Account-Based Marketing, B2B, Sales Intent

Making Sense of Intent Data for Sales and Marketing Pros


Intent data promises different benefits depending on how it’s made, how it’s sourced and how you put it to use. Companies are adopting it for different reasons and solution providers are touting it heavily. Some forms of intent may only help to increase your advertising efficiency. Others can give you a suggestion of who might be considering a purchase because of an upcoming contract renewal, a change in personnel, or similar indirect indicators. And a few can provide meaningful access to significant pockets of undiscovered demand that can even drive more real opportunities into your pipeline. While many users have adopted one or more of these signal types, many organizations haven’t yet realized the major differences that could be important to their getting the most bang for their buck.

We’ve created this guide to help accelerate your own journey with intent data – whatever stage you’re at. It walks through how purchase intent data can help support every area of your organization, from Sales to ABM and Marketing – and we’ll provide additional resources to further expand your knowledge.

What is real intent data?

As originally coined, “purchase intent data” was a category of behavioral data (data created by analyzing the behaviors of people) that provided a strong indication of an impending product or service purchase. Recently however, not only has the term been abbreviated to simply the word “intent” alone, but some vendor players have worked hard to broaden its meaning to include any “signal,” regardless of whether it can be reasonably associated to an impending purchase.

As we use the term, purchase intent data must be able to guide go-to-market (GTM) teams first to significantly more active demand than they could otherwise see, and then, very precisely to specific people whose behaviors have signaled an interest in buying a given product. In a nutshell, it’s about maximizing visibility into the totality of current market demand and then optimizing the focus and precision of your actions on the available insights. Among the many different types of data or data sources now being labeled as “intent,” our definition is quite specific. Depending on the sourcing and methods involved, a given resource will have very different characteristics, and therefore, very different utility in supporting a GTM.

Like any data source, intent adds more value to your GTM if you can effectively put it to use in support of multiple use cases and user groups. Next, we’ll take a look at how real purchase intent data can be useful in various ways for specific GTM teams. From strategy optimization through to one-to-one sales personalization, the right intent source can quickly provide essential guidance that yields meaningful competitive advantages.

Intent data for Sales Development

Though Sales Development has exploded in popularity especially at enterprise tech companies, it’s still a relatively immature discipline at many of them. Sales Development organizations are often assembled in a rush with the expectation that they will mature themselves as they go along. But the reality at many companies appears to be that the build process is leaving a lot of important gaps which can easily become chronic points of failure. Today, we still see many Sales Development organizations where such gaps continue to cause underperformance in their companies’ sales development capability. While the majority of these teams’ time is intended to be spent on better qualifying demand for more effective sales follow-up, in a recent survey of Sales Development organizations, most companies reported that their teams still fail to hit their objectives. While a range of issues contribute to this, the quality of data resourcing stands out as a key point of failure.

While intent data has not yet become a staple for Sales Development teams, it is growing in usage. (Of course, as discussed above, the utility of intent for these use cases very much depends on the data source and its available insights). At the time of the research, less than 25% of all tech Sales Development teams were using intent data in a rigorous fashion despite the fact that the right type of intent source has been shown to yield substantial improvements in conversations, meetings and opportunities. When Sales Development teams are trained and enabled to use an appropriate source of purchase intent data, they are able to execute better outreach and more effectively deliver meetings that progress through the pipeline.

Intent data for Sales

For a long time running, strategic account executives have relied a great deal on only two rather blunt instruments with which to pursue prospecting in their territories: “qualified” lead follow-up (which is low volume and imprecise) and cold prospecting (which is even less productive). Both approaches lead sellers into a lot of dead ends. They reach out and nothing’s there. When the person’s right, it’s commonly the wrong time. In terms of capturing more of the full revenue potential across their territories, the reality is that, because they aren’t well enabled to prioritize more effectively, AEs still tend to allocate too much time to a few of their accounts and too little time to many of them. Despite the fact that these simplistic “tools” continue to fail sales professionals as an effective method for proactively optimizing account coverage, inefficiency in account executive prospecting has not received much direct attention from either management or vendors.

Better prioritization obviously represents a real opportunity for sales managers and salespeople alike. Even consistent quota attainment performance (despite sub-optimal tools) delivers less revenue from these territories than should be within reach. To increase quota attainment further (on the way towards maximizing better capture of all harvestable demand) sales managers also need a better way to see the real opportunities taking shape in their teams’ territories. And then, to drive capture increases, they need to be able to inspire their AEs to take advantage of this foresight.

Quality intent data can alter this equation significantly. By coupling the insights it provides with the right coaching, sales managers can more dynamically align their reps’ coverage behavior to both the active opportunities in a given territory and the total potential across territories. This is operationalizable, precisely because quality intent data can provide reps with better “peripheral vision” – precise, easy-to-understand and action insight into real demand activity regardless of initial account rankings. By understanding what’s in intent data, sales managers can better work with AEs on a more agile coverage model – one that captures more demand as it takes shape.

Intent data for account-based marketing (ABM)

Sales’ success is critically important to account-based marketing (ABM) because any such target account strategy is only truly successful if it drives more revenue from the targeted accounts. Any ABM implementation starts with Sales and Marketing together creating an agreed list of very specific accounts that deserve special attention and treatment. These accounts usually “deserve” this extra attention because they share characteristics that suggest each one has a high potential to deliver more revenue than it has to date. Sales’ role in ABM focuses both on capturing more of the existing opportunities surfacing in those accounts as well as working harder to create more opportunities within them. Complementary to this, in ABM, Marketing works on increasing the visibility Sales has into what buyers’ journeys (and therefore real opportunities) are taking shape in the target accounts as well as optimizing the conditions necessary to assist Sales in developing new opportunities there.

Thus, an important part of Marketing’s role in ABM is to create the type of engagement with target accounts that better prepares the ground for more effective opportunity creation by Sales account teams. The challenge Marketing must accept is the identification and implementation of tactics that will indeed drive better, deeper account engagement over time such that Sales will have a better chance of originating opportunities. To gain coherent engagement with a buying group such that an opportunity can be more easily originated, an ABM team needs to deliver unique value to the account that differentiates its input from the status quo and competitors alike. Success here depends on finding combinations of both content and format that bring meaningful ideas together with the members of a potential buying group. Tactics like High-Value Offers (HVOs), purpose-built webinar series and others that focus on going deep into a topic and delivering very prescriptive guidance have shown to be especially effective for this purpose.

Properly sourced intent data helps Marketers with both ABM challenges: that of better identifying existing opportunities within a target account for Sales to pursue immediately and that of better identifying the needs and interests of latent buying groups within a target account such that more effective engagement tactics can be efficiently implemented for the creation of opportunities where no active buyer’s journey has yet coalesced.

Intent data for Marketing

For teams utilizing a hybrid ABM model, or still relying largely on classic demand generation techniques to deliver the bulk of Marketing’s contribution to pipeline, correct selection of an intent data source can provide significant performance improvements. Until quite recently, most B2B demand gen organizations were laser-focused solely on lead volumes as their major lever for impacting pipeline health. But thinking about how best to optimize this process has evolved significantly in the past five years, and it’s been shown that external data – and especially high-quality second-party intent data – can be instrumental in improving opportunity identification and conversion by demand generation teams in aggregate and at the connection between Marketing and Sales Development in particular.

For Marketing teams leveraging lead generation and demand gen as key strategies, quality intent data can do much more than simply driving efficiency in brand advertising efforts. With real purchase intent data, the members of the GTM team can actually see a buying group and the associated buyer’s journey taking shape because of the wide variety of signals generated by the individual members. Now, rather than simply processing MQLs as discrete individuals and relying solely on the qualification/disqualification of a single person to determine the future handling of a given situation, advanced teams are evaluating the behaviors of multiple individuals within the same account and pursuing meetings much more thoughtfully.

Mapping out your purchase intent data journey

When integrated end-to-end throughout your GTM teams, real purchase intent data can have a multiplicative effect on revenue growth. In this short guide, we’ve touched at a high-level on a few of the key use cases that we help our clients of all sizes and maturities implement. To maximize the potential available from the highest quality intent data sources, your supplier should be selected based on a clear understanding of how far you’d like to go and what steps will be involved for your organization.

How we can help

As a leading innovator in the intent data field with over two decades of experience helping enterprise tech companies with revenue engine optimization, TechTarget possesses the capabilities and knowledge that more teams like yours rely on for guidance, implementation, execution and optimization every day.


This article is written by TechTarget and originally published here.



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