If Data isn’t Real-Time, It’s Not Accurate for B2B Marketing and Sales

Rishi Dave, Chief Marketing Officer At D&B, Explains How Marketing And Sales Teams Could Equip Themselves With Powerful Data And Drive Alignment In Selling Effectively To Engaged B2b Buyers

Last month, Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) released the first annual report on the state of B2B marketing, selling, buying and the impact of data and technologies on the selling process. Titled “State of Sales Acceleration,” the report, by D&B, identified that B2B sellers still have a long way to go before they can hope to use data and analytics to accelerate sales and turn potential prospects into customers.

Have the Data, But Does it Offer the Complete Picture?

We spoke to Rishi Dave, Chief Marketing Officer at D&B, to understand how marketing and sales teams could equip themselves with powerful data and drive alignment in selling effectively to engaged B2B buyers.

We asked Rishi that how despite sharing common data, insights and, to an extent, intelligence tools, marketing and sales teams were unable to build complete alignment in engaging B2B buyers. Rishi answered, “Just sharing these things isn’t enough. The tools the teams share have to be capable of surfacing insights to the right person at the right time. They also have to be kept up to date with real-time, connected data so that decisions can be made on the most recent prospect and company information. This requires structured, clean, and augmented data sets. Finally, one of the main things that prevent alignment is not having a complete view of the customer in those shared systems and data.”

In order to get that complete view, companies have to find a way to tie together online activities like form fills and web visits to offline actions like trade show visits or sales calls.

Rishi explained, “Having a single, unique identifier for each record allows that connection and allows the two teams to get a complete view of what is happening with the customer at all times.  That is how you create seamless customer experiences. As well, Marketing and Sales need to have common metrics like closed deals. Oftentimes, disconnects occur when marketing focuses only on one metric, like leads, while sales cares most about closed deals.”

Marketer or Sales: Who is Best Poised to Define and Track Buyer Signals

The study found that only 51% of buyers believed that communications they receive have improved, which suggest that they are constantly looking for more information to research on products and solutions before they make a purchasing decision. So, out of marketers and salesreps, who are best poised to define customer profiles and track buyer signals?

Rishi believes ‘both’. He said, “If marketers and sellers are not working together on this, they will not align and create integrated customer experiences and close deals. Once a real-time data set is created that is structured, clean, and complete (this is called “mastering” your data), analytics professionals can leverage look-alike modeling and predictive modeling to define profiles and prioritize opportunities and accounts.”

For the D&B CMO, real time buying signals should be used by all people who touch customers to create integrated experiences, whether it is sales, marketing, customer support or other touchpoints.

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How CRMs and Automation for Marketing and Sales Impact Sales Acceleration

Evidently, there seems to be a significant gap between what marketers and sales professionals think is relevant to reach the right buyers with the right messaging. 76% of sales professionals are actually optimistic and confident about the quality of lead passed over to them from marketing. However, 93% agree that access to accurate and complete data helps them understand the target buyers more effectively.

So, are CRMs and automation tools intelligent enough to segregate data based on what marketing and sales teams may be looking for, separately?

Rishi replied, “Not by themselves! While they are great repositories of data, they don’t necessarily have the analytics and insights marketing and sales teams need to make the decisions they need to make.  What is the key here is augmenting those systems with some sales or marketing intelligence software that can segment accounts for marketing while providing sales with the real-time buying indicators they need.”

Rishi added that the absolute key to getting the B2B marketing and sales team very-relevant information is making sure the systems they are using are “connected and fed by the same real-time, clean, structured data.”

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Data Relevancy and Understanding Your Target Audience

A surprisingly similar number of respondents (from the report) were unsure about the relevance of data and their understanding of the target audience.

Rishi clarified that though people (92%) know they need to use data don’t they are adept at using it yet.  He explained, “They may not trust it or they may not have the appropriate software solutions to surface that data as insights, or they may suffer inaccurate, dirty data. You have to have several things to actually be able to gain insights from the data.”

D&B’s Playbook to Gain Accurate Insights from the Data

  • Mastered data across the organization. This means it is clean, structured, and connected across departments.
  • Analytics that provide insights on that data
  • Tools or solutions that help surface that data as insights. That may be a solution that helps segment your customer by best traits, identify white space market opportunities, or identify a trigger event at a target account that may indicate a need to buy.
  • Real-time information. If data isn’t current, it isn’t accurate.
  • A connected, 360 degree view of the customer. This is one reason respondents don’t understand their target audience. It’s a hard thing to do when you can’t track all their actions. Having the unique identifier to tie together all of a customer’s actions is key to understanding target customer behavior.

Cold Calling and Its Impact on Sales Productivity

A large part of the buying decision is now based on online research, product recommendations and personalized marketing campaigns.  In such a scenario, why do businesses still rely on cold calling? Isn’t it counter-productive to sales productivity?

The report states that despite buyers hesitating to take a call, 83% of sellers actually felt that it’s still very important to speak or meet with a prospect to close a deal.

Rishi explained why cold-calling is still not out of ‘sales acceleration’ equation. He stated, “If the sales person has done their research and knows the business of the customer they are calling, they may be able to provide some real value that the customer couldn’t have gotten online.”

Rishi also took us deep into the complaints that respondents raised. He said, “One of the top complaints of respondents was that the sales rep didn’t know enough about their business. In that case, of course the cold call is a waste of time. But imagine if that cold call is timed exactly on the day that a trigger event takes place and could indicate a need to buy for that customer.  Placing an intelligently timed call may just be the thing that pushes that customer from consideration to purchase.”

Here’s an example that the CMO of D&B offered—

Using our own sales intelligence platform, our sales team recently saw a triggered alert announcing a new EVP of Sales and a new EVP/CMO at one of our customers whom we prioritized as a having a high probability of buying one of our solutions. Immediately, our sales person left a voicemail to introduce himself to the new contacts, proposing a meeting to talk through their go-to-market strategy, priorities, and anticipated challenges, based on the data we had.

The CMO’s assistant responded, suggesting a day and time, and is bringing the EVP of Sales into the meeting. By focusing on the relationship, the individuals, and their real-time needs, the sales rep putting self in a position to have the right conversation at the right time with the decision makers that will form the core buying group at the prospect company.

Having “Mega Data”: Why it’s Far from Being the Winning Formula for B2B sellers

Like in life, it’s the battle between thoughts and actions. Rishi explained how having mega insights is the winning potion, and not mega data.

He said, “Data alone is not enough. To have a truly winning potion, your in-house data (CRM, MAS, etc.) needs to be matched with 3rd party master data and then connected across the organization for complete customer views. This is what offers seamless customer experiences and what sets companies apart in a world where much research is done online.”

So, with data and intelligence in place, does having bots perform all the talking for B2B marketers make any sense?

Rishi acknowledged how the combination of ‘right’ data and intelligence can drive bots to do quite a bit of the work, although there will always be a need for some human intervention.  He provided a scenario where there will be use-cases where bots get stumped and a human will need to step in where the bot can’t. He identified how if the bots were fed with, accurate real-time data, they really can do a lot of the heavy lifting. Rishi expounded, “By analyzing trends and responses, the bots get ‘smarter’ over time and can take on more tasks. But the key really is to make sure the data on which they are built is always accurate, always updated, and always connected across systems the buyers may touch.”

Mission Incredible for Sales Acceleration: Draw a Line between Confidence and Hubris

According to the State of Sales Acceleration report, “To be truly effective with their time, sellers need to leverage real-time buyer insights to determine who to call, at what time, and what to talk about. This should lead to better conversations for both parties.”

From aggressive pitchmen, the sales professionals must shed their drive to achieve quick sales and instead focus on being ‘trusted advisors’ to buyers. When 80% buyers say that aggressive sales pitch puts them off—B2B teams use data to better predict the buyer’s persona and engage them with valuable actions and not unresponsive traditional tactics.

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