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Date : 3 May 2007
Subject : Business Intelligence
Source : CRM Today (
Title : The Secret to Successful Customer Relationships? BI

A sales manager once told me her secret to customer service. To prepare for a meeting she always did research on where a prospect went to college. In Texas, which was her territory, whether the client or prospect in question was a graduate of the University of Texas or Texas A & M dictated how she prepared for the meeting. She even had two separate teams to bring to the client or prospect.

It seems like a cursory thought and not something one would think is very important to a sale; however, this knowledge brought insight to her approach and provided a way to gain a connection to a customer.

The secret to this sales manager’s success was knowledge gained through business information technology. According to a recent study by CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking sales and marketing excellence, companies that excelled at sales knowledge management saw the number of sales reps meeting or exceeding their quotas increase by 25 percent.

Based on this statistic, one can assume knowledge gained on a prospect and his/her business leads to successful sales. The answer seems simple: Spend time researching your customer and you’ll be more successful. But therein lies the challenge: time. Time is a valuable commodity, and time spent gathering and sifting through bulky information to get to relevant information just isn’t a good way for a sales rep to operate when there is pressure to make the calls, go to meetings and close the sale.

Competitive edge
This is where business information comes in. Technologies that sift, sort, gather and extract the data are the way to for sales reps to gain in-depth sales knowledge quickly. Having access to this hidden content gives users a more potent understanding of the issues, backgrounds and connections that create a competitive edge. They can more quickly earn trusted-advisor status with their customers and prospects, as was the case with the Texas sales manager.

Typically, when people think of gathering information about a client or prospect they use a search engine. The problem is, search engines do just that: search for information. When it comes to knowledge, sales reps need to use technologies with access to a deeper level of unstructured content.

These technologies, which include pattern recognition, natural language processing and web mining, already exist. Many forward-looking companies are using them in innovative ways to solve some of these challenges. Specifically, they are gaining information on their sales prospects and clients by accessing relevant analyst reports, news sources and a deeper level of company contact information.

Many reps know they should be doing this level of research, but they don’t have time. Business information technologies solve this challenge.

By employing pattern recognition and linguistic technologies to distill valuable but hard-to-find information from unstructured sources, business information technologies uncover for sales reps key insights that were once buried within thousands of unstructured text reports and web sites. In addition, web-mining technology can be used to enhance biographical information such as work history, professional affiliations, attributed articles and quotes, education background and compensation. This fielded, searchable data enables sales professionals to build familiarity with key decision-makers and uncovers connections within multi-level decision-making groups to quickly build familiarity.

Smarter preparation
Business information technologies also provide insight into the strategic initiatives, strengths and weaknesses--and key corporate relationships of major publicly-traded companies. Using advanced language-processing technology to distill data from trusted objective financial analyst reports and other key resources, sales organizations are enabled to better apply their products and services to specific customer business challenges--and to be smarter about preparing for strategic client meetings.

As the vice president of products at OneSource Information Services, I am dedicated to looking at how to advance business information technologies to gather needed unstructured content and extract only the information needed to perform the sales function in a knowledgeable way.

Ultimately, the goal with business information technology is to put a sales rep in a more knowledgeable position quickly, enabling the rep to be better prepared to speak to prospects and customers. Using an advanced business information technology, the time to insight is decreased and sales reps are more focused on solutions selling.
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