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Sales Intelligence 2013: Best Practices Adopted by D&B Customers


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This Aberdeen research brief explores how the performance of the most successful sales organizations--and a subset of D&B users--map to best practices of sales effectiveness that yield better knowledge of the customer.

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Sales Intelligence 2013: Best Practices Adopted by D&B Customers

  1. 1. This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group's methodologies provide for objective fact-based research and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group, Inc. May, 2013 Sales Intelligence 2013: Best-in-Class Practices Adopted by D&B Customers "Know thy Customer" is a universally acknowledged best practice in the business-to-business (B2B) space, yet many enterprises and small companies alike fail to consistently maintain an accurate database of, and strategic insight into, the prospects and customers they need to satisfy in order to survive. Aberdeen research conducted among 215 organizations for Sales Intelligence: What B2B Sellers Need To Know Before the Call (June 2012) included 55 survey respondents who indicated that they used Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) products — D&B 360 or Hoover’s — as key components of their sales intelligence deployments, typically integrated into their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. This Research Brief will explore how the performance of the most successful sales organizations, and of this subset of D&B users, map to best practices in sales effectiveness that yield better knowledge of the customer. The Sales Intelligence research process included determining what top- performing companies adopted, in terms of sales technologies and processes, which were less frequently deployed by under-performers. The definition of these high-achieving organizations was determined through Aberdeen’s traditional Best-in-Class process, which for this study used customer retention rates and year-over-year changes in team / individual quota attainment and average deal size as the most valuable yardsticks in evaluating the results of sales teams. In the same spirit, we see in Table 1 that D&B product users out-perform all other companies around a number of real-time sales metrics. Table 1: D&B Customers Out-Perform All Others in Multiple Sales Effectiveness Metrics Sales Effectiveness Metric D&B / Hoover’s Customers All Others Customer retention rate 63% 60% Average sales cycle 3.9 months 4.6 months Average time sales reps spend per day searching for relevant company, contact, or industry information 0.78 hours 0.89 hours Average sales deal or contract value size $316,050 $239,720 Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2012 Research Brief Aberdeen’s Research Briefs provide a detailed exploration of key findings from a primary research study, including key performance indicators, Best-in- Class insight, and vendor insight.
  2. 2. Sales Intelligence 2013: Best-in-Class Practices Adopted by D&B Customers Page 2 © 2013 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 Fax: 617 723 7897 Whether the measurement is associated with better customer relationships, faster sales cycles, larger deal sizes, or minimizing non-selling time for front- line sales reps — 76% of companies indicate that their reps spend more than 10% of their time researching, rather than selling — these individual metrics combine to paint an effective picture of efficient and profitable sales operations. Now, let's look at the best practices that D&B customers — and the Best-in-Class — adopt in order to achieve such results. Sales Intelligence: Best-in-Class Deployment Necessities “It’s like drinking from a fire hose!” “I’m busier than a one-armed paper- hanger!” “How do I cut through all the noise?” … these phrases, and more like them, are increasingly being associated with the challenges that contemporary sales professionals face in trying to filter out all the data available to them about their prospects, customers, and markets. And yet, more than one-third (39%) of survey respondents indicate to Aberdeen that “we do not have enough information available about the people, companies, and markets to whom we sell.” As wonderful as web-based research has become as a sales prospecting tool, the core competencies of B2B salespeople — communicating, convincing, and closing — are not only enhanced by information, but also threatened by it. Hence, deploying a set of technologies and enabling processes that streamline how sales people digest and act on sales intelligence is crucial. In Figure 1, we see highlighted five of the most popular best practices that Best-in-Class companies adopt more often than other survey respondents; these capabilities provide the focus for this Research Brief, and will be presented in more detail below. Figure 1: Best-in-Class Sales Intelligence Capabilities Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2012 The majority of all companies deploy some kind of sales-oriented repository of critical customer and opportunity data, although the Best-in-Class lead All Others with a strong 75% adoption rate. These successful performers both 75% 65% 61% 57% 52% 72% 54% 45% 46% 47% 58% 44% 42% 33% 33% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% Sales-focused, centralized repository of account/con- tact/opportunity data Senior management fully supports use of third-party data sources Sales intelligence available to other company functions Clear understanding of industry segments/ verticals in our target market Defined sales milestones/ stages include criteria on use/analysis of sales intelligence data PercentofRespondents n = 215 Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggard Sales Intelligence Defined For the purposes of this research, the phrase “sales intelligence” refers to any information used to educate and enable the sales force and enrich the sales pipeline. This includes news on industry trends, consumer generated / social content, list / database providers, analyst reports, prospecting tools, competitive/market intelligence, and lead augmentation solutions.
  3. 3. Sales Intelligence 2013: Best-in-Class Practices Adopted by D&B Customers Page 3 © 2013 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 Fax: 617 723 7897 capture intelligence on their prospects, customers, and markets, and also appreciate the value of storing all of this data in an accessible fashion supporting inside, outside, and even channel selling partners. This in turn allows all the pieces of the sales puzzle — contact details, company hierarchies, open opportunities, and current events — to be accessed in a unified and logical fashion. The CRM typically is the default technology platform for all of this data, but it is only effective when not only static data about companies — demographics about people and addresses, and firmographics regarding financials and organizational charts — are captured and regularly updated, but the dynamic information such as social media and news events is also streamed into the interface used by marketing, sales, and other customer-facing job roles. Indeed, Best-in-Class companies are 53% more likely than All Others (46% vs. 30%) to automate the integration of third-party content into their CRM platform. To this point, 81% of D&B customers predictably report the use of this sales data-repository enabler, a higher rate than even the Best-in-Class. Finally, when survey respondents are divided into adopters and non-users of this best practice, we see in Figure 2 that increased current-year performance results accrue to its use. In addition to these real-time metrics, users also averaged a year-to-year revenue growth of 7.1%, compared with 2.7% among non-adopters. Figure 2: Centralized, Sales-Focused Data Repository Drives Results Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2012 Next, Best-in-Class firms are 30% more likely than All Others (65% vs. 50%) to obtain formal executive support for third-party sales intelligence utilization, and D&B customers are 49% more likely than other companies (67% vs. 45%) to concur. Experienced line managers know that the farther up the corporate food chain we see confidence that the sales team will benefit from an initiative, the better the chance that a formal Return-on-Investment (ROI) analysis will yield superior before-and-after results from the kind of sales metrics seen in this study. Successful sales operations leaders know that "you get what you pay for" and “you can't manage what you don't measure” 71% 64% 62% 50% 42% 55% 25% 35% 45% 55% 65% 75% Total team attainment of annual quota Sales forecast accuracy Sales reps achieving annual quota PercentageofAttainment n = 215 Centralized sales data repository All Others Fast Facts √ Best-in-Class companies report an average current team sales quota attainment of 77%, compared to 75% among Industry Average companies and 34% for Laggard firms √ Sales forecast accuracy averages 77% for the Best-in- Class, 69% among the Industry Average, and 31% among Laggards √ Fifty-six percent (56%) of sales reps in Best-in-Class companies achieve quota, versus 49% for Industry Average and 26% of Laggard firms,
  4. 4. Sales Intelligence 2013: Best-in-Class Practices Adopted by D&B Customers Page 4 © 2013 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 Fax: 617 723 7897 are legitimate aphorisms, and that without C-level agreement that data quality matters, the inevitable budget wars or office politics may consign them to poor sales results if top-down organizational support is not firmly in place. Comparing the sales-and business-oriented results of companies adopting this approach with non-users, we see in Table 2 validation of actively seeking out and obtaining senior management support for third-party data acquisition. After all, what CEO would prefer to grow their top line by less than 4% if at least an indirect association with sales intelligence investments could yield a 7.54% revenue increase? Table 2: Benefits of C-Suite Support of External Sales Intelligence Sources Sales Effectiveness Metric Senior Management Support of 3rd Party Sales Intelligence All Others Customer retention rate 66% 56% Average accuracy of internal sales forecasts 63% 51% Average annual change in total corporate revenue 7.54% 3.96% Average sales deal or contract value size $377,130 $109,430 Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2012 Expanding the Scope of Effective Sales Intelligence By a 39% margin (61% vs. 44%), Best-in-Class enterprises ensure that sales intelligence acquired from external sources is made available to other functions within the organization. Contemporary providers of goods and services are well aware of the need to provide their customers with a seamless experience or "single voice" in order to maximize the customer's satisfaction and likelihood to re-order. In order to accomplish this, it is crucial that every line of business that touches the external customer — marketing, sales, help desk, contact center — have equal access to at least basic information about the people and company they serve. Enhanced data about the behavior of customers, including user-generated social media content, can also benefit non-sales employees who proactively interact with the buyer, allowing them to be up-to-date regarding not just who the customer is but what they need. Best-in-Class companies more fully realize that staffers in these other departments may also provide better protection for their own firm, if up-to-date knowledge of important financial, legal, business, or personnel issues allow them to make better decisions regarding their own department’s customer-centric mission. Looking at the performance of companies that adopt this approach, compared with those who do not, it is worth noting that the crucial metrics around sales rep quota attainment are most notable. Adopters report that 50% of their full- Aberdeen’s PACE Methodology Aberdeen applies a methodology to benchmark research that evaluates the business Pressures, Actions, Capabilities, and Enablers (PACE) that indicate corporate behavior in specific business processes: √ Pressures — external forces that impact an organization’s market position, competitiveness, or business operations. √ Actions — the strategic approaches that an organization takes in response to industry pressures. √ Capabilities — the business process competencies (process, organization, performance and knowledge management) required to execute corporate strategy. √ Enablers — the key functionality of technology solutions required to support the organization’s enabling business practices.
  5. 5. Sales Intelligence 2013: Best-in-Class Practices Adopted by D&B Customers Page 5 © 2013 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 Fax: 617 723 7897 time sales reps achieved annual quota, while the rate among nonusers is 22% lower, with only 39% of reps hitting their number. Moreover, companies embracing this approach increased the percentage of reps achieving quota by 1.7% on the year-over-year basis, while non-adopters saw the same percentage decrease by an annualized 2.1%. Certainly, the former metric is worth pursuing through a higher degree of intra-company collaboration around job-role-specific access to sales intelligence data. Fifty-six percent (56%) of D&B customers, finally, deploy this capability; this rate is lower than Best-in-Class adoption but stronger than Industry Average and Laggard rates. Next, let's explore why 57% of Best-in-Class companies benefit from understanding industry segments and verticals more aggressively than the 41% of All Other firms. In Figure 3, the year-over-year revenue and quota metrics crucial to sales leaders reflect the advantages of consuming and evaluating sales intelligence with an eye toward the various types of businesses and markets to which enterprises try to sell. Adopters also report better customer retention rates: 68% compared with 54% among non-users. Figure 3: Properly Segmented Sales Intelligence Yields Annualized Quota and Revenue Improvements Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2012 Too many products and services are designed by well-meaning executives in a laboratory-like setting, where the temptation of “This is a great product! They’re gonna love it!” is over-emphasized in lieu of actually understanding whether specific industry verticals, geographic markets, or other segmented subsets of a potential target audience are truly in need of a solution. Savvy subscribers to, and consumers of, sales intelligence services that offer segmentation— the ability to acquire and analyze prospect or customer data by narrowly defined niches — are better able to focus their efforts during all phases of the marketing and sales cycle. Whether they discover the need to create vertical-specific products, segmented marketing messaging, or geographically sensitive sales pitches, the organizations that take this kind of 6.2% 2.0% 1.2% 4.8% -0.4% -1.6% -2.5% -0.5% 1.5% 3.5% 5.5% 7.5% Annual revenue Team attainment of quota Reps achieving quota Year-over-yearchange n = 215 Segmented sales intelligence All Others Fast Facts √ Best-in-Class firms report more widespread use of sales intelligence, with an average of 6.52% of all employees engaged with such data. This is 25% higher than the 5.22% among all other companies √ The Best-in-Class are 25% more likely than other firms to deploy formal win-loss analyses around either aggregated or deal-specific opportunity evaluations; Industry Average and Laggard companies are 50% more likely than the Best-in- Class to have no win-loss activity whatsoever
  6. 6. Sales Intelligence 2013: Best-in-Class Practices Adopted by D&B Customers Page 6 © 2013 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 Fax: 617 723 7897 objective view of their target market perform better as a result. In the case of D&B customers, they are advised to more aggressively adopt this approach, as only 38% currently do so. Using the Right Data at the Right Time Finally, it is important for companies to deploy their sales intelligence in a manner consistent with any sales processes that have been established as best practices within each enterprise. Much as Best-in-Class companies are 36% more likely than All Others (38% vs. 28%) to deploying sales playbooks — technology-enabled tools and processes that provide "guided selling" assistance to various selling job roles such as inside, field, and/or channel partners — they are more frequently connecting selling milestones or stages with sales intelligence utilization. The idea here is all about the velocity of sales activity: Best-in-Class companies are more adept at staying in control of their sales cycle — reporting an average annual shrinking of the cycle of 2.5%, while All Others saw a 2.8% increase — and taking action when deals remain in defined sales stages for too long. One of the mistakes that top-performing companies make less often is that of allowing sales reps, or even managers, to be overly optimistic in their assessment of how likely certain opportunities are to close, in what period of time, and for how much revenue. Aberdeen's research in Better Sales Forecasting Through Process and Technology: No Crystal Ball Required (July 2012) showcases how the most successful sales organizations replace emotion with logic — and predictive analytics — when building accurate and actionable sales forecasts; the current Sales Intelligence data ratifies this by enforcing the use of intelligence as a prerequisite for sales stage advancement – Figure 4. Figure 4: Sales Velocity Improves with Sales Intelligence Integration Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2012 In other words, consider this dialogue: REP: “good news, boss, I’m moving the Acme Widget deal up to a 75% likelihood to close!" MANAGER: “Actually, it 70% 67% 66% 48% 60% 48% 57% 38% 25% 35% 45% 55% 65% 75% Team attainment of quota Sales forecast accuracy Customer retention rate Reps achieving quota PercentageofAttainment n = 215 Sales intelligence integrated with stage velocity All Others What Kind of Sales Intelligence? Best-in-Class companies report that they use a variety of types of sales intelligence: √ 93% Executives / individual information (75% All Others) √ 83% Targeted company information (75% All Others) √ 72% User-generated content (58% All Others) √ 62% Contextually relevant news (53% All Others) √ 55% Analyst reports on industries, trends, or technologies (48% All Others)
  7. 7. Sales Intelligence 2013: Best-in-Class Practices Adopted by D&B Customers Page 7 © 2013 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 Fax: 617 723 7897 needs to stay at 25%. You haven't provided any BANT criteria in the CRM, or hardly any details about the people or needs of the company." This scenario is not merely a punitive conversation; rather, it represents appropriate sales coaching that requires a rep to perform appropriate due diligence, which in turn will yield a more fully vetted deal with a better likelihood to close. Insight: Sales Intelligence Complemented by Additional Technology Enablers In addition to multiple references in this Research Brief to the coordinated deployment of CRM technology platforms and sales intelligence initiatives, we also know from pending Aberdeen research on Grab the Low-Hanging Fruit: How Best-in-Class Companies Leverage a 360-Degree Customer View that a number of enterprise technology enablers can additionally support overall sales effectiveness. Best-in-Class companies in this data set (those with the highest customer retention rates and annualized improvements in team quota attainment and sales cycle reduction) far more strongly adopt the technologies represented in Figure 5 than under-performing firms. Figure 5: High Value in Data Quality and Management Protocols Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2012 Technology solutions such as data integration and master data management (MDM) help companies organize the sales intelligence regarding prospects and customers that resides in a variety of corporate data silos, into an accurate and single "version of the truth" that sellers can use to more effectively deliver an optimized customer experience. Similarly, keeping account data accurate through manual or automated processes is another crucial key to making sales intelligence investments worthwhile. After all, do we want our front-line staff correcting records or closing deals? 50% 50% 31%32% 23% 15% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% Data quality/ integration solution Process to monitor/ scrub prospect/ customer data quality Master Data Management PercentageofRespondents n = 160 Best-in-Class All Others
  8. 8. Sales Intelligence 2013: Best-in-Class Practices Adopted by D&B Customers Page 8 © 2013 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 5200 Fax: 617 723 7897 Conclusion: Using CRM-Integrated Sales Intelligence to Drive Better Sales Results While it is easy to joke about Sales Intelligence as a contradiction in terms, today's high-achieving professional sellers are actually intelligent enough to know what they don't know. Their employers have traditionally been willing to invest in static data subscriptions that provide reasonable demographic and firmographic content, but only the Best-in-Class recognized the optimal value in adding behavioral and news-worthy trigger events to the stream of information arriving in their sales team's hands, and collected in the CRM. By deploying the best practices delineated in this Research Brief these top performers — and, for the most part, D&B’s customers — achieve better sales effectiveness results, grow customer relationships, and accelerate deal velocity by optimizing their sales intelligence initiatives. For more information on this or other research topics, please visit Related Research Breaking the Laws of Physics: Shortening the Last Sales Mile Through Workflow Automation; April, 2013 CRM 2013: Generating Business Value throughout the Enterprise; April 2013 Motivate, Incent, Compensate, Enable: Sales Performance Management Best Practices; January 2013 CRM 2013: Manufacturing Success through Mobilized, Integrated, and Flexible Deployments; January 2013 Collaborate, Listen, Contribute: How Best- in-Class Sales Teams Leverage Social Selling; November 2012 Train, Coach, Reinforce: Best Practices in Maximizing Sales Productivity; October 2012 Better Sales Forecasting Through Process and Technology: No Crystal Ball Required; July 2012 Sales Intelligence: What B2B Sellers Need To Know Before the Call; June 2012 Partner Relationship Management: Channeling Better Sales Results; March 2012 Sales Mobility: How Best-in-Class Remote Sellers Are Replacing “See” with “Do”; March 2012 Author: Peter Ostrow, Vice President and Research Group Director; Customer Management, Sales Effectiveness ( LinkedIn Twitter For more than two decades, Aberdeen's research has been helping corporations worldwide become Best-in-Class. Having benchmarked the performance of more than 644,000 companies, Aberdeen is uniquely positioned to provide organizations with the facts that matter — the facts that enable companies to get ahead and drive results. That's why our research is relied on by more than 2.5 million readers in over 40 countries, 90% of the Fortune 1,000, and 93% of the Technology 500. As a Harte-Hanks Company, Aberdeen’s research provides insight and analysis to the Harte-Hanks community of local, regional, national and international marketing executives. Combined, we help our customers leverage the power of insight to deliver innovative multichannel marketing programs that drive business-changing results. For additional information, visit Aberdeen or call (617) 854-5200, or to learn more about Harte-Hanks, call (800) 456-9748 or go to This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group's methodologies provide for objective fact-based research and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group, Inc. (2013a) Fast Facts √ 40% of all survey respondents report that their average sales rep spends more than 20% of their time looking for sales intelligence, rather than selling. Seven percent (7%) of companies report an average of over 50% of their reps’ time spent on this. √ In descending order, the most popular types of sales intelligence used are: executive / individual information, targeted company data, user- generated content, and contextually relevant news.