Time to Get Your Data & Tech Stack in Shape for 2019

As you plan your sales and marketing strategies for next year, have you assessed the state of your data and technology stack? B2B companies are in planning mode this time of year. It’s important to think about how to optimize your business processes and technology. I sat down to discuss this topic in a webinar with Nancy Nardin, Founder of Smart Selling Tools and Co-Founder of Vendor Neutral. She provided great insight on what B2B companies are doing to assess their current capabilities and get prepared for 2019.

Let’s start by looking at the current state of the market- it’s not pretty.

On the sales side, according to CSO insights:

  • Slightly more than half of sellers are making quota – clearly, there’s a big opportunity for improvement. And quota attainment will get worse as companies are increasing quotas.
  • Only 36% of sellers’ time is actually spent selling. A large amount of time is wasted doing research and lead generation so there’s a large opportunity to improve sales efficiency.

On the marketing side, according to Forrester Research, there’s a big focus on data:

  • Less than 15% of marketers are confident with the quality of their customer data
  • 4 out of 5 marketers say that data management is a top-5 weakness in their organization

As more marketers take ownership for driving business decisions with their market and customer data this is a growing concern.

In the poll we conducted live in our webinar, we asked attendees to identify the top pain point in their organization – the top answers (and % of respondents were):

  • Identify and target the right accounts and people – 50%
  • Drive operational improvements – 25%
  • Deliver key decision-making data to executives – 17%
  • Sales enablement – 8%

It’s clear that data, operational processes and technology are top of mind.

How do we break from the status quo? It’s time for a new routine. Here are 3 steps to get your tech stack and data into shape as you plan for 2019.

1.) Simplify the technology stack decision process

No one ever teaches us how to make a decision on purchasing technology. It’s not like buying a car or a phone, which are fairly easy decisions. When you’re making a decision about technology for your company it’s a lot more difficult. The natural urge is to collect a bunch of data, do some statistical thinking, analyze, calculate, and compare.

But that approach only works when probability and consequences are known for each of the alternatives that you’re considering. And that’s not the case here. There are hundreds of sales technologies (thousands if you add marketing technologies) – and it’s impossible to know all the possible outcomes will be.

There are just as many problems to solve as there are solutions to solve them with. The challenge is how do you prioritize and narrow your focus to the critical problems and solutions to consider. We recommend starting with heuristics, which is a rule of thumb that allows us to simplify and streamline what are otherwise complex cognitive tasks. One heuristic is to start with what others have.

The 4 most prevalent sales technologies that are used successfully are CRM, online meetings, lead list building and eSignature. Another heuristic is to narrow your choices. A good place to start is with Vendor Neutral’s Certified 100 Landscape. This is where companies meet certain criteria (over 140 data points) and producing detailed profiles to save research time and to help you determine fit based on the KPIs that they help to drive.

2.) Identify and prioritize your needs

Applying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to sales technology, what’s the “stay alive” need? The question to ask is “what is the most important fundamental need of a salesperson when building a sales stack? The answer is “Selling to the right people” – you want to know who you’re selling to – otherwise, everything down the line will be questionable performance. Second, how do you get them to engage? After that, it’s how do you communicate value in a way that they’ll comprehend and that all the members of the buying team will buy off on?

Next, it’s how do you get them to sign the deal? Finally, the “self-actualization” need is how do you get them to do it again, creating a repeatable sales model and also being able to cross sell and upsell to existing customers?

So then how do you translate this hierarchy into deciding where to spend your next dollar on sales technology? Evaluate your current capabilities. Start by deprioritizing the capabilities that aren’t as important, then grade the ones that you’re happy with, identify the gaps, and prioritize which ones to fix first, ranked by order of the sales stack hierarchy.

3.) Create / evolve your data strategy

Managing a data strategy is like eating your vegetables – no one sits at the table excited to dive in, but everyone knows how important it is for your business health. Where do you start? Companies should first think about defining their TAM (total addressable market). TAM is how to look at all the potential demand in the market for you to target. Only 53% of B2B companies measure their TAM on a regular basis, which needs to change! Without clearly defining your target market, all the smart and creative demand gen programs in the world won’t be as effective as they should be.

Part of defining your target market is understanding your ICP (ideal customer profile). ICP is a set of attributes (e.g. industry, geography, size) from your best customers that help you identify new ones and decide whether a target is worth pursuing. Once you know your ICP you can identify your TAM and build your target account list with certainty.

An equally important part of your data strategy involves hygiene and ensuring your customer and prospect data is clean and accurate. Research shows up to 70% of B2B data turns stale every year, so it’s critical to have a process for keeping it up to date. In our webinar, we discussed a 5 point framework for managing your data, focused on:

  • Standardization to fix data entry errors and inconsistencies that drive duplicate records.
  • Cleansing against a trusted data source to ensure that inaccuracies are fixed on a timely basis.
  • De-duping to eliminate extra records so you don’t have to manage and also aligns records by object type – e.g. lead to account, company division.
  • Enriching missing information – e.g. your inbound web leads so you can prioritize and route them correctly to the right salesperson.
  • Validating employment and email address for an outbound campaign is critical.

Put it all together

How do you make a plan to get started today? Identify and prioritize your needs by starting with the 4 pillars of a successful sales tech stack.

Narrow down the overwhelming technology landscape with the VendorNeutral Certified 100 list. Assess your current capabilities using the maturity model and shortlist areas for improvement. Then plan to build a strong data foundation by defining your ICP, TAM, and creating a data hygiene & readiness plan.

Additional resources to give your team confidence in your 2019 plan. Happy holidays!

This week’s post is by guest author, Joe Andrews, VP of Product & Solution Marketing for InsideView, a targeting intelligence platform built using artificial intelligence (AI), delivers the industry’s most relevant, reliable data trusted by the world’s leading B2B companies. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.