Every great sales team has a sales process: the stages and gates they use to move deals forward and forecast success. When you spin up a new instance of Salesforce, they automatically give you a set of opportunity stages that start with prospecting. Right after that 10% probability first stage is one of the most important steps in a sales process: qualification. Qualification is a gate—a kind of binary switch that decides whether a deal is worth the company’s time or not.
While qualification may just represent one stage in the Salesforce defaults, every salesperson knows that qualification is something that happens throughout the sales process. Every interaction is a form of qualification that can help a seller decide whether to invest more or less time in that particular opportunity. What’s more, most sales teams have additional qualification gates throughout the process that ensure a deal currently in late-stage pipe, for instance, actually belongs there. Sometimes the criteria are simple: you can’t make it to the proposal stage if you didn’t send one. Other times, however, they’re a lot fuzzier. Does the prospect properly understand the value proposition? Are they onboard with the pricing? They looped in their boss … but did they really loop in their boss?
So much of the job of being a seller is trying to interpret an array of signals and understand how much wind is really behind the sale. Again, sometimes these are simple to understand, such as when an economic buyer clearly states their intention to buy the product. And sometimes they’re not, like when you catch a technical buyer texting in the meeting. In the end, though, they all add up to a probability that a deal will get done. While the focus of selling is usually on the persuasive aspects of the job, the real job of a salesperson is to mine for intent. The better you know a prospect—the more intent data you have—the better prepared you’ll be to put the right price in front of them or handle the next objection smoothly.
Historically, salespeople mined this data in person. Flying in for dinner helped to open doors, build rapport, and, of course, gather intelligence. Now, of course, everyone also uses a set of tools that deliver these signals throughout the process. The ping of an email open goes in the intent ledger, often even directly driving a next sales action like a phone call. But I can’t help but think we’ve only started to scratch the surface on how salespeople approach this kind of data. Every stage in the process offers these kinds of intent signals that are ripe to be mined and either acted on immediately or added to the ever-focusing picture we have of a customer’s journey.
I say all of this because I’m in the midst of a lot of interviews, a meeting I had the other day left me thinking. After talking to a sales operator she said, what you are doing is intent as a service for the sales team. I really like that and agree with her conclusion.
The question I will leave you with is how are you gathering intent data and how are you serving it up for your sales team throughout the customer journey? This could be in the pre-discovery process (3rd party or “dark web” data that shows a company might be interested in what you offer), during the sales process (prospects coming to our website, data via trial/freemium or POC, or other buying signs), or post close expansion (signals the customer can grow with you). This is where we want to build and I’d like to talk with folks that are thinking about it.