Did you know you can boost your meeting generate by 30% by combining intent data with social selling?

Last week, I sat down with Alex Abbott, founder of Supero who has spent the past 12 months combining intent data with social selling.

We discussed how to approach social selling – and the 3 pillars which make social selling successful and how he combined intent data to know who to focus on and tweak messaging.

Watch the full episode below or you can watch the highlights here.

You can also read the full transcript here:

[00:00:00] Riaz Kanani: Hello everybody and welcome to another session of Think Human. We are revisiting intent data, again this month. Alex, who is sitting offstage in the green room at the moment, is back, and is, much better thankfully. he obviously wasn’t able to join us last month and this session is going to be focused on sales and, how you can get along for advantage within 10 data.

So my name is Riaz Kanani. I am the founder and CEO of Radiate B2B. I’m your host for today and I’ll bring Alex in in a second. But some quick housekeeping before we get started. Thank you for joining us. whenever we do these things, we are looking at a screen rather than at your faces, and so please do share any emojis or thoughts, in the chat. We do see them. we’ll take questions as we go, along. Put your questions into the chat and we all pull them into the conversation. So just before I bring Alex in, a quick few words about me and Radiate My background has been 20 years in ad tech, MarTech, sales tech, so go to market technology platforms, basically. I’ve worked with big brands, small brands, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a few exits along the way.

And about four or five years ago, I came back, to build another, platform called Radiate B2B. and what we do is we help sales teams to know exactly who they should be speaking to today. We use intent data. We provide intent data, for smaller mid-size companies, that are selling to enterprise. The aim being to maximize the performance of your sales teams.

With that said, let’s dive into the session. Let me bring in Alex. Alex, welcome.

[00:01:44] Alex Abbott: Hello. Hello. Good to be here. Yes. thank you for joining us. why don’t you introduce yourself to get us started, and then we can dive into the topic.

Yeah. So Alex from Supero, 22 years in B2B sales and marketing. I’d say two halves to that. The first half as an individual contributor is a sales rep. Second half, very much as a sales leader. Building growing sales organizations. I’d say for around 15 years though I’ve felt that kind of marketing should really be a function of sales.

You may or may not agree. Certainly, if revenue growth is the objective, some of the highlights in my…
You wanna ask a question there, don’t you?

[00:02:30] Riaz Kanani: I’m gonna bite my tongue and we will touch on it maybe a bit later.

[00:02:35] Alex Abbott: Okay. Okay. Some of the highlights that I think are relevant, so it, in that time, built a business from kind of zero to 22 million within a four year period, from one to around 40 people.
within a 12 month period transformed, a product led sales approach to a more value led approach. Quadrupling the average order value and this isn’t blowing my own trumpet, but it will sound like it, but five President Club wins across three different companies along the way.

[00:03:07] Alex Abbott: So, you know, I feel that wasn’t a fluke if there were five and there were across three different organizations. But hopefully that helps with a conversation.

[00:03:16] Riaz Kanani: You’re, quite clearly Alex a Brit who’s worked in an American business. Yeah, indeed. One was called Sales Elite. That was the UK business but I’m, I’m calling it President’s Club because I think everyone’s familiar with that.

Yeah, exactly. Brilliant. Yeah, I know you’ve got a huge amount of experience in, in sales and sales leadership. We’ve obviously been working with you for, over a year now within intent data and what we wanted to discuss and talk about today is really, drill into intent data and how it looks.

But before we do that one thing is, I don’t agree with you in terms of marketing, reporting into sales, I think there’s a part of marketing that should support sales. and I absolutely think sales and marketing should work together, but I think marketing should be broader than just supporting sales.

[00:04:01] Alex Abbott: Yeah. I’ve got a very blinkered view though, right?

[00:04:03] Riaz Kanani: You look at it from the sales perspective, right? yeah. and you’re right in that sense from what sales means, marketing should absolutely be providing that, in my view.
Anyway, I don’t want to spend an hour talking about sales versus marketing.

We will do that session again, I think early next year. So what I want to do now is, maybe set the scene a little bit, Why is it that, we are seeing intent data come to the fore, today and, what is it that you are seeing Alex?

[00:04:29] Alex Abbott: Yeah, I think that if we look at the, the last 10 or so years,it’s getting harder and harder to generate, pipeline and new business. And close rates are declining. Average order values, you know, are declining, depending on which research you listen to. Gartner, Forrester, they’re all saying the same thing. Not that we in sales need that to validate what’s actually happening, but the buyers are 70 to 90% of the way through, their purchase decision before they invite a supplier to pitch. Buyers are saying they want a rep free experience, they’re doing their research, they’re speaking to their peers.

They’re often making that shortlist before they even put their hand up and say, come talk to me. Any enabler, I nearly said tools, but we’re gonna come onto technology later. but any enabler, I think that helps an organization understand where to look, is gonna save them time and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons for me why intent data is becoming or is so important.

[00:05:34] Riaz Kanani: Yeah, absolutely. and I’ve talked a bit about the dark funnel in the past, right? where, you talked about sales, not being contacted until 70, 90% through that, that sales process and that does mean there’s a lot of activity happening that’s invisible to vendors.

[00:05:50] Alex Abbott: One of the things we talked about, in the run up to this session was how the sales tech industry has literally caused this very problem. Yeah. Do you wanna expand on that? I do, yeah, I guess so for the first sort of decade of my experience in the industry, sales tech wasn’t really a thing.
Apart from CRM systems, but I’m not really counting that. Success was reliant entirely on your ability to build relationships and content and technology together came into the mix, Mid end 2000, to 2010. and we were moving to this place where we were inundated with just machine gunning content to our audience using technology and then starting to rely on technology. And I feel that there’s been too much reliance on sales tech to do the job that sales people should really be doing, which is focusing on building meaningful relationships with people as opposed to what’s my 26 point cadence of sales messaging that I’m gonna automate in my sales tech?

[00:07:02] Riaz Kanani: Yeah, absolutely. And like anything, when tech generally is an accelerator of capability, it should be, it should increase your capability, make you able to do more things.

And when it works, I’ve watched this countless times. it, it shifts from that early majority to the big hump in the middle of the mainstream. and in that period, you lose a lot of the nuance around what makes sales tech in this case or marketing tech great. What are the ways you need to think about it? It all becomes about the shortcut. and yeah. So same in sales tech as in marketing tech where when something works, you use it to death. Yeah. until it stops working or you have to change your approach. And have we not become caught in this downward spiral of wanting the sale and wanting the transaction so trying to turn up the dial because it once worked. Yeah. As opposed to actually stepping back and thinking, we need to do something different. It used to be three to five emails, wasn’t it to get a response and it’s now nine to 11. and let’s face it, if you’ve emailed somebody nine times in a short period of time, you’ve pissed them off.

[00:08:15] Alex Abbott: Yeah and, I think, I’ve heard 12. I was chatting to at a conference last month and they’ve got a 26 point message cadence as part of their approach. Companies, doing that are hoping to find, that percentage of people that are in market, which is between one and 5% of any given territory. And if you haven’t built a relationship with that 1 to 5%, they’re not gonna, they’re unlikely to give you an opportunity to pitch. Anyway.

[00:08:46] Riaz Kanani: Yeah, absolutely. I think, and I think that’s, also partially due to the changing demographics of buyers. The newer buyers that are becoming decision makers are much more, they’ve grown up with the internet. They understand how to research and they talk a lot digitally with their peers and so they’re much more sophisticated in terms of their digital buying capabilities, if you like.

[00:09:09] Alex Abbott: Yeah. um, and less likely to want to speak to a salesperson as well.

[00:09:13] Riaz Kanani: Yeah, that’s right. and I think that stat of the majority of people not wanting to talk to a sales rep is interesting and it’s led to obviously the product led growth conversation that’s been happening in the industry.

And I actually think, when it comes to enterprise sales, what people really mean is they don’t wanna be sold to it. it’s not that they don’t want to talk to a salesperson what they want to do is they want to talk to somebody who actually will help them and support them and get to their answer quicker.
and so when you asked slightly different questions, you get more interesting answers.

[00:09:44] Alex Abbott: Yeah, indeed. It’s that 83% of buyers wanting a rep free,buying experience. In that same research, 79% say they want the ability to ask human beings questions. You are touching on a really important topic today, which is, the role of the salesperson, the persona and the profile of this, of the traditional salesperson, I think is changing from sales to guide and buyers want to be guided through. Certainly, in complex B2B sales buyers want to be guided through the purchase process because it’s as equally hard to buy as it is for us to help.

[00:10:30] Riaz Kanani: That’s right. and actually, Kyle over at Clari posted on LinkedIn a quote from a CRO he was talking to, which talked about salespeople not, asking or other than asking what are the problems that they have, but actually telling them what problems they should be thinking about is an issue for them and so it is that advisor role in a way, that consultative role. Especially, and again, we’re focusing on enterprise sales here, not, other sales techniques.

[00:11:03] Alex Abbott: Yeah. Brent Adamson talks about this a lot in terms of challenger, in terms of teaching your buyer a new perspective you know, teaching them things about their business that they don’t yet know about, and I do think that, key, especially when we’re seeking to build, rapport and trust quickly within, when we meet new people. but we’re also, we’ve from a marketing perspective, when I think about pipeline, when we bring this to, to kind of pipeline.

Yeah. I think marketers have now overdone it with that insight-led approach. Oh, if that’s what we need to do, let’s teach everybody. Let’s teach everybody within our target audience. But the problem is every company is now doing that, so the point of differentiation becomes diluted.

[00:11:52] Riaz Kanani: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve always, I’ve been on the view for a while now that the way you do B2B marketing is having to change just as much as the B2B sales side. Mark’s Got a question. talking about what is your message to salespeople working with their partner managers? Can you comment on the value partnerships have on the challenger sale for the salesperson?
I can

[00:12:14] Alex Abbott: tell you a bit of a story, from my time within a big corporate, and, I dunno if this specifically answers the question Mark, so maybe come back to it if it doesn’t. But I think that the partner function within an organization needs to be very tightly aligned to the go-to-market sales strategy and that might just be taken as a given, but from my experience, it isn’t. And if you’ve designed that value proposition and you’ve identified the ideal customer profile, the ideal partner profile, and you’re recruiting partners that are aligned to that, that sales go-to-market strategy.

The two functions should work in harmony, very much like the sales and marketing alignment piece. It’s when one sort of starts to go off and do their own thing. That, that it has an adverse effect. In terms of challenger. back to my days, when I was, trying to help recruit, partners that, that I wanted to be aligned, no strategic partners to be aligned to our, our go-to-market sales strategy at the time.

There was a lot of education that we would do, even as a sales team with those partners to help them understand how to position our technology, and in some cases, teach them how to provide services that supported the technology. and if we were able to do that successfully with partners, we were more, they were more likely to become a strategic partner that would then deliver a lot more with us together.

[00:13:49] Riaz Kanani: Yeah. It’s a key thing, isn’t it? is that the, that is the advantage of working with partners is that you get the ability to have a closer relationship with the prospect without actually having that in place, because you’ve got that relationship between the partner and the prospect.

[00:14:05] Alex Abbott: Yeah. and now re rereading, it’s difficult to read whilst you’re talking. But now rereading Mark’s question. I think, any organization that is going through, the challenger sale training, should be involved in that training, in my opinion, it’s not just sales that should be trained on the Challenger sale. It’s all customer facing, revenue facing teams within the organization that really need to understand how you teach, tailor, and take control of certain conversations and how you position value.

[00:14:38] Riaz Kanani: Great. Great. Okay. I want to, switch to the focus, obviously, of today’s session, on, intent data.
It probably makes sense to start with a definition of what intent data is You’ve got both first party intent, where you’ve got people interacting with your content, anonymously through to publisher type content where you are monitoring anonymous activity across publishers.

[00:15:02] Riaz Kanani: Those are the two that Radiate focuses on you’ve then got, event attendance data, but then you’ve also got things like community review, websites like g2, which also provide intent, and they all have their place, I think, and they all give different pieces of information and our goal at Radiate B2B is actually to try and combine all this together.

The idea of course, being behind intent data that you can identify signals that suggests there’s a level of intent or level of interest there, that might make it more likely that they are interested in having a conversation. So it reminds me of, my entire kind of B2B sales career has been selling, marketing, advertising, technology. I feel like I’m I’ve got a bit of a head start on this topic anyway. Yeah. the holy grail for marketers was to create a 360 degree view of the customer and understand that from both the known customer world as well as the anonymized world. and I think the same is true for B2B. I’d love to have the insight to understand, prospective customer intent. , what is it that my ideal customers are interested in?

[00:16:15] Alex Abbott: What is it that they’re doing? which event have they been to? Was I at the same event? bringing all of that together in, in one view is, I think incredibly, valuable. Yeah. pretty powerful.
Yeah. it seems obvious, doesn’t it really? Now your major focus, as a business, is obviously social selling.
I know you have strong views on why social selling is important today and how that relates back to the environment we were just talking about. Do you wanna drill into that and why it’s becoming more important?

[00:16:46] Alex Abbott: Yeah. I think firstly, I should probably address the, the term social selling, cuz I think it can mean different things to different people.

A lot of people think social selling is selling on social, which it isn’t, in my view, some of the things that we’ve spoken about before, the sales messaging and the cadences and, yeah. if you think you can just do that on LinkedIn or Twitter or any other platform and be successful.
You can’t.

[00:17:13] Riaz Kanani: Yeah. exactly, and it, to your point, it depends on your definition of selling, doesn’t it? See in my view, that’s not selling. That’s well abusing maybe the word. but yeah, it does depend on your definition, doesn’t it?

[00:17:24] Alex Abbott: It does.

Yeah. and the other thing is, often I hear, marketers, when I’m talking to marketers, when I talk about social selling is, oh, okay. So yeah, we post a lot of content on LinkedIn and we get our sales teams to share that. Again, that’s not social selling. For me, if I was to define it or certainly try and simplify it, it’s, it’s about three things.

it’s about, your personal brand and actually thinking about how, or what you want to be known for, what you want to be famous for. how you look when, people come to your digital profile, whether that’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Guild, or any other platform you might be using. Yeah. But also consciously developing that over time so that you’re thinking about how you stand out and can be remembered.

[00:18:15] Alex Abbott: The second is network growth and having a strategy and a real kind of sense of purpose about, the speed in which you’re growing your network, who with, who you’re connecting to, and again, depending on which social platform you are using Yeah, will depend on the effect that, that, that can have.

Yep. LinkedIn, for example, it’s really important to connect to as many people as possible within an account that you might be targeting so that you increase your visibility so that your personal brand can be seen by the people that you might be struggling to get in front of. Yeah. And then the third is, the third thing is around content creation.

So many sales people think it’s the job of marketing or product marketing to create the content that they can then use for selling. And they’re missing an opportunity. They’re missing an opportunity to create their own human-based content to drive engagement from the audience that they’ve spent so long trying to connect to, to help that audience get to know them. So that’s linked to personal brand, but it’s, for me it’s been three things.

[00:19:22] Riaz Kanani: Yeah. And that’s tricky, isn’t it? Because as a company, it’s very easy for you to have marketing create content that you pass across to sales that’s supposed to be used in exactly the same way, no edits whatsoever. And that gives control to the message. But the minute you do that, you lose that authenticity. You lose that human touch that you’re talking about there. yeah. and , is it a mix of both? Is it where you get guidance from the product marketing teams and that to, to support the salesperson alongside the salesperson also then generating their own content within a context of, of your business.

Yeah, I think guidance and training and coaching are key to give, to give that direction, that confidence, that support, to, to the sales team , but equally it’s also marketing, viewing it differently. Yeah. instead of the fully finished, polished article or blog or video, whatever it might be, creating it with the understanding that, you are helping, you are enabling, you are empowering the salesperson or people to then, sprinkle their own kind of personality on it, or human touch on it, or point of view. And you can, you can create the guardrails for that specific type of, company or corporate content.

[00:20:51] Alex Abbott: But equally, you want to give the, you want to give the people, the salespeople, the freedom to, to be creative, and amplify their personal brand.

[00:21:00] Riaz Kanani: Yeah. And how does intent data fit into this?

[00:21:07] Alex Abbott: Yeah. So intent data is really helpful in knowing where to focus your time. And there’s a bigger conversation. I think we might come onto it in terms of, focus account versus volume account approach. depending on your strategy. We, we find that using intent data together with the social selling approach can, have, a really positive effect.

So anywhere between 30 to 50% increase in the meeting generation rate by using that intent data, but using it in a way that is still, relationship first as opposed to, oh, someone’s showing some sort of intent, and that means I can go and sell to them. I can go and contact them and say, Hey, I noticed you are interested in x, which has the opposite effect.

It goes back to the old adage of you don’t propose on your first date. yeah. So you may know there’s an interest there, or you may think there’s an interest there based on the intent data. But what you’re saying is that first approach is still about building relationship. It’s not about the hard sell.

[00:22:19] Alex Abbott: Absolutely. Yeah. you do not wanna look creepy. Like the stalker?

[00:22:25] Riaz Kanani: Yeah. it’s like the companies that used to identify visitors to your website and that you’d pick up the phone and there would be a 500% drop off, if you called them after the first five minutes. But if you called them within that first five minutes, you scared the scared the living daylights outta them. and so you almost, if you weren’t very careful, you would lose them as a result.

[00:22:49] Alex Abbott: Yeah. I’m surprised today to hear of companies that aren’t using, intent data. We should also probably add, depending on the maturity of your organization and how much you’re investing in, driving traffic to your website, not every business has the luxury of lots of new traffic coming to their website every month. No. when I talk about intent data in this context, the value, certainly that I’ve seen, working with Radiate B2B is that offsite intent data. . When I talk about knowing where to spend time in focus account versus, volume accounts, it’s that complete unknown.

You mentioned the dark funnel earlier. Yeah. So within the accounts that we are targeting, where are those signals? or for that ideal customer? For Supero? Yes. Or client X. which companies are exhibiting signals, behaviours that would imply that they’re interested in the product or service you offer?

[00:23:54] Riaz Kanani: And they’ve never been to the website yet? No. They’re not aware of you at all at this point. they’re early in the sales process. They haven’t done any research, enough for you to identify.

[00:24:03] Alex Abbott: Yeah, because there’s lots of solutions out there that do that sort of onsite, intent based on their first party behaviour.
What would it imply? Are they ready for a conversation? Are they ready for a call?

[00:24:17] Riaz Kanani: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. You talked about the volume approach versus the focus approach. Do you treat them differently? Are they treated the same, but you’re just going deeper into the account for the focus. What’s the difference in approach between the two?

[00:24:36] Alex Abbott: Yeah. one is far more strategic than the other. so a more account based marketing type approach. a one-to-one, one to few approach? Is that what you’re saying? Exactly that and still in the context of a enterprise B2B enterprise sale you might have an understanding of what a customer profile is and there are quite literally thousands of companies that you could target. Yeah. And how are you approaching those and how can you contact as many of them as possible? versus, right here are 10 accounts, or two accounts, or 50 accounts, aa smaller number of accounts that we can start to, work on strategically.

So what do we know about the account, how many stakeholders should we be targeting? What level of research should we be doing on the account on each of those people? What insight should we be creating with a view of teaching them back, back to the conversation we were having earlier.

And that requires a lot more time, a lot more focus. Yeah. and I guess this is where the intent data helps, right? Because it means you’re focusing time on accounts that actually warrant that, that investment. So one of the, you’ve talked a bit about, okay, relationship first approach with following up with these accounts via the social channels.

What about the messaging that you’re using? Obviously, with the intent data, you are getting the topics that particular company is interested in. How are you using that within messaging to then attract attention when you do shift from that initial relationship approach to more, focused on what you’re actually trying to introduce to them?

[00:26:34] Alex Abbott: Yeah, so it’s a constant balance between the two types, right? When you say messaging, I’m not just thinking about the message I send to an individual. Messaging for me is everything around the development of your personal brand and the content that you are creating.
And so certainly when you know, you’re not relying on the marketing department to write content for you and you’re creating it yourself, you can think about what you want to write about that is relevant to your target audience. Personally, I’ve always got that in mind and I think salespeople should have that in mind because you can talk to your prospect without talking directly to your prospect.

And again, that comes back to the dark funnel. Your audience is still seeing that content. In some cases, they’re still interacting with it. Great. The direct messaging itself, I’m a big fan of keeping it relationship first. Especially if you are, you have got a volume of contacts to go after, you can afford to keep it relationship first and, just keep the volume of messages going out without bringing the sales message in, I’ve, we’ve found that, when we’ve tested a typical insight led sales message with a relationship first message, the, the rate in which we’re connected with those new contacts is significantly less for the insight-led approach. Somewhere in the region of 20, 25% increase in engagement with the relationship led approach compared to that insight led approach.

And so if we’re using the intent data to know where to focus, then we’re increasing our chances of connecting with the right people in the right companies.

So do you change any of the messaging based on the topics that are being shared with you, or is it the same therefore each person, regardless.

[00:28:33] Alex Abbott: Not on the volume based approach, but on the focused account based approach. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So you have different talk tracks basically for each software or account.

Try different things and it’s not just about the content you are creating and the message you’re sending the individual. It’s also about how you’re engaging with their content.

How you’re engaging with, and if they don’t, if they don’t create their own content, how you’re engaging with content that they are engaged with, whichever the digital platform, again, not just LinkedIn or Twitter, but also Guild because you are, you are invisible to these people unless you’re proactively engaging with content that engage with or in groups that they are part of? And the initial step is to become visible to your target audience. and a lot of companies don’t have, deep pockets, big budgets for continuing to run paid media campaigns to try and make the company visible.

[00:29:35] Alex Abbott: So it’s far more cost effective if the individuals are doing that.
That’s absolutely right. and for those that don’t know, Guild is a community platform, where, people can come together and talk about different topics and, both myself and Alex actually run the B2B sales and marketing, channel within there.

[00:29:53] Riaz Kanani: So if you are interested in, becoming a part of that, just message either myself or Alex, and, we can get you an invite to, to join. No problem at all. Yep. The one last thing that, I, am introducing from this session onwards, is three questions.

and I’m gonna ask these to every single panellist going forward. The first one is, how important is tech in sales?

[00:30:21] Alex Abbott: Yeah. so I think this is a really good question, the, the kind of, the quick answer is, it depends if, if it’s from a sales rep perspective or a sales leader perspective. Okay. and I talk a lot from personal experience. I’ve really struggled with using sales tech effectively.

Intent data isn’t really it is tech, but it isn’t . So good sales tech isn’t sales tech. Yeah. I think for me, from a sales rep perspective. , what is it that I can use that will enable me to do my job better and accelerate performance?

[00:30:59] Alex Abbott: And so it’s probably bits of tech that the sales rep can, can use for them to do their job better and be more successful. As a sales leader, yeah, reporting is a big thing. and the question is how important is tech in sales? it’s very important.

I guess it depends which way you look at it. yeah, exactly. it, it’s critical, but you can get lost in it if you’re not careful. Yeah. like anything. Yeah. and that’s, that really is the key. It’s it, actually I’d add to it. , and maybe there was another topic around measurement, but, it’s very easy to get lost in using reporting and sales tech for reporting to measure the wrong things that then encourage the wrong behaviours from you from your sales team. So you really do have to be careful with that.

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. okay, question two. What is the one thing someone should take away from today’s session? The obvious answer, of course is to, speak with Riaz about Radiate B2B and Alex about Supero.

[00:31:58] Riaz Kanani: Thanks Alex.
yeah. I have no, I have nothing else. , . I’d like to think it was the value of intent data, but of course lemme talk to come and talk to either of us. Yeah, absolutely. okay, question three. What is your go-to book for every salesperson to read?

[00:32:11] Alex Abbott: Yeah, I don’t have to think about this one too hard to be honest, because, um, Challenger has been by far and away the best investment I’ve ever made in a book and I would say Challenger Sale as well as the Challenger Customer.

So two books that were created written by Brent Adamson. Yeah. yeah, both excellent books. I’ve read both as well. Yeah. re really good. and the Challenger customer, what I really like about that book, the kind of the sequel if you like, to the Challenger sale is how it digs, digs into, not something that they got wrong with the Challenger sale but a different perspective within a complex B2B sale . It is really interesting.

[00:33:02] Riaz Kanani: Worth checking out. Thank you for that, Alex. Cool with that. I think that is the end of today’s session. So thank you to everybody, for joining us and, we will be along shortly with a, with another event. the next one will be in the new year.

Thank you, Alex, for joining us. thanks for having me with that. Take care. Bye.