Sales Intelligence vs. Business Intelligence: Know the Difference

May 1, 2019 | Melody Astley

bisiblog-1If someone casually asked you what the difference between business intelligence and sales intelligence is, would you be able to answer them? If you feel a bit uneasy about what your answer would be, you’re in good company.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear line between business intelligence and sales intelligence. But they’re extremely connected and interlaced in their approach towards resolving business issues, providing insights on past and present data, and defining future decisions.

Digging into the Sales and Business Intelligence Debate

Business intelligence leverages software and services to transform data into actionable intelligence that informs an organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions. Business intelligence tools access and analyze data sets and present analytical findings in reports, summaries, dashboards, graphs, charts, and maps to provide users with detailed intelligence about the state of the business. When it comes to data, business intelligence is more focused on real-time data and current insights.

In contrast, sales intelligence means that sales operations can access a lot of data through a range of sources like sales force automation (SFA), marketing automation (MAP), sales enablement, partner, finance, and customer service platforms. Usually, a strong data strategy is used to determine what information is needed and if it’s valid while correlating and analyzing the important data to create actionable conclusions.

Sales operations can then take those conclusions and deliver audience-centric reports or dashboards (e.g., a sales manager dashboard vs. a sales rep dashboard) in a specified cadence with defined actions. The defined actions help sales departments interpret the data and provide guidance on what to do next. When it comes to data, sales intelligence focuses on business analytics and offers predictive modeling and advanced statistics to evaluate what will happen in the future.


So, What’s the Difference?

The most straightforward and useful difference between business intelligence and sales intelligence really comes down to two factors:

  1. What direction in time are you facing; the past or future?
  2. Are you concerned with what happened, how it happened, or why it happened?

Business intelligence: Deals with what happened in the past and how it happened leading up to the present moment. It identifies big trends and patterns without digging too much into the “why” or predicting the future.

Sales intelligence: Deals with the “whys” of what happened in the past. It breaks down contributing factors and causality. It also uses these whys to make predictions of what will happen in the future, providing a broader landscape of analytics describing enterprise-wide data preparation, visualization, and modeling. This data is relevant to sales leaders, managers, and sales reps and is one of the key distinctions between sales intelligence and business intelligence.


Why is there so much confusion?

Both business intelligence and sales intelligence are important because they are often correlated and have a causal relationship. When two things are correlated, it means that when one happens, the other tends to happen simultaneously. When two things have a causal relationship, it means that one thing leads directly or indirectly to the other happening. It’s often difficult to separate correlation and causation.

Are you able to understand the factors that are causing your business success or failure rather than just the factors that are associated with your business success or failure? If so, it’s much more likely that you will be able to predict the future in the marketplace and act accordingly. It’s important to note that you need to know what’s correlated before you can know causation. In other words, you need to know what happened and how it happened (business intelligence) before you can say why things happened (sales intelligence) with any reasonable degree of certainty.


Moving Forward

Sales intelligence and business intelligence fit together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – a puzzle that helps your business to be more profitable. It’s crucially important to define and use KPI examples that will help to establish a business goal and execute the correlation and causation of sales intelligence and business intelligence.

While it may sound complicated at the beginning, the more you dig deeper with a data analysis tool, the more sense it will make to establish qualified insights and make better decisions. The difference between business intelligence and sales intelligence is important to understand because it helps to prepare a company for adjusting its operations into a cost-effective and insightful way. Using both in the process of creating a successful business intelligence strategy, will only make your company more competitive in the market.


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Posted in Selling Strategies