First there was competitive intelligence—data that helped organizations understand what their rivals were doing to grow their business. Then came market intelligence, which looked more broadly at the economic forces and buying patterns across a sector.

Now we are seeing the rise of sales intelligence: a way to help Canadian companies turn information into actions that win the trust and loyalty of their best customers.

Software Intelligence Defined

Though it may already be a familiar term within large enterprises, sales intelligence may be new to some Canadian small and medium-sized businesses. G2 Crowd, an online software review and research tool, recently offered a good way of explaining sales intelligence:

Sales intelligence software provides sales professionals with background and contact information for a prospect, company, or industry . . . Sales intelligence tools might integrate with social streams to provide additional information about a prospect, and many tools will integrate with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms to link information with existing contacts.

Don’t merely look at sales intelligence as a product, however; think of it as a strategy that involves technology, people and processes to address important challenges in finding and selling to customers.

The Business Case for Sales Intelligence

In a story called ‘Who Will Buy? Data-Driven Sales Teams Aim to Know’ published earlier this summer, TechTarget noted sales intelligence is becoming a critical way of dealing with the pressures sales pros face.

Not surprisingly, for example, 94 per cent of sales pros recently surveyed say they have higher quotas to meet in 2015 than last year, and 58 per cent say they are having trouble meeting them. Data is a huge problem: 40 per cent said their sales are hindered by information that is difficult to find across their organization, and they have limited ways of putting it together to see a complete picture of their customers and prospects.

The Short-Term Benefit of Sales Intelligence

Besides bringing more visibility to pipeline data, sales intelligence could be a way for companies that are using CRM to increase their return on investment. That was the conclusion of a report from Aberdeen Group published last month, which said the two software systems work hand-in-hand.

“Those companies investing in sales analytics are mostly wise enough not to launch it independently of the CRM,” the report says. “Integrating forecast workflow into the CRM provides all sales, marketing and executive stakeholders with a common data set to more accurately populate and manage deals from soup to nuts throughout the buyer’s journey.”

As a result, Aberdeen added, sales intelligence is likely to get sales reps using CRM more consistently, which in turn will mean better bottom-line results.

The Long-Term Benefit Of Sales Intelligence

The reason many companies are afraid to lose their sales pros to other companies is because of everything those professionals have come to know about the organization, its customers and its products and services. A good sales intelligence strategy works in a similar way, becoming more integral to the company’s overall performance the longer it is used.

That’s one of the reasons why Small Business Trends recently suggested sales intelligence is not only worthwhile for big firms but companies of almost any size.

“The coolest part of all is the fact that sales intelligence systems are always learning from your business’s past performance,” the site said. “By looking at whether its suggestions were successful when acted upon, these systems can adjust the suggestions they make in the future.”

Of course, some organizations may only seek out sales intelligence when sales start to decline and information management problems get out of hand. Proactively deploying the technology, the people and the tactics before that happens may be the most intelligent thing of all.

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