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Big Data Journal: Article

How Context Will Solve the Big Data Problem for Sales & Marketing

Some innovative solutions are already helping B2B companies sell more by making prospect data actionable in the proper context

Slide Deck from Howard Brown's Cloud Expo® Presentation: Context to Solve the Big Data Problem for Sales & Marketing

It's a simple fact that the better sales reps understand their prospects' intentions, preferences and pain points during calls, the more business they'll close. Each day, as your prospects interact with websites and social media platforms, their behavioral data profile is expanding. It's now possible to gain unprecedented insight into prospects' content preferences, product needs and budget. We hear a lot about how valuable Big Data is to sales and marketing teams. But data itself is only valuable when it's part of a bigger story, made visible in the right context.

What Is Contextual Data?
Historically, business data was analyzed periodically (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) in order to help businesses make better revenue projections and long-term decisions. While decision data enables executives and corporate leaders to make periodic strategic and tactical adjustments, it can't influence workflow in real time. Contextual data, on the other hand, is data that is delivered to the right person at the right time. This data is actionable and can be leveraged by employees in various roles to impact decisions in real time.

An easy-to-understand example of contextual data is Facebook Birthdays. Facebook asks users for their birthday when they sign up and stores that information in a database. Those birthdays are weaved into a story when, on a user's birthday, all of their friends get a notification. By presenting birthday data contextually, Facebook helps remind us of our friends' birthdays and even offers options of gifts to purchase for them.

Why Context Matters
In an enterprise setting, there are huge opportunities to help reps crush quota by delivering contextual data during the engagement phase of the sales cycle. As a prospect interacts with your company by viewing web pages, filling out forms or calling in, you amass an increasingly sophisticated profile of that prospect. This is data that sales reps should be able to access in real time. The first time a prospect calls, a rep can view a lead's marketing referral source to predict what they are interested in purchasing. Screen pops can trigger talking points that can help reps close deals. Through progressive profiling, there's no limit to the amount of data that can be made actionable. For example, reps can view a prospect's job title, company revenue, purchase history, CRM profile, content downloads, social media streams and more before even picking up the phone.

Presenting prospect data contextually can radically accelerate revenue. However, according to a CSO Insights study, nearly half of sales reps feel that they don't have the data they need when talking to prospects. The result is that the majority of sales teams don't meet quota. Often, the data reps need to close deals exists, but businesses have no way to leverage this data to influence workflow in real time. Marketers are great at capturing all sorts of information about their prospects in Google Analytics, CRM systems, business intelligence software and marketing automation platforms. The right data can help reps to predict prospects' intentions, deliver better messages and close more deals. But far too often, data that could be igniting sales remains siloed in various systems of record. That's why businesses need to invest in solutions that provide reps with this data at key moments.

Contextual Data in Action
Some innovative solutions are already helping B2B companies sell more by making prospect data actionable in the proper context. Demandbase is a great example of a company that presents contextual account data about prospects on landing pages in order to optimize conversions. Companies can use Demandbase to automatically tailor-fit content to specific accounts. Imagine the impact of visiting a landing page and not only viewing content specific to your pain points but also featuring your company's name.

The best marketing automation solutions also provide sales reps with real-time views of prospect activities. Marketo, for example, provides a lead view for sales reps that helps them prioritize leads based on quality and urgency. This reduces the time that reps spend deciding which leads to dial and enables them to spend more time on the phone closing business.

My own company, RingDNA, was built on the premise that the more you know about your prospects, the more business you can close. In addition to automatically routing campaign-specific calls to the right sales rep or group of reps, we deliver contextual data that helps reps have more successful sales conversations. One way we do this is by providing reps with a lead's marketing referral source. For example, if a prospect clicked on a paid search ad from Google or Bing, a rep could instantly see which keyword they were searching for. Seeing which keyword caused a prospect to call enables your reps to presuppose which product they are interested in buying. Once a call begins, RingDNA triggers a screen pop with sales talking points directly related to the channel, campaign or keyword a prospect saw before calling. This helps reps stay on message and overcome common sales objections.

In addition, RingDNA delivers a prospect's social media feeds during inbound and outbound calls. According to a Nielsen study, 46% of online users count on social media when making a purchase. Customers use social media channels like Twitter and Facebook to vent about frustrations when they are unhappy with a brand, recommend products to colleagues and communicate when they have a need for a solution. Viewing a lead's social media feeds in the context of calls can help reps have more successful sales conversations. For example, suppose a prospect posted on Twitter asking for advice about one of your competitor's products. Your rep could then deliver a pitch focused on ways your product exceeds that specific competitor's solution. But even a simple tweet about the score from last night's Patriots game could be leveraged by a great rep to bolster engagement.

Finally, RingDNA enables sales reps to access collaborative team data from Chatter at the moment of a phone call. This is vital when multiple sales agents are working on closing the same deal, a common scenario in many B2B sales environments. This prevents reps from delivering information to prospects - such as price quotes - that contradicts what has already been stated by another rep.

RingDNA and other trail-blazing solutions that provide reps with rich contextual data are helping to usher in a new era of enterprise sales. From here on out, customer experiences need to be data-driven. Remember that customers almost always call when they are either conducting product research or when they intend to buy. Either way, when your customers call you it's a critical branding opportunity. Your reps' pitches can determine whether your customers have a good or bad experience.

When your prospects call, they don't mind hearing a sales pitch. They just want to hear a pitch that speaks to their individual needs. With the right data, your business can personalize every interaction. This will not only result in your customers walking away with better experiences, it will also empower your sales reps to close more revenue than ever.

More Stories By Howard Brown

Howard Brown is Founder & CEO of RingDNA, a company that is empowering businesses to reimagine telephony by providing powerful web and mobile apps that connect the business phone to CRM, social media, ad sources and other rich sources of enterprise contact data. Howard is a widely recognized platform technology expert whose company DemandResults helped enterprise companies revolutionize their marketing & sales efforts. Prior to creating RingDNA and DemandResults, Brown founded 4Therapy.com, a powerful network of hundreds of healthcare information and referral sites, which he sold to CRC Health (a Bain Capital Company) in 2004. He also founded Senior Transitions, which was acquired by RealPage in 2013.

Brown’s work as a visionary in the B2B sector was recognized in the book Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, and he was recently featured on the popular Entrepreneur on Fire podcast. He is a frequent speaker at conferences such as Dreamforce and LeadsCon. Howard’s RingDNA prototype won the 2011 Dreamforce Hackathon, and his RingDNA pitch at Austin’s 2012 StartupCamp won first prize.

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