Sales Intelligence Tools: A Guide to Predictive Prospecting

Business leaders know that data is the critical heart of growth and expansion.

And while it’s not hard to find basic business data — company names, phone numbers, employee counts, revenue, maybe direct dial numbers and email addresses — today’s complicated sales cycles need more than just names and numbers. 

What is Sales Intelligence?

Sales intelligence uses data and sophisticated software for lead generation, creating an ideal customer profile, data quality management, and more.

Good sales intelligence data is dynamic and delivers context for your go-to-market motion, including prospect decision-makers, organizational reporting structures, financials, budgets, year-over-year growth, company initiatives, personnel moves, installed technologies, and predictive features such as buying signals and buying intent — all in near real time.

What Do Sales Intelligence Tools Do?

Ideal sales intelligence tools supply your team with up-to-date information about your prospects and addressable market — and how you can reach them. The sales intelligence solution you choose for your business should integrate seamlessly into sales and marketing software you’re already using, as well as the rest of your business intelligence data stack. 

Why Use Sales Intelligence Tools?

When used strategically, sales intelligence running with good data can drive insights into who, how, when, and why people make buying decisions. The more information business development teams know about prospects, the better they can tactically craft outreach that cuts through the noise and conveys true value. 

Staying on top of an ever-changing market requires proactive intelligence that is frequently refreshed and brings prospects directly to a sales team’s workflow. Sales intelligence combines advanced prospect data with real-time buying signals that empower business development teams to connect with the right buyer at the right time. 

Analysts from Forrester found companies that implemented a B2B sales and marketing intelligence solution realized 35% more leads in their pipeline and 45% higher-quality leads, leading to higher revenue and growth.

Here’s how data filtered through sales intelligence has evolved to drive specific business functions and revenue. 

How to Choose a Sales Intelligence Tool

Actionable sales intelligence tools should give you information about individual contacts and their respective companies. Here’s what you should look for:

1. Prospect intelligence

At the very least, your sales intelligence needs to include accurate and updated information about potential customers, including:

  • Contact information
  • Job function
  • Management level
  • Organizational charts
  • Professional certification
  • Academic and employment history

2. Tech stack data

One of the most effective and undervalued ways of prioritizing sales accounts is assessing their sales tech stack, the collection of sales software products a given company uses. This data is important to sales and marketing leaders early in the sales cycle because it helps identify opportunities, target displacement campaigns, and introduce a talking point. 

ZoomInfo has several integrations, proprietary technologies, and methods of collection that profile over 8 million technology pairings in the categories of enterprise applications, hardware/OS/systems environment, virtualization, security, and networking.

3. Intent data

Understanding a prospect’s technology stack is important — but it’s intent data that prompts timely outreach.

Intent data is up-to-the-moment information that can help infer a prospect’s likelihood to purchase, such as a flurry of web searches or multiple content downloads on a particular topic. Opportunity data means favorable conditions, such as a financing round or a new C-level officer.

Intent and opportunity data are hallmarks of sales intelligence. They’re not typically part of a standard, raw data offering. Intent data provides a stark advantage against a competitor, allowing you to time your outreach to coincide with your prospect’s needs. 

4. Real-time alerts

Unlike people, technology doesn’t need to take breaks and can continuously monitor other contacts and companies. This means you can be informed about buying signals as soon as they happen, like product launches, funding rounds, changes to executive leadership, and much more. Since sales is all about timing, this kind of information can allow you to get to a prospect before someone else does. 

5. Robust integrations

Critical intelligence is only as good as where and how it’s delivered. Sales intelligence is no different, providing key integrations into common sales applications, such as customer relationship management, sales automation tools, and prospecting environments, including company websites and social media platforms.

6. Data accuracy

Ensuring data quality is the responsibility of a good data provider, but the outcomes affect you and everyone involved downstream — including your prospects. The data in your ideal sales intelligence tool should have both breadth, as in lots of contacts, as well as depth, meaning lots of information about those contacts. 

How to Use Sales Intelligence Tools

Enhance Data Quality & Management

You just acquired a list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Now you can plan your next marketing campaign or start prospecting into your top accounts.

Or can you? Would you vouch for the accuracy of this data if your revenue depended on it? Because it does. 

  • Sloppy databases waste time with high bounce rates, incorrect numbers, and misaligned campaigns. 
  • Salespeople get burned out using inaccurate data that doesn’t help them set quality meetings or generate qualified leads. 
  • Ongoing database hygiene means that data shouldn’t sit in a database collecting dust. It needs to be dynamic as new information becomes available and your database grows. 
  • Better prospect segmentation allows you to create specific, personalized messages that target decision-makers and shorten the sales process.

Create a Data-Based Ideal Customer Profile

Sales intelligence also shapes an accurate ideal customer profile — a key component of business development.

For many companies, the ideal customer profile (ICP) is anecdotal or based on the opinion of the leader. If you ask a sales leader who they sell to, they’ll offer a few key titles, maybe a couple of industries. You’ll get different answers from different team members, because the idea of a “target buyer” is inconsistent, nebulous, and often based on hunches and feelings, not data.

Sales intelligence allows you to find companies that look like your ICP in order to quantify your total addressable market. Then you can focus your sales and marketing efforts where it will matter.

Account-Based Strategy Requires a Solid ICP

Any account-based sales and marketing play is going to require a dependable ICP, and the first step is to identify and understand who you’re targeting, both in terms of accounts and contacts. Then you can have a deliberate approach to prospecting into those accounts and contacts.

The ICP can refer to both the ideal company and the ideal buyer:

A traditional ICP (standard CRM fields)

  • Department
  • Level
  • Function
  • Industry
  • Size
  • Location

Sales intelligence layers in:

Many startups and small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) don’t know enough about their target market to know where their niche is and strengths are. At some point, they need to know more about their buyers. It’s impossible to do that without having meaningful data to prioritize those efforts.

Boost Lead Generation

While there are many different kinds of lead generation — content marketing, advertising, SEO, email campaigns, cold calling, list-buying, hosting events, and attending trade shows — a sales and marketing intelligence tool is great for discovering new, quality leads quickly and enhancing your other lead-gen efforts.

Turn Events into a Lead-Gen Opportunity

A business cannot solely rely on inbound leads to grow and thrive. Sales must get on the phone, attend events, and find outbound leads. At trade shows and events, sales professionals can collect as much contact information as possible. The more names, titles, and companies they’ve logged, the better.

More information is a good thing, but it’s not really possible to determine the strength of a lead, or whether the account is worth the follow up, without some kind of intelligence tool.

Follow the Org Chart to the Right Leads

Sales intelligence often includes an org chart: A visual map of a company’s reporting structure. This lets sales teams see the person briefly met at an event, the entire department of their peers, as well as their role and hierarchy within the organization.

Example of an org chart in ZoomInfo.

A sales intelligence tool like ZoomInfo’s SalesOS can take the name or email address of the person you met and find additional contacts at that same company who should be on your radar — plus other information from the database to enrich the lead.