Account Intelligence

15 Essential Questions to Ask When Buying a Sales Intelligence Solution

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May 6, 2022

8 mins read

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15 Essential Questions to Ask When Buying a Sales Intelligence Solution

So you’re ready to invest in a sales intelligence solution … But you’re also overwhelmed by the sheer size of the market and available options to choose from.

It makes sense. The sales intelligence market has expanded rapidly over the past two years and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 10.6% from 2021 to 2030. That’s a lot of growth happening very quickly.

With so much competition, how can you be sure which features or differentiators will create the biggest impact on your business in the short and long term? Which vendor can provide your organization lasting value and a competitive advantage?

We’re here to help. Our friends at Smart Selling Tools (acquired by compiled 15 questions to ask vendors when shopping for a sales intelligence solution. We’re bringing them to you with a refreshed perspective focused on three key areas to streamline your selection process:

  • Data
  • Performance and usability
  • Service and support

Let’s jump right in.

Data questions –

How do you aggregate data?

Crowd-sourcing, manual research, web crawling, and social media are four primary ways providers aggregate data. Each tactic brings something different to the table in terms of advantages and disadvantages.

Ask how many of these they use, and know that the ideal answer is “all of them.” Mixing methodologies for data aggregation is key to accessing the best and most accurate data across all sources.

Do you allow unedited user-controlled data?

If you come across a provider that solely focuses on crowd-sourced data, you may want to walk away. Crowd-sourcing as the lone data aggregation tactic inadvertently creates an incentive for the users to input as much data as possible, which means they will prioritize quantity over quality. This is the complete opposite of what you want.

How often is your data updated?

Data is ever-changing. So the ideal answer for this question should be “continuously.”

Bad data can cost businesses anywhere from 15-25 percent on average, and the best way to minimize the occurrences of incorrect data is to have continuous updates via the same aggregation tactics named in the first question.

How can we test your data for suitability?

Ideally, you want to test the data for two factors: accuracy and relevance. Accuracy is easily understandable, but relevance is a really important fit check that people may not typically think of.

Every business does things in its own way and needs specific types of data to complete its tasks. Therefore, consider where your biggest intelligence needs are. Compare a sample of your own data to the one the vendor provides and test how closely they align in both accuracy and relevance.

Do we have to buy the same data over and over again to always have the most up-to-date information?

This question can help you weed out loopholes where vendors may look good at first glance with a competitive or lower starting price, but then the predatory fees could be hiding in plain sight. You can start by asking What happens to the data we download? to hear their typical roadmap. But if you’re not getting a clear answer on the cost factor over time, then ask point-blank about their fee plans.

What’s the process to ensure we don’t download duplicate data into our systems?

Well-engineered sales intelligence platforms will have built-in protocols to flag duplicates in data entries. On the other hand, less sophisticated platforms likely won’t pick up on new data records popping up with minor differences (like an abbreviation or a slight difference in job titles). Ask how they identify and flag potential duplicates and what the process for removal or merging looks like on the admin side.

How do we make sure not to overwrite our existing data if it’s more recent?

In cases where the information you have for a contact or an account is accurate, you’ll want to prevent that good information from being overwritten with dirty data by a sales intelligence platform. Any data management solution you use should allow you to set permissions on what can be changed and by whom.

Now that we have the bare bones of the data covered, let’s move on to the next category of questions.

Performance and usability questions – 

Do you offer an API, if we want more control?

Inevitably, your data needs will evolve, and you’ll need to find ways to integrate your data into your new workflows and processes. Application programming interfaces (APIs) can help with this. When you have a moment, read The Data Cloud Playbook; you’ll find information about how APIs can impact the performance of your apps. (Plus, the eBook includes an API buyer’s checklist to help you determine whether the characteristics of the APIs in question are suitable for your data needs).

What level of detail can we search on?

The way a vendor defines a “perfect lead” might not be enough to meet the criteria you’re looking for. To ensure you only focus on accounts that match your ideal customer profile (ICP), you will want as many filtering options as possible. Put together a bucket list of all your criteria, and see how the sales intelligence provider stacks up.

Can salespeople access the intelligence from within the CRM?

Salespeople typically don’t want to deal with a big tech stack. They want all the relevant customer information in one place. Having the ability to search, retrieve, and import the data and insights from their CRM is ideal.

Are you compatible with our CRM without needing customization?

Every sales intelligence provider will want your buy-in, so you have to be crystal clear with your questions. It’s not just about something being feasible (because, technically, many things can be done), but what will it require?

Ask for as much detail as possible regarding existing compatibility parameters with various CRMs. Focus on the capabilities you get with out-of-the-box integration. A simple, straightforward integration is ideal.

And finally, now that you know enough about the solution, it’s time to get to know the provider.

Service and support questions – 

Can you describe the deployment process and timeline?

Ask for concrete, go-live timeline ranges and documented best practices and processes. These are obvious red flags if they don’t have documentation or estimates based on prior implementations and avoid providing specifics.

You want a provider who will be there for you every step of the way and helps you extract the most out of their solution so that you can see a return on your investment as quickly as possible. If it sounds like you’ll be left to your own devices, you likely will.

How long have you been around?

As we mentioned in the introduction, the sales intelligence market is growing at an incredibly rapid pace, which might mean newbies and channel partners or resellers popping up everywhere. This isn’t inherently bad, as it can create a more competitive environment where you benefit from better products and pricing.

But longevity tends to be a good indicator that the provider knows what they’re doing, and they do it well enough to still be in business. A company with at least five years in operation, a strong leadership team, and a good market presence should be at the top of your candidate list.

Who will I call when I have a problem or need help?

A good rule of thumb: Expect the unexpected. Be prepared for things that don’t go to plan. Bugs can affect the deployment, servers might go down for some time, and so on. You’ll need to know who to go to for these issues.

Will you be your account manager? Does the provider have learning resources on their site? Do they have office hours? Inquire about every possible point of contact and typical response times.

How many people are in your support team?

A provider with a well-established support team is indicative of their commitment to delivering excellent customer service.

If you want to take it a step further, ask them about their adoption and renewal rates. If customers aren’t sticking around after their contracts expire, there’s likely a reason for that. The amount of detail they are willing to share is a measure of their confidence in being able to provide you with the best service.

Asked and answered – 

Arming your sales teams with a sales intelligence solution is essential for today’s B2B. Buyers are getting smarter, and sellers need to keep up. But not all sales intelligence solutions or providers are alike. We hope this list of questions makes you feel better prepared to field vendors and find the right one for your business.

To find out how Demandbase stacks up to these questions, request a demo. You’ll hear directly from our experts about the performance of the Sales Intelligence Cloud platform, our squeaky clean data and Account Intelligence insights, and the hands-on support from the customer teams committed to your sales excellence.

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Kathy Capeluto

Content Marketer, Demandbase

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