For complex enterprise sales, knowledge is power. Having slivers of insight on your side, like a prospect’s pain points and who really calls the shots (and do they like ribs?) can be the final pieces of the puzzle that win you business.

But not all knowledge is created equal, and stockpiling sales intelligence data with no plan of action is almost worse than having none at all. With more and more vendors all vaunting their own unique set of insight, it’s no wonder that so many organizations find themselves lost at sea when it comes to collecting and leveraging the right kind of data. In fact, just 29 percent of businesses are able to effectively connect analytics to action, so if you want to make data work for you, you’ll first need to do a little analysis of your own—into your business, sales team, and past accounts—to identify the gaps and the find the tools to fix them.

Uncover the selling tools and how they help

Bad data is bad for sales. So bad, in fact, that IBM estimates that the annual cost of inaccurate data to the U.S. economy is $3.1 trillion. So before you start incorporating new findings into your sales strategy, you need to make sure they’re capable of addressing your needs. To make that determination, begin by familiarizing yourself with the different kinds of information available. Sales intelligence tools typically provide support in one of the following areas: data, content, public information, and inside knowledge.

If you’re currently looking to find new companies that fit your ideal customer profile, then you need a data-provision tool like DataFox. Whereas if you’ve already identified a target and are looking for more insight into a target’s organizational structure, content tools like LinkedIn Navigator are your best bet. Sales tools like DiscoverOrg serve the public information function by helping you identify the key decision-makers in an organization and supplying the contact information you need to start pitching. The last tool, inside knowledge, is the kind of sales intelligence you get with Emissary, where you’ll be connected with former decision makers at the organizations you’re trying to sell into.

Of course, using multiple tools will yield the best results. Perhaps you used DataFox to pick out a new prospect then moved on to LinkedIn Navigator to get your first meeting, then wrapped it all up by working with a former buyer at your prospect’s organization to speed through procurement. But in general, you should try and determine which areas of the above four can give you the most bang for your buck to ensure you’re spending wisely.

Choose the right selling tool with past insight

With so many costly tools to parse, it can be tempting to forgo intelligence gathering altogether and just dive in with your intuition. But considering how transformative the right kind of insight can be for sales teams in need, finding the best sales intelligence tools for your business is well worth the effort. In fact, 82 percent of top-performing sellers today describe sales tools as being critical to their ability to close deals. But in order to get this kind of game-changing data, you first need to understand where it can help you the most.

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To uncover the areas where you may be falling short and gain a deeper understanding of what kind of information could help you improve, dig into your past closed-wons. Was there a particular piece of insight that clearly drove a deal home? What seemed to really grab the attention of your prospect that granted you a second meeting? Identifying your strengths will help reveal your weaknesses, so look closely.

If you have no problem pitching but struggle at finding new prospects, then focus on sales intelligence tools that dole out data. Or maybe your deals fall apart during the purchasing phase—skip public information tools and redirect those resources toward partnering with a former insider at your prospect’s organization to help you map out an effective strategy for procurement.

Hopefully you’re still riding high after revisiting all your most recent moments of glory, because now comes the hard part: coming face to face with past closed-losts. Look closely at why these deals fell apart as opposed to succeeding. Was there a key piece of information missing that could have addressed the deal-breaking issue before it become a problem? How did you position your solution and to whom? Where you working with the main decision-maker, or were there other players with sway behind the scenes that you never got a chance to meet?

Cross-reference the insight you gleaned from your closed-losts against your closed-wons to see what type of patterns emerge. Doing so will paint a much clearer picture of the sales intelligence data that will have the biggest impact on winning new business and what will just be more noise.

Executive Insights

Gathering and leveraging sales intelligence data can be intimidating. Too little, and you’re likely missing out on critical deal-making insight. Too much, and you’ll likely be paralyzed by the information overload. Familiarize yourself with the different kinds of tools out there and which specific needs they best address. To show you what type of intelligence can have the most impact on your deals, analyze your past closed-wons and closed-losts to identify areas where you need some support.

For more sales intelligence tools and a detailed look at how to use them, check out the “Expert’s Guide to Sales Intelligence.”

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