This Week’s Big Deal: Powering Up Sales Leads with Intent Data

January 28, 2019


With buyers becoming more and more self-guided in the purchase process, we as salespeople must find new ways to connect, engage, and provide value. It would be nice if we could read their minds and predict their needs, wouldn’t it?

Of course, that’s impossible. But through intent data, we can arm ourselves with more robust and actionable information about a prospect’s specific focus and objectives. Andrew Briney, SVP of Products at TechTarget, says that applying intent data will be a key avenue for sales and marketing growth this year.

Let’s dig into the what, why, and how for this emerging frontier.

What is Intent Data?

Justin Withers of DiscoverOrg defines intent data as “online behavior-based activity across the internet that links buyers and accounts to a solution, idea, or related topic.” This can range from content they’ve consumed to websites they’ve visited to info they’ve requested and much more.

According to TOPO’s 2018 Account-Based Technology Report, only 28% of account-based organizations were using an intent data solution as of last year, but it was expected to be the second-fastest growing category.

By making use of quality intent data, sales pros can deliver customized, situational messaging that resonates with buyers. Imagine if you were shopping in a store, lost in a moment of confusion, and one of the reps walked up to you, pointing you to exactly what you were looking for before you even had to say a word. (As opposed to the ones that hover around asking “Can I help you with anything?” every 30 seconds.)

At a time where customers seek personalized and contextual experiences, intent data gives us the chance to deliver. So how can we make it happen?

Using Intent Data to Engage B2B Sales Leads

“Getting sales to be data-driven is as much about changing old habits as it is about new data types or systems integration,” writes Briney. “Let’s face it, it’s just easier to call inbound leads, which is why sales always asks for more of them. But 2018 taught us that sales teams that break those old habits and embrace a new way of selling—using intent signals beyond direct engagement—put themselves in a much better position to win.”

How might sales managers put their reps in position to identify and activate these signals? A few suggestions…

Get on the Same Page with Marketing

Without question, this is another key opportunity for sales and marketing orchestration. Many of today’s marketing teams are growing more sophisticated in tracking intent data across various channels, and this information can be highly useful for sellers. Every small detail you gather helps paint a picture of what a particular user is trying to accomplish.

As Ed Marsh wrote last year at IMPACT, “Buyer intent data provides a common tool over which marketing and sales can collaborate directly (interpreting and planning an approach for types of contacts).”

Marketing automation platforms and other solutions are often set up to gather and document intent data. As one example, marketers can use LinkedIn Website Demographics to understand how people are interacting with their company’s site. Although this data is anonymous and aggregated to protect the privacy of members, we can still form solid conclusions based on which accounts, job titles, seniority levels, and so forth are engaging with various pages on the site. (For example, if senior-level employees from the financial industry are being drawn to a particular product page, that might be a good focal point for selling to that segment).

Use Social Media Cues and Timing Triggers

Intent data signals can come in many forms, sometimes very subtle. Teams using Sales Navigator are able to save leads and accounts so they can keep an eye on the content they produce and share on LinkedIn. What topics and trends are these individuals or brands openly discussing? How can this help shape our outreach?

Certain actions tend to serve as timing triggers for selling. Keep an eye out for those especially, and the intent behind them.  

Public-facing intent data like this is ideal, because you can transparently tell someone how you came across it. When you reach out saying “I know you’re interested in productivity software” with no context, it might make the prospect uncomfortable. When you say “I saw you talking about distractions and inefficiencies on Linkedin, and I know your company has been blogging about that recently,” that’s not so alarming. It just means you’re paying attention.

Collect Data in a Centrally Accessible Location

Different reps might come across different intent data pertaining to a particular individual or account. To make sure it’s actionable for the whole team, you’ll want to store this information in a place where everyone can find it.

Sales Navigator Deals offers a shared view of the pipeline, allowing sellers to add notes and log a prospect’s activity trail or past interactions. This contextual info is hugely valuable for another rep who might pick up the opportunity and run with it.

Be a Sales Enabler, Not a Sales Inflictor

Peter Ostrow had a great post on the SiriusDecisions blog earlier this month discussing the distinction between sales enablement and sales inflictment. Basically, it’s the difference between assisting and burdening your sellers, and sometimes it comes down to a matter of perception.

As managers, we can more effectively introduce and implement new ideas by minimizing pain, focusing on practicality, and breaking unfamiliar approaches down into granular steps.  

“Intent data” might sound like an intimidating new concept, but in reality it’s not too complicated. If you want to activate it on your sales team, focus on communicating benefits and simplicity.

Win with Intent

Intent data is one of those handy tools we have at our fingertips today, and organizations that put it to good use with B2B sales leads are gaining an advantage.

As Matt Amundson of EverString notes, intent signals help us determine if prospects are the right fit. This, in turn, “means that you can quickly move people through the funnel, make selling easier, and focus the efforts of your sales team on the next relationship.”

Aligning your approach with intent data just makes good sense. No mind-reading required.

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