Predictive Sales Analytics is a relatively new software category, and 6sense is helping to shape the space. We talked with 6sense’s VP of Marketing, Alison Murdock, about how predictive intelligence can keep marketers and salespeople ahead of the game by beefing up the pipeline and giving them insight into the buyer’s journey. Murdock also shares her own interest in customer-centric marketing and self-learning data trends, which she sees as crucial to the future alignment of marketing and sales teams.
Give us an introduction to 6sense—who are you, what do you do?
6sense is a predictive intelligence platform for B2B marketing and sales. We provide companies with complete visibility into their buyers and serve as a central nervous system to power marketing and sales.
We identify which accounts and contacts that are “in market” and predict exactly where they are in their buyer’s journey by connecting our customers’ internal data (such as weblogs, sales history, and marketing engagement) to billions of rows of time-sensitive, third-party data from all the digital places where buyers evaluate solutions (like publishers, blogs, advisory services, search, and reviews, among other places). Once all this data is connected, our customers get a full view of everyone they could possibly sell to, whether they know this buyer or not. With this visibility, they can find new buyers, get to accounts much earlier in their buying cycle, see exactly what to do to get companies to the next buying stage, which prospects to fast-track to sales, who to send a pricing offer to now and so much more.
We have some of the largest Fortune 1000 companies as customers and have garnered significant recognition from analysts such as Forrester, Gartner, SiriusDecisions and others.
How does 6sense work, and what is your value proposition?
Sales and marketing teams are constantly wondering: will this customer buy from us? If so, when will they buy, and which products? When is the right time to call?
It used to be that identifying and interpreting buying signals was more art than science. Salespeople would watch for verbal and nonverbal cues. And now all those “conversations” are online. Interactions with prospects today are far less linear and controlled. We see “buying signals” now in digital terms, and those signals are literally everywhere—in places you can see and places you can’t.
Getting intelligence about buyers from these conversations and connecting the dots between buyers they know and those they don’t is revolutionary for marketers. So many are still relegated to scoring by “fit” and the activity that occurs when buyers land on their websites and share their information. These marketers are missing out on a huge amount of activity that happens before buyers identify themselves, as well as any activity generated by buyers who never identify themselves at all.
Here’s how one of our customers described what we do: “Imagine you have a pie chart that represents everyone who is considering buying a product like yours right now. One small group may raise their hand and become a lead, and another small slice may be uncovered via your outbound efforts (via sales and marketing campaigns for example). But the majority of the pie is what most companies are blind to. 6sense identifies who is in the rest of the pie.”
Our predictive intelligence engine looks for changing patterns in buyers over time and spikes in their activity tell us that the time is right and this prospect is in buying mode. We give our customers the opportunity to get ahead of the buying curve and be the first to know who is in market.
Why is this contextual information valuable to marketing and sales?
We’re still largely in a world where marketing happens in silos and channels. 6sense connects the silos so that we can see context around accounts, contacts and the products they might buy.
Marketing and sales teams want to know the minute their prospect enters a buying cycle because they want to be the first to educate those prospects. (Research shows that whoever gets to the table first, gets the deal. In the enterprise segment especially, if you’re not in the initial RFP, you’re at a huge disadvantage.) If 6sense finds a prospect that is too early for sales, marketing can take action. We give customers a simple way to target prospects by buying stage and deploy campaigns accordingly. Those campaign results get put back into the 6sense engine and the predictions just get better and better over time.
What are some of the actions that your customers might take based on the data that comes back to them?
Our central nervous system is the nexus for all marketing and sales activities. We feed into downstream systems such as marketing automation, CRM, ad platforms etc. power activities such as web personalization, third-party media execution, targeted lead generation, social campaigns. We help our customers take appropriate actions at the right time.
How do your customers get started using the data?
Our customer success team typically rolls out first to the sales organization. The logic here is that results are fairly immediate and measurable. Second, it is a great way to test process and help build credibility in the organization for this new approach to lead generation.
Here’s an example. One customer tested a control group of 1,800 “likely” leads (based on their regular marketing automation lead scoring), against a 6sense group of “likely” leads. The goal was for sales to open the maximum amount of opportunities within a fairly short time frame. Once the test was complete, they evaluated the two groups and found that the control group had opened 6 opportunities, with 33 touches. And test group, that was predictively scored, had opened 299 opportunities with just only 10 touches.
What are some of the different customer use cases for 6sense?
Cisco has a really interesting use case. They are now using 6sense to auto-qualify leads which means they can bypass the call centers and lead qualification process and send leads directly to sales and partners. This has resulted in massive efficiencies and has yielded more in-market leads for the team. Their deal sizes have grown 5 times larger.
Xactly has another great story related to our capability to deliver net-new accounts and contacts. Xactly is an incentive compensation solution provider. They have a product that every B2B company with a sales team would need. Xactly knew there was a much larger universe of prospects out there than they were seeing in their databases.
6sense surfaced new accounts by detecting that these companies were actively researching sales compensation software. These companies had never engaged with Xactly before. With 6sense, Xactly was able to capitalize on what would have been missed opportunities. 6sense found their third largest deal ever and over $1.7 million in net-new business.
The value we provide to our customers is four-fold. We provide complete visibility into buyers; we find in-market accounts and contacts early in the buying cycle; we improve efficiency with interest and time-based targeting; we increase the pipeline by identifying new and growing deals
What pain points does 6sense address?
As a marketer, I might know that some of my tactics are working well, but I want to know whether they could be working better with less effort.
Timing is everything. Being able to identify buyers earlier and monitor how their needs change over time is paramount. By collecting and connecting all the data possible—internal data to billions of buying signals across the web—we know when buyers are in the market. Engaging prospects when they are ready and simply knowing more about them dramatically reduces workload and wasted efforts.
The other issue is many prospects visit websites without completing any forms or taking any actions to identify themselves. This is one of the major issues that predictive lead scoring just cannot address. These anonymous visitors may just be browsing or they might be comparing you to a competitor. They might be from a company you know or they might be an entirely new prospective customer. 6sense is able to connect those unknown website visitors to known accounts and contacts to give a fuller and a more accurate prediction of prospect’s propensity to buy.
As the buying process has become more complex with large buying committees making decisions once handled by individuals, marketing and sales need a clear and nuanced picture of the key decision makers in each account. They need to know which company contacts are involved in the buying decision, which members of the account are most important to the purchase, how the buying decision will be made and in what time frame.
Who’s your target customer? Who are your buyers?
Our customers are typically large B2B enterprises and global Fortune 1000 companies. Some of our customers are Cisco, NetApp, and Dell. We also sell to fast-growth companies such as Xactly or Blue Jeans.
We typically sell to the marketing team first—demand gen, marketing operations, digital teams. But sales teams are part of the equation as well, as they have a lot to gain from the results.
What are some of the trends you’re paying attention to?
Customer-centric marketing—aside from design and UI, how are you personalizing your marketing? Being able to tie all of the data together allows for a level of personalization that the market has never seen before. A huge opportunity for marketers.
Self-learning data is another area of interest. How do we use data at scale to adapt our approaches? How can we use the outputs from an email campaign as inputs to make our campaigns smarter over time?
In the future, almost everything we’re going to be doing as marketers is going to be data-driven. It’s not going to sideline creative people from analytics people. We’re all going to have to understand this stuff.
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