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Technology That Lets Sales Pros Peer Into What Prospects Want Sales acceleration tools are almost uncanny in what they reveal about a customer's thinking.

By Larry Alton

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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As every experienced salesperson knows, there are two major requirements for sales success. First off, you must have a comprehensive understanding of what you're selling. Whether it's a product or service, you need to know everything about it. How it works, why it works, what value it provides, what pain points it satisfies, etc. Secondly, you need to know something about the sales prospect. Are they the final decision maker? What's their real budget? How will they benefit most from your product or service? How do they respond to various tactics and strategies?

If you know your product and the prospect, selling is, well, easy. The problem, as any experienced salesperson also knows, almost always relates to the latter – the prospective customer. How can you learn more about potential customers? In 2015, it comes down to having the right sales tools.

Related: Here Is the Equation for Increasing Your Sales Team's Success

Bridging the gap between CRM and marketing automation.

The good news is that sophisticated sales enablement tools are emerging that can both streamline the sales process and deliver much-needed insights about customers. According to a recent research study by Aberdeen Group, best-in-class companies are adopting automated engagement tracking software (AETS) to provide deep buyer-side insights.

These tools bridge the gap between CRM and marketing automation to give companies a more complete buyer picture to better personalize engagement. Aberdeen Group says that 77 percent of best-in-class companies (compared to 45 percent of laggard companies) have adopted the approach to address a buyer's particular area of interest or need. That improves positioning and differentiation in brand message and sales presentations.

Email tracking is no longer enough.

But how are businesses gaining access to the information they need to effectively deliver personalized results? In most cases, it depends on the tools they align themselves with. Email tracking is no longer enough. Inside sales teams need resources that allow them to gain a deeper understanding of customers on a one-to-one basis.

While the ability to tell whether a prospect opens up an email is valuable, what does this information really tell you? Maybe they opened it up and forwarded it to their CEO, or maybe it was immediately sent to the trash folder? Email tracking – on its own – doesn't reveal a buyer's area of interest, identify key decision makers, help you develop an appropriate follow-up, or give you the information you need to report back to your marketing department.

Related: What Are Your Sales Reps Telling Customers? Now You Can Figure It Out.

Sophisticated sales teams need sophisticated tools. They need analytics to gain insights into which sales approaches are most successful with which prospects. These deeper insights – which are gained through AETS solutions – allow businesses to understand their customers at levels that were once thought impossible. Instead of simply tracking whether emails are being opened, businesses can now use robust analytics to determine what buyers' interests are, what level of interest they have, and which messaging resonates the most with them. It's this combination of automation and analytics that is changing the way the sales process is approached from a business perspective.

"Sales organizations need greater insight to personalize the selling process," says Suresh Balasubramanian, CEO of LiveHive, Inc. "Analytics have become key to give them the real-time buyer insights they need to effectively engage with prospects."

The sales acceleration technology market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 16.3 percent from now until 2019, a clear indication that these tools will be significant for years to come. According to this infographic from LiveHive, $1.2 billion has already been invested in this category and billions more are expected to flood in over the course of the next few years.

If you're going to maximize your potential in 2015, you need to combine email tracking with robust analytics and actionable intelligence for a customized sales approach. You need to start thinking like a buyer and giving them the information they need to make calculated purchase decisions. To make that happen, start by aligning yourself with the right tools and resources.

Dig deeper to accelerate your sales process.

According to the same Aberdeen Group study, companies that use automated engagement tracking software are able to, on average, cut the sales cycle by 18 percent from 194 to 160 days. These companies are getting deals done faster because they have a better understanding of what messaging is effective and which insights are directly correlated to closing a sale.

If you're involved with inside sales, you need to pay attention to sales acceleration technology. It's the competitive advantage that best-in-class corporations are already using. Carefully research the tools currently on the market and select a solution that fits your team.

Remember, it's all about delivering the right message to the right buyer. Everyone loves automation, but don't pursue automated sales tools as a substitute for engagement.

Related: The New Wave of Sales Acceleration Technology

Larry Alton

Freelance Writer & Former Entrepreneur

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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