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Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers Adopt Best-in-Class Practices


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Learn how to use Sales Intelligence to drive productivity and growth. Focused on the 4 steps that lead to increased sales rep efficiency:
1. Centralizing and organizing all Sales Intelligence in a CRM
2. Making Sales Intelligence available to all company departments
3. Holding reps accountable for fully utilizing Sales Intelligence
4. Ensuring accuracy of business data

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Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers Adopt Best-in-Class Practices

  1. 1. July, 2012 Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers Adopt Best-in-Class PracticesIn the never-ending pursuit of sales effectiveness, contemporary marketing Research Briefand sales leaders are always looking for an edge when it comes to obtainingmore accurate and timely data around the people, companies and markets Aberdeen’s Research Briefsto which they sell. In March and April 2012, Aberdeen surveyed 215 end- provide a detailed exploration of a key finding from a primaryuser organizations about their sales practices and accomplishments, research study, including keyspecifically to understand how sales intelligence is most effectively deployed. performance indicators, Best-in-Among these companies were 35 that indicated (formerly Jigsaw, Class insight, and vendor part of as their primary external intelligence provider.This Research Brief explores how the performance and behavior of thesecompanies correlates with that of Best-in-Class firms.Setting the Stage for Sales ExcellenceAs Louis Pasteur famously said, “Chance favors the prepared mind,” andsuccessful sales professionals have long understood the benefits of “knowbefore you go” when it comes to being prepared for the next cold call,meeting, presentation or negotiation with knowledge about their prospect,customer or marketplace.Figure 1: Current Performance Metrics Highlight Data.comCustomers advantages 65% customers All other companies 62% 62% 60% 59% 56% Percentage of attainment 55% 51% 50% 45% 44% 40% Average Sales Percent of customer forecast reps achieving retention accuracy sales quota rate n = 215 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Groups methodologies provide for objective fact-based research and representthe 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 notbe reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group, Inc.
  2. 2. Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers AdoptBest-in-Class PracticesPage 2With the advent of seemingly unlimited online resources, of course, the virtual The Sales Intelligence Best-in-“pendulum of power” has shifted from seller to buyer as pricing, customer Classsatisfaction and product information about virtually every solution or service hasbecome available and, in most cases, free on the Internet. Indeed, even for the In March and April 2012, Aberdeen surveyed 215 end-userseller’s side of this equation, basic information about people and companies has sales organizations to understandbecome highly commoditized, and is usually available to anyone with a browser. their sales effectiveness bestInstead, the focus of today’s most effective sellers has shifted to the behavior – practices. The performancepast and future – of our business prospects, rather than simply the identities of metrics used to define the Best-the individuals involved in the potential transaction. in-Class (top 20%), Industry Average (middle 50%) andTheir challenge, of course, is to identify, understand and act on this behavior in Laggard (bottom 30%) amonga time-effective manner. When the impact of utilizing sales intelligence these sales teams are:effectively is measured, we begin to understand how Best-in-Class companies(see sidebar) achieve peak performance as well as the most efficient use of their √ 88% customer retention rate, vs. 78% among Industrysales reps time. Looking at the performance of customers in Average and 14% for Laggardparticular, we see in Figure 1 that they are able to maintain stronger customer firmsrelationships, deliver more accurate sales forecasts, and even see 16% more oftheir sales reps (51% vs. 44%) of their team members achieve their quota. These √ 12.3% average year-over-yearmetrics are consistently nominated by Aberdeens Sales Effectiveness increase in overall teamcommunity members as among the most crucial in determining the overall attainment of sales quota, vs. acontribution of the sales organization. 1.0% increase for the Industry Average and a 5.8% decline among Laggard respondentsTop Performers Work Smarter, not Harder √ 10.1% average year-over-yearAberdeen has identified a number of best practices Best-in-Class companies increase in the percentage ofadopt more frequently than other firms. Following the “PACE” research sales reps achieving quota, vs.methodology (see sidebar, page 3), Figure 2 highlights the Capabilities, or core 1.2% and 7.7% declines forcompetencies, associated with peak performance in deploying sales Industry Average and Laggardintelligence solutions. We will now take a deeper dive into why, and how, the respondents, respectively oftop performers – as well as customers – are pursuing these wise (increase in) the cycle timepaths. among Laggard respondents √ 8.0% average year-over-yearFigure 2: Best-in-Class Sales Intelligence Capabilities increase in average deal size or contract value, vs. a 0.8% 80% Best-in-Class Industry Average Laggard 75% 72% increase for the Industry Average and a 1.5% decline Percentage of Respondents 65% 61% among Laggard respondents 58% 52% 50% 47% 45% 42% 35% 33% 20% Sales-focused, centralized Sales intelligence is available to Defined sales milestones repository of account, contact other functions within our include the use and analysis and sales opportunity company, such as marketing, of sales intelligence data information customer service or operations n = 215 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012© 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 Fax: 617 723 7897
  3. 3. Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers AdoptBest-in-Class PracticesPage 3Home Sweet Home: Putting the Data House in OrderImplementing a sales-focused, centralized repository of account, Aberdeen’s PACE Methodologycontact and sales opportunity information requires a well-defined Aberdeen applies a methodologyplatform for sales enablement. Traditionally the Customer Relationship to benchmark research thatManagement (CRM) or Sales Force Automation (SFA) deployment will serve evaluates the business Pressures,as a sales team’s default enterprise application in which to house sales Actions, Capabilities, andintelligence. In fact, 53% of Best-in-Class companies “make external content, Enablers (PACE) that indicatesuch as contextually relevant news, targeted company or contact information, corporate behavior in specificavailable within the CRM/SFA solution,” compared with only 30% of all other business processes:firms. The most effective sales teams both capture intelligence on their √ Pressures — external forcesprospects, customers and markets, and also appreciate the value of storing all that impact an organization’sof this data in an accessible fashion supporting inside, outside and even market position,channel selling partners. All the pieces of the sales puzzle – contact details, competitiveness, or businesscompany hierarchies, open opportunities, and current events – can therefore accessed in a unified and logical fashion. Additionally, it is worth noting √ Actions — the strategichow much more accurate and up-to-date the sales intelligence is among Best- approaches that anin-Class companies, when compared to all other firms. Figure 3 shows a 1 to 4 organization takes in responsescale of self-evaluated, good-to-bad sales intelligence quality, as reported by to industry pressures.various maturity classes; most companies admit to needing better data, butthe Best-in-Class are more likely to have built a stronger foundation for sales √ Capabilities — the businessenablement through the processes described above. process competencies (process, organization,Figure 3: Age and Accuracy of Sales Intelligence Data performance and knowledge management) required to Best-in-Class All others execute corporate strategy. 50% 50% √ Enablers — the key 38% functionality of technology 40% solutions required to support Percent responding 31% the organization’s enabling 30% 22% business practices. 20% 19% 10% 10% 7% 3% 0% Sales intelligence Sales intelligence Data about There is valuable is highly accurate is generally good sales prospects selling data and almost but minor errors/ is OK but available universally reliable gaps are nothing to to reps, but they regularly found brag about perform most discovery manually n = 215 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012When we compare the performance of companies capturing sales intelligenceinside the CRM with those who fail to do so, the results are striking. In Table1, we see that a number of current, as well as year-over-year, saleseffectiveness metrics are illustrative of the value of adopting this Best-in-Classcapability. Seventy-four percent (74%) of customers report that© 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 Fax: 617 723 7897
  4. 4. Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers AdoptBest-in-Class PracticesPage 4they marry sales intelligence to CRM, compared with 68% of all other Sales Intelligence Definedcompanies. For the purposes of this research, the phrase “sales intelligence”Table 1: Superior Business Results from Capturing and Storing refers to any information used toSales Intelligence educate and enable the sales force and enrich the sales pipeline. This Sales includes news on industry trends, Intelligence consumer generated/social Performance Metric All Others Repository content, list/database providers, Users analyst reports, prospecting tools, Overall sales team current attainment of 72% 47% competitive/market intelligence, annual quota and lead augmentation solutions Customer retention rate 66% 51% Sales forecast accuracy 66% 44% Percent of sales reps achieving quota 49% 36% Average deal size or contract value $348k $174k Year-over-Year improvement: total company revenue 8.1% 2.9% Year-over-Year improvement: average deal size or contract value 3.9% 1.7% Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012Share and Share Alike: Collaborating with Other Lines ofBusiness around Sales IntelligenceSo far, we have focused on how the sales organization most effectivelydeploys intelligence about their prospects, customers and markets. Best-in-Class firms also ensure that sales intelligence is available to otherfunctions within the company, such as marketing, customer serviceor operations. These organizations recognize that in todays competitiveeconomic climate, every department that touches the customer – as well aspotentially other lines of business – can gain value from the identification ofcompanies, business units and executives with whom their organization mayor currently engage. For example, the marketing team can certainly improveon their activity metrics (click-throughs, opens, etc.) if they have a moreaccurate database to whom they can message. Customer service professionalshave more opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell to their accounts whenenabled with additional potential buyers or business units. Even back-officestaff such as accounting, operations or project implementers will have a moreseamless approach to delivering goods or services to customers whoseidentities are more accurate and available to them. In Figure 4, we look at thecurrent performance results of sales intelligence collaborators versusorganizations that do not share this data with their peers. By a 24% margin(56% vs. 45%), customers lead other organizations in taking thisapproach. Adoption of this capability is also an indicator that a company’ssenior leadership has bought into the vision of empowering their sales© 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 Fax: 617 723 7897
  5. 5. Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers AdoptBest-in-Class PracticesPage 5representatives and other team members with the most up-to-date Fast Factsinformation about the most important people in the food chain: the customer. √ Best-in-Class companiesIndeed, when asked whether “senior management fully supports the use of report an average currentthird-party information sources,” 64% of the Best-in-Class indicate a positive team attainment of salesanswer, compared with 54% of the Industry Average and only 44% of quota of 77%, compared toLaggards. Ultimately, these top performers better recognize the value of 75% among Industry Averageestablishing and enabling strong data quality among all departments within the companies and 34% forenterprise. Laggard firms √ Sales forecast accuracyFigure 4: Showcasing the Value of Sales Intelligence Collaboration averages 77% for the Best-in- Class, 69% among the 70% Companies disseminating sales intelligence All others Industry Average, and 31% 64% among Laggards 63% 61% 59% √ Fifty-six percent (56%) of 60% 57% sales reps in Best-in-Class Percentage of attainment 54% companies achieve quota, versus 49% and 26% of 49% 50% Industry Average and Laggard firms, respectively 41% 40% 30% Customer Team Sales Reps retention attainment forecast achieving of sales accuracy quota quota n = 215 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012While marketing and sales leaders cite measuring return on marketing investmentas a top pressure, only 45% of respondents have a process for tracking andmeasuring marketing results. Fewer still (35%) have defined performance metricsfor measuring marketing effectiveness, and neither capability correlates withsales/marketing alignment.Accountability: Linking Customer Data Optimizationwith Guided Selling Best PracticesFinally, lets explore why the Best-in-Class are 24% more likely than othercompanies (52% vs. 42%) to have in place defined sales milestones thatinclude the use an analysis of sales intelligence data. These firms realizethat while professional sellers are historically known for a degree of technophobia,more management oversight over the data being processed by reps to developselling messages – as well as a more accurate sales forecast – is a valuable way toensure that the team members are collecting sufficient knowledge of theiraccounts and prospects before each successive stage of sales engagement. Thismay also help to reduce the dreaded “no decision” results of sales opportunitiesthat, were they better researched via sales intelligence content, may have beenmore effectively pursued, or dropped earlier in the cycle. For example, a sales rep© 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 Fax: 617 723 7897
  6. 6. Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers AdoptBest-in-Class PracticesPage 6requesting that an opportunity in the CRM be upgraded from a moderate to high Fast Factslevel of "likely to close," would need, in this scenario, to have entered a significant √ Best-in-Class firms reportamount of data regarding the people, company, target and deal specifics in order more widespread use ofto be permitted to do so. Their manager would thus know that the important sales intelligence, with an"blocking and tackling" aspects of lead nurturing were being properly handled by average of 6.52% of alltheir staffer; they would also have less likelihood of being embarrassed by losing a employees engaged with"sure thing" opportunity. In Figure 5, we see that the current performance of such data. This is 25% highercompanies adopting this capability is again stronger than that of organizations than the 5.22% among alldeclining to take this step. In the case of customers, their adoption rate other companiesof 43% is nearly identical to the 42% of all other firms; these organizations could √ The Best-in-Class are 25%benefit from more aggressively leveraging their externally provided data at levels more likely than other firmsmore akin to Industry Average and Best-in-Class firms. to deploy formal win-loss analyses around eitherFigure 5: Ensuring that Sales Intelligence is Deployed Pays Off aggregated or deal-specific opportunity evaluations; 70% Companies connecting intelligence to sales stages All others Industry Average and 68% 66% 66% Laggard companies are 50% more likely than the Best-in- Class to have no win-loss Percentage of attainment activity whatsoever 60% 57% 56% 50% 50% 47% 44% 40% Team Customer Sales Reps attainment retention forecast achieving of sales accuracy quota quota n = 215 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012Data Quality: Ensuring that the Right Message is Aimedat the Right TargetFinally, it is worth exploring once more the importance of data quality, asinitially discussed around Figure 3 above. Survey respondents were asked,"Regarding sales reps searching for intelligence, to what extent do you considerthese efforts a negative distraction from ‘quality selling time’?” The percentageof Best-in-Class companies indicating a 4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale (“highly distractive"or "somewhat distractive") was 53%, compared with 36% of Industry Averagefirms and 27% of Laggard organizations. The lesson to be learned here is thattime spent selling is one of the most important goals a sales leader shouldpursue. Indeed, the typical sales reps among the Best-in-Class spend 5.7% lesstime “searching for relevant company, contact or industry information” than allother companies (.82 hours vs. .87 hours per day) - which obviously translatesinto more time discovering, nurturing and closing valuable sales revenue. Thus,© 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 Fax: 617 723 7897
  7. 7. Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers AdoptBest-in-Class PracticesPage 7the more accurate the information provided to a sales organization, the more Fast Factslikely they will succeed. In terms of survey respondents reported satisfactionwith their externally provided sales intelligence, we note in Figure 6 that √ 40% of all customers are dramatically more pleased with their information than respondents report thateven the Best-in-Class. their average sales rep spends more than 20% of their time looking for salesFigure 6: Better Intelligence = Better Results intelligence, rather than selling. Seven percent (7%) 3.75 customers Best-in-Class All others 3.66 of companies report an average of over 50% of their Average response, 1-5 scale reps’ time so spent. 3.50 √ In descending order, the most popular types of sales intelligence used are: 3.25 executive/individual information, targeted 3.11 company data, user- 3.02 generated content, and 3.00 contextually relevant news. Satisfaction with prospect/customer data quality, 1-5 scale n = 215 Source: Aberdeen Group, April 2012Case Study: Kelly ServicesConsider the case of Kelly Services, a global leader in providing workforcesolutions. According to David McDermott, Director of Sales Enablement, asignificant number of Kelly Services’ sales team members supporting thecompany’s outsourcing business had used a popular crowd-sourcing salesintelligence tool prior to 2012, but not as part of a formalized operationalproject. “Our lead generation team doesn’t just dial for dollars,” he explains;“they need to identify strong targets among companies and individuals, andthey need to dig deeper, gain insight into the business needs of prospects, andtry to uncover large outsourcing deals.”This give-and-get model of crowd-sourced contacts was generally known tobe effective, and the contacts relatively accurate, when the solution wasformally integrated into its new CRM owner in early 2012. At this point,McDermott embarked on a more measurable project to deploy, and analyzethe results of a fully integrated CRM/sales intelligence system. Starting theprogram, he explains that expectations were carefully managed, because, “nomatter how good the tool is, if salespeople don’t have an imperative to use it,they won’t touch it.” Kelly Services ran a pilot program in the Midwest, with75 sellers enabled with the newly integrated intelligence data, supported bymarketing campaign elements – and a requirement to uncover and vet 500contacts within a specified period of time. The imperative here wasmanagement’s requirement to deliver the contacts, but McDermott explainsthat, “since the contacts were quite accurate – at 60%, better than most salesintelligence databases – there was little baseline work to do, and the team was© 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 Fax: 617 723 7897
  8. 8. Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers AdoptBest-in-Class PracticesPage 8able to immediately begin digging into their accounts to look foropportunities, rather than spend valuable time sourcing the contacts "The inertia to get any salesthemselves.” person on the phone is the toughest challenge, and“The inertia to get any sales person on the phone is the toughest challenge, made it easy.”and this made it easy,” reports McDermott. The response from the team wasvery positive, and the Return on Investment (ROI) on the program was, ~ David McDermott, Director“overwhelming – we soft-launched in January 2012, and by the official full of Sales Enablement, Kellyregional launch in April, had already recognized a 9-times ROI, which Servicescompares actual revenue booked with the cost of the pilot implementation.”McDermott now plans a nationwide roll-out of this highly successful salesintelligence deployment.Conclusion“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 morelike them, are increasingly being associated with the challenges thatcontemporary Business-to-Business (B2B) sales professionals face in trying tofilter out all the data available to them about their prospects, customers andmarkets. As wonderful as web-based research has become as a salesprospecting tool, the core competencies of B2B salespeople – communicating,convincing and closing – are not only enhanced by information, but are alsothreatened by it. This Research Brief has demonstrated how Best-in-Classcompanies, as well as customers, have implemented specific bestpractices to ensure that their team members are enabled with the highestquality sales intelligence, as well as optimized best practices to ensure a strongpayoff on their investment.For more information on this or other research topics, please© 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 Fax: 617 723 7897
  9. 9. Executing at Peak Levels via Sales Intelligence: Customers AdoptBest-in-Class PracticesPage 9 Related Research Better Sales Forecasting Through Process Sales Performance Management 2012: and Technology: No Crystal Ball Required How the Best-in-Class Optimize the Front (July 2012) Line to Grow the Bottom Line (December Sales Intelligence: What B2B Sellers 2011) Need To Know Before the Call (June Sales and Marketing Alignment: The New 2012) Power Couple (December, 2011) Sales Mobility: How Best-in-Class Remote Sales Training 2011: Uncovering How the Sellers Are Replacing “See” with “Do” Best-in-Class Sustain, Reinforce and (May 2012) Leverage Best Selling Practices (October Lead-To-Win 2012: Managing People, 2011). Process and Technology to Optimize the Last Mile of the Sales Cycle (March Leveraging the 360 Degree Customer 2011) View to Maximize Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Partner Relationship Management: Potential (September 2011) Channeling Better Sales Results (March Streamlining the Top of the Funnel: How 2011) Inside Sales Teams Source, Qualify and Close Business (February 2011) Author: Peter Ostrow, Vice President and Research Group Director; Customer Management, Sales Effectiveness ( LinkedIn TwitterFor more than two decades, Aberdeens 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 provideorganizations with the facts that matter — the facts that enable companies to get ahead and drive results. Thats why ourresearch is relied on by more than 2.5 million readers in over 40 countries, 90% of the Fortune 1,000, and 93% of theTechnology 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 ofinsight to deliver innovative multichannel marketing programs that drive business-changing results. For additionalinformation, visit Aberdeen or call (617) 854-5200, or to learn more about Harte-Hanks, call(800) 456-9748 or go to document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Groups methodologiesprovide for objective fact-based research and represent the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unlessotherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group, Inc. and may not bereproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by AberdeenGroup, Inc. (2011a)© 2012 Aberdeen Group. Telephone: 617 854 Fax: 617 723 7897