Sales Intelligence 101: Demystifying the State of B2B Buying in 2018
Enabling Better Sales Conversations Begins with a Better Insight into the Market and Prospects, Says TechTarget CMO
In the challenge to win B2B buying game, every marketing and sales teams are drawn to the same line — Score with the right account with personalization and real-time intent. In a candid chat with TechTarget’s CMO, John Steinert reveals why better sales motions and sales conversations are keys to mastering the rising tide of B2B buying using sales intelligence tools.
Tell us about the ‘State of B2B Buying’ in 2018?
B2B buyers have never had more opportunity to discover ways of improving their business results. Through specialist online venues, social networks for peer-to-peer research and more, they can find out a lot of what they need to learn before making a decision. But more available information means that each member of the decision-making team can compile quite a lot of data to support their particular perspective. Therefore, the potential for decision making gridlock is very real.
Sales is about shaping the conversation so that it will convert to a deal.
While the low-touch interactions typical of marketing can get conversations going, we’re finding quality high-touch interaction absolutely critical. Better sales motions and sales conversations are key.
Enabling better sales conversations begins with a better insight into the market and prospects. That’s where TechTarget comes in and where solution marketing and brand and demand marketing can help build elements of the toolkit that enables sales to help prospects understand the need to demystify the path forward.
Enlighten us about the whole ecosystem of Sales Intelligence technologies that deliver ‘the best purchase intent insights anywhere’.
TechTarget was founded to help tech buyers and sellers find each other more productively. Since the enterprise tech space continues to grow in size and complexity every year, the need just keeps growing.
On the buyer side, our army of editors and writers simply have to continue to provide the best support for enterprise tech purchase decisions possible. By doing that, we continue to grow our tech buyer communities of more than 18M registered users – it’s incredible coverage of the enterprise tech world. These are the real people who drive tech purchases and they’ve given us and our clients’ permission to market to them in exchange for great free content.
Of course, we also need great SEO to make sure people find what they’re looking for. We need terrific analytics to deliver what users want when they want it – to continuously improve our UX on every screen and across all types of user journeys, both inbound and outbound. And we need to build all this learning into our Priority Engine SaaS platform so that clients can benefit from what we know about active buyer journeys and leverage the insights only we have directly into their sales and marketing efforts.
So that’s it in a nutshell: the content that buyers need, the SEO so that they can find it, the UX to make it consumable and the analytics to keep improving.
For tech vendors, we add more analytics, UX and the integration to deliver buyer insights directly into seller systems and workflows. And we add a complete host of services to help them scale marketing and sales around the world really fast.
What pointers should B2B marketers focus to judge ‘Real Leads’ based on true purchase intent?
Because it takes sales to turn a lead into revenue, the best way to conceptualize a real lead is one that sales will definitely follow up on aggressively. Sales needs to know that a lead they receive is, in fact, an accurate indication of demand for a solution that they sell at an account they care about. Marketers need to build their lead definitions based on what sales agree they will act on. Then marketers need to take the additional step of making sure they minimize false positives – leads that don’t actually indicate an opportunity taking shape.
And finally, marketers need to help sales minimize false negatives, by providing insights into accounts whether or not they are producing leads and by working with sales to make sure that lead and opportunity management processes are not, in fact, eliminating visibility into demand by mistake. Unfortunately, this problem is far more common than you might think.
Recommended Read: B2B Buying Disconnect: Are You Targeting the Right Set of Customers?
What is your definition of—
Whether generated by in-house marketers or third parties, real leads are accurate indicators of the presence of active demand – a buyer’s journey – in process. Contrast this to a contact name and title that matches a profile or “someone who has downloaded a whitepaper.” For either one, you really can’t say whether or not demand for a solution is actually present and you’ll spend a whole lot of effort finding out.
TechTarget supports clients’ need for real leads in two basic ways. We can either generate them for you, or, using real purchase intent, we point you to the accounts and the actual people demonstrating real purchase intent. The account activity ensures you don’t have a false positive or a false negative and when you engage those people you can be sure you have real leads.
Intent to Purchase/True Purchase Intent
Real purchase intent is a set of signals generated by known individuals exhibiting relevant behaviors that have been shown to indicate a purchase process is underway. Specifically, we monitor consumption of decision support content closely mapped to 10,000 hyper-specific topical categories. We continuously improve our analytic accuracy using inputs from the 60,000 verified deals we analyze each year.
Third-party B2B Data
Third-party data is data from outside your own world – your properties, systems, and processes. It comes in two basic forms – good and bad – and good data is available at several different levels of richness. Even in a pre-GDPR world, bad data is data where you can’t really track it back to its source. You have no way of understanding and believing in how it was made or obtained. You have no reason to believe it will perform one time, let alone repeatedly.
You can select good data from a wide variety of reputable sources based on what you need to accomplish – from keeping your CRM data clean to adding contacts at target accounts, to supporting ABM strategies by establishing appropriate fit to your ICP, to identifying and explaining the active demand for optimum marketing and sales performance.
TechTarget delivers on all of these with a strong focus on the behavioral end. The prospects we provide are permissioned and vetted, so they’re very clean and we can identify them at the source. We can take a list of companies visiting your website and de-anonymize them by telling you exactly who from that company is actually in a buyer’s journey.
As a publisher, we have an incredible understanding of your market and we have HG Data technographics built in. Therefore, we can ensure that a given company is a good match for you based on what they’re researching and what they have installed.
Because we have so many permissioned users, we can supply relevant contacts interested in what you do who are in a buyer’s journey and those who are not because they can still be very useful for awareness and influence. We also include DiscoverOrg contacts so that you can target relevant titles whether or not they are exhibiting research behaviors.
Do you feel there exists a certain disconnect between technology vendors and buyers? How does ABM fit into filling this disconnect?
The first disconnect I see between sellers and buyers is that sellers don’t know enough about buyers and buyers know an awful lot about sellers – there’s an information imbalance. The marriage between a buyer and a seller always works best when the seller understands the buyers’ need and can deliver really well against it.
The disconnect really has two points of origin.
First, there is understand buyers need in general, what CEB in their brilliant “Challenger Customer” research described as the “commercial insight.” Far too many vendors have not developed enough understanding of their target audience’s world to explain how their product will help the prospect’s business perform much better. Many haven’t even built the content necessary to explain how their product fits into the prospect’s current operation.
The second disconnect is that even when the seller has a product that solves a problem the prospect could have, sellers have a hard time identifying whether the prospect has actually recognized their issue and has begun prioritizing getting it fixed. Too many sellers are trying to sell when the prospect isn’t ready to even think about buying.
ABM starts to get at these disconnects in two ways.
First, it identifies a set of accounts that are (or should be) defined by their appropriateness for the solution – they’re a good fit. Second, it makes a commitment to doing a better job serving those accounts with better content and smarter sales coverage. That’s really where real purchase intent comes in four ways.
First, it helps you find the best accounts to target. Second, it tells you who’s actually in the market so that you don’t over the market or over sell to accounts that aren’t currently looking. Third, it surfaces the actual specialists who will generate the internal proposal and shortlist. And finally, it provides insights into how the account sees its needs and even which suppliers they are considering by showing you what they are researching – so marketers can shape their content around this and sales can develop more inroads to selling conversations. Real purchase intent is the secret insight that enables a tech vendor to deliver a more useful and therefore more productive buyer experience.
How can marketers truly identify leads in active demand, from accounts that are exhibiting purchase intent?
This is really simple. Real leads come from accounts where there is real demand. Real purchase intent surfaces the people exhibiting real demand and they become leads for you when you get them to engage. This can be accomplished using a wide variety of outbound and inbound tactics. The key to accelerating your success is to evolve your content and conversations such that they align your company and your offering to what the prospects have already shown they’re interested in.
Recommended Read: Contextual Content and AI: The New Wingmen for Email Marketing Campaigns
How can marketers get closer to accurate marketing attribution? What efforts are you making to enable marketers with better Sales Fitness?
Marketers need to start weaning themselves off the lead as the essential leading indicator of demand and shifting themselves towards identifying active accounts. This will help them achieve two important changes. It will set them up to align better with how sales see the world and go to the market and it will get them focused on figuring out the best way to engage an active account rather than fighting over unproductive things like who – what tactic – produced more or cheaper leads.
Real attribution should be about how successful we were at engaging and at converting the accounts we could see were actually in the market.
Regarding sales fitness, this really begins with deciding to move to a knowledge-driven approach to sales rather than focusing largely on activity. When sales knows critical details about the demand taking shape inside an account, salespeople will start taking advantage of that knowledge to improve themselves. It’s critical that the inside sales family of roles be allowed to participate in this insight revolution because if they are kept dumb and blind they really can’t be expected to do better. TechTarget is empowering this insight revolution by enabling one-click direct access to key behavioral insight on each account.
How do modern businesses make a balance between their content marketing and Sales Enablement strategies?
Different horses for different courses. Content marketing is for locating demand and engaging it. Sales enablement is primarily for converting demand. A company needs to build where it is under-performing most relative to the investment. Of course, if you’re failing at sales enablement it really doesn’t matter how well your content marketing is doing. That said, while sales enablement is informed by marketing, it’s far too big a job for marketing to take ownership of. It is labor intensive and demands real expertise in marketing, product, and sales.
What are the major pain points for sales reps in leveraging content marketing tools? How could automation solve these problems?
While the latest tools can have a lot of functionality in common, there are fundamental differences between marketing tasks and sales tasks. Marketing is about finding topics that will resonate so that a conversation can begin. Sales is about shaping that conversation so that it will convert to a deal. Marketing tool sets tend not to be flexible enough for sales and marketing processes take too long.
Sales needs to be able to personalize and that requires lots of easy changes. And the changes have to make the communication better, more personalized, a can’t fix this on its own.
What it needs is better data about the prospect and then a content provisioning method on top of that so the salesperson gets premade content that’s appropriate for the situation and the individual they’re encountering and the guidance they need so they can personalize it with a simple wrapper. Our intent products for sales do exactly this and when we onboard sales teams we go through extensive training on exactly how to use this to personalize.
In our own tests, we’ve achieved a 19X improvement in meeting setting as compared to the control case where no data or onboarding is involved.
How have email marketing and targeting campaigns evolved in the past two years around Sales Intelligence?
In the past two years, the biggest breakthrough in campaign targeting and email marketing has been the use of purchase intent. On its own, email targeting using real purchase intent can create a 6X improvement in CTR by targeting active demand versus passive audiences. But it’s the ability to integrate advertising and email to the same person in the same timeframe that really maximizes results.
We’ve shown that when you do this in a sustained fashion, you can also increase consideration rates by 25 percent which grows conversion all along the funnel, especially where leads convert to opportunities. The impact on ROI is amazing.
How is best suited to design and deliver sales enablement assets to ensure higher ROI with Sales Intelligence?
People who have the training and the will to understand the market, customers, your company’s offerings, the sales process, salesperson psychology and more are best suited to deliver sales enablement assets. Of course, there need to be enough of them to at least model the ideal state – the right tactics and assets. They need to be able to analyze points of failure and prioritize improvements. In enterprise B2B, I’ve encountered few marketing departments resourced enough to do this well. That said, different parts of marketing can certainly provision certain aspects of the job – useful frameworks for understanding the customer, playbooks, persona guides, templates and great data!
Tell us about your interest to be a Speaker at relevant technology Events & Conferences.
My colleagues and I love speaking at conferences. TechTarget is arguably the largest B2B tech marketer in the world, based on the number of deals we see, leads we create for clients, campaigns we run and data we capture about tech markets and tech buyers, so there’s a lot we can share. It’s a great business model that really works and we’re happy to talk about whatever aspect of it can help marketers and sellers achieve their own objectives.
Thank you, John, for sharing sagacious insights on ABM and the role of sales intelligence in B2B buying.