience or domain based paid ad programs
With those recommendations in place, now let's dive in more specifically.
Sales Enablement Plays 1 & 2 - ABM/Target Accounts
Prioritization of Accounts
If you've got 2,000 one:many account-based marketing targets, there's no way they'll all be covered adequately.
Intent data can provide helpful prioritization - by pulling all your data together.
It's possible to segment based on certain parameters - for instance when you see a constellation of signals like this over a rolling three week period:
- at least 1 known user active on your site, form fill, email opens & clicks, etc.
- at least 2 anonymous users from the same account on your site
- specific, significant technographic signals (perhaps beyond the ICP segmentation) in conjunction with key intent signals
- at least 3 different contact level™ intent data signals appearing with specific job titles, key terms associated with middle of the funnel, and specific competitor signals
That's just an example, but the point should be clear. It's unlikely that this is a random set of facts - and in aggregate they're clearly meaningful and significant. And that's wildly different than just saying "This account is surging!! Quick...call them!"
In this case it would be helpful to share a digest of the signals, some insights and some recommendations. For instance:
- A To-Do created in the CRM telling the BDR to launch the XYZ sequence to three contacts
- A recommendation to call one who engaged with a specific key-term which relates to competitive differentiation, with talking points and a link to recommended content to be shared in the follow up email
Within active accounts there are also important signals. Marketing automation systems often alert a salesperson if an active prospect hits the site, opens an email, etc.
But there's typically nothing comparable when other members of the buying team take action elsewhere on the internet.
Let's change that with your sales enablement program. When you see that sort of activity, send an alert to the sales person - maybe a Slack message - saying something like:
"We wanted to let you know that the <account> you currently are working in <ABM stage> stage, looks like it's heating up. We've seen three new likely buying team members in third part data recently.
They are <first name> <last name> <job title> <link to CRM profile)>, <first name> <last name> <job title> <link to CRM profile)>, and <first name> <last name> <job title> <link to CRM profile)>.
We've adjusted the lead score to <lead score> and suggest that you're in touch with each of them.
We've also noticed that there's a lot of activity around <key term> which probably means they're looking for a solution to help with <common problem.> We've got the following content which speaks to it for each member of the buying journey, and other thoughts in our battle-card linked below.
Good luck from your friends in marketing!!"
Sales Enablement Plays 3 & 4 - Pending Opportunities
Supporting ABM and target account sales initiatives are important to contribute pipeline. Sophisticated qualification and scoring of pipeline deals, accelerating sell cycles and improving close rates are another set of plays for your intent data empowered sales enablement program with existing projects.
Buying Team Insights
Challenger says there are an average of 10.2 buyers on the buying team (that means often there are more!) In disciplined companies the most I've seen required to consider an opportunity qualified is six of those members. And realistically the research and most of the communication tend to focus on just a couple.
And it's focused on first party data - in other words visits to your site, opens and clicks of your email, engagement with your social.
And yet there are at least 4 more (often more than that) members of the team who may be focused on different problems to solve, different outcomes to achieve, have different competitor preferences, or be running full rogue campaigns to disrupt your project.
Intent Data can't tell you all of that, but contact level 3rd-party intent data that provides names and job titles can help to augment your understanding of buying team members, and where each member is in their buying journey.
Here a helpful play would be to suggest to a rep that you've seen people who, based on their job titles and locations, might be involved in the deal they're working. List the names and make it easy for them to add them to the project. In a perfect world your marketing data stack will include enrichment sources and you'll have already appended LinkedIn profiles, connection info, recent first party history, etc.
There's background info and then there's "Oh &%@T!!" info - indications that something is really right, or going sideways fast. Of course as with all intent data there's a certain amount of interpretation. And it's important not to overreact. Your sales enablement should temper the info you share with that caveat both so you don't get a reputation for "crying wolf" and to avoid awkward moments where a stressed rep calls a prospect to demand an answer to why they're engaged with a competitor when they had promised them the deal!!
Nevertheless you've got to put that in front of them quickly - with, you guessed it, context to help them understand why you think it's important.
Perhaps it's 5 members of the buying team engaging with a different competitor. Maybe it's a sudden shift in key terms to some earlier stage TOFU or MOFU terms that indicate they might be thinking about changing directions in the project. It could be the majority of the buying team are suddenly all showing engagement with a very specific TOFU key term that indicates you're in a great spot. And it could be any number of other signals.
The point is that these need to be put in front of the sales person quickly - with some insight into why you're notifying them, what you think it might mean, and how to interpret it.
Sales Enablement Play 5 - New Logos
Current ABM prospects and current opportunities are great places to start.
But there's also an opportunity for new logo sales work too.
When an account that's not currently a customer, pending deal or ABM/target (in other words a company laying latent in your database or perhaps even unknown) suddenly pops up with interesting combinations of first and third party data, and enrichment data (e.g. firmographic and technographic) that confirms they're a good prospect, then it's time to put them on your sales team's radar.
And of course that alert should include some context explaining why you're asking them to divert critical time to an account out of the blue.
How to Implement an Intent Data Sales Enablement Program
Slowly and carefully.
Intent Data isn't a silver bullet. It takes resources to unlock the value.
The truthful answer is that implementing intent data requires a change management project because it disrupts workflows, tactics and movements just within marketing. When you want to include sales - which you should - it's an ever bigger change management challenge.
Don't just mention to sales leadership in a staff meeting that there's a new tool (much less blast something into a group on Slack.) Explain what the data is, why you've subscribed, how you're using it in marketing, how you think they could use it, what challenges they might experience, how it might benefit them, how you're prepared to help....and more.
Then prioritize use cases (I suggest you start with pending projects) and gradually implement. Start with a pilot group. Don't just send data, much less just import it into CRM. And test different degrees of automation. You might start out with reports you use within marketing to surface insights which you then share with brief internal videos to provide context. Once that's working, then maybe automated notifications can be implemented.
Don't cut corners - not only will the data not deliver results but it will create new friction between marketing and sales.
But done right, leveraging sales enablement technology, it can drive amazing results.