I think it’s safe to say that most sales professionals know that it is imperative to be as prepared as possible during all stages of the sales process, in order to communicate in an intelligent fashion with prospects. Today we have so much data available that comes from a variety of sources and sales professionals are at a disadvantage if they do not utilize it. Data is playing an increasingly vital role in helping sales professionals know when and how to contact their targets, and ultimately become more successful at closing opportunities.
Using data in the sales process has become so important in leveling the sales and buyers playing field. Let's not forget, most buyers today are well informed before they even speak to a sales professional. To make data even more valuable, there are more decision-makers involved in a B2B purchase than ever before. Here are three ways your sales team should be using data to have better conversations, starting as early as the initial conversation conducted by the sales development reps.
Know the Company
This may sound like some very basic advice. As important as it is, there are too many sales teams not doing their homework to gather information on a business before reaching out to prospects in that company. There is so much information available to us as sales professionals about our target companies, that we are doing ourselves a disservice by not doing our due diligence before pursuing target accounts.
For example, you should understand whether the target account has a fiscal year that coincides with another timeline, as that schedule will have an impact on budgets. Quite often an organization's website will provide annual reports and other documents or financial news articles about their company.
Another good example is understanding your target prospect location within that company. You cannot assume that they are sitting at the company headquarters. That all depends on how the company is organized or if it was recently a part of a merger or acquisition. There could be multiple locations where your target prospects are sitting. This information would be useful to know because it might have an impact on your sales process.
Lastly, you should pay attention to financial and leadership news. For example, how is the stock price currently trending? Is the company performing well in comparison to their competitors? What major deals have they completed recently? Any new members in senior leadership? These are all critical pieces of data that will allow you to sell better to your target accounts.
Research the Prospect You Are Targeting
I feel confident that most us know that LinkedIn is the best place to go to learn about our targeted prospects. Since LinkedIn profiles are personally managed and updated, they can typically provide a useful window into your prospect’s role, as well as their professional background. It is important to take the time to read their personal statement, posts, education, and interest on their LinkedIn profile. During this investigation, your prospect will get a notification that you were looking at their profile. Yes, some sales professionals feel as if they are "tipping off" a prospect and thus, they will not take their calls. However, I believe and teach the opposite. Show your prospect that you are taking the time to learn more about them and not treating them like every other sales call they receive.
Another great thing that you can learn from a LinkedIn profile is if your prospect recently changed jobs. That new job might indicate a need or openness to a new product or service. Looking at your prospect’s twitter feed can also give insight into their professional interests and potential pain points. Social data can also provide insight into how they would like to be contacted. For example, on LinkedIn I have noticed most executives wish only to be contacted by someone through a warm introduction.
Understand Your Prospect's Network
According to the Harvard Business Review, there are 5.4 people involved in the average B2B buying decision today. Moreover, this team must reach a consensus before purchasing. Having so many people involved is why sales professionals are beginning to recognize the importance of a "multi-pronged" approach. This approach can help you better understand the people that are involved in the decision-making process and how they might be connected to one another.
There is no doubt that determining what this network looks like and how it operates will help you understand who key influencers are. Without promoting the LinkedIn sales navigator tool, I will share this with you: it is extremely useful in identifying everyone that might be involved in your target accounts’ decision-making process.
Overall, insights like these, derived from the use of relevant and timely data gathered through various social channels, can help sales professionals jumpstart their sales conversations and better anticipate the needs of their prospects. We all have access to data at our fingertips that we are not taking advantage of on a regular basis. Be sure to cash in on this availability of data, as it can elevate your prospect’s overall perception of your products and will help them view you as a trusted resource. When it’s all said and done, becoming a trusted resource should be the ultimate goal to ensure not only today's sale, but sales to that prospect and that company in the future.