Using Predictive Analytics to Define the Leads That Matter

Author: 
Vaughn Aust

Defining leads that matter is key to any sales and marketing strategy, but how do you pinpoint those golden customers? After all, it may not be about processing more data, but rather truly understanding what the data means once you have it. Predictive analytics uses data correlation to understand how you target a prospect, what that prospect’s channel preference is, the best time to call, and so on. If you’re trying to answer a business question and you have a lot of data to sift through, using predictive analytics gets you to the data points that matter in a way that will provide consistent results.

Predictive analytics can solve the three main challenges that sales teams face today:

1. Prioritizing which account prospects to pursue. Predictive analytics uses intelligent, data-driven prediction methods that analyze sales trends, such as previous history, win/loss statistics, and the types of prospects that result in sales, to determine which attributes to look for in customers that are coming into the funnel. It sorts through the 200 to 300 things you know about a customer to understand and predict what he or she will do next or what someone similar is likely to do. Then, it boosts the idea of the “hot lead” by prioritizing urgency and determining which leads to target first.

2. Identifying the best communication channels to use. A sales team must know the best method of contact for optimal results, be it email, phone, LinkedIn messages, chatting on corporate websites, or social promotion through Twitter. Understanding the communication preferences of your audience increases efficiency in eliciting a response. Predictive analytics provides this kind of insight.

3. Figuring out the right thing to say. Use predictive analytics to identify the pain points, needs, and interests of a prospect prior to the sales pitch. This is key to developing a winning message that captures his or her business. If you know which messages are going to resonate, you won’t waste your time or your prospects’ time by sending them things that they’re not interested in. That is the crux of predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics is an excellent tool that can be used to narrow your focus down to what matters—getting results. But how do you use predictive analytics to move your sales lead generation beyond theoretical and into a deeper understanding of who the leads are, where they have been, and where they may go next?

Customize Your Program and Consider Using Analysts to Give It a Boost

Surprisingly, predictive analytics still requires a level of customization that is difficult to normalize into software. There are a few areas that can be normalized, like conversational analytics on sales calls. But while there is some great software available, a high level of customization is still needed to get it working.

For example, software requires a model to connect and filter through the many attributes that vary widely among clients (e.g., what market they’re selling into, what product they’re selling, the life cycle of the product, and what kind of prospects they’re targeting).
Because of the customized effort required, there is an alternative path to reach the full potential that predictive analytics can offer across the organization. Consider hiring an analyst to build your own customizable predictive analytics. Often, an analyst can do a better job building and deploying predictive analytics than even the top software programs on the market. Where software can solve only a narrow set of problems, an analyst can open up a whole world of other opportunities.
Unify Your Sales and Marketing Teams to Work as One

Once you have a customized predictive analytics model, use it to unify your sales and marketing teams. Predictive analytics provides a common practice and a common way to look at data and approach key questions that both the sales and marketing teams have—such as where to get the data, what data is most successful, and which accounts are winning. All sales and marketing teams should be using a certain level of predictive analytics that provides a common way to answer those key questions. In addition, predictive analytics should be used for sales forecasting, analyzing the efficiency of sales and marketing teams, and creating email streams based on what content is likely to engage potential customers.

Open New Sales Channels and New Lines of Revenue

Sales and marketing teams are usually on the hunt for high-potential, high-revenue leads—but don’t overlook high-potential, low-revenue leads. These previously undiscovered leads can be identified by predictive analytics, opening up a new channel. Companies are finding that these high-potential, low-revenue leads eventually become high-revenue customers as they move up the buyer’s chain. This strategy can be very fruitful and create new lines of revenue that would have remained hidden without the help of predictive analytics.

The real allure of predictive analytics is that it can create leads by itself, without any action by the prospect. It doesn’t rely on prospects responding to your content. Rather, it finds new prospects by analyzing behaviors and patterns. Beyond identifying leads that matter, predictive analytics creates new leads, and that is where the magic lies.  

Vaughn Aust is executive vice president of marketing & product for MarketStar, a provider of outsourced sales and marketing services.