If you asked your sales team what they wanted most, how do you think they’d respond?
The most obvious answer is sales, and of course, commission, but then they’d think about it… and the next most common answer is ‘more insight about the buyer’.
Give them insights and they can craft a relevant, appropriate and meaningful conversation with a buyer which helps cultivate a sale.
So how do you, as marketers, deliver insights?
When we work with clients, the biggest challenge we see is lack of buyer insights. Often, it’s simply because there isn’t the time to devote to gathering the data (they’re too busy spinning plates, managing stakeholders and getting internal consensus).
Furthermore, when the data is available, it takes specific skills and resources to turn that data into insights useful for marketing activity or for sales conversations.
In the last few years, there’s been a huge shift from general demand programmes focusing on lead generation to more vertical-led marketing and account-based marketing. By their very nature, these types of programmes demand more insight to ensure they’re successful.
Messages around product, function, features and benefits won’t cut it. To get any form of resonance and cut through, you need insights.
The most valuable insights come from several places, each with their own purpose, strengths, weaknesses and merits. When the research is compiled into a digestible format, rather than just raw data sets, you get real insights that not only support the sales teams, but to inform targeting, messaging, sales patterns, and conversion strategies.
Buyer insights straight from the horses mouth
There’s nothing more reliable than what the buyer tells you themselves. Interactive tools where the buyer answers questions to get a valuable report that’s customised to their specific inputs is one of the best ways to get insights on a buyer.
When a lead is qualified and questions are asked by the business development rep, the buyer is often cagey, knowing that the rep is after just one thing. But when you ask those questions and give insights back – without actually having to speak to the buyer, that first conversation the rep has is far more insightful.
For example, with an ROI calculator, the buyer would input several key pieces of information about their organisation such as size, certain costs, likely duration of contract, number of items required or types of functions/features required in order to get back a value-based calculation such as ROI or time-to-value. If a sales person were asking those questions in an early stage call with a lead, they’re likely to be less willing to share as it feels too much like a ‘sales process’.
By asking the questions digitally with a report at the end containing insights specific to them, the buyer feels more in control. More importantly, the data submitted is logged in the CRM for the sales team to see and leverage in their follow-up.
These interactive tools don’t just come as ROI calculators, you could create capability assessments, maturity models or competitive benchmarking reports – all of which provide significant value to the buyer and insights to marketing and sales.
Here’s one we made earlier…
Every movement and interaction these days is tracked. We’re cookied, monitored and watched (unless we opt-out of course). These digital interactions form a digital footprint and if the prospect is in your database, then it becomes hugely valuable for the sales team.
First and foremost, the prospect activity history from the marketing automation platform should be connected to the CRM record so the sales team have visibility of what the prospect has engaged with. This can help direct conversations by informing the sales person of what the prospect has looked at, pages visited and content downloaded. Also, how frequently they’ve visited and if you’re using scoring to indicate level of intent, how interested they are. Just make sure the activity history is accessible for the sales team and they know how to where to find it in the CRM. (The big 4 marketing automation platforms all have this feature).
In addition, this data forms your first party data – again, a valuable asset in digital marketing. Whilst it doesn’t necessarily provide insight to your sales team, it can be used for all sorts of clever digital things to help reactivate and further engage your prospect pool. That’s for another post though… (coming soon to a blog near you!)
Data, data everywhere…
Whilst first party is your own data, there are some very kind folks out there who’ll give you access to their third party data providing you with insights about what your target companies are up to. There are a couple of ways you can do this:
1. Partner with a global IT media publisher and syndicator with a huge membership base. The publisher can then give you insights about what content your specific targets have engaged with, and who else in their buying team is looking too. This helps identify companies that have a buying team and, depending on the type and volume of content being consumed, can give indications of whether an RFP is being considered. Anyone know who I’m talking about… yes, TechTarget and their Priority Engine – it’s all about intent data and identifying those likely to purchase.
2. Other intent platforms – and there are many. We like several, such as Nexus by Cyance. These platforms offer the ability to see trending topics and the organisations that are consuming those topics. Again, flagging the likely intent of the organisation based on what content they’re consuming. The third party data can then be shared, cross-matched against your prospect lists and flagged to the sales team for follow-up. This is a slightly different type of insight – but good for ‘hot leads’ in-market soon or right now.
Market insights straight from your desk
The simplest and most cost-effective way to get insights is simply through desk research. Whilst it’s time consuming, it doesn’t involve a data platform or 12-month commercial contract – and can be dipped into and evolved over time.
These days, there is plenty of data available, especially from analyst houses, specialist research houses and free sources such as Office of National Statistics, Companies House and target companies company reports such as annual reports and investor reports.
These reports can provide solid insights into what’s happening in a vertical from a market forces perspective and for those doing focused ABM programmes, company reports are invaluable for specific company insights – all of which can inform the sales team and shape their conversations.
Social platforms: just a little bit of stalking…
Research for ABM programmes wouldn’t be complete without a fair amount of time on LinkedIn. Whether you’re building out target lists, account mapping or eyeballing key individuals, the research here is critical to shape the sales team’s insights.
Some of the projects we’ve worked on have simply been about bolstering the understanding of the buying team so that sales have a better understanding of who they’re talking to. When you’re targeting an account with a sale value of over $1M, it’s worth knowing as much about the individuals as possible, including their likely personality profile, personal interests and passions as well as how best to interact with them.
Talking on the phone: third party research
Investing in telephone-based market research and talking to your prospective buyers is highly valuable – in fact you can’t beat it. Specialist agencies can unpick specific buyer insights and intelligence that desk-based or data-centric activities can’t.
For example, some firms provide ongoing and up-to-date reports of technology usage within a company allowing you to see if your solution fits, complements or would never integrate well. This can be really powerful for displacement campaigns or simply for knowing what you’re up against competitively or within their current IT architecture.
Whatever way you look at it, buyer insights matter
So, do you think you’re able to gather the insights your sales team need to cultivate relationships and close the deal, or do you need a bit more help?
At Modern we can gather, analyse and provide insights on an ongoing basis within a programme or as an adhoc project. Whilst many marketing teams believe they can do this in-house, the value we bring is in our wider expertise across the technology sector and our ability to delve into the data to uncover the gems that open doors, connect with people, ensure campaigns convert and give confidence to the sales team.
Talk to us today about helping your team expand their buyer insights.