When Sales “Intelligence” is Actually Sales Interruption

Marketing Automation


There are many sales intelligence tools in the marketing automation space, all touting to help sales’ productivity by providing insight into buying behavior and helping sales to identify the hottest leads. However, whether you realize it or not, some of these tools actually cause your sales team to ignore critical buying signals. In other words, they harm sales productivity. You can learn more about this in our new ebook, The Dangers of a “Good Enough” Marketing Automation Solution.

So how do you know you’re dealing with a tool that will help your sales productivity? First, consider the “three P’s”.  Any effective sales intelligence tool must do all three well:

  1. Provide intelligence about true prospects so that reps aren’t wasting time trying to connect with people who will never be buyers
  2. Prioritize follow-up activities so that reps are spending their time on those prospects most likely to become customers
  3. Present a prospect’s interests to the rep, allowing the rep to initiate a more relevant and engaging conversation

Using this as a framework, you can easily evaluate the impact a specific sales intelligence tool will have on sales productivity. Here’s a more detailed explanation of each “P”:

Provide Intelligence on True Prospects

Most sales intelligence tools focus on alerting sales reps to activities that are presumed to be potential buying signals.  In order for an activity to be a potential buying signal, it must (drum roll, please)…be coming from a potential buyer! And that’s where the problems begin.

Unfortunately, many solutions have a very, very loose definition of what a “prospect” is.  In some solutions, a prospect is defined based on their level of interest and fit, which is typically determined through the scoring mechanism.  This is good.  In others, an individual becomes a “prospect” simply by filling out a form.  Or worse, some systems tag any lead that is added to the database as a prospect.  This is bad.

Can you guess what happens when a sales intelligence tool constantly alerts sales about activities not tied to an actual prospect?  It’s the same thing that happens when you see a bunch of irrelevant messages in your inbox.  Sales reps ignore them completely – well, the smart ones do.  Those that don’t ignore the alerts end up in a reactive cycle, chasing down low-quality leads that are unlikely to purchase.  And this is a good example of how some sales intelligence tools can hurt productivity.

Prioritize Follow-Up Activities

The ability of a sales intelligence tool to help a sales rep use their time wisely is perhaps the most important of the “three P’s”.  Let’s think about the email inbox example. Wouldn’t it be great to come into the office in the morning, and find your inbox auto-magically prioritized with the most important messages on the top, the less important ones at the bottom, and the unimportant ones hidden away?  I don’t know about you, but I would love that.  I could do so much with that extra time!

Most sales intelligence tools are simply alerting engines.  They don’t leverage lead scores to compare the quality of leads presented to reps through their sales intelligence tools.  Without the ability to compare lead quality on a relative basis, it’s hard to filter out the wrong leads, and impossible to present reps with a prioritized list of leads.  A prioritized list of leads boosts a sales rep’s productivity – much in the same way an auto-magically prioritized email inbox would boost productivity for you or me.

And in my opinion, a prioritized list is absolutely critical, because more than anything else, this is what makes the intelligence highly actionable.  When sales reps come into the office, they see a list of leads, with their best leads (real prospects) on top, and lower quality leads (still prospects) toward the bottom.  The best solutions re-sort that list dynamically as they learn more about each prospect, continuing to reflect lead quality on a relative basis.

Sales reps truly appreciate viewing their leads in this way, as opposed to being interrupted by a constant stream of alerts, many of them meaningless.  Again, this is the difference between a sales intelligence tool that helps, versus one that hurts sales productivity.

Present a Prospect’s Interests to the Rep

The last “P” is important because it helps the sales reps know what to say, whether they’re sending an email to a prospect, or picking up the phone to call them.  The more a sales rep knows about a prospect’s interests, the more relevant his or her messaging can be.

Sales reps should be able to determine interests based on the information within the sales intelligence tool, but this information isn’t always useful.  For example, many organizations trigger an alert when a lead opens an email.  Is opening an email really a strong buying signal?  Not likely, which is why reps often ignore these alerts.

Other sales intelligence tools let the marketer determine what is and isn’t meaningful to the sales rep.  For example, a prospect visiting the pricing page on the public website three times in a week might be considered a buying signal.  Or you might read a strong signal of interest when someone sits through a live demo, or simply visits your booth at a tradeshow (an offline behavior).  These specific and compelling signals are not only more meaningful, but they’re also much less likely to be ignored by a sales rep.

Lastly, look for a solution that provides such intelligence in an easily digestible manner.  Steer clear of tools that dump any useful intelligence into the CRM activity log, where it is lost in a sea of updates and activities, forcing a sales rep to waste time sifting through for useful information.

While significant differences exist between marketing automation solutions, uneducated buyers often see a check box next to something like “sales intelligence tool” and assume the different tools are more similar than not.  And when a company puts a lot of work into creating a highly differentiated tool, like Marketo Sales Insight for instance, this drives a product marketer mad.  Namely, me.  So I thought I’d write about it in an ebook: The Dangers of “Good Enough” Marketing Automation Solution.

Download The Dangers of a “Good Enough” Marketing Automation Solution to learn all about sorting between solutions that can seem similar, but have key differences which will affect your sales productivity, and ultimately your organization’s success.