Skip to main content

I was scrolling through a social sales thread littered with comments about a popular account-based marketing (ABM) platform on the market. Some of the users were less than impressed:

“I use that tool as a BDR and hate it. Been through all the training that they had me do. Entire BDR team is using it and hasn’t gotten a single quality lead from it yet.”

“I got better leads reading tarot cards and star signs”

These types of comments aren’t uncommon. Based on what I hear from our client services managers and from what I see online, there is a disconnect between salespeople and the role of an ABM tool in account-based strategies. As the B2B sales process continues to change, learning how to leverage ABM platforms and intent data will allow you to take a proactive approach to activating an account instead of being reactive and waiting for them to fill out a lead form. 

B2B Selling Has Changed

70% buying process graphicIt’s well documented that the B2B purchase process has changed. In general, decision makers spend less time with salespeople and more time doing their own research. Based on a Gartner study, 70% of the buying process is complete before a B2B buyer ever fills out a lead form. This impacts the amount of time you can spend with a prospective account. In general, buying committees only spend 17% of the purchase process talking to a supplier. If you’re competing with other suppliers, you may only get 5%-6% of the time your prospect uses to make their decision. And that’s the good news. 

The same study found 81% of buyers choose not to download a piece of content because of a lead form. If you are lucky enough to have a prospect fill out the form, 39% of the time the information they enter is fake. With buyers and purchase committees spending less time filling out lead forms and engaging with sales teams, revenue teams are starting to rely on intent data tools to identify in-market accounts for their sales teams to engage.

The problem is that intent signals are not as simple as a buyer reaching out to start a conversation. This is where intent tools come into play. Intent tools tell you an account is in-market for your services. At this point, however, we know very little about the account. There are still several unknowns about the situation. 

For instance, we do not know who from this 500-person company is looking into our services. Is it a decision maker or a secondary persona who will be the end user? Are they interested in our offerings or just looking at our content for educational purposes? You mean to tell me that, as a salesperson, I can’t longer kick-back, watch the leads flow in, and continue to hit 150% of quotas on a quarterly basis? You’re telling me I need to go out and sell?

Not necessarily. You can still let marketing do all the heavy lifting while you look like a rockstar. But to do that, you’ll need to understand intent data and how to use it. Let’s look at the different types of intent data and how revenue teams are leveraging this information in their strategies today. 

What is B2B Intent Data?

So far, we’ve talked about intent data, but we haven’t really talked about what it is. Intent data is information collected about a web user’s content consumption or observed behavior that can provide insight into their interests. This is then taken to indicate potential intent to take action. It is important to understand that not all intent data is the same. It comes in a couple of different flavors. 

First-Party Intent Data

First-party intent data gives brands insights about their customers from internal resources such as a website, blog, subscription activity, or a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. This data comes from users who directly interact with a brand’s content, making it useful for forming a clear view of the user’s intentions.

Third-Party Intent Data

Third-party intent data comes from data conglomerates that purchase intent data from various websites and model the data in order to monetize it. This type of intent data is best for reaching a large volume of users near the top of the funnel. 

Using Intent Data

For revenue teams today, both types of data are relevant and reveal slightly different insights. Together, they can give you a clearer picture of your sales funnel. 

First-party intent data is a great way to identify accounts that are actively engaged with your brand, product, and offerings. Because the account is directly interacting with your owned content, first-party data can identify potential accounts that are further down the funnel, have done their research, and are starting to consider what offerings fit their needs. 

Once an account interacts with your brand’s content, they probably are almost through the purchasing process. That’s not to say a salesperson can’t influence buying decisions. It is to say that the prospective account probably has a good idea of what they need and the landscape of solutions available to them. It also means time is running out for you to influence a purchasing decision.

Third-party intent data helps to identify accounts that are just working their way into the purchase process, starting to digest content and research the problem at hand. We would typically label these as top-of-funnel accounts. This is where a salesperson can have the greatest impact. Using third-party data helps you infiltrate the purchase process at an earlier stage so you can help nurture them through the purchase process.

Using ABM Tools

If you think ABM tools are designed to generate leads, then you’re going to be disappointed. ABM tools like Rollworks or 6sense offer up programmatic advertising capabilities that allow you to target specific accounts and personas that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP). More importantly, they provide buyer journey insights that help you identify accounts that are entering into the purchase process and showing intent for your products or services. While this can help generate leads, it doesn’t guarantee it. So if ABM platforms aren’t meant to generate leads, how are you supposed to use them?

RollWorks Account-Based Platform Reviews 2023: Details, Pricing, & Features | G2

Have A Process

Have a process in place! If I asked a salesperson to walk me through their process for activating an account that shows up on a target account list, I’m sure they would have a framework in place. Who is this account, what do they do, who are the primary and secondary personas I’m reaching out to, are there any mutual connections or clients that can establish a connection, has the business gone through any major event that I can use to set the context for my outreach, etc.?

Ask a salesperson to walk you through the process of activating an account showing purchase intent, and more times than not, you’ll get immediate pushback or hesitation. How am I supposed to know who to reach out to? What if they’re put off by the fact that I know they were on our site or in-market for our services? What do I even say? Well let’s figure it out! 

Establishing a process enables you to seamlessly and efficiently activate accounts that are on your site or in-market for your services. Most of the steps you take to activate a target account can also be used to activate an account showing intent. Research the account, identify personas, search for news related items that can help set the context for your outreach, try to establish any mutual connections or clients. This all applies to accounts showing intent.

Custom Tailored Messages and Approaches

If we have access to the intent topics or pages the account is engaging with on our site, we can use that to customize our messaging and tailor it to the buyer. This should help break through the clutter and increase positive response rates. Depending on what industry you’re selling to, explicitly stating that you know they were on your site or in-market for your product or service could be a quick path to them unsubscribing to your outreach. This is where you’ll need to use discretion and get creative with how you’re engaging these buyers. 

At RenderTribe, we primarily reach out to marketers who are privy to this type of information and might not be turned off knowing that we know they’re on our site or in-market for our services. A chief security officer at a cyber security software company, however, might not want to hear that you know they were on your site. You can also use intent data to A/B test different engagement tactics and message personalizations. 

Ask questions about the intent topics they’re engaged in, try to understand the problem that they might be looking to solve, and see if there’s any information or data that you can leverage to engage them in conversation. Here at RenderTribe, if someone is looking into our services and I go on LinkedIn and see that they’ve just lost a marketing employee, I can create a hypothesis and add context to my cold outreach for why this account could be looking at our site. 

The Right Message, The Right Time

As with any inbound lead or buyer showing interest in your product or service, timeliness and response time is important. If we see a new account is on our site and actively engaged with our content, we need to activate them into an outbound sales cycle immediately. 

Faster account activation into a sales cycle results in higher positive contact rates. As more time passes, the buyer may have moved on to a different task, completely forgotten about what prompted them to engage with your content in the first place, or already found a different provider. This is another good reason to put a process in place. 

Elevate The Importance of Secondary Personas

When activating an account off a target account list, most salespeople only activate primary personas into an outbound sales cycle. This is standard for cold outreach because primary personas have the ability to launch the buying initiative internally and the authority to make the decision.

There are 6 to 10 buyers involved in the purchase process, so casting a wider net and activating more personas into outbound sequences is going to help with response rates. When you’re leveraging intent data, you must consider the role of a secondary persona in the purchase process. The primary persona may have launched the purchase initiative internally but might have empowered a secondary persona to research the problem. I’d still recommend activating primary personas into an outbound sequence as the priority when leveraging intent data. That said, if you don’t get a positive response, have an automated task at the end of your sequences for primary personas to activate a secondary persona into a sequence.

Using ABM Tools

The B2B sales landscape is shifting. Buyers are more informed and more skeptical of salespeople. If you are waiting around for form leads, then you’re decreasing your ability to influence the buying process. By leveraging ABM tools and understanding intent data, you can identify in-market accounts earlier in the sales cycle and begin selling to them. With practice (and a process) you can turn intent data into actionable leads but there’s no guarantee. 

At RenderTribe, we help customers build an ABM strategy to drive more sales and accelerate growth. Our RenderLab process helps you identify the unique pieces that fit your marketing strategy and align your plan with overall business objectives. We help build the foundation for measurement, expertise, and the tactical execution needed to support the plan.

Contact us today to see how we can help you align sales and marketing activities to achieve your revenue goals.


Contact Us