Today, one of the sure shot ways in which sales leaders can create competitive advantage for their companies is by making the core sales processes more data-driven.
From a sales perspective, market intelligence typically involves scanning a) websites / social media and b) news articles to track and understand important developments around clients. The insights that market intelligence efforts provide supplement the internal / proprietary data (e.g. client’s technology stack, propensity to buy your solution, leads etc.) that companies have about their clients.
Without market intelligence data, the internal data your company has falls way short of being reliable enough to make unbiased sales decisions. Read this report by McKinsey - Insights to impact: Creating and sustaining data-driven commercial growth | McKinsey
From Venture capital (VC) firms to SaaS software resellers, every major B2B business is leveraging market intelligence data to better understand customers and bring to life new use cases. Here is McKinsey talking about the power of external data / market intelligence and how a large insurer was able to transform its core processes, including underwriting, by expanding its use of external-data sources.
B2C businesses have adopted data-driven methodologies in their sales for more than a decade now. And although currently most B2B sales leaders cannot see a growth path for their companies that does not rely on data-driven decision making, the adoption of data in the B2B sales world only started picking up steam very recently, in the last 3 years or so. We find that many B2B sales leaders are still not fully aware of the data their company needs to excel. Particularly, sales leaders often misunderstand and under invest in building capabilities for generating market intelligence insights.
Here are the two main misconceptions sales leaders have about market intelligence:
1. What exactly do you mean by market intelligence?? Do we even have such a capability? Are there dedicated tools available for this? I have no idea what that means for my sales teams.
Typically, there are resources within the sales, marketing and account team who work on market intelligence assignments from time to time. A typical assignment looks something like this - “Next week, I have a call with a VP at this large health insurance client and I want to show him our due-diligence management system. So, please prepare a report covering the acquisitions made by this client in the last 5 years and the rationale behind them”.
As this example illustrates, the market intelligence insights generated by these resources usually have a short shelf value and are not distributed beyond the person / team (e.g. the head of sales for financial services clients who asked for the above report) who requested them.
Hence, many sales leaders do not see such efforts as something that can be streamlined and scaled across the client portfolio to meaningfully impact the efficacy of regular sales activities.
But there is a huge opportunity missed here. Although manual market intelligence efforts do not scale, there are powerful market intelligence tools like Midesk that have the capability to provide these insights at scale - insights for each one of your clients. In the next section, we will show you what these insights are and the value they unlock for sales teams.
2. I do understand the value of external / market intelligence data. But my sales teams are already overwhelmed with data. They just do not have the capacity to process additional data.
Typical sales data needs investment in resources and tools for cleaning, integrating and analyzing the data before it delivers value. Hence, usually sales teams are not interested in simply ingesting more data if it requires them to make heavy investments in resources and tools.
Thankfully, the very best of the market intelligence tools provide targeted data which is devoid of junk content and directly addresses the important questions asked by the sales teams. This data requires minimal efforts to clean and utilize. We will talk more about this in just a bit.
For sales leaders who choose to look beyond these misconceptions about market intelligence, market intelligence tools can provide significant value for several fundamental sales capabilities including gathering account intelligence, finding new companies to target, tracking competitors’ moves, and understanding market trends.
In this article we want to focus only on those benefits of market intelligence tools which directly impact your win-rate and help you discover new companies to pursue.
1. Discover new companies to target
Market intelligence tools can help you discover new companies to target.
Using advanced AI technologies like Natural Language Processing (NLP), these tools scan news articles and aggregator portals like LinkedIn and Crunchbase to identify companies which are exhibiting ‘demand signals’ that matter to you.
By demand signals we mean the recent, publicly-announced developments around a company which indicate that the company either needs to purchase your product / service now or that the demand is likely to arise very soon.
As an example, think of a company that provides software tools and services that help with cloud migration. When this company goes out to find new clients, it is likely to pursue companies that are showing the following demand signals:
Companies that have just released an RFP / RFI that involves cloud migration services
Companies that have recently acquired a SaaS startup
.. launched a cloud migration / digital transformation program
.. released blog posts / case studies / webinars / CXO statements around cloud / digital / infrastructure modernization
.. announced partnerships with a cloud technology provider
.. announced plans to invest in upgrading their technology / improving the customer experience of their products
Typically, sales and account teams in your company will have a very good idea of the demand signals they look for in prospective clients as they go about finding new companies to target.
For each product / target market you could have a separate list of demand signals. And market intelligence tools like Midesk can learn all of your demand signals and give you a list of companies in every market segment you care about that have demand for your products and services.
Let’s say that you sell a compliance management solution. Midesk can help you identify new prospective clients from among the mid-sized banks. And it will do that by monitoring banking focused news articles to identify mid-sized banks that have exhibited demand signals relevant for you (e.g. recently launched a new corporate product or released an RFI around compliance management).
Some of the companies recommended by the tools could already be in your radar. But you would always discover new companies with significant demand - companies which were never spotted by your marketing / lead gen efforts.
2. Automated sales triggers
The utility of demand signals does not end with finding new companies to target.
Market intelligence tools can also use demand signals as sales triggers. Basically, the tools continuously monitor all of your clients’ websites and news coverage and notify you in real time whenever a current or prospective client meets a demand signal criteria. This gives your sales team the golden opportunity to act on the development before your competitors.
For example - Let’s say that whenever any of your clients announces a new round of funding (a demand signal for you) it becomes a good candidate for you to sell your add-on installation / customer success services. Now, you can set a trigger in your market intelligence tool asking it to immediately notify you whenever a client announces funding news on their website or a news publication.
Midesk can help you set triggers for each of your current / prospective clients based on a single or combination of demand signals that matter to your sales teams. And it can ensure that all the required members of your sales org instantly receive a notification when a client meets a demand signal.
3. Demand qualification for companies which are in your radar
For companies that are in your radar, market intelligence tools provide you an additional source of truth to evaluate their level of demand.
Market intelligence tools evaluate the demand at your target companies by continuously monitoring the demand signals from the websites of these companies and the news coverage about them.
Your current understanding of the demand for your products and services at these companies is likely to be based on your marketing, lead generation and existing relationships. On top of this view of demand, by adopting market intelligence tools you will get to know which external demand signals have been shown by your target companies in the last 6 months or any chosen time frame. This way you will develop a significantly more comprehensive understanding of demand at companies in your radar.
For each segment of target companies, along with the demand signals we discussed so far, you can also have more specific demand signals which reflect your proprietary knowledge of ‘what works for you’ in these segments. As an example - you may know that the following events significantly increase your chance of winning deals at mid-sized SaaS companies that your are currently prospecting:
A SaaS company in your radar just received a round of funding
.. announced investments in technology / capability building / acquisition
.. launched a new product / service
.. talked about increasing top line / geographical expansion / started hiring aggressively
A market intelligence tool like Midesk can learn the demand signals, continuously track the demand signals at every single one of your target companies, and store the insights (i.e. which companies are showing demand signals and what are those signals) in a database / email / powerpoint deck, as conveneint for your sales teams.
Midesk can also rank the clients based on their demand levels. It does this by looking at the number of demand signals a client is showing, for e.g. a client which has announced a round a funding, released a relevant RFP, and launched a technology transformation program in the last 6 months is likely to have a stronger demand / appetite to purchase from you than a client which only announced funding in the last 6 months.
Imagine getting a demand score for thousands of companies you are prospecting. The score will help you identify the top 10 / 20 / 50 companies which are showing extremely strong external demand signals.
4. Comprehensive market intelligence about your accounts
We all know that valuable opportunities may take months to convert. And while your opportunity is proceeding, the client may be going through important transformations. There might have been leadership changes, or an acquisition, a new partnership, a negative media report about a CXO / board member, or maybe the latest financials indicate rising margin pressures.
Would it not be great if before every client conversation your sales executives become fully cognizant of important developments that happened around the client in the last week / quarter / year?
These client developments could be different from the demand signals we discussed so far. For example, a leadership change at an account may not directly indicate that there is an increased demand for your product but you still need to be very much aware of this so that you get a chance to modify your sales strategy at the account.
For your complete account portfolio, a market intelligence tool like Midesk can keep an ‘important developments at the account’ view ready for your sales teams. By monitoring the clients’ websites and media coverage every hour (if not every minute), Midesk ensures that the sales team always gets to see the latest developments.
Midesk also has powerful dashboarding capabilities which ensure that the insights are summarized and sent to the sales team members’ inbox or automatically added to a pre-formatted powerpoint. This ensures that the sales team gets the insights in a very easy to understand manner and at the most convenient place.
5. Direct integration with CRM
The best market intelligence tools provide targeted insights for the questions you are asking. And these tools integrate directly with your CRM. A CRM system, as every B2B company seems to have realized, is critical for sales success. You need to rely on CRM data to execute most of the sales processes.
Midesk integrates directly with your CRM at the account level. What that means is, for each account, your sales team will be able to simultaneously view the demand signals and important developments about the company (like funding news, leadership updates, partnership announcements, media coverage etc.) along with the regular CRM insights (open opportunities, client leads, client relationship insights etc.).
This deeper view of your account will help your sales teams better understand the risks, the opportunities and the company’s business health as they work with an account. All the typical uses of the CRM, from identifying accounts for running campaigns to quoting the final offer value to clients, will also benefit from more comprehensive account level information.
Midesk can bring to life a very interesting CRM use case -> enriching deals always fresh account intelligence.