Monday, May 17, 2010

OneSource iSell: Attacking Today's Real Prospecting Challenges

Infogroup's OneSource unit is a premium aggregator of business information that has been long focused on integrating their services into workflow tools used by sales and marketing professionals. With licensed content from dozens of sources edited and organized by OneSource staff and technologies, their services offer integrated views of financials, executive bios, news and "talking points" for people trying to find and talk intelligently to potential customers and business partners in global markets.

Though OneSource offers valuable information, its services have tended to focus on high-level views of people and organizations - not necessarily the best of matches for sales executives needing to do strategic selling that touches many middle management-level prospects in targeted organizations. At the same time emerging services such as InsideView and Dow Jones' Generate acquisition in 2008 have enabled competitors to build analysis of news and information from news and social media sources that alert sales professionals to events that may trigger specific types of sales activities. Between these emerging services and the mounting popularity of social media as sales and marketing tools the pressure was on OneSource to take their game to a new level.

With the introduction of its new iSell service, OneSource is definitely putting its game on to deliver a new level of relevance and personalization for sales and marketing professionals. Billed as a personalized prospecting tool that integrates real-time sales intelligence and triggers, iSell is an entirely new interface for OneSource's collection of compiled, edited, harvested and social media content that addresses many of the key points that drive sales and marketing professionals. One of the key needs that OneSource tries to focus on in iSell is the need to get to the right people at the right time with the right things to say in a way that keeps people selling rather than researching. iSell tries to address this need with a vastly streamlined approach to traversing OneSource content with the help of key new sources that help its users to focus on the right sales leads more easily.

Personal contacts content from sources such as Jigsaw that focuses on mid-level management is a key addition to iSell that helps the service to become more relevant to more sales professionals. Just adding a database, though, does not make a service instantly more usable. The key to iSell is a slick new interface that really does help its users to focus on prospects far more easily than earlier OneSource services. In a demo of iSell last week, I was impressed by the ease with which a new user of iSell can get productive with the service. Fire it up for the first time and you answer a few questions that help the service to understand how you focus on sales and the type of people and organizations that you need to reach. Once completed, iSell is then configured to feed you the information that you need to get you productive.

The central pane of iSell is a Facebook-like listing of contacts information, with pop-up biography information and a sidebar of potentially related prospects of a similar level and focus appearing on the right. When I say "Facebook-like," that's not just a generalization; the interface is intentionally and carefully designed with icons, look and feel and and light presentation of visible information that do replicate the best social media services' ability to keep people from being overwhelmed with too much information and focused on helping people to filter it intuitively. Navigation on the left and on the top of the page make it easy to drill down into related data sets, including iSales' own "sales trigger" tool that parses news sources to relate breaking events to key activities that are likely to invoke sales activities. Drill down into company information and you don't get the usual automatic listing of top executives but instead the types of contacts that you're focused on in your sales processes.

Social media from Twitter and other sources is keyed to searches for company names, a nice plus but also an indication that iSell is still working on getting some social media sources sorted in a way that fits into the flow of its other sources. The top tabs in the interface enable easy access to views of OneSource content such as company financials, its SWOT company profiles and "talking points" that help sales executives to build selling stories easily. There is a wealth of information available behind the iSell interface and it's easy to find it. This makes it easy to find key prospects in iSell and to import them into your favorite CRM platform for building a sales pipeline.

Business information suppliers are in general a lot more sophisticated these days in trying to build usable solutions for sales professionals, so getting the iSell interface "right" was a key priority for OneSource. Clearly they have succeeded in doing just that. It's an attractive, highly usable service which makes the very best of OneSource's extensive information resources for a very high-value, focused service. While much of the information behind iSell is from the core of long-standing OneSource services, the new features and additional sources put that core information in a much more usable context. The sales trigger features are still not tapping some of the key content sources that can help sales professionals to be alerted for potential sales actions, but the framework is there for an expanded capability over time.

This is all great stuff, but it still comes at a price. Since iSell rides on top of OneSource's collection of curated databases, it should be no surprise that premium pricing and price packaging is needed to experience iSell. OneSource feels that their pricing makes it competitive with other premium business information services, hoping that iSell will be an appealing alternative to new clients as well as existing OneSource clients. These targets for iSell will no doubt be very pleased with the results, but hopefully the very useful and usable tools in iSell will be positioned in time to be more accessible to broader sales and marketing audiences. In the meantime, iSell makes the most of OneSource-curated content to deliver prospect hunters a great tool to deliver timely and highly focused sales and marketing insights.
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