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What is sales intelligence software?

Sales intelligence software enables companies to gather internal and external data from multiple sources to help salespeople better understand their prospects so they can boost sales and enhance sales processes.

This software helps companies acquire data-driven insights that allow sales representatives to generate more leads as well as improve the quality of those leads. These tools help salespeople develop more meaningful connections, enhance productivity, and enrich prospect data. Additionally, sales executives can use sales intelligence tools to establish more effective sales strategies based on reliable data about prospects.

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How does sales intelligence software work?

Sales intelligence tools can take many different forms, but they all share a common aim: to increase lead quantity and quality — quantity by tapping social streams and directories for new leads, quality by segmenting those leads based on their data profiles and suggesting follow-up activities.

A good sales intelligence tool should address “three Ps:”

  • Provide intelligence about true prospects
  • Prioritize follow-up activities
  • Present a prospect’s interests to the sales rep

Sales intelligence isn’t a single tool so much as a pervasive approach that affects multiple data systems. A lead profile is captured and tracked through a marketing automation platform, transferred to the sales rep’s CRM, and analyzed using business intelligence.

In its simplest form, sales intelligence can be a built-in feature of CRM software. The CRM may use social integrations or other connectors to pull in data and provide a 360-degree view of each prospect and lead (Nimble’s “intelligent relationship platform” is a great example of this).

In other cases, a business may use a BI application such as LiveHive or Tableau to translate prospect data into sales insights: Based on what we’re seeing in the buyer journey, attending a webinar is correlated with middle-funnel interest.

Finally, there are a handful of standalone SI applications that focus on building and managing an accurate database of sales-ready contacts. Examples include Zoominfo, InsideView, and Discoverorg. LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator has been a wild card in this category, but continues to see more use as a source for lead data.

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Benefits of sales intelligence software

To remain competitive, it’s important for organizations to have strong sales teams. Sales intelligence software gives salespeople the information they need to be successful.

Here are five ways sales intelligence software can help salespeople make better use of their time:

Better access to customer insights

By analyzing sales data, sales reps can better understand the needs and concerns of their customers and they can use the insights from this data to adapt their sales pitches and hit their sales targets. Additionally, using insights provided by their sales intelligence tools, salespeople can send prospects more personalized messaging.

Sales reps that use stagnant CRM data to identify potential customers are probably working with information that’s out of date, making it difficult to contact them. However, sales intelligence software aggregates up-to-date information from numerous sources, ensuring the data is accurate and providing sales reps with a complete view of each prospect.

Salespeople with access to accurate information on each prospect, including job, budget, buying power, and concerns, can be sure they’re contacting the right individuals at the right times and with the right messages.

Improves customer prospecting

Sales intelligence software can identify which leads sales reps should target based on their companies’ criteria. Some tools prioritize leads automatically based on preset rules.

Most sales reps understand not every prospect will become a customer. As such, salespeople need to find the prospects who will really benefit from their goods or services and can afford to pay for them. Consequently, sales teams typically spend too much time working on the perfect customer profiles and buyer personas.

Using sales intelligence tools, salespeople can quickly identify prospects, which means that they can spend less time talking to people who are unlikely to purchase their products or services and more time with high-value prospects. Additionally, salespeople can use contact information about potential customers provided by their sales intelligence software to ensure that they’re reaching out to the decision-makers at those companies.

Increases close rates

Sales intelligence doesn’t just mean salespeople should amass as much information as they can. Rather, they should collect data that’s relevant and actionable as well as accurate and up to date. Sales intelligence tools give reps access to up-to-date as well as accurate information about prospects to help them acquire more opportunities.

The best sales intelligence tools also provide sales reps with real-time updates to their information, combining data from a variety of sources into one main location. Doing so ensures salespeople are always reaching out to the right individuals with information relevant to them.

This helps enhance the customer experience contributing to higher-performing sales teams and improved close rates. As a major part of sales enablement, sales intelligence ensures reps are doing their best work.

Shorter sales cycles

Having access to the right information can speed up just about every part of the sales process. For example, sales reps won’t have to spend hours researching leads and looking for information about prospects and their companies as the software does that for them. This enables salespeople to spend more time crafting relevant and compelling messaging. They can also save time by reaching out and talking to prospects who are looking to buy immediately.

Sales intelligence tools can also help sales reps with inbound leads. Inquiry forms and/or emails typically only give salespeople the names and email addresses of potential customers. Sales intelligence tools, on the other hand, can offer additional insights into prospects to help sales reps qualify inbound leads and respond effectively.This creates more productive salespeople who make more sales in less time.

Automates manual, repetitive tasks

Sales intelligence tools can automate the time-consuming, manual sales tasks that sales reps as well as managers do daily, weekly, and monthly. Automating repetitive sales tasks, such as sales data entry and generating reports, lets salespeople focus on more important work, such as building customer relationships, selling, and closing deals.

For example, sales intelligence tools can send automated email follow-ups to keep potential customers engaged. This aids sales reps as well to remind customers about goods or services they have shown interest in and encourage them to buy immediately.

Four categories of sales intelligence software

1. Data enrichment and maintenance

As lead generation found its place in the digital world, the CRM database quickly became the most important tool for B2B sales. A number of sales intelligence vendors now offer services designed to help you clean or supplement your lead data or add new contacts entirely. These vendors all use different terminology and bill their services differently to distinguish themselves among competitors, but the focus is always, in some way, on your sales database.

The benefit of working with these vendors is that you can cut down on wasted sales efforts by targeting buyers with the highest potential and purging unqualified, unmatched leads from your programs. According to a 2015 study by Integrate, 40 percent of all B2B leads suffer from poor data quality.3

While many providers offer a web-based platform or customer portal, your evaluation process should focus more on services than “features,” per se. Here are some examples of common services found in this category of sales intelligence:

Data enrichment/appending

Adding new firmographic and/or demographic data points to your existing contact profile. Many of these services pull from a central directory or parse social data from the web.


Delivering lists of cold leads that match a few of your basic targeting criteria. These leads will not be “qualified” or aware of your brand, so expect high attrition.

Data verification

Checking your contact profiles for information accuracy. Data verification vendors may use an outbound calling team or automated processes to verify phone numbers, email addresses, and names.

Data scrubbing/cleansing

Similar to data verification and sometimes used synonymously. Data scrubbing may also include a “deduplication” component that removes redundant entries from your database.

Lead generation

Although less directly associated, some lead generation providers label themselves as a “sales intelligence” service, since they directly serve the needs of client sales teams. Here, you’ll get varying levels of qualified, warm leads that match your criteria. TechnologyAdvice is one of the top lead generation providers in the B2B technology space.

As you can see, the term “sales intelligence” is used quite liberally among data service providers. No one knows your leads better than your own sales reps, but a small boost in pipeline and productivity can be just enough to give you a competitive edge.

Leading Vendors: Experian, Reachforce, Datanyze

2. Sales reporting and forecasting

In this category, you’ll see a lot of overlap between “sales intelligence” software and traditional business intelligence software. In fact, many business intelligence vendors offer dedicated dashboards and analytical tools for sales use. Other vendors have built entire platforms dedicated to monitoring and reporting on sales data.

The focus here is less on client/prospect-level data and more on high-level insights that support decision-making. For example, if your average deal size for leads that originate in search and social is lower than other channels, you may need to sit down with marketing and discuss ways to improve inbound lead quality. Or if your forecast for Q4 predicts a shortage in revenue for the year, you might decide to comb through your database and identify cold leads that warrant a second follow-up.

The modus operandi of business intelligence has always been to mine raw data and derive actionable intelligence. The same applies here, just with a unique focus on sales.

Here are some of the most common features you’ll see in this category of sales intelligence:

  • Real-time, interactive dashboards
  • Data import/export
  • Data mining
  • CRM integration
  • Sales forecasting
  • Predictive modeling/analytics
  • Performance management
  • Pre-built reports (for common sales metrics like revenue, cost-per-lead, win rate, time-to-close)
  • Custom reporting (drag and drop your own metrics from different data sources and build a custom chart of dashboard)

Leading Vendors: Tableau, SAS, Sisense, Domo, Spotfire

3. Pipeline management

Pipeline management solutions are designed to help your sales team stay organized, efficient, and prioritize development activities based on the unique characteristics of each lead. As they say, work smarter, not harder. Instead of rushing as many leads as possible through your pipeline, these tools will help you focus on the best opportunities or the ones at risk for churn.

That may not mean you may close more opportunities, but it will mean less slip through the cracks, and the ones you do close will provide more value. Think of pipeline management solutions as a kind of project management platform for your sales team — designed to keep them on track with tasks, schedules, assets, and communication and keep your throughput moving. Again, since these solutions focus on improving the sales process through insight and automation, they are a type of sales intelligence.

If you decide to implement a pipeline management solution, make sure you choose a vendor that offers plenty of customization options. If the reporting and automation features don’t match your existing sales workflows, you could be dealing with more hassle than improvement. Many CRMs offer their own built-in pipeline management tools, although these will be more limited in scope than a best-of-breed application.

Common features of pipeline management tools include:

  • Sales activity management
  • Custom fields and custom workflows
  • Lead tracking
  • Goal setting
  • Timelines
  • Task management and scheduling
  • Reports and dashboards
  • Email integration
  • CRM integration

Leading Vendors: InsightSquared, Pipeliner, Close.io

4. Behavioral analytics

Our final category of sales intelligence software revolves around client and lead-level analytics — tracking the actions of specific customers, leads, and prospects to identify new opportunities faster. Software tools that serve this function typically use a mix of firmographics and behavioral data to either determine a lead’s qualification level or point out upsell and cross-sell potentials. Some in the industry refer to this as “prescriptive analytics.”

Interestingly enough, a great deal of this type of “sales intelligence” is collected during the marketing-owned portion of the buyer’s journey, but it is nonetheless important for sales reps to have access. When they can see beyond name, company, and email address down to qualitative data about the buyer’s journey, salespeople will be much better equipped to start meaningful conversations and speak directly to each buyer’s needs.

At the crux of behavioral sales intelligence sits the integrated CRM/marketing automation suite — one of the most powerful inventions to have graced the B2B stage in decades. This integrated systems lets marketers log behavioral data about prospects during inbound campaigns and the nurture process, then pass that data to sales when the prospect becomes an MQL (marketing qualified lead). There are also standalone tools that help sales reps track and analyze lead behavior after the handoff.

Common features to look for in this category include:

  • Lead scoring
  • Automated follow-ups/email automation
  • Engagement analytics (email opens, link clicks, page views, etc.)
  • Call tracking
  • Scheduling and task management

Leading Vendors: LiveHive, Yesware, Marketo, Act-On

Who are the big players in sales intelligence?

Organizations typically turn to the best sales intelligence tools to boost the quality and quantity of sales leads and give reps the information they need to be more productive. The following are some of the big players in the sales intelligence game:

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

The Linkedin logo.

An all-in-one sales intelligence tool, LinkedIn Sales Navigator takes advantage of the professional social media giant’s network and includes additional search features to find the right leads and get more detailed data.

ZoomInfo SalesOS

The ZoomInfo logo.

ZoomInfo SalesOS helps sales reps hit their targets by combining advanced technology with accuracy, data coverage, and depth of contacts. It gives your team a full 360-degree view of prospects, customers, and opportunities.


The Demandbase logo.

Demandbase sales intelligence software provides reps with account intelligence inside Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM, or their browsers. This enables them to find more high-caliber prospects at the right time to help close deals faster.


The Apollo.io logo.

An all-in-one sales intelligence platform, Apollo.io provides sales reps with tools to help them prospect, engage those prospects, and increase revenue. Apollo.io uses data and analytics to help sniff out those hard-to-find leads.

Outreach Engage

The Outreach Engage logo.

Outreach Engage is a single platform that enables sales teams to boost productivity by enabling them to create and close more deals. This tool helps sales reps make the best decisions to advance their deals throughout the sales cycle.


The GetEmail.io logo.

GetEmail uses data and artificial intelligence to locate the email addresses of anyone throughout the world using first name, last name, and the company’s domain name. This saves reps a lot of time as manually it could take minutes or even hours to find one email, while it only takes a few seconds with GetEmail.


The Adapt.io logo.

A sales acceleration platform, Adapt’s database lets sales reps find the information they need to connect with potential customers faster and start prospecting immediately. Adapt helps salespeople find the right connections, build qualified leads, engage with potential customers, and close deals faster.


The Seamless.ai logo.

A lead management, sales and lead generation software, Seamless.ai helps streamline such processes as searching for contacts, performing market research, converting leads, and importing data — all through a centralized platform.

Choosing the best sales intelligence software for your business

Regardless of the industry, today’s companies are under more pressure to close deals as quickly as possible and increase revenue. Sales intelligence software helps sales teams successfully turn sales data into insights that can help them accomplish those goals.

TechnologyAdvice is able to offer our services for free because some vendors may pay us for web traffic or other sales opportunities. Our mission is to help technology buyers make better purchasing decisions, so we provide you with information for all vendors — even those that don't pay us.
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