Many companies think of intent data as primarily a demand generation marketing tool. And it's great for that.
Sometimes overlooked, however, are some important use cases of intent data for sales.
Used creatively intent data can help to accelerate the sales cycle, increase win rates and improve pipeline management and forecasting.
These B2B sales improvements are possible through collaboration between marketing and sales. Marketing often provides the technology that powers the insights and enables sales, while sales provides the execution based on insights. How does it work?
In various and interesting ways...
First, it's important to have the right data. Generally third party intent data only provides account level information. Company Surge® info from Bombora, for instance only provides company information like Bidstream data providers. That may may provide some insight, and could be an important component of a full marketing data stack.
Contact Level™ Intent Data in contrast provides the name and job title (plus all company information) on the people who are taking action.
That may seem like a nuance, but it's critically important to understanding applications of intent data for sales. When you know the role, seniority, key term (and implicit problem, outcome, product, service) and/or competitor with whom someone is engaging, you can begin to infer where they are in the buying journey and what's driving the activity.
Take it a step further and similar information about their colleagues taking action will provide additional insights.
And then in aggregate, you can start to visualize the composition, internal conflicts, individual preferences, and general activity of the buying team. This insight, which is only available when you have both contact job title and specific key term/competitor details, allows you to creatively use intent data for sales in various tactical ways.
Messaging - If you only know someones thinking about buying your product, you can only talk about your product. On the other hand if you know the problem they're researching solutions to, the outcome they're seeking avenues to, or the competitor(s) they're focused on, you can be much more specific with messaging that will resonate.
Strong, creative reps will use intent data to personalize their tactics and messages.
Timing - So much of complex sales success relies on timing. Intent data can help sales teams monitor large numbers of ABM or target accounts to passively monitor them for signals that indicate the time is now.
Coaching their deal champion - How many of the roles that you know are likely members of the buying team are your account executives or BDRs actually in touch with? In really strong companies it's probably 30-50%. After all, with buying teams averaging 10.2 members according to Challenger, that's a big task. Intent data canb help here too - by observing signals which your deal champion might not be aware of, talented AEs can ask the questions, make suggestions, and provide key content for critical players to help coach the buying team liason on how to corral their colleagues.
Those are powerful potential use cases of intent data to support tactical sales activity and improve effectiveness for your team.
There are also strategic, organizational opportunities to leverage intent data for sales
Contact level intent data can also be used analytically to improve the quality of lead scoring, forecasting and propensity to buy models.
Most lead scoring is based on interactions with a company's own website. That's important and relevant info for sure, but it represents just 1:2,000,000,000 websites. Third party intent data supplements the understanding based on just first party data observations - and that improves the predictive value of lead scoring.
When your predictive lead scoring is more accurate, and your understanding of the buying team is more complete, then the forecasts built on the pipeline data are more accurate too. You might add or deduct points based on the job titles you see taking action as part of the project. Or you could adjust points based on the problem you know they're trying to solve, and even the number of competitors apparently involved in a deal.
You'll have to experiment of course, but you'll find a formula which allows you to forecast the timeline and the likelihood of deals closing, improving your sales pipeline management.
Imagine....complex sales nirvana....knowing shortly after a buyer appears on the radar in first or third party data - whether they actually will buy. Incorporating information from the full data stack, and insights from intent data, you'll be able to predict which buyers will buy and when - and orchestrate the process toward that outcome.
The potential savings are enormous - to concentrate resources on the right accounts. And the potential product marketing opportunities are huge too. By understanding which ones will buy, then reverse engineering the reasons why others won't, you've got the opportunity to create products to address the gaps you can profitably fill.
Don't just give it to sales. That's likely to deliver negligible results and foment more friction between departments which we all desperately need to collaborate efficiently.
Using intent data successfully for B2B sales requires that marketing leverages the tech stack, the data stack, and automation to do most of the heavy lifting of unifying and monitoring data. Marketing also needs to manage the analysis and carefully plan sales enablement movements to put the data in front of AEs in digestible and actionable formats. It's up to marketing to push the dots close enough together that sales doesn't have to digest the intent data.
And of course marketing owns the complimentary steps like the air cover of paid ads which they should manage transparently while the sales team focuses on engaging with buyers leveraging th einsights and coaching which they receive tightly packaged from marketing.