The future of customer data collection is here. Revenue intelligence is the automated collection and processing of all customer-facing data—especially sales data—using artificial intelligence (AI) to drive new insights. Whether using this new AI-generated data pipeline to create personalized call-to-actions, streamline customer service problem-solving, or retain acquired customers, the possibilities for incorporating this technology into your small business are ever-growing. Think of revenue intelligence as a way for machine learning to come in and scoop up all of the customer data you’re dropping. Why hasn’t this future arrived sooner? Incorporating revenue intelligence into a business is not as easy as it sounds. Maximizing revenue might seem like the obvious way to use artificial intelligence: get insights about customer behavior and drive profit. But if it were that simple, everyone would be doing it. Using revenue intelligence requires a thorough understanding of how—and why—it works before you get started. Is it a useful tool for your small business in particular? And if so, what can you do to implement it in your customer-facing business processes? Here’s what you’ll need to get started. How Does Revenue Intelligence Work? According to an overview from MarTech Series, revenue intelligence functions through AI data collection and analysis: “The CRM system,” they write, “gathers useful data by sending customized messages at the right time and offering prompt response through the appropriate communication channel.” Think of revenue intelligence, therefore, as bridging the gap between sales automation and optimization. On one hand, sales automation is great. Sales automation, a process that utilizes software to automate manual tasks in your business’s sales process, saves sales representatives and account managers time—and that alone drives revenue. According to Hubspot, 61% of businesses using sales automation tend to exceed expected revenues. But that doesn’t mean the saved time generates new insights—and it doesn’t mean it optimizes any of your processes. Revenue intelligence goes beyond the data collected through sales automation to ensure that collected data is optimized to maximize success for your small business. Anyone with customer-facing activities—from customer support to marketing—can help feed data into a collective revenue-intelligence pipeline, instead of the disconnected silos that often appear when distinct aspects of a business manually collect and utilize separate stacks of data. Once a shared revenue-intelligence pipeline is created, the AI looks for information gaps for revenue generation. That’s where its value comes in. Because revenue intelligence automates the data collection process to gather more data about a lead and updates information faster and more efficiently than a manual counterpart, sales teams gain access to more complete data practically in real time—which translates to more revenue for your business. What Kinds of Opportunities Can Revenue Intelligence Identify? What happens when revenue intelligence is in place and ready to drive new insights? The results will vary from business to business, and yours may or may not need what it offers—more on that below. But here are the types of insights that revenue intelligence can typically offer: \tAdvanced buying signals. Tracking everything from email opens to on-page clicks and customer service conversation analysis, revenue intelligence can search through a wider breadth of data to see if customers are putting out buying signals that even sales representatives can’t always catch. \tCustomer-specific sales outreach. Typically, a revenue intelligence provider brings all of its data and insights into a single dashboard for easy reference. Your customer-facing teams can access this dashboard to improve their processes as well. They can tailor a sales approach to specific leads by looking at more in-depth insights than basic demographic data. \tRevenue forecasting. One of the most difficult things to do in business is predict the future. It’s possible to make educated guesses, but forecasting revenue with any degree of accuracy requires a lot of data. Because revenue intelligence can collect, process, and absorb more data than most people, it makes for more accurate revenue forecasting models. In turn, this helps decision-makers to choose the best new initiatives. Is Revenue Intelligence a Good Fit for Your Business? Most professional salespeople are capable of looking at data, applying their brain power, and finding insights. So why bother with revenue intelligence in the first place? For smaller, independent businesses, especially those whose sales operations live largely IRL, an investment in artificial intelligence processes may not be worth it. There’s no AI that can bake pastries or curate toy-store window displays—at least, not yet. But for larger small businesses whose revenue depends on robust CRM that engages multiple departments within your business, revenue intelligence has specific benefits that you’ll need to know: \tGet your data out of disparate silos. You can’t generate insights if half of your data is locked with the marketing team and the other half is stuck with the sales team. Revenue intelligence cuts through the clutter by bringing in all customer-facing data, from emails to social media activity to website tracking and beyond. \tAnalytics aren’t enough. Statistics suggest the majority of senior marketing leaders (54%) aren’t happy with the investments they’ve made in analytics. Why not? Knowledge is power, after all. Revenue intelligence helps companies sift through their data automatically to find meaning. Without that in place, analytics comprises only half of a revenue optimization model. \tGain up-to-date insights. Anyone who’s led customer-facing teams knows that insights from 6 months ago are nothing like insights from the previous month. The further back in time you go, the more obvious that becomes. Revenue intelligence factors in up-to-date data by connecting the largest possible sample size from your collected data to your insights. \tConnect with enhanced automation. Sales automation can help your team become more effective, but it’s not the end of the road. If any of your customer-facing teams still enter customer data manually in numerous differently maintained silos, a switch to revenue intelligence models can streamline the process with automation. This means you’ll capture more emails, sales activity, and other crucial customer data with less effort. Of all the problems revenue intelligence solves, the most important is that it provides a steady pipeline for your data. Sales CRM and customer service platforms are more sophisticated than ever. But when 2 or more teams don’t have effective systems for collecting, sharing, and automating their data collection, revenue intelligence could leave key insights by the wayside. How to Integrate Revenue Intelligence Into Your Business If integrating revenue intelligence is that easy and using it is so important, why don’t more businesses do it? Like any other initiative, revenue intelligence requires teamwork and planning. It has to integrate into your entire business—and that integration is not going to happen by itself. The first step is getting every customer-facing team on the same page. They have to understand both the purpose of revenue intelligence and the next steps for incorporating new software. This is easier said than done. Since the revenue intelligence solution is going to process the big-data insights and the decision-makers are going to leverage that data, it’s possible the teams won’t see the purpose of every new process. Introduce these concepts at the beginning stages so every team knows why they’re doing what they do. You’ll also have to factor in 2 key decisions: first, the specific revenue intelligence platform you’ll use, and second, your methods for integrating that data in the future. It’s one thing to have revenue intelligence telling you what customers want. It’s another thing to act on that knowledge, use revenue intelligence the way it was meant, and make new decisions based on data that doesn’t always seem intuitive. Done right, revenue intelligence is an effective tool for optimizing your business. Consider that those companies that incorporate “high-level” sales automation processes into their business generate 16% more business opportunities. The only question is how your business will fit revenue intelligence into its processes—and whether you’ll take the steps necessary to start collecting data at a company-wide level. If you need financing along the way, a smart small business loan from Lendio can help you to begin your revenue-intelligence journey. The information provided in this post does not constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.