I sat in the virtual crowd at INBOUND 2023, eagerly absorbing the keynote speech from Yamini Rangan, CEO of HubSpot. Her talk was on customer connection in the new era — how information has transformed into intelligence, and how this intelligence is what allows you to connect with your customers.
“It’s no longer just about acquiring information, but knowing how to act on intelligence. And the most intelligent way to use intelligence as a B2B GTM professional is to drive customer retention.” – Yamini Rangan, CEO at HubSpot
Yes! This is what I’ve been saying for a large part of my career, and why I enthusiastically took on the role of Strategy & Evangelism at nearbound.com. The only way companies can succeed is to proactively provide solutions by understanding not just customer intention, but the context of their pain points and goals.
I scribbled down fragments of notes and ideas as she spoke:
Moving from intelligence to insights to anticipate needs and offer recommendations based on CUSTOMERS
Customer connection matters because it drives growth!
I was hooked. According to Yamini, the best way to get this intelligence (or what Jared Fuller calls “the answers to the test”) is through generative AI. It goes beyond just analyzing old data; it uses the data to draft new content, reveal new paths forward, and provide new insights.
I don’t disagree with Yamini. Generative AI is a powerful tool that is increasingly becoming indispensable to GTM teams. It helps us stay informed and proactive during important touchpoints along the customer journey, and saves us a boatload of time.
But it is limited to the touchpoints that you control. As Jay McBain says, there are roughly 28 touchpoints in the customer journey, and most companies have control of about four of them. This means that the other 24 are controlled by the people, communities, and watering holes (what Chris Walker calls “dark social”) that the customer is living in.
It’s your ecosystem, not just generative AI, that can provide intelligence needed to create a truly connected customer experience, especially during the early stages of their journey.
But I wasn’t worried. HubSpot is a company that has partnerships in its DNA, so I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for Yamini to discuss how AI and the ecosystem can work together to truly surround the customer, to build those unbreakable connections that not only help acquire more customers but keep and grow them.
It never came.
For me, it’s impossible to talk about a truly connected customer without talking nearbound — the GTM strategy that leverages intel and influence from the partners your customers already trust to surround their journey.
What might that look like?
The Age of Intelligence
Selling is more challenging than ever. RepVue reports that, over the last 12 months, the number of AEs who reported hitting their goals dropped to 39.5%. Ebsta and Pavilion recently shared in their 2023 B2B Sales Benchmark Report that:
Win rates decreased by 15% in 2022
Average deal values dropped by 32%
The length of sales cycles increased on average by 32%
And that’s not all. Inbound GTM strategies are also taking a big hit. The average American sees up to 10k ad impressions per day (Deloitte), Google is under scrutiny for pushing ads vs. objective, high-quality search results (The Hustle), and SEO is constantly being changed, and constantly being gamed.
Buyers are drowning in information and interruption, and they are tuning out. They don’t trust companies or their marketing. And yet, sales leaders are under a ton of pressure to hit their increased quotas.
In old-school selling methods, the more sales reps you hire, the more revenue you drive. However, because buyers are more distrustful than ever, it no longer matters how many sales reps you have. If the relationships haven’t been built, then you’re not closing more deals. In fact, the more you interrupt and bombard the buyer, the more damage you’re doing in the long run.
HubSpot’s new sales formula powered by AI, called Sales Hub, puts the customer at the center of the selling process and makes customer connection a crucial part of the purchase journey. It’s all about empowering reps to be more effective by leveraging intelligence, connected tools, and engaging in the right activities.
Yamini states that with AI, reps can bring valuable insights to every conversation. Having access to customer data and past interactions, reps can identify better next steps, and easily connect with the customer.
But this is still missing a crucial component: the intelligence from and the trust built with the real people they’re already working with — your partners.
This is groundbreaking, but to get the most power possible from it, it should be used in support of a nearbound strategy.
The Power of Nearbound
As I mentioned earlier, nearbound is the GTM strategy that taps into the power of your ecosystem. When you partner with those your buyers already trust, you close more deals on average 35% faster. Not to mention:
80% of sales leaders say agencies, consultants, vendors, and individuals in their network have the biggest impact on a customer’s purchase decision (HubSpot)
Integrations with existing tech are a top priority for 76% of buyers (E&Y)
82% of B2B sales leaders say referrals are the best leads (Williams)
Deals that involve one or more partners have a 41% higher win rate, close 35% faster, and have 43% higher LTV (Reveal)
Layering nearbound into your inbound and outbound activities to bring partner intel and influence to every step in the customer journey helps create better customer connections and higher win rates.
Instead of trying to reach buyers cold, like outbound, or get them to come to you by seeing your content through inbound, nearbound taps into the people who are already influencing your buyers.
It’s true that you can get intel from AI but if you really want to know your customers’ context, if you want to truly connect with them, you need to pair that with the human touch.
And who better to give you that than your partners?
A good nearbound strategy starts with one question: Who does my buyer trust? You‘re probably not the ‘who’, but you’d better be partnering with them!
You need people to connect with people. While AI can offer data insights and help speed up the sales cycle, it cannot create the personal relationships and connections with your buyers that are essential for success.
Combining nearbound and HubSpot’s generative AI capabilities creates an unstoppable combo. Sales reps can find themselves armed with:
The intel, influence, and introductions from buyers’ trusted service providers
Data pulled from both the ecosystem and the customer journey
Efficient and actionable processes from this enhanced data that live in the places AEs are already working: CRM, Slack, LinkedIn, and email
The right people executing the right activities at the right time to surround the customer with influence
Higher win rates and deal sizes
Shorter sales cycles
The Tactical Plays for True Customer Connection
Combining generative AI and partnerships intel creates a powerful synergy that not only enhances your customer connection but also boosts your marketing and sales efforts. It enables a more holistic and targeted approach to customer engagement, leading to improved customer satisfaction and business growth.
And the best way to achieve this is through the integrated use of Sales Hub and Reveal.
Sales Hub is a powerful and easy-to-use sales software that drives productivity, enables customer connection, and supports growing sales organizations.
It helps marketing, sales, and services teams leverage AI to deeply understand their customers, deliver relevance, and connect throughout the entire customer journey at scale.
HubSpot shares how it can help you connect better with your customers:
Prospect smarter. Start relevant, contextual conversations and effortlessly convert prospects. No more guessing the next best step. Minimize distractions and keep your prospecting reps organized, efficient, and effective throughout the day so they can focus on building a qualified, high-converting pipeline.
Accelerate revenue growth. With HubSpot’s AI-powered deal management tools that streamline your sales process, so your leads move seamlessly from qualified to closed-won. Introduce consistency into the customer journey and arm your sellers with all the data and insights they need to effectively prioritize the right deals at the right time.
Scale Insightfully. Accurately set, predict, and hit your revenue goals with HubSpot’s integrated reporting and analytics tools that help you effectively forecast revenue and achieve visibility and predictability in your pipeline. Track your team’s performance and analyze customer feedback with conversation intelligence to reveal competitive trends, process enhancements, and valuable coaching opportunities.
Reveal is the Nearbound Revenue Platform that brings partner data into your CRM so you can leverage intel, intros, and influence from those your buyers already trust.
It’s a platform that securely connects your CRM with partner companies, providing overlapping account insights, warm leads, and co-marketing opportunities to help you drive 2-3x more revenue.
Reveal allows you to grow through your partner ecosystem by identifying the right partners to work with based on account overlap, sharing data securely, and revealing untapped opportunities in your existing network.
And here’s how it can help you connect better with your customers:
Get access to intros. Connect with your partners’ account owners to gain intros to key decision makers you need to reach, deep customer insights, and the intel you need to keep your sales calls warm and close more deals than ever.
Get access to influence. Tap into your partners’ ecosystem to target the perfect audience, create killer co-marketing campaigns, and have highly qualified leads in your pipeline.
Get access to intel. Leverage partner ecosystem data to establish meaningful connections with customers. Nearbound intel assists in monitoring churn risk, identifying upsell/cross-sell opportunities, and deploying integrations.
A Sales Hub x Reveal Use Case
So, what could these tools look like in action? Let’s break it down step by step:
The AE uses HubSpot CRM to identify top opportunities.
In Reveal’s HubSpot widget, the AE sees data pulled from Reveal showing the top partners that the opportunity is already working with.
The AE clicks on the partner to see the contacts in both their company and the partner’s company or can request an introduction directly from their Partner Manager.
The Partner Manager — who has worked to build a strong relationship with those partners — facilitates the introduction between the AE and the point of contact. They work together to better understand the buyer’s context: what their pain points are, what they are working on, any new initiatives they have put in place, etc.
At the same time they are collecting intel, they are using Reveal data alongside HubSpot’s generative AI capabilities to create content that can be used on the channels and in the communities where the buyers already live, and alongside the partners they already trust. This way, the buyer is being surrounded by influence while the AE collaborates with the partner to gain intelligence.
Once they get the nearbound intelligence they need, they make the ask to the partner to introduce them to the buyer. This ushers the AE into the conversation rather than trying to get their attention through cold outreach
The partner, Partner Manager, and AE work together to provide a customized experience during the sales cycle, providing them with the content and information most important to them.
This is just one example of the many ways Sales Hub and Reveal could work together to execute a nearbound strategy — one built on human-to-human connections and trust.
Think bigger — partner better.
To keep building connections and trust, HubSpot announced at Inbound 2023 its commitment to a customer-centric partner strategy. They have identified that the opportunity for partners in their ecosystem is massive, representing more than $26B in potential revenue.
“For smart success, we need more than disconnected point solutions. We need a system of work and engagement.” – Andy Pitre, Executive VP, Product, HubSpot
In the Nearbound Era, solitary efforts won’t cut it. We need to work together with app and solution partners to bridge the gap in your product and services. To connect with our customers, first, we need to connect your solution.
The synergy of AI and nearbound
Combining AI and partnerships intel offers a powerful strategy that not only enhances customer connections but also elevates your marketing and sales efforts.
It enables a more holistic and targeted approach to customer engagement, leading to improved customer satisfaction and substantial business growth.
To achieve this, tools like Sales Hub and Reveal play pivotal roles, making the journey towards strong customer connections both efficient and effective. Sales Hub helps you prospect smarter, accelerate revenue growth, and scale insightfully, while Reveal connects you with partner data, intros, and influence, providing the insights and leads you need to thrive in this new era of intelligence.
The future of business lies in intelligence-driven customer connections, where AI and partnerships work in tandem to create a more profound, meaningful, and lasting bond between businesses and their customers.
The perfect sales formula is centered around customer connections, and it’s empowered by AI and nearbound intel. Yamini is right. It is the age of the connected customer. And AI will help us connect better — especially when combined with data and tactics around the connections customers already have to our partners.