Zift welcomes guest blogger, Amanda Kahlow, CEO and founder of 6Sense. On July 8 she will speak at the INmarket conference in San Francisco. Join us there and learn from dozens of executives and experts who are tapping the power of predictive analytics for sales and marketing. Use “ZIFT” when you register for a discount of 25% off the normal registration fee.

Sales used to be something of a guessing game. It was difficult to look at a list of leads and determine which among them might be the best prospects.

Today, predictive-intelligence solutions can tell you which prospects are in the market to buy and identify net-new prospects who have not yet raised their hands. It works by aggregating disparate data sources across the Web and applying machine learning and modeling to make predictions about which products and services prospects need, when they’re likely to buy, and the potential value of the deal.

Predictive intelligence has opened up a world of new possibility for business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams. Here are five specific benefits.

1. Sales and marketing finally aligned

Alignment between sales and marketing teams is key to achieving revenue goals. If the leads aren’t sales-ready, sales wastes time and misses targets. In fact, recent stats show that 79 percent of marketing leads never convert to sales (Marketing Sherpa). Predictive intelligence ensures higher marketing-qualified-to-sales-qualified lead conversion rates by uncovering which prospects are ready to buy now and why. As a result, marketers can pinpoint and hand over truly hot leads to sales, setting reps up for success in closing deals.

2. Effective lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is an essential part of the customer experience and critical to funneling leads through the sales pipeline; however, in a traditional nurture process, messages are sent to a prospect with limited understanding of where that individual is in the buying journey. It’s like shooting in the dark. For example, sending “awareness stage” collateral (e.g., a broad, introductory white paper) to a well-informed prospect is irrelevant and not conducive to closing a sale.

Xactly’s chief marketing officer, Scott Broomfield, likens this typical nurture scenario to oversharing when dating. “When you go on a first date,” explains Broomfield, “you don’t barrage that date with everything about you and then at the end of the date ask them to marry you.” Similarly, overwhelming prospects with too much information can easily result in opt-outs and lost sales.

Predictive intelligence uses data to pinpoint a prospect’s location in the buying journey, arming sales reps with knowledge needed to send and say the right thing at the right time.

3. Faster prospecting, shorter time-to-close

Predictive intelligence allows you to shorten the sales cycle and close more business quickly. By knowing where the prospect is in the sales cycle, less time is spent on prospecting. Similarly, with a view into which accounts and contacts are ready to buy, what they want to buy, and what the deal value size might be, sales reps can prioritize leads intelligently and close deals faster.

4. Validated net-new prospects

Blindly pursuing prospects is a high-risk activity; yet sales needs new leads in the pipeline. Predictive intelligence uses activity intent data to uncover patterns of likelihood to purchase and applies that logic to unknown contacts, resulting in validated prospects outside of MAP and CRM data who are ripe for the picking.

5. Up-sell and cross-sell opportunities

Up-selling and cross-selling are effective strategies to boost revenue. Engaging an existing client is more certain than going after net-new business (at least, net-new business without predictive intelligence). For the average B2B company, up-sell and cross-sell opportunities can contribute 50 percent revenue opportunity – or more (SiriusDecisions).

Imagine your current customer is a single contact within an account. What if you could gain insight into the buying behavior of other unknown contacts (such as anonymous visitors to your Website) in that account? Predictive intelligence aggregates behavioral data from multiple contacts across an entire account, providing insight beyond a single individual. This insight can help to determine the right up-sell and cross-sell approach.

For example, if you’ve sold a video-conferencing solution to one team within a company and suddenly see interest in IP phones from an adjacent team in the company, it’s a good time to cross sell.

As you transform into a data-driven sales professional, consider how predictive intelligence might enhance your processes. I’ve given you five examples of such gains, but there are many more.