sales and marketing alignment

Sales and Marketing Working Together Give Prospect Discovery a Data-driven Advantage

Featuring Ken Stout, CRO, True Influence

Discovery may be the most important phase of the entire Sales process.

I know, closing the deal is more satisfying. But your field Sales reps will never get to that critical last step without careful, comprehensive discovery of a prospect’s needs and goals.

Discovery is more important than ever in the hyper-competitive B2B sales landscape, and it doesn’t stop after the initial Sales engagement – you need to be constantly learning about prospects throughout a Sales cycle that can last 12 months or more.

And with the incredible volumes of data begin gathered and analyzed as part of your Account-based Marketing (ABM) programs, discovery is an area where your Marketing and Sales teams need to work hand-in-hand to develop a complete view of a prospects’ purchase journey.

Knowledge is Power

Every minute your Sales team is in front of key decision-makers is precious. You need to immediately establish an authoritative voice – you can’t afford to bumble through obvious questions about the basics of the prospect’s business, or spend needless time describing high-level features with a group of execs who’ve already done a lot homework.

You also don’t want to be submarined by unexpected complexity in a deal or a surprise reference to a key competitor’s awesome new feature.

Comprehensive discovery before a Sales engagement allows you to:

  • Establish your credibility.
  • Tailor your message to the prospect’s needs.
  • Present credible consequences for the prospect if it does not act.
  • Educate the prospect about issues that, despite their current level of engagement, might not be on their radar.
  • And this is the big one… begin the closing process early, to cut the Sales cycle and keep revenue coming in the door.

Getting a Leg Up on the Discovery Game

Detailed discovery has always relied on calling a qualified lead and asking questions in advance of an in-depth Sales engagement. And that’s not going to change anytime soon.

At True Influence, our sales engineers complete a comprehensive discovery process before we demo our InsightBASE Intent Data monitoring service to prospects. Much if this information is highly detailed, including the keywords the prospects are currently targeting in their own marketing campaigns and the metrics they use to evaluate the success of their efforts.

Ultimately, this kind of intelligence-gathering requires some level of personal interaction. But as with all Sales activity, the enormous volume of data being collected and analyzed by Marketing offers key insights that can inform and refine and enhance the discovery process.

Opted-in activity on your own whitepapers and other Marketing collateral is a goldmine for prepping a call or presentation. Noting to a CEO that he’s expressed interest in a given feature of your product is a Sales call home run.

Third-party Intent Data monitoring can help find additional nuggets to exploit during your Sales call or presentation. If intent signals show that a target account is searching on how to optimize billing, for example, you can hone your discovery process to that line of questioning.

Marketing is constantly gathering this data, and you can’t afford to not exploit it in the Sales discovery process. In fact, discovery can be a key handoff where Sales and Marketing can develop better alignment, a constant issue for B2B companies.

Key Areas Where Intent Data Can Refine Discovery

If you are in B2B Sales, you already have a discovery process in place. But there’s always room for improvement. (Hubspot offers a list of 25 questions that are a nice framework for optimizing your current discovery scripts.)

Every piece of data your sales engineers can collect during discovery is important, of course, but here are five questions I think are absolutely vital. And, not surprisingly, Marketing research and third-party Intent Data can drive invaluable insights in all five areas.

What are the top 3 Opportunities / Challenges that this purchase decision will address?

While a broad understanding of a prospect’s business is desirable, it’s vital to drill down on how your product or solution will solve specific issues. And I think it’s important to view challenges and opportunities on the same continuum – if your product is designed to improve efficiency (a challenge), be sure to address how these efficiencies can free up resources to tackle opportunities. Third-party Intent Data monitoring on search terms about the key benefits and pain points in your market should already be part of your ABM prioritization process, and spikes in interest should inform discovery.

How will you evaluate the eventual success of this purchase decision?

Every business decision maps to the bottom line, and understanding these expectations is essential to crafting a successful Sales message. Based on your market, you’ll likely know if the customer is looking for increased revenue or cost-savings (or both). Effective discovery should focus on when the prospect expects to recognize positive ROI on the deal – a desire for quick payoff can indicate an opportunity for additional consulting or services deals to accelerate adoption and benefits from your solution. Intent Data can be helpful here, but this aspect of discovery is typically accomplished on the phone and with general market research.

What is the profile of your best customer?

For us at True Influence, this is essential; after all, we sell intelligence that helps companies market their products. But understanding the ideal customer for your target account is important in any B2B discovery. You want to position yourself as a value-added partner that’s helping your customer’s business grow, and how can you do that if you don’t understand who they ultimately want to sell to? Third-party Intent Data can be a key resource here – if an account is actively searching on a set of companies in its target market, you can infer that those companies represent a sweet spot.

Is the prospect considering other solutions to address their concerns?

Third-party Intent Data monitoring can give your Sales team and edge here that may not be replicated, even by a discovery phone call. Some prospects might not be forthcoming about other solutions they are considering. Your competitor’s products and services should definitely be included in the search and content consumption keywords your monitor.

What is the level of interest in employing a solution?

If Intent Data monitoring shows that an account’s interest level peaked at the end of quarter or the fiscal year, you can infer quite a bit about their budgeting and priorities – is your solution core to their business, or are they just looking to dump a little excess budget? These kinds of insights can help craft a nuanced discovery call that lets your Sales team know exactly where it stands headed into a presentation.

Stay ahead of the game

Comprehensive discovery prepares your Sales team to make the most of every moment they are personally engagement with prospects. But your competitors know this too, and they have phone scripts in hand. Close cooperation with the Marketing team and full use of valuable ABM research, including third-party Intent Data, will give your Sales discovery process the edge it needs to be a true competitive advantage.

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