Sales intelligence: how insights drive personalized sales strategies

Posted January 26, 2022

headshot of blog author, woman smiling

By Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices at Outreach

Improving sales efficiency and outcomes requires deep insights into activities, processes, strategies, and performance. But many sales organizations still operate in an analog world.

When teams don’t have the proper tools to identify what’s working and what’s not, it’s nearly impossible to proactively address risks. What’s more, they’re also unable to develop strong, repeatable processes that help them effectively scale. While sales leaders might know what their growth strategy is, but in order to succeed, they need to translate that strategy into actions, then coach their teams to flawless execution. Meanwhile, sellers need information in real-time to take confident, correct actions throughout the lifecycle of each opportunity.

That flawless execution requires thousands of exceptional decisions to be made in the moment, which isn’t possible without complete data.

It’s a sticky situation for sales teams who don’t have seamless access to meaningful insights backed by rich data. But modern, successful sales organizations have realized they can overcome these challenges by implementing powerful sales intelligence software.

Here, we’ll dive into the benefits of sales intelligence software, how it works, why data is so crucial, and how the right platform can help your team close their sales execution gap.

What is Sales Intelligence?

Sales intelligence is the practice of collecting, consolidating, and analyzing data from a variety of sources for actionable insights that improve performance and revenue. Typically, this requires the use of sales intelligence tools, which equip sales leaders, managers, and reps with relevant information about the people and organizations with which they engage.

It may sound like a complex process, but the main objective of sales intelligence is to help sales teams gain a full picture of workflows, prospects, and the entire revenue cycle. It’s no wonder, then, that the sales intelligence market is expected to grow from $2 billion in 2019 to $3.4 billion by 2024. Competitive sales companies have started to recognize the value that sales intelligence software promises — from improved prospecting, to more personalized, targeted strategies, to real-time insights that help them close more deals.

How does sales intelligence software work?

Generally, sales intelligence software works by aggregating information from multiple sources, including native and third-party tools. This includes propecting solutions like LinkedIn Navigator and Crunchbase that surface news and demographic information, or end-to-end platforms like Outreach that surface insights from the interactions between your buyers and sellers. The result allows sales reps to monitor engagement and key buying signals at both the individual prospect and broader account levels.

Some software is built to help reps easily gain insights into previous interactions with prospects, in-depth information on individual prospects and accounts, and other highly relevant details in a single, user-friendly system — all without having to spend hours conducting research. At a higher level, robust sales intelligence software also gives sales managers better insight into the status of all the deals in their pipeline and each rep’s individual activities.

It’s important to note that, while there are some similarities between them, sales intelligence software does differ from customer relationship management (CRM) systems, sales email tracking tools, and predictive sales analytics technology. Sales intelligence tools focus on:

  • Aggregating data to keep your CRM system up-to-date with new lead information
  • Generating strong prospect lists and prioritizing which prospects you should contact first
  • Gathering key information that can be used for personalized calls, emails, LinkedIn messages, etc. for better outcomes

Your other sales tools are important to a strong process, but sales intelligence software is what really pulls everything together and provides your team with better data. Strong intelligence tools work in tandem with your existing systems to ensure they’re consistently updated and accurate.

The Importance of sales intelligence data

As the art of sales has evolved into a strategic science as more and more organizations have realized that unlocking the right data is their competitive advantage. The right data can help sellers more easily identify and connect with prospects through personalized interactions. In the past, obtaining a lead’s name and job title was a (sometimes challenging) first step in prospecting. But that limited information doesn’t give sellers the full picture needed to reach out to that lead in a memorable, personal way.

With robust sales intelligence data, reps can access a lead’s name, job title, email address, mobile number, and more; and even identify which technology solutions their organization currently uses. Some intelligence tools even show teams real-time data around whether or not a lead is interested in making a purchase, whether they’re qualified, and when to reach out for the best results.

What’s more, by choosing a tool that gathers and presents a vast amount of business data, reps can determine the buying intentions of prospects. Intent data helps them identify who is currently looking to buy their solution (or a similar tool from a competitor), so they can capitalize on those accurate insights.

It’s true that some of this data collection could simply be done by individual reps. Each seller could manually search LinkedIn, Google, and company websites to find prospecting information. But this method is incredibly time-consuming, tedious, and error-prone, as a lead’s information can easily change by the time the rep records it in their CRM system or marketing automation tool.

Sure, your CRM is essential, but it’s not enough in terms of a reliable, accurate data source for an effective sales process. Typically, reps fill the CRM with incomplete, inaccurate, or outdated data, which doesn’t enable confident, intelligent decisions that boost efficacy and success. And without robust, clean data, reps waste time chasing the wrong leads, managers don’t understand what’s working and what’s not, and it’s nearly impossible to successfully scale. 

That’s where sales intelligence software comes in: The right tool is dynamic enough to capture and present a large quantity of quality data. It can be integrated with your existing systems to ensure accuracy and save the time it would otherwise take to re-enter or find data. Some systems automatically sync, modify, and enrich your data in real-time, so your team can rest assured that they always have reliable information on-hand.

Benefits of Sales Intelligence

An effective sales intelligence practices (backed by powerful software) helps teams close the sales execution gap and gain a variety of key benefits:

Personalization of sales strategy - Sales is a science, with advanced tools that help leaders to gain a more accurate picture of the pipeline and sellers to better understand how their efforts drive outcomes. But the art of properly engaging customers through personalized interactions is still a valuable skill. In fact, 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from a company that offers personalized experiences. Personalization requires clean, accurate data that helps you identify decision makers, access relevant buying signals, and determine how your solution can solve specific pain points. Sales intelligence software helps reps do just that, with up-to-date information that effectively guides a more personalized sales strategy.

Up-to-date prospect info/more accurate data - If your reps still rely on stagnant CRM data to identify and reach prospects, they’re likely working with outdated information that can negatively impact outreach. Advanced sales intelligence tools aggregate up-to-date data from a variety of sources to ensure accuracy and give reps a complete picture of their prospects—both at the individual and company level. Armed with detailed information on a prospect’s job function, buying power, budget, and pain points, reps can be sure they’re reaching out to the right person, with the right message, at the right time.

Shortened sales cycles - Long, complicated sales cycles negatively impact revenue and hinder rep productivity. But sales intelligence accelerates the process by facilitating a personalized strategy that’s backed by powerful data. Reps don’t waste time chasing the wrong leads who will inevitably gunk up the cycle. They have access to updated information that tells them with whom they should engage and when, which content they should share, when to follow up, and more. The right intelligence tools eliminate inefficiencies in the sales cycle by improving predictability and transparency.

Clearer total addressable market - Understanding your total addressable market (TAM) is crucial for keeping reps as focused and productive as possible. TAM represents the total amount of revenue that your company can gain from selling its products and/or services. While most sales organizations present this number in terms of revenue, others view it as the total number of companies that could potentially become customers. Sales intelligence software helps uncover TAM by analyzing your existing customer information and identifying any trends. From there, your team can develop buyer personas that help them find and reach more businesses that match those personas. The result is better-defined budgets, more accurate growth forecasts, and easier audience segmentation for effective marketing strategies.

Valuable buying signals - If your reps don’t know whether or not a prospect is ready or willing to buy, they’re likely wasting time chasing dead ends. With sales intelligence software, sellers can discover the exact right time to contact a prospect, as the right tool keeps track of company websites, social media profiles, news sources, and more. For example, if a prospect is in the news for acquiring another company, your sales intelligence software will identify and alert reps of this information. Reps can use these details to reach out to the prospect and explain how the product or service they’re selling might benefit their team during the acquisition process.

Real-time info - Sales reps are busy people: In fact, they only spend about 23% of their time actually selling. They simply don’t have the time to research each prospect’s business and industry trends and keep detailed records of that information in their CRM or other database. Sales intelligence software helps them stay abreast of these changes by aggregating all relevant data into a single, easy-to-consume place. Some tools display social feeds for the account or prospect, including real-time tiles for LinkedIn Sales Navigator, company Twitter profiles, and company information from Crunchbase. They also present company news, local time, and historical interaction with each prospect or account; all of which help to ensure effective, coherent communication.

Intent data - Intent data (sometimes called behavioral data) can identify when a target customer is actually researching a specific product or solution. Sales intelligence software can determine which websites your prospects visit and how they interact with different webpages, which gives your team a leg up on the competition. Intent data enables reps to understand prospects’ pain points, quickly contact potential buyers (before they discover competitive solutions), and even decrease customer churn; as sellers can see when existing customers are researching other solutions, and ameliorate any issues before they jump ship.

Sales strategy improvements - It’s never enough to simply develop a sales strategy and call it a day. To ensure success, sales leaders and managers must make continuous strategy improvements that reduce inefficiencies, boost productivity, and—as a result—improve the bottom line. But those improvements require deep knowledge into how sales and marketing efforts are received, individual rep performance, process issues, opportunity gaps, and more. A modern sales intelligence platform helps teams uncover valuable insights into their process to identify what’s working, what’s not, and experiment with new initiatives. The result is stronger, data-driven strategies that yield better outcomes.

Sales Intelligence and Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs)

Identifying and targeting your ideal customer is vital to a strong sales process, a shorter sales cycle, and higher revenue. Sales intelligence is essential for getting it right.

What is an ideal customer profile (ICP)?

An ideal customer profile (ICP) is an in-depth summary of your company’s perfect buyer. It should contain pain points, budget, and how they’d benefit from your solution. ICPs are crucial for identifying the right prospects, fine-tuning your messaging, and building your overall sales strategy.

How to create an ideal customer profile

  1. Identify your best current customers: Start by looking at your current client base. Those who buy the most from you and have the longest-standing relationship with your company are likely the ones who get the most value from your solutions. Gather information on these clients to determine any common qualities that might contribute to their reason for buying from you.
  2. Reach out to your customers: Once you’ve compiled your list, it’s important to actually ask those customers what they love about your product or service. Discuss with them why they chose your solution, which pain points it helped to solve, what they love about doing business with your company, and if there are any improvements you can make moving forward.
  3. Study the data: The information you glean from speaking with your existing customers can help you uncover some key trends or patterns—which you can then use to repeat your success.
  4. Develop your ICP description: Armed with all the necessary information, you can confidently build your ICP template. Be sure to include these key criteria: industry, company size, pain points, budget, existing systems, business objectives, buying process, how they found your business, decision-maker job titles

In the past, developing an ICP was a burdensome process that was laden with time-intensive research. But with sales intelligence software, your team has easy access to all the data they need (e.g. demographic data, intent data, historical interaction information, etc.) to build valuable profiles that drive new business.

Sales Intelligence Platforms

Sales organizations looking to leverage sales intelligence for improved strategies need powerful tools that offer a variety of key features. But not all solutions are created equal, so it’s important to closely evaluate each before you make an investment.

Ideally, the sales intelligence platform you choose should:

  • Bring intelligence to workflows: Modern sales intelligence tools simplify the selling experience by guiding teams to improve their performance and deliver better customer experiences. With a complete, unified view of revenue data, continuous end-to-end revenue system inspection, and easy-to-digest data that illustrates what’s working and what’s not, sales leaders can easily tweak their processes and make meaningful workflow improvements.
  • Increase visibility: True visibility across the entire revenue cycle is required for eliminating guesswork from your forecast—and guiding reps to effectively push the forecast higher. Unlike traditional forecasting processes (whose roll-up methods destroy data fidelity), robust sales intelligence platforms provide complete transparency into the success indicators of every active opportunity; and signals exactly where sellers should take action.
  • Guide growth: Using the insights from billions of sales activities, the right tool can boost revenue and scalability. It automates proven workflows to seamlessly guide every rep on every step in every stage of the revenue cycle, which facilitates faster growth. And by combining total visibility with AI, these systems help sales understand and act on their levers for growth, manage risk, and achieve stronger operational excellence.

Close the Sales Execution Gap with Sales Intelligence

In order to ensure repeatable growth and boost success, organizations need data-driven strategies. Sales leaders need deep insights into what’s working, where they can improve, and how to remedy issues before they become larger-scale problems. Reps need robust, up-to-date information on prospects — both at the individual and account level — to personalize their outreach and provide excellent customer experiences.

The Outreach Sales Execution Platform ensures your team can turn AI-powered insights into meaningful actions. Learn how Outreach can help your team close the sales execution gap, or chat with us to learn more. 


Read more

Discover the Sales Execution Platform
See how Outreach helps sellers close over 2 million opportunities every month.