sales cycle

Intent Data Shortens The Sales Cycle and Wins Revenue as Staple of New Demand Unit Waterfall

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After SiriusDecisions announced its new Demand Unit Waterfall this past spring, the B2B research firm declared that the emergence of third-party intent data services was a key factor in its decision to revamp its industry-standard model for engaging and converting prospects. In fact, SiriusDecisisons has identified intent data monitoring as a “requirement” in its new waterfall’s Active Demand stage, where Sales and Marketing teams identify the most promising candidate accounts.

At True Influence, we’ve known this all along.

Services like our InsightBASE® Relevance Engine provide Sales and Marketing with deep insights about your prospects’ interests and their purchase journey, based on millions of activities they conduct across the Web. This vital intent-based intelligence can be integrated directly into your marketing and sales automation systems, helping your Marketing team prioritize accounts for engagement campaigns, with personalized messaging and offers, from the very first point of contact. This creates better opportunities for your Sales team, when they actively reach out to prospects in the waterfall’s Qualified Demand Stage.

Since its introduction, the new Demand Unit Waterfall has received a ton of positive buzz, many of us agree it has tremendous promise, as a new way of looking at accounts, and the “demand units” within them making key spending decisions. This new concept of identifying and targeting “demand units” – groups of individuals within B2B accounts who work together to influence purchases – is garnering much of the attention. [More on the “demand unit” concept later in this post.]

A key benefit of a simplified waterfall, and of including intent data in your early target account identification process, for me is the speeding up of the sales cycle. For many B2B companies, this can typically can stretch out for months, or even a year or more, prior to this way of way of thinking.

Faster Is Better When It Comes to the Sales Cycle

B2B purchasing decisions are typically very complex; customers want to be sure they have all their bases covered, before making their final decision. The best way to shorten the time between the initial engagement, to a highly-qualified hand-off to Sales, is to provide them with valuable, customized content from the first moment of engagement. In fact, more than 60 percent of B2B buyers say they build out their buying shortlists based solely only on digital content.

Providing the right content, at the right time, is essential; intent data gives your team an invaluable resource for making a nurturing series an accelerated path to readiness for Sales. And this extends well beyond the Engaged Demand phase of the waterfall. Evaluating intent data from your target account at all phases, including active touch by the Sales team, enables the alignment of your Sales presentations to the account’s current mindset, thus avoiding unnecessary activities, like redundant educational cycles for “demand units” which are already understood.

Fast Money Is Smart Money

There are too many benefits that come from shortening your sales cycle to list here, but some of the key ones include:

Sales Reps Can Tackle More Qualified Prospects: You don’t want to fall into the trap of seeing Sales as a volume-first play. Focusing on selling to highly qualified accounts is the best way to grow revenue. However, accelerating the Sales engagement with target accounts means your best reps will be able to handle more clients. This is an obvious win/win for everyone.

Fewer Things Can Go Wrong: Long sales cycles increase the risk of potential clients losing interest, or your message becoming muddled or confused with the competition. Starting out ahead of the curve, and cutting time out of the cycle, makes for more precise messaging and, more importantly, a higher close rate.

ROI on Sales Improves Dramatically. While you do have to “spend money to make money,” you can’t fall into the trap of endlessly throwing resources at a prospect, with the hope of closing “that big sale.” In 2014, The Harvard Business Review found that about 72% of companies in the top quarter of sales ROI also have the lowest sales costs. There are a number of ways to reduce the costs associated with sales – including cross-training staff and implementing order process automation – but a key win here is simply cutting the amount of time a rep needs to educate and re-assess a prospect’s sales journey. Managing costs on larger deals enables you to pursue lower-margin business.

Revenue Becomes More Predictable. Shorter sales cycles close more predictably, which makes for more accurate financial planning. It also helps when you ask for more Sales resources, based on past performance.

You Can Optimize Your Sales Channel More Rapidly. As the sales cycle shortens, you will have a clear view of the variables which make the difference between a closed sale and lost business. At least you will be able to take “it just took forever” off the list of possible reasons you team did not win the deal.

Your Customers Are Happier. Compressing the buying cycle lets your customers get on with their own business plans and realize benefits from their investments more quickly. You can position those benefits as part of doing business with your company, enabling you to maximize deal value moving forward.

Your Sales Team is Happier: Account executives like to make money, and your ability to optimize your sales cycle to handle and close a few more quality deals each quarter will be a rising tide for everyone involved. Cutting a few months off the average deal cycle also will let Sales reps develop momentum and boost the overall morale of your team.

Your Steps to a Shorter Sales Cycle

As I’ve mentioned previously, employing third-party intent data in your Sales and Marketing efforts is key to accelerating your Sales cycle, both for efficiently nurturing Marketing leads to a qualified hand-off to Sales, and then optimizing your Sales efforts based on prospects’ activities across the Web. Be sure to check intent data repeatedly, as your team prepares Sales collateral at each touch point – an account’s interest may have flipped, from revenue growth to cost containment, since your last meeting.

To start the sales cycle optimization process, carefully map out your Sales process, with the careful evaluation of your most painful attrition points. A baseline for this may already be reflected in your sales automation tools, but a careful review is always a good idea.

There are a million other variables that can help speed up the Sales cycle. One helpful tip is to simplify your pricing model, at least in your customer-facing presentations. Remember, confusion slows down the sales cycle, and introduces uncertainty, a prime suspect in most lost business.

Sales + Marketing: The Future of the Demand Unit Waterfall

In short, the “big news” in SiriusDecisions new waterfall model is the focus on “demand units,” or groups of decision-makers inside accounts working together to make key spending decisions.

For now, I consider this to be an interesting, but aspirational, goal. Intent data services, such as InsightBASE® are great tools for Marketing in the Active Demand waterfall stage as you quantify opportunities in an Account-Based Marketing strategy. Building out “demand units” inside those accounts seems, to me, to be a cooperative process between Sales and Marketing on accounts that have already been won; here, your Sales reps will have personal insights on how key leaders work together within your client circle.

Close cooperation between Sales and Marketing is also vital at the Target Demand waterfall stage, when you define your ideal client account, and, as you develop Sales collateral mapping directly to the Marketing materials which have nurtured the lead from a target to a qualified status for Sales.

Of course, this kind of close relationship between Sales and Marketing has been a Holy Grail for decades. But with the added pressure to show ROI for Sales and Marketing spend, there’s more motivation than ever before to working together.

Faster, Stronger, Better

The emergence of third-party intent data services gives you incredible vision into the needs, wants, and challenges associated with prospect accounts. Using this kind of insight to shorten your sales cycle will result in a higher win rates and more predictable revenue.

If you’re ready to learn more — and to get some practical advice on adding intent data to your marketing strategy, download a copy of our ebook Quick Start Guide to Intent-Based Marketing.

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