How Sales Intelligence Tools Set the Foundation for Better Lead Management

January 3rd, 2019

Finding the right prospective buyers to engage with, and hopefully turn into customers, can be a headache for both marketing and sales teams. For marketers, having a pile of questionable leads can mean more time sifting through and nurturing them before they are ready to be passed on to the sales team. And for salespeople, there is almost nothing more frustrating than trying to entice a prospect who just isn’t that into it – it being your pitch, brand, product, service, etc.

As both teams know well, a long lead list and a full pipeline doesn’t always equal high-quality prospects. And having good quality leads is now a top priority for 68% of B2B professionals. Unsurprisingly, finding these high-quality leads has been recognized as a top challenge for 59% of B2B marketers.

This is where marketing automation, customer relationship management (CRM), and sales intelligence software can make all the difference.

These technologies help automate the process of collecting relevant information on leads, storing that data, and using it to craft targeted and personalized content to nurture your leads. Marketers can save time they might have spent manually segmenting and scoring lead lists, and make sure only high-quality leads get handed off to the sales team.

Underpinning the successful transformation of leads into sales opportunities and finally into customers is good data. If the information in your CRM has gone stale, or is not detailed enough, the lead nurturing phase will likely take much longer.

Scouring the internet, databases, and – you guessed it – social media for valuable information is one of the core functions of Sales Intelligence software. Whether it’s augmenting the contact records already in your CRM with in-depth org chart, financial information, and alerts about personnel movement, or helping to generate a new list of leads altogether, these tools are at the heart of a solid lead management strategy.  

What is lead lifecycle management?

Each lead has a lifecycle, though some are shorter than others. Either way, the end goal is always the same: to turn prospects into customers. There are a few distinct phases of the lead lifecycle that are often conceptualized in terms of the ‘sales funnel’, although the marketing team and sales team are both involved in this process.

There are four key phases in the lead lifecycle which together make up the lead management process:

  • lead generation
  • lead nurturing
  • lead scoring
  • opportunity creation, i.e. hand-off to sales

These phases map to the individual buyer’s journey through the sales funnel. The rest of this section will outline each of these steps and describe how leads transition from one phase to the next.

Lead generation

Lead generation is the first step in the lead management process. It revolves around the marketing team creating a list of interested prospects.  Outbound lead generation has traditionally been used as a way to first make contact with a potential prospect, however, inbound lead generation strategies have become very popular, in part due to their low cost.

Outbound marketing efforts are more ‘interruptive’ in nature. Think targeted outreach activities like online advertisements, first touch email marketing campaigns, writing guest blog posts, etc.

Inbound lead generation, on the other hand, is more ‘permission’ oriented. Marketers release content in the wild (so to speak) and wait for prospects to come to them. An inbound strategy is more focused on designing and pushing content that will be attractive to potential leads, and engaging with them after they connect with the content.  Some examples include writing articles for the company blog, email marketing campaigns, and publishing social media content.

After leads have been scooped up by the marketing team they are added to a lead list where they are segmented based on level of prioritization and other relevant information. This typically includes demographic, firmographic, and behavioral information.

A lead has been “generated” once a new person has been added to the database as the result of either inbound or outbound efforts.

Lead nurturing

The next phase in the lead lifecycle is lead nurturing, which is the critical step before handing-off the prospect from the marketing team to the sales team. Nurturing is the process of educating leads and building interest to get them ready for sales conversations.

The leads you collect may each be at a different stage of the purchasing process and have varying levels of interest in your business. According to Marketo, only about 50% of leads in your database are ready to make a purchasing decision. Good lead nurturing practices can warm leads up, helping along the transition from prospect to sales opportunity.

Segmenting the lead list helps marketers assess the best way to build a relationship with each lead through continued campaigns until they are ready to talk with a salesperson. There are multiple decisions that need to be made during this process such as:

  • Which channel(s) should you use for campaigns (e.g. phone, email, social)?
  • How should you personalize the content you’re sending to leads? Why is your business relevant to them specifically? And apart from you, what are the topics they care most about?
  • What will your campaign cadence and sequence be? What do they know so far, and what do they need to know in order to be ready to buy?

One thing to remember about lead nurturing efforts is that your timeline is completely dependent upon your prospects’ initial level of interest and what stage of the buying process they are currently in. This means that some leads may require more attention than others.

A unique aspect of the lead nurturing process – compared to the other phases in the lead lifecycle – is that this stage of lead management never really ends until a lead has become a customer, or is (sadly) closed lost. Both marketing and sales teams engage in lead nurturing, but the early to middle stages of nurturing are typically performed by the marketing team.

Lead scoring

Lead scoring, or qualifying, is the process of gauging the interest level of individual prospects and how well they “fit” your products and services to see if they are ready to be handed off to a salesperson. A strong lead scoring methodology has input from both the marketing and sales teams, and seeks to answer questions such as:

  • How interested is this lead in what we have to offer?
  • Do they fit our target demographic?
  • How far along are they in the buying process?
  • Do they need more nurturing?

The specific indicators that marketing and sales teams look for to determine if a lead is sales-ready can differ across industries and companies. But there are some common signs that a lead is either interested enough but needs further nurturing, or is very interested and ripe enough to plucked by the sales team.

Some signs your leads are interested but might need more attention to help narrow their focus:

  • Visiting your businesses website
  • Reading articles from the company blog
  • Responding to light-weight marketing content
  • Attending webinars

Some signs that your leads are probably sales-ready:

  • Visiting your website’s product and pricing pages
  • Watching product demos
  • Downloading a white paper or filling out a form
  • Signing up for a free trial or account
  • Asking for detailed pricing structure, a custom quote, or otherwise expressing interest in making a purchase

Traditionally, lead scoring was done manually by marketing and salespeople. However, many teams are now automating this process. Some businesses rely on automated rule-based lead scoring, which can be conducted within the user’s CRM or marketing automation system. Others are using predictive lead scoring software that relies on data held in their CRM to assess which leads are fit for sales, need more nurturing, or are likely to bail.

As highlighted earlier in this post, good quality data is an essential part of a successful lead management process – and this is perhaps most apparent at the scoring stage. The more contact, demographic, firm, and industry data is missing from your CRM, the harder is it to score leads and the less reliable the results of rule-based or predictive lead scoring become.

After the lead scoring process, ‘sales qualified leads’ (SQLs) get passed on to the sales team, and ‘marketing qualified leads’ (MQLs) receive more attention from the marketing team. Similar to lead nurturing, lead scoring is a continuous process. A previously MQL may be re-scored as a SQL after the next email marketing campaign, or as the prospect’s circumstances change. For example, receiving a promotion that gives them more influence in the purchasing process, or their business completing a successful round of fundraising.

Sales Opportunity

The prospects that make it through the lead scoring process and come out sales-ready on the other side are handed off to salespeople where they become ‘sales opportunities.’ Once classified as sales opportunities, prospects are nudged along through the bottom of the sales funnel until the purchasing deal is either closed lost (meaning they decided not to buy), or closed won – resulting in a new customer!

The timeline for this phase of the lead management process depends on certain lead characteristics such as what their role is in the purchasing process – are they the lead buyer, the economic buyer, or lower down the buying food chain? What type of a budget do they have, and is this flexible? Are they a member of a large enterprise company with multiple stakeholders to consider, or from a smaller and potentially more agile company?

At the end of the day, a successful lead management strategy will help fill the pipeline with high-quality leads, make time-consuming processes more efficient, and provide your sales team with the data they need to transform leads into customers – whether this process takes weeks or months.

Where do sales intelligence tools fit in?

Now that we have outlined the general lead management process, where do sales intelligence tools fit in and how can they help optimize this process?

Lead Generation

As hinted at earlier, sales intelligence software plays a leading role in the lead generation process – specifically, collecting better in-depth data on potential prospects. This is especially relevant for inbound marketing strategies.  In this stage of the game, marketers may have a pile of questionable-quality leads with the goal of figuring out which leads are worth investing resources in, and building out the profile of those valuable leads in their CRM.

The best sales intelligence software will help you to identify unknown variables that are key to your marketing strategy, such as:

  • What is on your prospect’s radar?
  • Which communication channel(s) do they prefer?
  • What problems are they currently having that your product or service could solve?
  • What is their level of interest?

Sales intelligence tools are also used for prospecting in outbound marketing strategies where marketers are directly reaching out to potential leads. In this case, finding the right people to reach out to and relevant information to add to your database is crucial.

Many sales intelligence tools have advanced searching capabilities that allow users to search for contacts based specific characteristics (e.g. job type, geographic location, tech stack, etc.) to help marketers make sure they are reaching out to the prospects that are most likely to respond.

Lead Nurturing

The other activity that sales intelligence tools assist with is lead nurturing. After marketers have generated a lead list full of potential buyers, it’s time to feed these leads with relevant and timely content to help move them down the sales funnel.

But how do marketers know which content will resonate with which leads the most? Or what the most opportune time to reach out is?

This is where sales intelligence tools shine. They offer a treasure trove of data containing demographic, firmographic, behavioral information. Marketers can use this data to segment leads, create personalized campaigns, and inform important decisions such as what their campaign cadence and sequence will be and whether or not multiple communication channels will be utilized.

A snapshot of the 5 most popular Sales Intelligence tools

Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that sales intelligence tools serve an instrumental role in the lead management process and can do much more than just collect basic contact information, let’s take a look at a few!

Here is a quick look at some of the most popular sales intelligence tools listed on TrustRadius, in order of research frequency. For each product you’ll be able to find insights supported by data from Trustradius.com regarding what these solutions do best, what features need some improvement, and what other companies are using these products.

ZoomInfo

ZoomInfo is a sales intelligence platform for B2B companies. It offers a large database that enables marketing and sales teams to prospect for new leads, and strategize about which leads should be targeted with specific campaigns and content.

Highest Rated Features:

  • Advanced search – 8.5 out of 10
  • Data accessibility and load time – 8.5 out of 10

Lowest Rated Features:

  • Sales email templates – 5.9 out of 10
  • Ability to append emails to records – 5.9 out of 10

The majority (50%) of ZoomInfo users on TrustRadius are from mid-sized businesses, followed by enterprise (28%) and then small business (22%)  users.

Who uses ZoomInfo?DiscoverOrg

DiscoverOrg is a sales and marketing intelligence database tools for B2B companies. It emphasizes data quality and freshness and updates its data every 90 days. DiscoverOrg also offers a wide range of information to help improve prospect targeting. Details on an individual’s industry, job type, tech stack geographic location, company size, and more are available to help marketing and sales teams hone in on the leads that are most likely to respond.

Highest Rated Features:

  • Advanced search – 8.2 out of 10
  • Data accessibility and load time – 8 out of 10

Lowest Rated Features:

  • Sales email templates – 6.2 out of 10
  • Ability to append emails to records – 6.2 out of 10

DiscoverOrg also has a larger portion of mid-sized business users than both ZoomInfo and LinkedIn Sales Navigator – they comprise 61% of ZoomInfo users on TrustRadius. The percentage of enterprise (22%) and small business (17%) users is closely tied again, with enterprise users taking up a slightly larger piece of the pie.

Who uses DiscoverOrg?LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator enables marketing and sales teams to leverage LinkedIn networks for prospecting. It includes features such as advanced searching, CRM integration, and account tags and notes that can be saved to your CRM.

Highest Rated Features:

  • Company information quality – 8.4 out of 10
  • Advanced search capabilities – 8.2 out of 10

Lowest Rated Features:

  • Sales email templates – 6.4 out of 10
  • Lead upload/download – 6.4 out of 10

Similarly to ZoomInfo, the majority (57%)  of reviewers who have used LinkedIn Sales Navigator are from mid-sized businesses. However, small businesses (22%) users take up a slightly larger piece of the pie than enterprise users (21%) in this case, whereas there were more enterprise than small business users of ZoomInfo.

Who uses LinkedIn Sales NavigatorInsideView

InsideView is a suite of marketing and sales intelligence tools that focus on augmenting and refreshing CRM data records. It then uses this data to intelligently create and target lead lists. Some of the products included in the suite are InsideView Refresh  – which cleans and updated CRM records, InsideView Target – which builds high-quality lead lists, and InsideView Sales which brings this data into the sales and marketing workflows.

Highest Rated Features:

  • Salesforce integration capabilities – 8.6 out of 10
  • Ideal customer targeting – 8.5 out of 10

Lowest Rated Features:

  • Data hygiene – 6.7 out of 10
  • Lead tags – 6.7 out of 10

Mid-sized business users (59%) make up the largest portion of InsideView reviewers on TrustRadius, followed by small business users (26%) and then (15%) enterprise users.Who uses InsideView?

Lead411

Lead411 is a B2B sales intelligence platform that specializes in finding work emails, job titles, and direct dial numbers through their chrome extension. One notable feature is sales trigger notifications. This alerts marketing and salespeople when a window of opportunity for reaching out to a prospect arrives. It is based on a set of growth and opportunity indicators.

Highest Rated Features:

  • Alerts and reminders – 9.5 out of 10
  • Automatic data refresh – 9.4 out of 10

Lowest Rated Features:

  • Data accessibility and load time – 7.5 out of 10
  • List upload/download – 7.1 out of 10

Mid-sized (57%) and small business (39%) users make up the largest portion of Lead411 reviewers, with enterprise users only accounting for 4% of reviewers. Out of the five products discussed in this article, Lead411 currently has the lowest percentage of enterprise users on TrustRadius.

Who uses Lead411While these five products are some of the most popular, they’re only just the tip of the iceberg. TrustRadius covers 145 other sales intelligence products as well, with a total of 888 reviews.

If you’re interested in researching which sales intelligence tools fit your lead management process best, read some reviews from fellow software users on TrustRadius. Look for reviews written by people at a similar company size and in a similar industry to your own. Pay extra attention to the reviewer’s use case–do their problems and priorities ring true? The most helpful feedback will come from other people like you.