The Sales Shakeup: How Data Is Redefining Sales Prospecting

2015-12-17-1450386764-4580937-IlyaSemin.pngIlya Semin is the Founder and CEO of Datanyze, the all-in-one sales intelligence platform that helps companies uncover and reach the right prospects at the right time.

It's safe to say that at some point, we've all received a poorly targeted email from a sales rep who didn't bother (or have time) to do his or her homework. The good news is that sales is evolving, and these irrelevant, incorrect and ill-timed prospecting emails and calls are becoming fewer and farther between. Sales managers are realizing that data is critical to taking their sales teams out of the Stone Age of "dial for dollars" and into today's world in which prospects expect highly relevant, customized touches along every step of their customer journey. But this hasn't happened overnight. The evolution of sales teams' daily routines and practices, which has accelerated in the age of Big Data, can be mapped across three very distinct phases:

Putting an End to the "Spray and Pray" Days

Back in the days of "ancient" prospecting, salespeople trudged through cold call after cold call, relying on their Rolodexes, rotary phones and the trusty "ABCs of sales" (Always Be Closing). Fast-forward a few years, when VPs of marketing relied on purchasing large, unwieldy contact lists with questionably vetted targets to serve as the foundation of their team's efforts. In addition to mass phone calling, mass email blasts based on CRM lists were added to the mix.

All of a sudden, sales teams had a new way to reach their targets - but the generic, impersonal "spray and pray" approach continued. The result? See for yourself by Googling "worst sales email" - there's no shortage of entertainment reading and consumer rants. And unfortunately, I can relate to far too many of them. Over the years, I've gotten some that are so bad, I've had to chuckle while simultaneously shaking my head. Some of my favorites have started out with:
  • Dear [First Name]... (not a good start!)
  • Dear Ian... (that's not my name)
  • As VP of Operations at Datanyze... (I'm the CEO)
Empowering Social Selling

The rise of social media gave companies incredible new insight into their prospective customers. By scouring social media sites for contact information, intelligence could be collected straight from a consumer's online profiles, then pieced together to craft targeted messages that use flattery techniques, cite mutual connections, or are otherwise unique to the prospect's use-case. One of my favorite personal examples was during a particularly stressful time at work when I took to Twitter, posting that I could really use a vacation. Within hours, a savvy travel agency had emailed me an offer with several attractive vacation packages, complete with reduced airfare pricing.

Yet social selling required much more time and manpower than the automated "spray and pray" methods of the past. Many companies began separating prospectors from their closers by establishing inside sales or sales development teams to focus exclusively on those first crucial interactions with the prospect. Despite these advancements, more was needed as teams realized that flattery and similar methods of social engagement could only go so far when a prospect wasn't already in the market for their product.

Uncovering Buying Signals to Make Better Decisions

Today, data-driven sales intelligence tools are evolving from the blanketed, generic prospecting tactics of yesterday that were heavy on automation, low on manpower and even lower in response rates. Instead, what moves the needle now are highly targeted, personalized interactions executed by a knowledgeable, dedicated sales force. This newfound focus on quality and laser targeting has resulted in much higher response rates. And in this new world order, both context and timing are paramount to a sales rep's success. This means the rep must be equipped to track and quickly respond to a prospect's buying signals - from posting questions on Quora, to completing a funding round, to ceasing using a competitor's product.

I'm always encouraged to receive - and am much more receptive to reading - well-timed emails that reference recent actions I've taken. For example, my company had just started to use a new website traffic software tool. Within days, we received an email from a competitor offering a free SaaS tool that could complement the tool we were using. In another recent example, a sales rep referenced the fact that he knew my company used HubSpot, and had reached out to share a new HubSpot integration that he thought could be helpful to us. It was, and we took his call.

Gone are the days of the pushy, aggressive salesperson sales shoving messages down the buyer's throat: today, the buyer is squarely in the driver's seat. Sales teams now exist to help buyers along their customer journey. With the vast number of sales intelligence tools now available to quickly uncover these consumer buyer signals in a scalable manner, sales reps can better prioritize their outreach efforts and more effectively craft relevant, personalized messages that resonate. This opens the door to more interactions, more demos, more pipeline and most importantly, more deals.