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Data-driven B2B sales: All you need to know


Many sales teams do not focus on the right things and instead waste time and energy on the wrong prospects. However, this is easy to prevent by using the right data and information throughout the sales funnel. This article offers you an overview of data-driven B2B sales and explains the most important ingredients: perfect master data, as well as powerful online data and information to help secure ideal timing.

Marketing and Sales departments in the B2B arena are experiencing unprecedented changes. The environment in which they operate is becoming increasingly complex and competitive. This impacts the way in which sellers and, in particular, buyers operate.

One example: Before buyers get in touch with a seller, they have already researched two thirds of the information online and narrowed down their choice. Employees in the Sales department do not negotiate with just one person in most cases, but generally sit opposite several decision-makers or even entire purchasing teams. The task is then to convince eight or more people to come on board.

Data driven B2B Sales: Status quo in B2B Sales today

Another reality of modern-day sales is the fact that employees working in the Sales department spend almost two thirds of their time doing things other than selling. This revolves primarily around administrative duties or searching for the next best, most promising prospects. Researching companies is also very time-consuming. In the current environment, the targeted individuals are very well-informed and expect (initial) meetings at eye level. Anyone working in Sales that fails to «entertain» potential customers has already lost.

What are the greatest challenges in B2B sales?

Marketing and sales teams are facing major challenges. Yet despite this, they must find a way to accelerate the sales process and eliminate downtimes. This can, for example, be achieved by focusing on those companies with a short sale cycle that are likely to make a purchase. After all, nobody today has the time or is willing to engage in a proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. The key in the B2B sales arena is to cast your net in the right pond at the right time when fish are biting and not when they are no longer hungry.

Data driven B2B Sales: Challenges in today's B2B sales

The greatest challenges of modern B2B sales.


Many Marketing and Sales departments are today still battling with the data quality in their systems. Indeed, some 60% of marketers consider their own data unreliable (source: SiriusDecisions), while 40% believe that the sales teams do not really know their own accounts properly (source: Dun & Bradstreet).

It therefore comes as no surprise that only 1% of leads generated by B2B marketing ultimately become customers.

However, there are companies that have improved the quality of their data pool and enhanced it with additional, useful information. This is precisely what makes them successful and differentiates them from their less successful competitors. It’s the data, stupid!

Digitalisation in B2B marketing and sales

Digitalisation now affects all business areas and departments, including Marketing and Sales. Those companies that consistently seek to digitalise these areas stand to gain an immense advantage over their competition. Here, campaigns with static offline data have long since given way to digitally oriented and targeted activities with integrated systems, relevant data and information with the right timing. Our customer EASY Software confirms this. As Managing Director Michael C. Reiserer explains: Those that are efficient and achieve the best results with the least effort are ultimately the winners.” This is particularly true of small and mid-sized enterprises, such as EASY.

However, many companies still have a long way to go to catch up. The Digital Maturity & Transformation Report 2019 investigated the digital maturity of companies and determined that almost three quarters of all firms display only moderate digital maturity.

Data driven B2B Sales: Digitalization in B2B sales

Stages of digital maturity in B2B marketing and sales: Stage 1: Still working with paper and printing many documents. Stages 2 and 3: Started work on digitalising processes and documents. Some initial processes are already completely digital. Stages 4 and 5: Innovative companies with agile work methods and a digital-first strategy. Innovation is part of the organisation. This also applies to products. Source: Digital Maturity & Transformation Report 2019.


This lines up with our own perception of the market. Many Marketing and Sales departments are still in stages 1, 2 and 3. They use traditional prospecting, working to unqualified lists based on traditional selections such as sector, region or number of employees. Only very few companies have managed to digitalise, automate or even completely transform the most important processes.

Yet despite this, the digital wave is breaking over the B2B business world. Anyone that fails to take action and transform their operations will be left holding a weak hand that will make future success more difficult.

Master data + online data + timing information = success

So what differentiates truly successful sales organisations from those that are less successful? This is an easy question to answer, as we see it on a daily basis in our interactions with customers: data usage. The key here is making the right information available to the right person in the right form at the right time.

When combined correctly and with a high level of quality, data offers a 360° view of both existing and potential customers. A 360° view then forms the basis for contacting the right companies at the right time and addressing them with the relevant story.

Data driven B2B Sales: Master data, online data and timing data

Data is admittedly a very broad term. The objective in B2B sales is to gain a complete and meaningful picture of the market and, in particular, maintain a 360° view of the target companies. Three dimensions of data are required for a complete and meaningful picture of the relevant target market.

1 Master data

A high-grade master data basis in the CRM system of a company represents the foundation. It depicts firmographic information such as:

  • Geography
  • Sales revenue
  • Sector
  • Number of employees
  • etc.

2 Online data

Although master data alone permits segmentation, the leads generated in this way are far too unqualified. If lists of this kind were to be generated and then handed over to employees in Sales to establish contact, this would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

However, since nobody is willing to work their way through endless lists of unqualified leads on the telephone, more information is needed to secure better qualification of leads. In B2B sales, this is online data such as website content, technology employed, or news. This data provides a complete picture of what motivates these companies, what objectives they pursue and what they are striving to achieve overall. If only classic filters were used for generating leads, such as sector or company size, the kind of information that online data provides would then remain hidden.

3 Timing information

Master data and online data are already highly effective in qualifying leads. Timing information is then used to filter out those companies that currently require your products and information. This can, for example, be achieved with intent data, which depicts the research activities of target companies. It shows who currently has a requirement for a specific solution.

Combining data and information in the sales funnel

All three of these data components – master data, online data and timing information – are used in the various phases of the sales funnel. They help secure an increasingly fine and detailed qualification of the leads originally generated. The objective is for Sales to focus exclusively on those companies that are highly likely to sign up and have a short sales cycle.


Data driven B2B Sales: B2B Sales in the sales funnel


All companies in the target market that are relevant as target customers are channelled into the top of the funnel. This selection is made on the basis of the master data, which is available in the CRM system.

However, the number of target companies is still far too high. Addressing these requires a huge allocation of resources, which is clearly not expedient. Further qualification of the leads is therefore required in the middle of the funnel, which is performed using online data.

Yet even following qualification with online data, there are still too many potential hits. This is where the third component, timing data, comes into play, for example as intent data. The data tells us which of the identified target companies currently require our products and services.

The success of sales intelligence is measurable

The introduction and consistent use of data and information has a measurable impact on performance in B2B marketing and sales. The costs of data acquisition are lower, as are those of generating leads. At the same time, efficiency in sales is increased by 12%, while the number of offers increases by 50%.


Data driven B2B Sales: The benefits are measurable

The benefits associated with sales intelligence are measurable. Source: Dun & Bradstreet


Data not only helps increase efficiency in sales, but also minimise potential risks. After all, nobody really wishes to enter into important and long-term business relations with companies that are, for example, financially weak. For small companies or start-ups, this could potentially even threaten their continued existence in the worst case.

It is therefore important to eliminate unstable companies and potential defaulting payers in the lead qualification process. This then prevents Sales from working with or even contacting companies of this kind and is based on data or, to be more specific, risk indicators, which are absolutely vital in sales intelligence platforms. In with the good, out with the bad. Even if a lead still appears highly promising, it is important not be dazzled or simply ignore alarm bells that are ringing.

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The sales intelligence platform D&B Hoovers offers data and information on millions of companies worldwide. Would you like to get to know D&B Hoovers and experience online data and intent data live? Then sign up for the free trial.

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The 5 benefits of sales intelligence

  • High-quality leads (shorter sales cycle, high likelihood of signing up)
  • Filling the pipeline with leads more quickly
  • Increased productivity and greater efficiency in Sales
  • Informative meetings with existing and potential customers at eye level
  • Staying one step ahead of the competition at all times