SalesFuel's intelligence serves as must for some sales staffers.

SalesFuel's intelligence serves as must for some sales staffers.

Newly rebranded SalesFuel is taking business intelligence to the next level.

In 1989, Sales Development Services was a new company that developed business intelligence information for clients largely by clipping magazine and newspaper articles. Whenever founder Lee Smith called a client, he remembers pulling out folders of clippings and saying, "Hey, I was thinking about your business today and saw this…"

A lot has changed since the days of 300-baud modems and bulletin boards. In December, the company rebranded as SalesFuel. SalesFuel creates apps and APIs that interact with client computers and devices. It has huge databases of business intelligence. The company has two divisions, AudienceSCAN and AdMall, the former focused on consumer trends, the latter on helping a company's sales staff sell ads.

In its 27th year in business, the Westerville-based company is embracing the next phase of its evolution as SalesFuel. The rebranding better represents what the company does, says Smith.

"The sales team and the products, they're the engines that generate revenue. We're the fuel that powers that, that makes it work," he says. "We wanted to just come up with one word that captures the essence of what we do."

SalesFuel's "fuel" is data and intelligence, which together will help sales staffers develop new sales and retain current accounts, Smith says.

"There are several weaknesses that the typical sales person has. One of them is they spend too much time with the accounts that are squeaky wheels, the ones that can get them in trouble with the boss, or the ones they're friends with. The thing is, those are typically not the ones that can impact the bottom line."

Smith says SalesFuel's intelligence information helps salespeople focus on the most promising customers.

In 1995, just as the Internet was going mainstream, Smith founded two new divisions of the company, AudienceSCAN and AdMall. AudienceSCAN uses survey data from thousands of consumers to provide research, forecasts and analysis. AdMall focuses on sales intelligence for media sales, digital marketing and ad agencies.

"There are always these gaps that never tell the full story for the salesperson," says Smith. "We want the salesperson to have what I call the complete conversation of 'Where does our product or service fit?'"

One day, for example, Audience- SCAN's website featured news nuggets about the top toys for the holidays (not surprisingly, Barbie and Star Wars toys were on top), influences on the top baby name trends, and the effect of student loans on spending.

"We gave it the name Audience-SCAN because that's what we're really doing," Smith says. "The media companies love it. The ad agencies love it, and when we put it in the context of customer insight, we believe sales teams from wherever will have interest in that kind of information," Smith says.

He can't say specifically how much AudienceSCAN contributes to SalesFuel revenue, but says he knows the value is there. "It adds a lot of context to the story, more of a 360-degree view."

SalesFuel and its divisions are prospering. The company boasts of revenue growth every year since its founding.

It counts some big names on its client list, including Cox, Time Warner, Gannett, and Comcast. Their headquarters near Polaris is in an area undergoing significant development. A hotel is being built nearby, one that promises to have a nice conference center that Smith can already see renting out for training sessions.

But the company does face some significant challenges. One of the biggest is the turmoil in media as newspapers and other outlets make the digital transition. "There are so many players in digital, there's so much inventory. There's no scarcity, and scarcity is what keeps the price up," says Smith. "Unfortunately, you're replacing dollars with dimes."

Still, he sees an upside. "They can outsource research to us, and training to us, and consulting to us. In the past they might have been able to do that on their own."

One media company that relies on SalesFuel is the Houston Community Newspapers & Media Group. National Advertising Director Tom Legg says his company was one of SalesFuel's first clients.

"I would not want to have to do this without this tool," says Legg, who is a frequent user of AdMall.

Media companies are under increasing pressure to demonstrate how they can help advertising clients. AdMall is a valuable tool in the ad executive's arsenal, says Legg. Pulling up a potential client's AdMall listing provides important insights that can help close a deal.

"It's all about showing them how you can help with their return on investment," says Legg.

Kevin Kidder is a freelance writer.