Many business-to-business companies spread sales targets like jam evenly across accounts, with few taking the trouble to zero-base their opportunities, account by account. Doing a thorough opportunity analysis proved to be a revelation for one IT services provider. It surveyed decision makers about their priorities and spending in the various service categories, as well as resellers. It combined the survey results with third-party data on spending, the location of customers' operations, the size and composition of their IT staff, patent filings, and the technology environment in each customer—all of which informed a segmentation of 160,000 companies. Then the company used predictive analytics software to define the revenue opportunity for each account and prospect, as shown in the chart. For example, the company used Lattice Engines, which crunches data such as signs of new technology adoption or a social media presence, to predict who would be ready to buy based on similarities to the company's current high-value customers. Another tool, DiscoverOrg, offers organizational information that could indicate intent to purchase, such as job postings for a vice president of network. Better targeting led to double the conversion rates in the early part of the sales funnel, and the company is on track to double bookings by 2020.
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Jonathan Hanson is a principal, and Jonny Holliday and Jeff Taylor are partners in Bain & Company's Customer Strategy & Marketing practice. They are based, respectively, in Dallas, New York and Boston.