Gone are the days when the gift of the gab or a good relationship with a prospect was your way in to a big deal. According to Craig Elias, author of SHiFT!, around 90% of sales calls today are made to prospects who are happy with what they’ve got, and see no reason to change. No matter how good the sales person might be, they have a very slim chance of success.
The internet makes it easy for prospects who aren’t happy with the status quo to research other options, and 3% of sales calls reach those who are already actively searching, too late. Just 7% are made to companies in the ‘buying window’: they are considering change, but haven’t done anything about it yet. An average sales person who ends up pitching to a prospect in this window has a much higher chance of success.
It’s increasingly difficult for sales teams to maximise their productivity. To boost their hit rates, they need to focus on timing. The gap between ‘happy’ and ‘actively looking’ is where the most effective salespeople operate. But how do you know when the buying window is opening? How do you pinpoint when to call – and what to say – that will help take you through to the next stage of the process?
Researching companies to identify when they might be ripe for a change is the best way to keep teams focused on where they can win. A new appointment or major contract win, for instance, can provide an ideal reason to make a call and suggest a way you could add value. It might even be one of the ways you segment your prospect list – for example, all companies that have just been involved in a merger or acquisition, or all companies who have just moved offices.
The sheer amount of information available, however, makes keeping up to date a bit of a ‘needle in a haystack’ task. There’s a risk that teams end up spending more time reading trade magazines, scouring the web and attending events, and less time selling. By applying the latest technology to the task of gathering business intelligence, teams can ensure they get the most relevant information at exactly the right time during the daily selling process.
Using web-based business information solutions, teams can set customised ‘alerts’ on the territories they cover, triggered by key events that open prospects’ buying windows – such as a change of chief executive or a new round of funding. This gives them a compelling reason to call, and steal a march on the competition. Sales reps can choose which types of ‘changes’ they want to be alerted to, and as soon as a change is reported (for example on a target’s website, in a trade magazine or in a blog) they can be notified instantly, with results delivered directly to their desktop PC, tablet or smartphone.
It’s important to go beyond tagging just ‘news’, and widen the net to incorporate vital data points, like an increase or decrease in employee numbers, revenues or assets (found in companies’ annual reports), or credit rating changes from ratings firms. You should also think laterally, keeping an eye on market factors and broader industry developments like new regulations and technologies. Any of these changes could indicate an opportunity to sell, giving the sales person a compelling reason to contact the prospect with an appropriate message.
Alerts on their own are not enough, however; they need to be tagged to a comprehensive companies database from which you can produce your target lists. As well as in-depth company profiles and key decision makers’ contact details, it’s hugely beneficial if the database contains key market research and company analysis reports. This will save on research time, and give reps knowledge that helps them look smart in front of the prospect.
Technology advances including the cloud, and new software like Hadoop, which stores, processes and analyses big data, elevate today’s business intelligence solutions far above the newsfeeds of old – giving them the power to ‘scrape’ the mass of unstructured content that exists on the web, as well as on disparate internal databases. Combined with the ability to search on customised keywords, this makes sales triggers much more relevant and accurate than they’ve ever been before, and delivers highly meaningful and actionable results.
Integrating these triggers, and rich company information that’s gathered from external sources, with the contact and order history on your CRM system, will produce rocket fuel for your business – leveraging all the data available to you to build up an in-depth, full colour picture of each customer’s and prospect’s world.
Not only will this give sales teams the best chance of getting in front of the right prospects at the right time; the depth of information will also give them the edge when they make the call, driving a focused, relevant and impactful discussion that is much more likely to convert into a deal.
Martin Bromfield, Director, UK & European Clients of OneSource Information Services