Not all data is created for revenue growth. In this blog, we’ll focus on different types of data points that are available to marketers. What are the data points that help create better alignment? And what are the data points that necessarily aren’t geared for revenue growth?
We asked to rank the following data points, 1 being most important and 8 being the least important, to President at a leading marketing company, Principal at a leading sales company, and Founder of a leading B2B sales consulting firm.
- Firmographic data on public and private organizations
- Department reporting structure
- Budget per department
- Technologies installed
- Job function and responsibilities
- Verified contact information
- Project and personal changes
- Research and investment activity
We’re going to refer to each of the three respondents with their titles. Out of these data points, a lot of these are the information that we need on the marketer’s side. These are the data points that are going to be very important at the end of the sales cycles and closing cycles as well.
The answer to the above question from all the three respondents;
When we asked the president about the reason for such response, he explained;
President: If you can’t actually get hold of a person, it doesn’t matter what you’re trying to say. Data integrity and the accuracy of contact information is a huge problem since we have people moving around in B2B by switching their jobs on a regular basis. We’ve phone numbers that go directly to voicemails or receptionists that never answer their phone.
This is why the ability to effectively reach the indented prospect is very important to ensure that your sales representatives are more efficient.
Then the context in which you’re selling, not just understanding the type of account t you should be selling to and being able to prioritize those, and also understanding that when it comes to the department reporting structure; who’s in their booking meetings, who are in the roles that are relative to the outcome you’re trying to achieve, these are the point that is most valuable according to me.
Founder: I took a sales approach obviously. I think that you can get contact information in a million different places, but what you can’t get in a million places is department reporting structure. I ranked it as the most valuable data point because I feel like when marketing generates leads, they tend to be mid-level to low-level and as sellers, we often have to sell high to get our solutions in the door.
So, understanding the reporting structure of an organization gives sales team the ability to say “Ok, this lead came-in at a low level, I am going to consider it as an arrow to opportunity, but I am going to call it as high”, and knowing how to do that is a critical success factor.
I also thought “Job function & responsibilities” is important because titles are to get gobbled nowadays because everybody has a growth, I don’t know what this even means, but especially in marketing, there’s such fragmented functionality in organizations nowadays and titles don’t mean what they meant earlier, and having an understanding of someone’s job function & responsibilities, especially since you can use the responsibilities in your messaging, I thought was the next important thing.
What we want to focus on is “where do we align with each other in terms of verified contact information, Departmental reporting structure, or firmographic information, job functions, etc.”?
What are those areas where sales and marketing both say, we need this information, maybe for different reasons or for a different context, but we both need this type of data?
And one of those areas was verified contact information.
Principal: When you pass MQL to the sales team, the first response that you get from them is “I can’t get them on the phone”.
So, I took a different approach when I looked at the list. When we talk about sales and marketing alignment, for us, the first thing that both of these teams need to get aligned on is the ICP or the buyer’s persona. That’s why I choose “Firmographic data on public and private organizations”. I think that it’s incredibly important.
You have high deliverable data across both sales and marketing teams, and I think that data point is very necessary for revenue growth and for velocity in your pipeline. But I think even before that having firmographic data on public & private organizations is very essential.
When you are selling to CFOs, a CFO at a manufacturing company with 200 employees is going to look very different than a CFO at a technology company with 2,000 employees located across four different countries.
I think that’s one of the areas where sales messaging often falls short that focuses too much on contact and too much on the role and not enough on the company and industry and I think that’s where your ICP should start. ICP starts with the company, the profile, and then filtering down to the buyer.
When we say verified contact information, we think that is a two-fold. One is the contact information and the second is the context of the company. And why is, what we’re pitching, relevant to the person. It is the actual piece of relevance that takes the conversation to the next level. So, yes firmographic data is extremely powerful.
Founder: No sale starts unless somebody starts a conversation. So having these conversations is very critical. We did some research a while ago, and what we found that just having phone numbers is a thing of the past, now having a contact’s mobile number is becoming a success factor.
Principal: For me, there’s a big difference between contact information and verified contact information. There are a lot of databases out there that will tell you they can give you phone numbers of every contact, but anyone that has done some selling knows that it doesn’t necessarily mean that those phone numbers are going to go anywhere. And if the phone numbers are accurate, it doesn’t mean those are direct dials. If you have 20 contacts in a company and every one of them has the same phone number, you know that that’s just worthless.
So, having verified information is actually going to reach the person you care about. Whether you’re doing business development or just setting appointments, no matter what you’re doing, your ability to more efficiently reach more of the right people gives you a marginal edge to be more efficient and more effective.
So, when we’re talking about contact information and verified contact information, one of the most difficult things for sales representatives specifically is the time doing a lot of research trying to find that contact information. In conjunction with that, there’s them trying to find that even if the contact is the right person. They don’t just need to find out if the contact information, but they also need to find out if that is the right person that they should be going after. That really transitions into number two. All of the three respondents were closely aligned on one of the very strong points of alignment, which is “Job function and responsibility.”
In terms of job function and responsibility, as a marketer, what are you specifically looking at, if you are not just looking at the titles when you are looking at these two things, what are you trying to decipher from that type of information?
Principal: Well, we need a couple of different things.
I don’t care about their title, I care about their role.
I totally agree that titles are just weird now. When I was working at Microsoft years ago, my title was Product Manager. What does that mean exactly? I never really understood why that was my title. The work I was doing over there felt more like marketing. But knowing what my role was the most important thing to choose whether to target me or not target me.
I also think that when you look at job function and responsibilities across multiple people, you get a sense about what their likely needs are, what their pain points are, what are the things that keep them up them up at night.
I am a big fan of not asking the prospect what’s keeping them up at night, but telling them what’s keeping them up at night. So, you have the opportunity to customize your messaging, more precisely reach the person that has a problem that your solution can solve when you understand their role and responsibilities.
In smaller organizations, someone who is a Director of IT very well might wear that hat of CIO and we connect more of these folks because we don’t necessarily recognize those titles as a high-level or important title. It really depends on the size of the company and how that company structures in their industry or how robust and advanced their internal teams are. Whereas at a larger organization the IT director might wear a lot of different hats, or even bigger organizations all might wear just one hat, but still is a director of IT.
When you see these ambiguous titles, how do you understand someone’s role if you don’t know their job functions? What type of question do you use to uncover that information?
You don’t send them an email asking “are you the person in charge of XYZ and if not would you refer me”? Those emails would be crazy; you don’t ask your buyers to do the work for you, not if you are good at your job.
First of all, you can do a couple of things socially to figure out what their role is, like their LinkedIn profiles. I like to check their job postings, if you’re going to target a Director of IT, go and look for the type of people they are hiring and that will give you a sense about what their role and responsibilities are. So I always like to go social before I start talking to them.
Job function or responsibility can be a way for us to prioritize as well. Can you elaborate on this, maybe a form of lead segmentation, can we leverage this type of information versus just having titles?
Principal: What I would advise on this scenario is that you don’t want to end up in a situation where you say let’s target the Director of IT and end-up contacting all of them. You want to understand, what’s the value, your solution has to those people, and then narrow it down to the part of their role or part of their job function you’re really hitting into. That’s going to enable you to do much smarter lead segmentation around areas of responsibilities and focus. And it probably could get you really close to the people that have a real business need for your solution, rather than just segmenting by titles.
Founder: Many people don’t understand the nuances of how important it is to really articulate your ICP in very well segmented chunks and then to build your sales process and messaging around those particular chunks.
In terms of doing this and creating more targeted messaging, you may get to a point of over-personalization and it takes too much time from a marketer’s standpoint. So, where do you find the balance in terms of personalizing your messaging around someone’s job function and their responsibilities, without going too far and falling down the rabbit hole.
If you’re clear enough about what problems do you solve, talking from a buyer’s perspective, everyone that could buy your product should buy your product. It allows you to find a sub-set of the market that has particular roles, has particular functions, has particular objectives that relate to not just what you’re selling, but the value you represent and the insights you can bring to the table. So I think you can make sub-segment to smaller groups of prospects where you can still do one-to-many marketing and one-to-many selling by customizing to messaging beyond one-size-fits-all.
Now, let’s discuss the department reporting structure.
How do we leverage the data about department reporting structure to target high or to target mid and to know where the contacts are sitting?
President: Every company needs to understand the “Top-down selling” and “Bottom-up selling” and make a decision about either doing any one of them or both. And if you don’t know the department reporting structure and don’t know who’s on the buying committee and you’re going to land on contact, either inbound or outbound that you think is going to become your internal champion because they engaged with you. That’s one of the biggest mistakes people make in sales.
Once you understand the reporting structure and start to understand your buying committee, and then you can expand your conversation to include more people. You can send emails that are summary of what you talked about, add multiple people on them, you can ask your internal champion for introduction to very specific people by showing that you’ve done your homework and you understand their organization. There’s so much leverage that you can get out of department reporting structures that it’s just phenomenal. There are so many ways to do this nowadays.
When you start to get into more complex fields and higher value deals, it is an absolute must. Because in those scenarios you don’t just talk about the department reporting structure and the persons in those departments that you’re talking to. You also need to loop in other departments that may be affected by the solution.
For example; if you are selling into sales, you should be engaging with marketing teams, product teams, depending on the industry you are in. Understanding department reporting structure will help you to understand how that account match should look like at a much deeper level, much early-on in the conversation.
So, I think about, those within a department and then also understanding what the organization chart of the company is so that you can proactively identify other areas and channels that you should be opening up in the sales process.
These three are the strongest data points that make an impact throughout the revenue funnel. So, from top of the funnel, in marketing, through the operationalized process and at the hand-off into sales and then all the way to end sales cycle, these data points are impactful through all the way to retention cycle as well.
Whether or not the data set “budget by departments”, “technologies installed”, and “research & investment activity” can be helpful, but can they also be distracting?
Founder: I think they’re good to have, but also in the wrong hands they can derail your sales efforts.
The budget is always available. If your buyer has a problem that you can solve and you’ve established your value. So when providing budgets by department to any sales team, my concern is that can look at a company say “oh, no budget, not going to waste my time”, and then they may end-up not approaching the company, when in likelihood, they may have a problem that you can solve and you just have to create the vision and they can go and get the budget. The same goes for research & investment activity. It’s a nice little vitamin but I prefer Aspirin. And technologies installed could be interesting if you’re selling into competitive space.
I think too much information is just too much information and can be a little distracting. But this information can be very valuable in certain types of organizations.
For example; Budget by departments is very important if you’re selling into any type of public institution, higher education, some parts of the healthcare industry, etc. Their budgets have to be made available and they’re very fixed. And if you tap into that, it can be super mission-critical and can save you an immense amount of time in your sales cycle and your revenue cycle. The same goes for the technologies installed. They are very valuable in industries like software.
For example; there are many companies that we know, whose sweet spot is the companies that are using Salesforce. So knowing whether a company is using Salesforce or not, is very mission-critical for them.
Research & investment activity can be a really great indicator of the strategic direction of a company.
From a marketer’s perspective, can these data points be distracting in terms of lead scoring, lead segmentation, lead routing, or can they be helpful?
Principal: These data points can easily create a false positive and false negative. When you’re doing account-based work, you don’t just look at the biggest companies in the industry, but you look for other attributes or characteristics of the company that make them more likely to buy.
Why does an alignment on all these data points matter?
President: From the marketing perspective, it’s very critical. When your prospect gets distracted and you don’t have integrated messaging, approach, integration between sales and marketing, you could still sell, but you lose the ability to create greater momentum and velocity with the prospect with a consistent story.
You look better as an organization when you’re coming to a prospect at multiple channels, multiple formats with a cohesive message. So the alignment between these data points is not quite hitting your numbers and making to the president’s club as an organization. Basically, it’s make-or-break.
Driving Consistent measurable lifts in revenue growth needs a comprehensive data strategy. Align your data vendor to your goals and process, and also ensure that the data vendor you choose is capable of supporting your current needs.