Business Intelligence in Tools in B2B Sales: Make or Buy?


B2B sales intelligence – should you make or buy your tool?

With the cost of sales sky-rocketing and customers changing their buying behaviour, sales intelligence has become critical to the success of any company.

This situation is especially evident in Business-to-Business, where the cost of sales makes takes the top red of each income statement.

Business Intelligence (BI) was always critical in B2B sales. Now it has become essential. Sales costs are increasing, markets become more transparent thanks to e-commerce, and customers are changing the way they buy. Sales intelligence is no longer just one additional software you can use in B2B. It is the software any sales leader must use.

Intelligence in sales is critical for any business. It helps to sell more and better, and it offers a competitive advantage. It helps to focus limited resources and to improve sales efficiency. One fundamental question is now: should you buy or build your own sales intelligence software?

Sales Intelligence is a Game Changer in B2B

Information and BI represent themselves a substantial competitive advantage. Sales executives and controllers should, therefore, answer whether it is better to make or buy BI solutions for their sales teams.

They weight pros and cons as they try their best to do what it is most effective and efficient for their sales teams. It proves nevertheless tricky, to estimate the long-term consequences of a buy or build decision, which often leaves key account managers struggling.

If a company needs to continuously adapt and customise the BI solution, have the developers and data analysts, have time and want total control over development and features, then it might be wise for it to build its own sales BI solution.

On the other hand, if a company needs a ready-made solution, available now, a “best-in-class” tool for sales and does not want/have the IT resources required to develop a BI solution, then it is better to buy it.

Intelligence itself represents a substantial competitive advantage.

Help me decide if I should develop my own BI software.

Make or buy BI for sales – How to decide?

The pace of technology innovation is accelerating at an almost exponential rate, making it difficult for the average internal IT groups to cope with this pace of change. The struggle commonly lies in the fact that they not only they have to create the software internally – they must also maintain and upgrade it indefinitely.

Building a BI software has frequently won out in this debate in the past, but with the introduction of cloud computing, the tables are turning. Now, even large global enterprises in both public and private sectors that have invested tens of millions of dollars in internal IT infrastructure are beginning to migrate to Cloud applications. In fact, the Gartner Group sees the public cloud for the hosting of enterprise applications as the fastest growing IT market in the next ten years.

The largest enterprise software companies in the world (i.e. IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft) see their future delivery platform as the cloud, so their customers are rapidly retiring in-house IT environments, dramatically reducing their IT operational costs as well as their historical reliance on internal IT staff for software development and support.

In this new environment, it is hard for internal BI products to compete with those that the company can buy or rent in the cloud.

In summary, when deciding whether to buy or build your BI, you need to think about three key points:

– Can your company hire experts capable of developing, maintaining, and supporting your BI solution?

– How long can your sales operations wait while your IT team develop the BI solution they need?

– Do you need an advanced BI solution developed specially for your challenge?

Let’s now review each point in turn.

Hire, train, build, maintain and retain. Repeat.

IT development resources are scarce nowadays. Why would you use them to build tools that are already available and cost far less a software engineer? Similarly, software maintenance costs are going to be significantly higher for systems developed in-house, as your they change over time. Lastly, support costs are going to be higher for your own BI solution, whereas most cloud BI services include support for free.

If a sales executive decides to build their own BI solution, her company should hire experts capable of producing, maintaining, and supporting it. This BI team will have total control over development and features and code ownership. It will take a long time, usually one to two years to have a production-ready sales BI.

Companies lacking the IT resources usually chose to buy their BI solutions. They avoid all the pitfalls of hiring, training, and building BI teams and capabilities. Moreover, they can count on a sales intelligence solution running faster than in a week. Sometimes, this last point makes the whole difference.

Buy your BI if: Build your BI if:
Hiring a small team of data scientists and BI developers is not in your budget. Your company can hire enough experts capable of developing, maintaining, and supporting your BI solution.
You do not want to / cannot afford to wait until the BI Tool is running. Your sales operations can wait longer than six to twelve months until your IT team develop the exact BI solution you need.
You would like to implement the best possible machine learning-based BI solution and are willing to compromise. Do not need an advanced BI solution developed specially for your challenge and you are in posses of enough sales records.

We needed our BI running yesterday.

Developing takes time. Now that B2B markets are changing faster than ever, successful sales operations cannot wait until a home-grown BI solution is designed and produced.

If a B2B company can afford the time it takes to develop an integral BI solution for sales, then building it might not be a bad idea. It will be in control of the development cycle, technology, integration with existing systems, among others. Some organic-grown systems are still used decades after first implemented merely because at the time the company could afford the time it took to develop it.

The time spans of market cycles are shortening. Average tenures in sales leader’s positions are also shorter now. In this environment, waiting is usually not a good idea. If a B2B company needs to improve sales operations now, discover cross-selling and reduce customer churn fast, then buying a BI solution is the path to go.

If you need an intelligent BI, you will need a lot of data.

Your solution will never be as good as something built for an exact purpose. You could manufacture your car. Many hobbyists are doing it. However, if transportation is not your hobby, you usually buy a car and go.

This case is particularly valid for BI systems in times of artificial intelligence, where a machine learning solution will learn from vaster amounts of data. For example, if you build your reporting solution, it will only use your ERP data. Training algorithms with more data could offer an unassailable competitive advantage.

Ready-made solutions are available when you need them. Thousands of hours of research and development have already gone into the product. Bugs have been found and hopefully fixed. Data is flowing, and the intelligence may be getting more intelligent.

If a B2B company can afford the time it takes to develop an integral BI solution for sales, then building it might not be a bad idea.

Make or buy your Business Intelligence for Sales – Conclusion.

There are pros and cons to build or buy a sales intelligence tool. A sales executive should contemplate them before jumping to conclusions. Trade-offs and compromises will be needed.

Building an in-house sales intelligence tool is a long-term project. It requires expertise and vast resources. Setting the whole operation and keeping it up-to-date involves considerable investment.

Buying a ready sales intelligence tool is not without disadvantages. However, the pros overweigh the cons for enterprises looking to gain a competitive advantage fast and with reduced investments.

I want to use Qymatix AI Software for Sales today.

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Written together with Thilo Oenning from BATAVER Vertriebsconsulting.

Further Read:

Schön, D. (2015) Planung und Reporting: Grundlagen, Business Intelligence, Mobile BI und Big-Data-Analytics (in German)

Provost, F. and Fawcett, T. (2013) Data Science For Business: What You Need to Know About Data Mining & Data-Analytic Thinking. O’Reilly.

Eckerson, W. (2017) To Build or Buy BI: That Is the Question! Evaluating Options for Embedding Reports and Dashboards into Applications

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