Intelligent Sales Leads

Improving customer experience with intelligent sales leads

I was recently asked to share my views of the impact of Big Data, business intelligence, and data analytics in sales.  We are only beginning to scratch the surface in leveraging Big Data, particularly in sales.  Many other functions have been leveraging big data and rich analytics for years, with great impact.

I’ve been quoted a lot about my view that Big Data and rich analytics are the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” for sales and marketing.  These have the greatest potential in driving both sales effectiveness, but also customer experience of anything that I’m seeing.

Judging by the focus on it in blogs and articles, at events like Dreamforce, and others, I’m not alone in that opinion.

Intelligent Sales LeadsThere are many areas in which Big Data and analytics will help improve the customer experience and drive sales and marketing effectiveness.  One area is in providing sales with “Intelligent Leads.”  It’s a far cry from where we are today–at least judging by the prospecting calls I’ve gotten this morning.

Leads–quantity and quality are always an issue, both with marketing and sales.  They are often a bone of contention between the organizations.  Most organizations, frankly are still in the dark ages in lead management and development.  Too many still think a name and number from the phone book, or an email address scraped from the web is a lead.  Too many dollars, euros, yuan, and yen are being wasted on bad leads driven by bad strategy and thinking.

But leading organizations are changing this.  Marketing automation tools have come a long way in helping us engage, nurture, and develop relationships with prospects.  The content management strategies that go along with these tools are critical in informing, educating and developing the customer.  Lead scoring tools have helped us to narrow the gap between what marketing considers a qualified lead and what sales considers a qualified lead.

But there is a richer view of the customer than that currently provided by most of the marketing automation tools.  See most of those tools are about “our” communications and engagement with the customer.  Where we have moved them on their interest/buying path.

Big data and rich analytics enable us to take things to an entirely new level.  They enable us have a richer view of the customer.  They enable us to incorporate data from many sources–internal and external.  They enable us to recognize patterns, events, opportunities.  Leveraging Big data and rich analytics will enable us to create intelligent leads–leads which engage the right prospect at the right time with the right offer.

With intelligent leads, sales people will be engage customers at the peak of interest, when the propensity to buy is highest.  They’ll know exactly what to talk to them about and how to talk to them.  Intelligent leads will turn the customer experience of prospecting from an annoying intrusion to a welcome and timely insight.

Let me take just a simple example.  I spend a huge amount of money on Amazon.  As a result, they have a very rich profile of me, based on my past purchases, every time I sign on, I see recommendations of things I might be interested in.  They are pretty much right on–and I end up buying a lot of their recommendations.  But all their recommendations are based on my history of transactions and searches at Amazon.

Lately, my wife has been “hinting” about our Christmas vacation.  She wants to go to an exotic place.  She’s been researching places like Fiji, Tahiti, and other spots on the web.  She’s started sending me articles and links, and I’ve been researching them.  What if Amazon could see that search history and start recommending travel books on Fiji and Tahiti?  (Believe me, Google sees that history and can generate a great profile, and sell the lead).

Or what if, United Airlines, started seeing that behavior, and sent me an email, “Dave, in recognition for the 10′s of thousands of miles you’ve flown this year, we’ve put together a travel package of flights and hotels to Fiji and Tahiti and are giving you a 15% discount.  Please click here.”

The timeliness and relevance of these messages, tied with a high propensity to buy make these very intelligent leads and enable them to present offers that I have a high likelihood to accept.

This isn’t outlandish thinking, many leaders in B2C sales are either doing or approaching this capability.  The capability exists in B2B sales, as well.  As a simplistic example, I see people from a company hitting on our blogs and websites, I see them searching for us in LinkedIn,  a number of people with sales management, sales operations, and finance are asking for some of our white papers..  I also know from alerts I’ve been receiving, that the company has had market growth challenges.  Their SG&A has been increasing and when you look at the fine print in the financial statements I’m guessing most of the increase is attributable to sales.  A friend of mine, who happens to be a strategic partner of the company, confirms my suspicions and tells me about a lot of organizational changes.

I’m  not as dumb as I look, so I put all these bits and pieces together, thinking,  maybe this company has a sales process problem and I should be prospecting them about how we can help improve their sales process, effectiveness.  and overall go to market strategies.  Guess what, those people want to talk to me!

Organizations are doing this at a much larger, more sophisticated level, with hundreds and thousands of customers, pinpointing opportunities and providing sales people with intelligent leads.

I’ve just presented some very simplistic examples.  The data is there, waiting to be exploited–it exists in lots of places in our companies and outside our companies–but accessible to us.  The tools are there to start identifying patterns and isolating organizations and individuals.

The capability is there to enrich our prospecting, drive better customer experience, and higher conversion rates in leveraging intelligent leads.

Leading organizations are already leveraging this capability in some way and are moving aggressively into exploiting it in richer forms.  We’ve worked with organizations in helping them do this, in one we saw lead conversions go from 17% to in excess of 80%.  Intelligent leads produce results!

Intelligent sales leads provide a rich view of the customer–both enterprises and individuals.  They’re sourced from internal and external data.  They tell you when to talk to a customer, what to talk about, how to talk to them  in a way that is always timely, relevant, insightful, and produces value.

Leveraging intelligent sales leads will change your marketing, change your prospecting, change your customers’ experiences.

Sales and marketing executives need to get together and start thinking about leveraging Big Data and rich analytics.  I think it is the next quantum leap in sales and marketing effectiveness.

Note: This blog post is from one of our featured guest bloggers, David Brock.  The post can also be found on Dave’s blog here.