Insight Sales: Why Data and Automation Mean ‘There’s No Going Back’

Pacific Energy Concepts turns blue-collar buildings into marvels of modern technology. By replacing outdated industrial lighting with highly efficient, network-connected LEDs, the company can shave hundreds of thousands of dollars from a customer’s annual electric bill — all while improving worker safety and reducing their carbon footprint. 

But for a long time, PEC sold those next-generation services in a decidedly old school manner: They pulled together a list of prospects and pounded the pavement looking for customers. 

“We would effectively go knocking on doors to meet the appropriate person at a facility,” says Rose Southwell, the company’s vice president of sales operations and marketing.

When COVID-19 hit, those face-to-face meetings were suddenly off the table. And PEC needed a new way to reach their potential customers — so they turned to ZoomInfo for help.

Today, using the ZoomInfo RevOS platform, those salespeople can search for new prospects, find the key decision-makers, and even identify the firms that are getting serious about launching an energy efficiency project. And though it started as a pandemic lifeline, the shift to data-driven sales prospecting has had a lasting impact on PEC’s own efficiency.

“It’s saved us a significant amount of time,” Southwell says. “Time that we’re able to better spend on designing and deploying our energy efficiency solutions, and time that we can use to bring even more value to our customers.”

The New World of Insight Sales

That democratization of data is one of several unstoppable forces transforming sales from a loose art — driven by golf games and expensive dinners — into a precise, high-tech pursuit that is much more coachable and predictable. 

The first phase of that shift was the trend toward inside sales, where reps spent more time on the phone than knocking on doors. Today, the industry is increasingly adopting a trend we call insight sales, where reps use advanced data and software to better understand their customer, reach out at the right time, and build true partnerships. 

“We have ZoomInfo customers who are competing with the world’s largest technology brands, and they’re based in Boise. They’re based in Alabama,” ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck says. “They’re able to compete on a national and a global scale because they have access to the same data as the largest companies in the world.”

Delivering Time with Go-To-Market Software

The tools of the trade for salespeople have progressed rapidly from Rolodexes and phones to spreadsheets, CRMs, and intelligent software. These tools can not only provide a better client or customer snapshot, but make insightful recommendations about where salespeople should focus their efforts, which clients are likely to buy in a current sales cycle, and much more. 

In the old world of sales, a salesperson would have to manually synthesize dozens of data points to accurately prioritize each lead. In the new world, lead scoring using predictive intelligence shortens the time from analysis to decision-making to know whom to reach out to first, and why.  

In addition to artificial intelligence-powered predictive analytics, AI tools are providing reps with insights into their sales pitches and deal progression. In the old world, reps would need to rely on disparate notes — or worse, their memory — to cobble together a picture of their prospect or potential deal. In the new world, software can record their calls, identify pertinent information, and even highlight inflection points that could present risk in a deal, all using natural language processing

Multiplying the Power of Your People  

Beyond the Great Resignation, the sales industry is facing a much larger problem: hundreds of thousands of job vacancies, especially for early career roles. Historically, new SDRs had months to ramp up their knowledge and closing skills but the turmoil in the industry and the already high churn rate for new sales reps has made this untenable for sales organizations. 

Having the right technology, training, and support for new SDRs means faster ramp-up, less attrition, and higher effectiveness. More experienced reps close more deals, but they can only get more experience if they stay at their job. If they can’t close deals, they probably won’t stay.

PEC has seen that benefit among its growing sales team. “As we’ve grown, it’s given time back to our sales directors, who can spend that time and effort with our more junior sales representatives,” Southwell says.

Better sales enablement technology can also help organizations attract more diverse applicants, those with nontraditional backgrounds, or those who think they’re not cut out for sales. 

The sales discipline is still battling the “boiler room” stereotype and the used car salesman trope when in reality, the sales world of today has replaced activities that potential applicants dread — pushy tactics, aggressive calling, and schmoozing — with tools that foster consultative sales and relationship building. 

Realizing Real Value in Real Time

Sales automation software isn’t new, but its use is accelerating, as companies look to add efficiency and scale across their go-to-market teams. 

The rationale is simple: reps spend an inordinate amount of time on tasks that support selling, but don’t earn money. By automating everything from data entry to follow-up emails, reps can spend more time on work that actually closes deals. 

In addition to eliminating the manual and mundane, automation also removes the very human elements of forgetfulness and procrastination. An automated workflow that follows up with a lead right after their query form is filled out, capitalizes on their interest when it is at its highest.

The data in your CRM, your inbox, or your notes is a static snapshot. It doesn’t make analytics-based decisions or predictions. Adding on powerful go-to-market software like ZoomInfo that aggregates insights into mergers, personnel moves, and buying intent can inform the sales cycle in real time. This ensures that reps are speaking to customers’ most pressing needs with something pertinent to add. 

Democratizing Access to Data

Managing data can be messy, and the flood of business data that has proliferated in the past 20 years has made that mess unmanageable for all but the biggest companies. In an O’Reilly survey of data analysts and engineers, more than 60% cited “too many data sources and inconsistent data” as a major hurdle. For many organizations, data is in disconnected silos, making it difficult to draw holistic conclusions. 

In a new world of sales which relies on big data more than ever before, business intelligence vendors can add size and scale to even the smallest sales operations. Sales teams of two to 200 can enhance their go-to-market strategy without dedicated data scientists or operations teams. 

“Let’s say you’re a small business owner. Today, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of companies who want and need your products and services, but you don’t know who they are and you don’t know who at those companies makes the decisions for those products and services,” Schuck says.

To turn these big bodies of unprocessed information into actionable analysis, organizations can lean on expert partners like ZoomInfo to deliver comprehensive, insightful business data and ensure that data is managed by data specialists. 

Collaborating and Executing Seamlessly Across Teams

In the new world of sales, sales and marketing are more closely aligned. 

Marketers help identify and monitor the organization’s target accounts. They detect early signals of buyer interest and run multi-channel campaigns to bring qualified traffic to their websites. They tailor and optimize onsite experiences to turn more visitors into qualified meetings for the sales team. 

By working from a single data platform, sales and marketing can be aligned and accountable to each other, with information flowing in both directions. 

Taking the Cold out of Cold Calling 

The old cold calling game of sales is dead — at least the “cold” part of it. Leveraging business intelligence and real-time insights, every call can be personalized using data to focus on the customer’s pain points, history, and future needs. 

While making personal connections will always be a fundamental part of the job, access to accurate and timely prospect data levels the playing field and improves the outcome. The salesperson of today might look much different than the typical one of the past — in fact, they don’t even have to be incredibly outgoing or well-connected. 

“Buyers have gotten way more intelligent. Now, it’s really more about what you know and when you know it, and how you apply it,” says Chris Hays, ZoomInfo’s president and chief operating officer. “Once sales started to digitize and demand efficiency — it’s a one-way door. There’s no going back.”