It's an understatement to say that companies are increasingly willing to do whatever it takes to gain an advantage in today's competitive business environment. Luckily, there's a better (and legal) way to get ahead, which Gartner says only 3 percent of companies are using.

Prescriptive sales and marketing technologies are tools that use data to determine the specific actions that are most likely to move your prospects through the sales funnel.

What makes prescriptive technologies so powerful is that they can track the ultimate outcome of every prescribed action and feed it back into your CRM platform. So over time, as they learn which actions produce a better result, your predictions become more accurate, and the next set of prescribed actions provided to the sales and marketing teams becomes more precise.

However, despite their many benefits, prescriptive technologies are not for everyone. For them to be effective, there are a few key foundational structures that need to be in place: sales and marketing automation and a dedicated sales team. The marketing automation platform (such as HubSpot or Marketo) acts as the first filter, and provides bulk lead scoring. Then the CRM platform (such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics) acts as the system of record where sales and marketing data is stored.

The next step is taking the CRM data, running it through your prescriptive technology platform, which provides the prescribed actions to take, and feeding that back into the CRM, where your inside sales team then puts them to work.

Once you have the above fundamentals in place, by incorporating prescriptive technology in your sales and marketing organizations, you gain these key benefits:

  1. Concrete sales activities to close your deals. If all you're doing is telling your sales team that a lead is scored by the marketing automation system as a 92, but they don't know what they need to do to close the deal, you're only doing half your job. It's not that helpful. Prescriptive tools tell your sales team that to close that deal they should call their contact today, or prompt the marketing team to follow up with an email on Thursday afternoon.
  2. Connecting with your prospects at the right time. A sales person eager to close a deal with Sam may be ready to immediately call him right after receiving his latest email. But a prescriptive sales engine can tell that rep if it's actually better for him or her to wait until tomorrow to make that call to Sam, and instead, use their time right now to dash off an email to Carol to move her deal along.
  3. Automation. Sure, some of your sales and marketing team members may be Excel wizards, but how many of them can realistically scan a spreadsheet with hundreds of line items and pick out the best person to contact next? Prescriptive technologies prioritize those activities for you, and seamlessly serve up the next best task to execute, no manual intervention required.
  4. Recording the outcomes of your activities for you. One of the biggest problems with CRM systems today is they are people-dependent. Your CRM's effectiveness is only as good as the data manually input into it by your marketing team and sales force. And sales people are frequently on the road. It may take two weeks before they get around to inputting the outcomes of their conversations. By then, they will have forgotten much of the conversations, and the information is stale. Both of which limit your CRM's ability to get smarter.
  5. Serving up sales activities tailored to each rep's specific goals. Prescriptive technologies can identify the next best activities by sales person and their individual incentives. The system can auto prioritize sales team activities while taking your sales plan and team's goals into account.

So how do you get started with incorporating prescriptive technologies into your sales and marketing processes? A good first implementation is a simple productivity application that you know you can quickly capture ROI from, and use that to justify a broader business case. For example, start with an email tracking application that provides insights into when prospects are reading their emails, or an automated dialing app.

If possible, put your trial into action while A/B testing its outcome against a group not using the tool. ADP, for example, did a test where they took 100 reps and enabled a gamification solution and took another 100 as a comparative benchmark that did not enable gamification. The gamified group increased their dialing by 73 percent, and closed nearly 15 percent more deals than the control group.

Once you've effectively shown how prescriptive actions can have an immediate impact on your sales team's effectiveness through your trial, you're ready to go all-in, and grow into a bigger, more comprehensive prescriptive technology system.