Analytics define the business-to-consumer journey. With the long history of data availability available to B2C salespeople, they’re able to better track, recognize, and understand their prospects and the buying trips they take.
For business-to-business, there’s an added layer of complexity. You’re not just thinking about prospects as a company but as a bunch of individuals within a company; each has his own persona as both a businessperson and a consumer, meaning there’s a lot of data to digest and disseminate.
You have old-school firmographic data, new data elements, and beyond that, elements indicating business intent. All this information comes together to form analytics that can tell you whether a prospect has a particular need and whether your product or service is the one to fulfill it.
But the ability to gather information from different places around the web gives B2B marketers a much fuller view of a company’s profile. It’s also allowed them to leverage analytics in ways only once possible by their B2C counterparts.
Big Data Means Big Pain Points
Though 78 percent of B2B companies already invest in analytics, many sales managers encounter their fair share of hurdles in using the findings to the best of their abilities.
Of course, some of this has to do with data sets. Do you have the right combination of data? Do you have the right analytics platforms to access relevant data? Then, there’s always the question of capability. Do you have the right team members in place to help with segmentation, modeling, prioritization, etc.?
Beyond all that, companies themselves present sales organizations with issues. They don’t necessarily know how to identify their ideal customers; they may have an inkling but don’t do enough to let the data tell the story.
Let’s say, for the sake of example, that you have one case that shows your product is really good for retailers. That isn’t nearly enough information to launch a whole campaign around, and you may enter the market with a mismatch between product and target audience. No matter the offer, you won’t likely experience a stellar performance.
Another problem we’ve seen is that sales organizations often stumble with their strategies. You might start off with a program targeting the smaller end of small businesses and then partway through you decide, “Hey, let’s go hunt for mid-market and larger enterprises.” Changing your strategies too frequently gives your sales efforts little time to gain traction.
If you let data and analytics provide direction and inform your strategy, you know which customers fit best with your products or services. You can use this information to determine who you target with your acquisition strategies and your hunting pursuits. You know who to cross-sell and upsell with your sales efforts. In other words, you have each chapter of the story before you ever open the book.
Putting Analytics to Work
While analytics will vary by business, the way you put them to work for sales will almost always remain the same, and it often includes the following:
1. Hire the right people. Sales teams gather both insights and analytics. Put the most qualified people in the best spots to handle that information. Otherwise, you and your sales team won’t have what you need to prioritize leads, nurture prospects, or even forecast sales — at least not reliably.
2. Prioritize your goals. Determining which goals are the most important for your business can help you establish the criteria for your ideal customers. For example, are you looking for the quickest conversion, or do you want to find prospects who can provide long-term value? After all, retained revenue can tell you a lot about your customer base.
Do you want to distract sales? Put all the data out there so that they’ll have no idea where to direct their attention. That said, you should still leverage all the data you can by creating reference points for your ideal customers. This will ensure only the most relevant data is available to your sales team.
3. Invest in an analytics platform. Your sales team lives and dies by its list of prospects and priorities. If that list isn’t kept up-to-date, the team can’t prioritize prospects — or, worse yet, qualify leads. Invest in an analytics platform that refreshes data regularly to better track what’s changing with companies on your prospect list.
4. Be strategic with engagement. Just because a company fits your profile of an ideal customer doesn’t mean you should reach out right away. Layer additional models on top of that profile to account for verticals, seasonality, and types of interactions. Even some of the tactics about how you engage need to line up.
For example, is a particular company more likely to respond to a LinkedIn direct message than an email or phone call? Is that company less likely to respond during certain times of the year — no matter the messaging? Establishing different methodologies to become more strategic with engagement ensures not only acquisition, but also growth and retention.
Doing the necessary work up front will always put you in a better position in sales. You need to know your ideal customers, how to prioritize them, and when best to engage. Otherwise, you’ll never get to a conversation that’ll lead to a conversion.
Jonathan Gray is the senior vice president of marketing and leader of business development and marketing services for Revana, TeleTech’s Growth Services division. His team oversees marketing analytics and integrated marketing services programs that automate electronic marketing strategies on behalf of industry-leading clients.