Tl;dr - Sales acceleration platforms are a hot category of sales and marketing software. They offer the alure of increased activity and efficiency. But can they be effective based simply on volume? Intent Data can help bridge the gap, but effective integration requires planning and consideration.
Tools for a Complex Sales World
Much like intent data itself, the term sales acceleration is broadly used yet generally lacks a clear definition.
G2 lists several categories of software that they consider sales acceleration platforms. These include conversational intelligence (e.g. call recording for analysis and coaching), email tracking, lead-to-account matching and routing, and outbound call tracking. There's lots of overlap, and the feature expansion of various CRM software sees various new entrants competing for recognition in this space.
The intent is clear though. Selling is harder. Buying teams are larger. Communications are more asynchronous. Buyers are more frenzied. So, given all those factors, salespeople need tools that will help them do more, faster, with the greater degrees of personalization that's required for effectiveness with today's buyers.
That's the goal of a sales acceleration platform. And in that context, the sales acceleration tools that we've heard mentioned most frequently in the market over the last couple of years are SalesLoft and Outreach.io. No doubt powered by the pandemic shutdown driven need for remote sales efficiency, both have experienced explosive growth. SalesLoft reached "Unicorn" status early this year with a January, 21 funding round1, and Outreach's latest round (June, '21) valued it at $4.5B.2
Like all software though, it's only effective when built on the right data, integrations, and processes. It's certainly possible to use sales acceleration to simply increase the number of crappy emails and voice mails to large volumes of prospects who don't care. With thoughtful design, however, sales acceleration can elevate superb business development practices.
We've watched many companies take this implementation journey, and helped with the integration of intent data Based on those experiences, we've developed the following list of tips.
- Data orchestration beats simple integration
- The sales and marketing data stack must be solid
- Sales enablement is critical
Let's look at each in more detail.
Tech Stack? Or Tech Framework?
It's common to talk about the marketing tech stack - often consisting of CRM, marketing automation platform, conversational marketing (chat) tools, email tracking, content management system, and various technical and tracking tools. Typically they're all connected via one, and sometimes two-way data sync. The sync avoids errors and wasted time that results from the repeated entry of the same info, but in reality, it primarily provides a consolidated view. Each platform uses data in its own way for its own functions.
That's a weak link.
In order to fully leverage the benefits of personalized sales cadence software and other sales acceleration software features, the acceleration tools should be managed via a more robust framework of data orchestration. That means unification, hygiene and enrichment of data, ongoing analysis and dynamic segmentation, and triggered actions.
For example, a sales acceleration platform can be connected to a CRM, often Salesforce, to ease the task for a salesperson launching a multi-step cadence of email and phone calls. Certainly, that will save them a bit of time and enable them to send hundreds instead of tens/day. But is that appropriate? In many cases, they'll simply generate more junk.
In contrast, robust marketing data orchestration allows for the creation of algorithms (either human-designed or machine-learned) to identify accounts and contacts where outreach is warranted, optimize the message and launch integrated efforts (cadence, paid ads), and provide contextual coaching to the rep on why it's happening as well as suggesting probing questions to ask, sales enablement content to share and more.
That framework created by a data orchestration platform not only integrates ad platforms, supports robust CRM integration, and connects other tools, but it also unlocks the potential of sales acceleration to improve effectiveness while boosting efficiency.
Too Often Data is a Killer Rather than an Enabler
Running sales acceleration movements on crappy or incomplete data will deliver crappy results. No surprise there.
Yet most companies cite data quality challenges - often significant ones that result in poor lead-to-customer conversion rates and inflated marketing spend. In many cases, it's not even used (some estimate that as much as 73% of available data is unused3 - circle back to data orchestration!) and Forrester research finds that only 60-70% of marketers are confident about various aspects of their data from completeness to consistency and accuracy!4
Clearly the marketing data stack needs work. Some of that is "mechanical" - having an effective data orchestration process including unification. But there's also an important component of scope. Let's take 1st party data for instance. With >2 billion websites in the world there's a lot of important activity happening around the web and NOT on your website. That's where 3rd party intent data plays a critical role. Additionally, firmographic information (to discern account fit - those companies that fit your ICP), technographics, and enrichment are important.
Effective sales acceleration can only be built on effective and complete data.
Why + Who, When & What
Part of the allure of sales acceleration is to support the consistent use of best practices at scale. So there's sometimes an inclination to just let cadences run.
But the purpose of the cadence is to get a meeting - it's up to a rep to get the sale. And getting the sale takes nuance and savvy. In other words, while acceleration software can trigger certain actions, to certain people, at certain times, it's critical for the rep to understand why it's happening and to have context so that they can take advantage of the meeting opportunity.
This is an argument for the importance of sales and marketing alignment - and how intent data can help. When marketing teams only work toward MQLs, this step is ignored. When there's mutual alignment around revenue, then there's an incentive to fully brief the rep on helpful factors as they head into a meeting. That should include candor regarding what's fact and what's an inference based on intent data and other sources.
Intent Data Integration
With that background, how does intent data best integrate with a sales acceleration platform?
In very crude integrations there's an account level signal which prompts the manual initiation of cadences. Often the intent data lacks granular detail - beyond perhaps an opaque "topic" - so the messaging can't be personalized around details like the problem to solve, outcome to achieve, competitors, job function and seniority, or stage in the buying journey. (All of those are details that can often be inferred from IntentData.io's very granular contact level™ intent data.)
But nobody invests in these sophisticated tools to run amateurish programs, and proper integration of intent data with sales acceleration is more complex. Ideally cadences will be customized based on intent data signals, launched automatically, and to more than one involved stakeholder.
Data orchestration is an aspirational goal for many companies - the tech stack often doesn't support it. Enhanced lead scoring is an intermediate step to consider. This approach is easier to implement and can help to focus outbound sales efforts in a more refined way than based on bursts in account activity.
Do More, Better
In today's hyperkinetic world there's lots of pressure to hit activity numbers which hopefully correlate to certain revenue targets. Sales acceleration platforms offer a seductive tool to do so. But compromising quality in pursuit of quantity will result in low-quality results.
When intent data is properly integrated with sales acceleration software it provides a potent combination.