Back to blog

4 Things You Really Need to Know About Sales Intelligence

Sales intelligence can transform your sales and marketing departments—if you know how to use it right.

No matter whether you’re a small, medium, or gigantic business, sales intelligence is focused on how to make sales reps more effective and more efficient.

It can save you from a lot more than cold calling or mass emails. In this episode of the Corporate Data Show, Michael Levy, the Principal of GZ Consulting, defines, describes, and debates how sales intelligence can position your company for growth.

He answers four key questions about sales intelligence that explain why the right kind of data matters.

First, What Sales Intelligence Is

Business intelligence is a set of general analytical tools. It can be used for sales, but also for data warehousing, analytics, and other purposes that don’t have to do with sales or marketing. Sales intelligence, on the other hand, is about making sales reps more effective.

By which Michael Levy means doing their job better—qualifying better leads, streamlining messaging when they make their initial calls, and most importantly making warm calls. Because cold calling—a “spray shot” approach—is fairly ineffective, and companies really don’t have time to spend missing their targets.

Levy’s GZ Consulting is an advisory service that works with vendors but mainly with companies, doing market research, competitive intelligence, and product marketing to ensure that cold calls and mass emails aren’t necessary. “Effective sales is not just about how many people to contact at the company, but who are the right people and what should I say to them?” Levy says.

1. Why do we need sales intelligence?

For a few reasons, most of which have to do with effectiveness and efficiency.

- Scope

“Sales intelligence vendors provide multiple functions, features, content sets,” Levy says. Especially over time, the breadth and scope of what sales intelligence offers is bigger than it used to be. This includes multisource aggregation for a company and contact prospecting, salesforce integration, database maintenance, weekly or monthly data hygiene enrichment processes, plus the sales and market research you’d expect. The convenient one-stop place to get a truckload of benefits delivered at your convenience is sales intelligence.

"The convenient one-stop place to get a truckload of benefits delivered at your convenience is sales intelligence."- Michael Levy

- Tools

Sales intelligence products have existed on the web for about two decades. Their primary delivery methods have been web browsers. In last few years, though, sales intelligence has branched out to integrate into customer relationship managements (CRMs) and account-based sales development (ABSD). These partnerships make sense, Levy says, because they support marketing, help maintain quality of marketing database and prospecting, and make it easy to find additional company contacts by job function. Basically, sales reps want data to be easy to find and integrated with all of their tools. These partnerships make everything easier for sales and marketing users by putting more tools, such as mobile apps,  in front of them.

- Convenience

Sales intelligence vendors maintain data, which is the main way for sales reps to make good contacts. “It also reduces keying, which is a big waste of time,” Levy says, adding that documentation brings inaccuracies. Sales reps can’t always rely on their memory. Instead, they could just click on three boxes and send names to their prospecting list, get alerts on those companies, and follow up with contacts. Plus, management would also have oversight and could even see call logs and emails sent. Sales intelligence just makes everything easy. 

2. What can people use to soften contact?

Sales intelligence has developed features of firms that are called sales triggers. These go beyond the standard, broad industry news with few actionable pieces. Rather, sales triggers are extremely precise reporting that has the ability to tell a story about a specific subject.

To soften a contact, you need a precise sales trigger—the more precise the better, Levy insists.

You can say you want to be informed about whatever is relevant in making your pitch, including an industry-specific subject. Remember, accuracy is important and makes a good impression.

Use sales triggers for warm calling, account planning, planning additional locations or contacts, understanding job functions and job levels in organizations, strategic information, overview of industry, and figuring out how your product is relevant to new industry. Welcoming someone to the company, congratulating them on a promotion, remarking on a recent funding event or new product—this will show you’ve done more than your basic research about the company. Warming up a call simply makes you more effective.

"Warming up a call simply makes you more effective." - Michael Levy

3. What is the difference between sales intelligence and web research?

It takes a broad set of information to aggregate useful facts. A lot of information about the companies themselves, contacts, bios, news, and more goes in to crafting really effective sales triggers.

A Google alert is an example of a general alert system, but it isn’t sales intelligence because it gives one information element only, such as a news story that mentions this company in text. It’s pretty impossible to track bigger companies this way because it would be “all noise, no signal.” This precision problem can be solved by real sales intelligence that isn’t be based solely on semantic information or a few keywords.

This is important for smaller firms, too, Levy points out, because they cannot afford to sift through all that noise when they are looking for a good signal.

Sales intelligence includes firms that are targeting SMBs, rather than size of the firm that is targeting them. For smaller firms selling to business and consumers, a sales intelligence vendor that has databases of both new businesses and new households, for example, would be especially helpful.

4. How do you keep track of companies and data?

When data is so important, starting off with good data and keeping it updated can make or break a sale, turning a contact into a long-term relationship. Data aggregation methods include crowdsourcing, semantic data mining, and licensed aggregation.

Of course, some methods work better for some circumstances—and no one has it all—but some bring together multiple tools. A licensed aggregator will draw from data sets from different vendors and might aggregate from 6-8 vendors to produce information. Licensed aggregation can also get quicker to market by licensing other people’s content and constructing features around it, rather than starting from scratch.

On the other hand, semantic mining is more like using unstructured data focused on a specific space, e.g. technology. Semantic miners collect data for each company, vendor, and product, examining performance and trends over time. Semantic mining can produce great data, although it is expensive and timely to set up, Levy cautions.

- More Tools

If you get information straight off a domain, you might get bad, confusing, or missing data. The little data issues you get from trying to hack a database together on just domains are not worth the headache you save using a company unifier.

If you track companies on the web, it can be harder because some small places don’t have websites. Or a company is so large that it’s hard to tell its headquarters from its subsidiaries or branches. At the global company level, Dun & Bradstreet has best data set, Levy says. They can tell you which companies are inactive to help you clean your database or which ones have relocated to another address.

An emerging group of account-based sales development companies will also sometimes partner with sales intelligence. They look at targeted prospecting and provide basic info about a prospect. They also help set a schedule for communications, like email templates that can be tweaked, analyzed, and shared between sales and prospects. All in all, sales intelligence is something you can’t afford not to have.

To find out more, follow Michael Levy at his blog, subscribe to his Market Insights Newsletter.


This episode is based on an interview with Michael Levy from GZ Consulting. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Corporate Data Show