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A Guide to Setting up an Effective Account Intelligence Program

Article by Malay Mehrotra 6 min read

For the longest time, the only digital technologies used by organizations for sales enablement and account management were tools that provided relatively static data that helped companies prioritize accounts. Such tools usually only provided the industry, a list of names, phone numbers, email addresses, employee count, annual revenue, and such information about key accounts, but did not show how prospects were interacting with the market or your organization’s competitors.

Today, digital technologies haven't just made businesses smarter and more competitive, they've also made customers and buyers more informed. Buyers these days, especially in B2B sales, conduct thorough research regarding the market, as well as the numerous products/services available to them. What this essentially means is that companies need to be more intelligent in their sales processes if they wish to turn prospects into clients.

But how do they do that? By keeping track of every bit of information about their prospects and key accounts, including their market and their competitors. This helps them gain an advantage over said competitors, while also increasing their chances of closing the deal. This is exactly what account intelligence is meant for. In this article, we'll discuss what account intelligence is, why organizations need it, how to set up an effective account intelligence program, and how a market and competitive intelligence platform can help you with it. Let's begin.

What is account intelligence?

What Is Account Intelligence

Account intelligence can be defined as the process of collecting, organizing, and distributing information on prospective clients/customers through multiple sources and channels to key stakeholders. You can think of it as an offshoot of market and competitive intelligence that focuses on an organization's prospects. In most big organizations, salespeople are not the sole users of account intelligence, although it may seem like it. Most of these strategic accounts have key account management teams, as well as customer success teams that are active consumers of account intelligence.

Account intelligence gathers insights that help all these teams understand the context and behavior of a prospective/buyer. It provides a deeper insight into a buyer's corporate history, financial performance, and preferences in order for these teams to determine their intent. Account intelligence helps to bridge the gap between these teams and your prospects, as well as marketing, enhancing the conversation and helping to move negotiations with potential clients forward. When executed effectively, account intelligence can be the greatest tool ever to grace your sales and account teams’ arsenal.

Account intelligence can be further divided into three segments, namely:

- Routine Customer Intelligence

- Strategic/Key Account Intelligence

- Prospective Customer Research

As they all fall under the umbrella of account intelligence, you’ll find that a number of elements are common across all three. Let’s have a look at each of these briefly.

Routine Customer Intelligence

Customer experience is becoming the key factor for a business to distinguish itself among increasing competition. Though 84% of sales and marketing executives agree on the importance of customer experience and prioritize customer-centric strategies, only 14% of them report that they have strong capabilities in that area. This is where routine customer intelligence comes in.

Customer intelligence is the process of collecting and analyzing customer interaction data regularly or routinely to gain insights into customer behavior. Customer intelligence includes the use of technologies such as feedback management, social media monitoring, Natural Language Processing (NLP) as well as other analytics and data management technologies. The more you know your customers, the better you can interact with them.

A successful customer intelligence process goes like this:

1. Data collection: Customer feedback or interaction data is collected via multiple channels, such as email, websites, phone calls, mobile apps, text messages from various messaging apps, and paper forms.

2. Analysis: Customer feedback is analyzed, and customers are divided into groups based on similar patterns of feedback data. A data analytics tool is helpful here, and thus, is used by a number of organizations.

3. Gleaning insights and taking action: Analysis of data provides actionable insights, which have to be shared with the key stakeholders so that they can take action and drive changes. A tool or platform with dashboards, and alerts, is pretty helpful when distributing and sharing customer intelligence insights. The results of analytics must guide future marketing, sales, and customer service actions.

Strategic/Key Account Intelligence

Strategic account intelligence, also known as key account intelligence is basically market intelligence, that is done for a very specific purpose i.e. key account management. Key accounts make up a significant volume of business and profit for an organization and hence require attention, effort, time, and resources to grow and retain. Key account intelligence helps develop long-term relationships with strategically important customers to optimize value and achieve mutually beneficial goals.

Key account intelligence is used by organizations to do the following:

- Monitor developments in customer markets, particularly complex ones, for example, where there are different business cycles, many stakeholders, government involvement in legislation, and subsidies

- Provide a detailed overview of regional or country-based sales trends, particularly when customers are spread out geographically

- Predict changes in the customer markets that will impact sales, so they can be addressed in advance

- Gather industry and raw material insights which will help in customer negotiations

- Keep track of movements of key executives across the industry

- Finetune the intelligence process

Prospective Customer Research

Sales is no longer about “selling” so much as about “helping customers buy”. In order to do that, however, it's important that Sales take the time to collect information and then create a more tailored or personalized experience from the get-go. Researching potential prospects before you first email or call them can make a world of difference between a deal or a bust. By understanding the detailed background of a company and the person you're trying to speak to, you can better frame a conversation.

During prospective customer research, it is important to keep the following points in mind:

1. Go beyond basic information like company size, number of employees, product or service offerings, and typical sale size

2. Research to provide more context to the basic information you’ve already collected, for example:

- Third-party publications mentioning the prospective company

- Industry blogs talking about struggles that company is facing or something the company is doing really well

- Websites of their competitors

- The company’s blog

- The company’s social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Notice what they are talking about in their marketing activities? What are others saying about the company? Has the company just published a post about a new product they’ve released or about an event they were a part of? Knowing this type of information can add relevance to your conversation when you reach out.

Why is account intelligence important?

What Is Account Intelligence

Account intelligence is important because it helps an organization find, monitor, and understand information that in turn provides them insights into their prospects and existing customers. These insights help key stakeholders stay up to date about any moves made by their target accounts or any changes that might affect the nature of business with them. These insights also help organizations grow faster by delivering what their key clients and customers really want.

Companies that continually study their customers, listen to them and understand their changing needs have a higher proportion of satisfied customers, and grow more profitably and faster than the average. This helps them expand, adapt and refine their product or service offering.

Thus, a structured and regular account intelligence program will accelerate your growth, by adding and retaining more customers. It also helps drive greater customer satisfaction, grab a bigger share of customers’ total spending, and improve customer retention.

As more and more organizations adopt account intelligence to understand their target accounts and the pain points of the decision-makers at those organizations, it is fast turning into a must-have for overall sales success. However, organizations aren’t adopting account intelligence simply as a trend, but due to its proven effectiveness and the benefits it offers. Let’s have a look at some of these benefits.

1. Increased productivity

When you continuously monitor your prospects through account intelligence, it becomes easier to understand their intent and identify those prospects who are actively engaged in a buying decision based on the content on their website, news, and other sources. This approach saves time and effort, which would have been wasted chasing low-interest leads.

2. Better Conversations

Most of the time, conversations with clients and prospects are less about the product or service and more about their goals, pain points, hesitations, preferences, etc. But unless your stakeholders know about these, conversations are going to turn out drab. Account intelligence helps you identify your clients’ and prospects’ interests and craft the right talking points, steering the conversation in a direction where you get positive responses.

3. Shorter Sales Cycle

Salespeople often chase the wrong prospects due to a lack of account intelligence, which makes the sales cycle unnecessarily long. Targeting one decision-maker in your target account is much better than targeting 10 employees who ‘might’ be able to influence the decision-maker. This requires actionable insights to understand the intent and to create personalized content for the decision-maker by leveraging said insights. This reduces average lead to close time.

4. Better Sales Strategy

Informed planning leads to better sales strategies. Account intelligence can help the sales leadership understand their prospects and their buying behavior better, allowing them to build sales strategies that better engage prospects and improve lead conversion.

5. Effective Customer Service

Account intelligence provides behavioral segmentation and enables businesses to deliver personalized services to each client. It helps in better understanding customers, which enhances customer service effectiveness, which in turn enhances customer loyalty and reduces the customer retention challenge.

Why do organizations need a dedicated account intelligence program?

The Need For A Dedicated Account Intelligence Program

We’ve already understood why account intelligence is important, now let us understand why organizations require a dedicated, and focused account intelligence program.

A number of organizations have a competitive intelligence process or program because it makes the gathering, analysis, and distribution of competitive intelligence easier. A process or program is important because it describes how things are done and then provides the focus for making them better. How something is done determines how successful the outcome will be. If you focus on the right processes, in the right way, you can design your way to success.

Similarly, having a dedicated account intelligence program helps maximize value from all types of account intelligence (routine customer intelligence, key account intelligence, and prospective customer research) in an integrated manner.

An account intelligence program improves user engagement and value when done in a predictable way. It provides reliability to end users of the account intelligence insights in terms of when and what is coming and that all the important developments will be captured.

Plus, it helps streamline and optimize intelligence collection and the insights generation process. It also provides benefits of scale given the intelligence collection, analysis, and distribution/activation process is the same across all customer segments or groups and individual customer accounts.

Now let us understand what organizations should be doing to maximize the effectiveness of their account intelligence program or process.

What are the key levers to improve/enhance an account intelligence program?

The Key Levers To Enhance An Account Intelligence Program

An account intelligence program is very much similar to a competitive intelligence program, as in they have similar steps. The account intelligence process starts with the collection of raw information or data, which is then analyzed to generate insights, and finally, those insights are distributed to various stakeholders for them to take action, also known as activation.

So, Collection > Analysis > Distribution > Activation. This is how both a competitive intelligence program and an account intelligence program go. A robust process is thus the first key lever of an effective account intelligence program.

Now, what builds efficiency in intelligence collection, insights generation, and distribution while helping maximize the time available for higher-value tasks like taking action (activation) is a technology-led approach.

Using a market and competitive intelligence platform like Contify, which doubles as an account intelligence software, offers the following benefits:

- Enable access to personalized, curated intelligence and insights with filters and alerts that each user can set up based on what exactly they need

- Enable timely access to account intelligence and insights via automatic alerts, as compared to the old way of asking for a report to be prepared, that will be queued and then turned around later

- Improve the process of insights distribution through the platform itself, in formats that are preferred by each stakeholder

It is tempting to think of these tools as efficiency plays, a way to avoid updating 20-page strategy documents every month. However, the firms that get the most out of such platforms are driven far more by a desire to uncover growth opportunities.

Following are some examples of organizations using a competitive intelligence/account intelligence platform to enable and empower their sales and account management efforts.

Examples of account intelligence technology empowering organizations

Examples Of Account Intelligence Technology Empowering Organizations

Leading MNC Leverages Account Intelligence to Track the Business Impact of Pandemic Across Its Accounts

1. Business Challenges

The company wanted to analyze the impact of the pandemic on its key accounts across industries such as Technology, Travel, Automotive, Energy, Utilities, Consumer Goods, Natural Resources, Chemicals, etc. However, the manual process of research was labor-intensive and prone to inefficiencies. Intelligence was also erroneously reported due to a lack of real-time data.

2. Solution

The Contify team analyzed the company’s requirements in detail and deployed a customized account intelligence solution that comprised diverse components, such as customized categorization of account/market signals, sourcing of information to track strategic information, a dedicated newsfeed for strategy analysts, and marketing team, dashboards for the executive team, and Contify’s Enterprise Newsfeed APIs for the data science team.

3. Impact

Contify’s solution resulted in a 40% reduction in accounts churn rate, a 20% increase in the size of the sales pipeline, and a 65% reduction in turnaround time.

Leading MNC Leverages Account Intelligence to Track the Business Impact of Pandemic Across Its Accounts

Leading MNC Leverages Account Intelligence to Track the Business Impact of Pandemic Across Its Accounts

Professional Services Firm Leverages Account Intelligence for Sales Growth

1. Business Challenges

Tracking certain key accounts was crucial for the firm’s overall business strategy, in order to present new opportunities to clients and to bring in additional business for the firm, whilst improving ongoing relationships with clients by offering their services at the right time and place. However, the firm relied on the manual efforts of several teams of research analysts who gathered data from numerous information databases. This manual process was labor-intensive and prone to errors and inefficiencies.

2. Solution

The Contify team set up a customized version of their account intelligence platform for the company, that provided each account manager and their team of analysts a clean feed of actionable insights and strategic signals to engage with their key accounts. Unique dashboards were created to give each account manager a comprehensive snapshot of the accounts they handle, as well as updates from their industry sectors.

3. Impact

Contify’s solution resulted in a 1.2X increase in the size of the company’s sales pipeline, a 30% reduction in turnaround times, and saved 12+ hours per week of the company’s analysts’ time.

Professional Services Firm Leverages Account Intelligence for Sales Growth

Professional Services Firm Leverages Account Intelligence for Sales Growth

Safety Equipment Firm Identifies New Revenue Opportunities Using Account Intelligence

1. Business Challenges

The company’s sales team relied on its centralized marketing team to provide leads across territories. However, the sales team often complained of missing opportunities on large projects by government or private companies in their assigned territories because they did not get that information from marketing. As a result, the company was losing out on revenue by not pitching for the supply of safety goods on those projects.

2. Solution

Contify configured its market intelligence platform to develop a solution that gathered information from online sources on new opportunities and delivered daily email alerts to the sales teams on topics such as new facility opening or addition of headcount at existing facilities by companies, changes in the safety code for buildings, residential and commercial projects by real estate developers, accidents due to fire or lack of safety norms, tender notices for procurement of safety equipment by public and private enterprises, new unit set-up or expansion of production capacities by factories and manufacturing units, and new development or expansion of existing public infrastructure by central and state governments.

3. Impact

Contify’s solution helped the client to stay on top of opportunities across territories in addition to the leads provided by marketing. Within the first month of using Contify, the client was able to identify and pitch for opportunities worth $5 million, which otherwise would have been missed.

Safety Equipment Firm Identifies New Revenue Opportunities Using Account Intelligence

Safety Equipment Firm Identifies New Revenue Opportunities Using Account Intelligence

How can Contify help improve/enhance your account intelligence program?

Triggering engaging conversations with your key accounts is essential to upsell/cross-sell, and finally drive revenue. As mentioned before, account intelligence is an offshoot of market and competitive intelligence that focuses on an organization's prospects. Thus it is natural for organizations to use market and competitive intelligence software to gather account intelligence. While Contify has earned a great reputation as a state-of-the-art market and competitive intelligence platform, it has also been serving as a very powerful account intelligence tool on more than a hundred client engagements. Here's how it can help you enhance your account intelligence program:

1. Real-time access to intelligence to spot early signals

Contify provides near real-time intelligence on your key strategic/prospective accounts by monitoring them and notifying you about any key developments and/or events in the market that they are involved in using automated alerts. It can also help spot regional or country-based trends early to identify potential growth opportunities (Strategic accounts are typically large accounts and have a global presence, making it hard to track manually).

2. Improved sales trigger identification

Contify not only allows you to get intelligence for your list of target accounts via smart filters, but it also allows you to track sales triggers such as evidence of interest, current vendor dissatisfaction, financial changes, changes in competitive tactics, growth, etc. Building trust with your prospects/clients is an important part of account management too. Contify provides insights on industry trends, prospects’ current business needs and new initiatives, and their competitors’ announcements, which could be related to prospects.

3. Extended coverage

With over 500,000 sources such as news websites, company websites, industry journals and publications, press release agencies, social media, government, and regulatory portals, review websites, job portals, and more, Contify offers you enhanced coverage of business-relevant, actionable intelligence, including industry and customer relationship insights.

4. Personalized sales strategy

The more information you have on a prospect, the better and more personalized experiences you can provide them in the way you sell to them. Personalizing your sales approach using insights from a competitive intelligence software yields higher-quality leads and more conversions. Account intelligence gathered using the Contify platform will let you embed thought-provoking insights and data into your content. Contify helps target key decision-makers in your target organization by helping create personalized messaging and content designed to resonate with them and build relationships.

5. Enhanced intelligence distribution

Contify lets you distribute intelligence from its platform itself to various key stakeholders like sales teams, account execs, and marketing teams in several formats like personalized alerts, periodic intelligence reports, dashboards, newsfeeds, etc.

Conclusion

Account intelligence not only provides you with ammunition to use in closing deals with your ideal accounts, but it is also essential in this day and age where prospects are well-informed about the state of the market and expect personalized and relevant interactions with the sales function of the organization pursuing them. Thus, organizations need to determine how they'll gather account intelligence and how they'll apply its insights to grow their client base and increase conversions. Competitive intelligence tools are the most preferred option to gather intelligence on key accounts nowadays, as they save a lot of time and manual effort, and can integrate with CRMs and sales enablement platforms to make things easier for salespeople and drive meaningful actions. Automating the collection of account intelligence using such platforms will provide actionable insights that get you better leads and clients.

Wish to deliver value to your prospects with each touchpoint? Get in touch with the Contify team to understand how our platform can help you with your account intelligence needs.

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