A representative from a data protection and storage company discovers that a computer theft at a university has exposed the personal information of thousands of students. Moving quickly, the sales professional is the first to speak with the school's chief technology officer, and is able to discuss relevant products and services while security is still top of mind. Likewise, a sales rep for a company that manufactures machines necessary for echocardiograms offers to discuss his company's product with a hospital that has just received a $100 million grant for a new cardiovascular center.
How did these sales professionals find the right opportunities, staying ahead of the competition? The answer is simple: They took a holistic view of their customers and became well versed in specific scenarios that would create a need for their products and services. Instead of merely focusing on their solution or service differentiators, top-notch sales professionals study their customers from every angle and learn as much as possible about each one. That's easy enough to say, but in today's business atmosphere, sales teams are not as big as they once were and those remaining professionals spend most of their time on the road or on the phone. So is it even possible to dig in and get the insights needed about target prospects?
The uphill battle of sales
With an uncertain economic situation extending the sales cycle, it's more important than ever to optimize the amount of time that sales representatives spend selling.
And yet, according to CSO Insights' Sales Performance Optimization 2009 Survey Results and Analysis, sales professionals spend nearly 20 percent of their time generating leads and researching accounts. Searching the Web can be extremely time-consuming, often yields little credible data, and -- since competitors have access to exactly the same information -- doesn't add unique value. As sales teams become thinner, available time and resources to conduct research becomes less available.
With the advent of new sales intelligence tools that combine Web 2.0 technologies with knowledge management practices, a sales professional can create a truly forward-thinking account plan that accommodates tighter time constraints. By integrating news and information into a single everyday portal or application for sales force automation or CRM, an organization can bring together internal customer data with rich market intelligence to create a powerful sales tool. This single interface guides sales professionals to focus on their most-desirable sales prospects, and to manage information that, in the past, has been difficult to obtain.
Selecting the right triggers
In order to truly make the best possible impression, you must understand your prospect's core markets, organizational structure, culture, and decision-making process -- and be aware of current news relevant to that prospect. Once you know the company inside and out, decide exactly how your product is going to help the organization achieve its goals. How will your company help drive their success? Will your product give them an edge on the competition? What is the most-opportune time to approach the prospect about a buying decision? Selecting the most-appropriate triggers will answer these questions, providing an event that will signal you to take action.
What exactly is a trigger?
Sales triggers are specific business events -- such as an executive move, financial results, or a company merger -- that will likely have an effect on a potential customer's buying decision. For example, new legislation on tax breaks may create some confusion for real estate investors. A tax-preparation company might use this news to reach out to the investors to answer any questions that may arise. Busy and overworked sales professionals need a mechanism for grouping all of these pieces of information into something meaningful and actionable. Merger-and-acquisition activity, legislation changes, product introductions by the prospect, environmental issues that influence business, and management moves can all be classified as triggers.
Outperform your competition
Calling a prospect with minimal data about that prospect's company often makes, at best, a mediocre impression. You very well could lose a fabulous opportunity simply because you didn't have the latest and most-important information needed to convert that prospect into a new customer. And, in these economic circumstances, wasted time is much more detrimental than it used to be.
Combining a holistic view of the prospect with relevant news empowers sales professionals to act on specific, meaningful information that will allow for a timely and unique sales pitch. Leads generated by triggers -- specific business events such as a merger, new funding, or management change -- have significantly higher conversion rates than those generated by traditional lead sources. Sales professionals who choose to take advantage of triggers will no longer miss out on hot opportunities -- and they'll close deals much faster.
About the Author
Tom Aley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the vice president and managing director at Dow Jones's Business & Relationship Intelligence Group. For more information, go to http://www.solutions.dowjones.com.
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