Despite its origins, the paper itself is quite generic and I think makes a valid argument: basically, that salespeople have less contact with prospects today because the prospects can gather so much information on their own. This makes it harder for salespeople to understand prospects and build relationships with them. The behavior data captured by marketing automation systems restores the balance by providing an alternate source of insights into prospect interests and intentions.
Replacing the relationship-building is more difficult, but demand generation systems can help somewhat by responding appropriately to prospect behaviors. This gives prospects a generally positive feeling towards the company even if no personal relationships are created. At a minimum, it keeps the company in the consideration set during the early stages of the buying cycle. Once the prospect has been assigned to an actual salesperson, the demand generation system can also send a stream of emails “signed” by the salesperson, building something of a one-to-one relationship. Obviously those emails must be appropriate, but this is what clever campaign design and good predictive modeling are about, per my last two posts.
Back to Eloqua Prospect Profiler. There’s nothing new about demand generation systems making prospect behavior available to sales people. Pretty much every major system on the market does this, and in roughly the same way: they pass activity headers over to the sales automation system, where they can be viewed as part of the normal interface, and let salespeople drill into details that are stored in the demand generation system itself. This may sound a bit awkward but it’s seamless from the user’s perspective, and moving all the details into the sales automation system isn’t practical.
Prospect Profiler’s claim to fame, so near as I can tell, is that it also presents summaries and trends of the prospect activity, per this very nice screenshot from Eloqua:
I don’t recall the other vendors doing that. The idea is to make it easier for the sales person to see patterns and then to drill into the details. This seems like a nice enhancement, and perhaps (I’m speculating here; Eloqua didn’t mention it) will be followed by additional of other marketing-gathered data with the salesperson’s interface. That would seem to be the general path that Eloqua and the rest of the industry are headed down, as part of the larger trend towards more closely intertwining marketing and sales activities.
If this isn't clear, think in terms of data from directories (D&B, Hoovers, OneSource), news feeds (Google Alerts, Lexis-Nexis, Reuters), social networks (Jigsaw, Linked-In), and social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter). These are already assembled by various vendors, so all that’s needed is a relatively simple integration. The demand generation / marketing automation system is the obvious place to do this, rather than asking each sales person to do it for herself. The sales automation system could also be an option, but marketing already needs the data for its own purposes so it’s arguably a stronger contender.