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Data-driven sales: the art of selling in the era of intelligence

I’ll start with a simple question: How intelligent is your sales process? 

What immediately comes to mind? If you’re like most, you probably just saw a list of logos run through your head related to data, tools, and enablement. It’s no secret that sales professionals have more in our sales toolset than ever before, and it all started with a simple idea: how can we be more informed about our buyers?

That idea sparked an evolution in the sales profession that has continued, and will continue, to make us more enlightened about our customers. Using data-driven tools, today’s top sales professionals have created data-driven sales strategies that are more efficient than ever before. 

What is data-driven sales?

Data-driven sales uses hard facts and customer intelligence to guide strategy and decision-making through actionable insights derived by AI tools analyzing real customer data.

It eliminates the guesswork and gut decisions that have typically driven sales activity, replacing them with informed choices based on fact and strategic analysis of customer intelligence. 

How we got here

First, let me run you through how exactly I got into the intelligence-driven side of sales. 

My journey started when I saw firsthand how large sales teams work. After selling my small startup company, I joined the team at Blackberry (Research in Motion). Immediately I noticed something was off—the team had a major network of well-connected sales people, but they were surprisingly inefficient at selling. 

Around this time, approximately 20 years ago, access to company data became more available. This meant that the best sales reps could research prospects in order to have more relevant conversations and make more sales. But, these data sources and how they were used weren’t perfect. First of all, it was incredibly time-consuming to stay up-to-date on company information, and second, it wasn’t easily scalable across an entire organization.

The market responded by creating point-solutions focused on time savings, productivity, and scalability. These tools equipped sales teams with a formula for volume—tools that teams could apply to all of these targets at once. The goal was to send a lot of communications through a lot of channels, so that the small percentage that do convert into sales are enough to sustain their sales targets. 

As we now know, this isn’t a smart or overly effective way to sell.

Fast forward to 2022, the game has completely changed because of how we collect and analyze data. An analogy that really stands out for me is how major sports teams have completely changed their programs because of data analytics. For example, in the early 2000s, NBA teams were more creative with the shots they took. They covered the court. But since the science of the game has changed due to data analytics, teams now know that three-pointers are the most valuable shots. So teams started recruiting players who could sink more three-pointers, and they refocused a lot of their coaching around improving three-point shots. The game became more methodological. 

Quality over quantity: timeless advice

The same is true in sales today. All of your competitors are running the volume play, based on a defined formula, using certain tools. The problem is, with the advent of automation, we started to optimize these tools for “more”. More emails, more calls, and more outreach. This increase in volume unintentionally sacrificed quality, which is something we can no longer afford to do. 

Because today, buyers expect quality. In fact, they’re more informed than ever. Research shows us that 94% of B2B buyers are fully informed about your business before even talking to you, and that they’ll only spend 5% of their buying journey in communication with you. By the time they do communicate with you directly, they expect a meaningful conversation that’s valuable to them—more consultative than transactional. 

How do you use this perspective to become a great seller and set yourself apart from all the noise? We’ve researched some of the best sellers out there to determine why they’re successful. We’ve found that what they’re doing is creatively balancing science and art. Here are the top five examples we found.

The top 5 data-driven sales strategies in 2022

1. Multithreading 

The first thing we noticed about top sellers is that they multithread their deals. This means they don’t rely on just one contact at the prospect organization. They know that in today’s state of selling, most buying groups have multiple stakeholders. (In fact, today’s average number of people on buying committees is 11.)

The most successful sellers research their database and check with colleagues to understand which additional buying committee members they can quickly engage with, so that their closing plan doesn’t rely on just one champion. They work with their executive team to build certain executive connections, and so on. Successful sellers understand that the more relationships they build between their organization and the prospect’s, the more successful the sale will be.

2. Track your champions

The best sellers know the value of their champions—they don’t forget about their customer once the contract is signed. They keep a conversation going with their champions so they can continue to build a strong connection over time. 

This means keeping track of customer news, of champion promotions or life events, and of industry trends, which gives them plenty of reasons to stay in touch. Top sellers know as soon as their champion changes companies, and they immediately prioritizes two things: 

  • keeping up with their champion to build an opportunity at the new company, and 
  • solidifying their relationship with additional contacts at their current customer, so they don’t become an attrition risk. 

A Champion Leaves: What Would a Great Seller Do?

Imagine a seller who worked to close a huge deal last year. Now imagine that their main champion—the person who worked alongside them to get the deal across the line—suddenly mentions their moving to a new company. Average sellers might panic. Great sellers, though, immediately recognize the opportunity at hand. They arrange a “congratulations” gift for their champion’s first day at the new job, plus they check in on them after the first 30 days to see how it’s going. And while this is going on, they increase their availability to their current customer to make sure their champion’s replacement is buying in.

3. Use AI to Prioritize Sales Activity 

Top sellers know how to prioritize their daily tasks in a way that leads to the most beneficial outcomes. Kind of like a cheat code in a video game, they use AI to find the most promising next-action. 

Through a combination of AI and relationship intelligence, via a platform like Introhive, these kinds of sellers use guidance and information to make their moves. The usefulness of the sales activity suggestions through AI-driven platforms has improved so vastly that it’s now an integral tool for any top seller. This combined with the creativity of salespeople and how they use the guidance has helped highly sophisticated and effective selling strategies emerge. 

4. Analyze At-Risk Customers

The best sellers move beyond the old way of measuring customer satisfaction, which relies heavily on simple surveys and gut intuition. Instead, they measure trends in their customer accounts to gauge which are happy and which are at risk. 

These kinds of sellers can spot lonely clients—those that haven’t communicated in awhile, or those whose communication patterns have significantly decreased over time. These sellers work with their success team to make sure they turn that relationship around before it’s too late. 

5. Act on Customer Intelligence 

The greatest sellers don’t rely just on the volume formula. They fold together multiple data sets and use AI to gain real intelligence about their prospects and customers. They then use this intelligence to create long-lasting, valuable relationships, which are paramount to finding, growing, and retaining revenue. 

Customer Intelligence is a competitive advantage 

It’s difficult to compete on the science of selling alone. The volume game just creates a new level of playing field. To be successful, your selling teams must find that balance between science and art. The future of selling will gather insights together, ship them to sellers when and where they need them, and then will let the sellers do what they do best: form and manage meaningful relationships with their customers.

For over 10 years, Introhive has been leading the field of customer intelligence with our end-to-end platform designed to increase the productivity and performance of your customer-facing teams.

Today, there are over 270,000 strategic sellers using Introhive’s platform to stand out from the rest of the selling noise.

To learn more about how you can get your competitive advantage through customer intelligence, talk to us. We’ll handle it.

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