According to the 2011 CSO Insights, reps spend almost 25% of their time working to qualify prospects. This sounds like a huge waste of time, but it all pays off!
The better you know your prospect, the better your ability to overcome objections, build rapport, and overcome resistance to buying. Basically, solid prospect research will beef up the quality of your cold calls and closing rates.
But does that mean researching for hours?
Prospect research doesn’t have to be a hair-pulling annoyance that eats up precious selling time. The process can be smooth and simple; especially if you use these easy to implement research methods below.
1. Use Linkedin To Qualify Prospects & Discover Their Background
Linkedin is a kickass social media tool for sales reps. Its advanced search feature lets you filter your prospect search through keywords, relationships, company, industry, and location.
For a more complete understanding of your prospect, check out the following areas of their profile:
- Previous job experience – Tailor your communication based on their career history. Is this their first time making this kind of decision, or have they done this before? This information will optimize your intro and lead to better rapport building during the call.
- Shared connections – Have a connection in common with your prospect? Be sure to mention that during your conversation, ask how they know this person. Never underestimate the value of having a previous connection. Research consistently shows that referral based selling enhances closing rates.
- Role at their current job – Not sure about what your prospect is responsible for, or what they can help you with? Most people list primary job duties or major projects they’ve worked, on Linkedin. This can help you get a sense of their responsibilities and see what they’re involved in. It also makes for great rapportive ammunition that can be weaved in during the call. I mean, who doesn’t like to hear that you think their recent presentation on “the science behind the perfect fishing rod” was awesome.
- Groups – Click through to their groups to see what’s being talked about and what’s at the forefront of their minds.
- Recent activity – What are they sharing, and where are they sharing it? This can be an opportunity to introduce yourself and establish a connection before dialling up.
Be forewarned – unless you enable the ability to browse anonymously, your lead can see you’ve been browsing their profile. However, this may be a good thing! It can give your prospect some information about who you are and what your company does, so when they get your call or email, they’ll recognize your name.
2. Setup Trigger Keywords In Tweetdeck To Follow Up
In a recent survey of B2B marketers by BTOB magazine, a small 5% said that social media marketing was a “fairly mature and well optimized” part of their mix. The majority (58%) admitted to being “in early stages,” and 17% said they didn’t use social media at all. Tweetdeck plays a vital role when you qualify prospects based on their social interests. Tweetdeck can easily qualify prospects who are mentioning their needs out loud.
Not only is social media beneficial for selling and building rapport, it’s an excellent tool for understanding the language that potential customers use.
In fact, a B2B rep for virtual meetings company PGI, used Twitter to secure a deal with a “tough” lead in record breaking time. The prospect had multiple negative experiences with previous sales reps and wasn’t the easiest to persuade. So how the heck did this rep find the CEO and close the deal within a day?
Twitter. Using the TweetDeck feature, he specified keywords so that he would be notified when someone tweeted them; including both, followers and non-followers alike.
While checking Twitter, a message containing the term “web conferencing” caught the rep’s attention. The point of the tweet was how poorly web conferencing works. “I clicked on the Twitter handle,” the rep told HBR, “and noticed that it was a company account.” He then called the number on the company’s website and asked to speak to the person who managed Twitter. Moments later he was talking to the CEO, who vented his frustration with other web meeting platforms he’d used. “I told him all about GlobalMeet,” the rep said, ( a PGI conferencing service). “He checked out the website and said he wanted to try it, so I sent over the agreement and received it back within a few hours.”
If you’re not doing so already, start using TweetDeck. It’s an excellent way to keep track of searches, lists, topics, and receive notifications at the mention of certain topics, events, or hashtags. Which means you can learn:
- What’s being said about you and your competitor’s. Not just what they’re saying, but what everyone else is saying. Twitter is a tremendous platform for sharing opinions, and by reading replies and mentions, sales reps can see where their competition is struggling and how they can improve.
- Who your prospects are interacting with. What kind of users are they tweeting to? What’s the language they’re using to interact with these accounts? This information will guide your own unique message to prospects accordingly.
3. Cater Your Linked Profile Towards Buyers
Sales reps aren’t only looking for jobs on LinkedIn. They’re finding leads and trying to convert them into to customers. Some sales reps even qualify prospects based on their experiences mentioned on LinkedIn. Which makes your profile super important.
Your profile needs to be optimized towards buyers. Think of it as a mini landing page for your company.
To strengthen your profile page:
Make Your Social Profile For Your Buyer
Remember, it’s a mini landing page. You’re targeting people who you can sell to – not people who will recruit you. So don’t just throw up a digital resume and call it a day.
Throughout your profile, communicate how you help your target market. Feature testimonials of people who’ve benefited from your advice/what you’ve sold, and don’t be afraid to share presentations, slideshows, or posts relating to your target market’s problems and pains. If you qualify prospects who come through these channels, you have a better pipeline.
Keep your profile public.
Restricting your LinkedIn profile in any form is a big no-no. There’s a high chance that people whose profile you view will return the view back. Which is exactly what you want when trying to close leads.
Combine InMails and Emails
Research from InsideSales.com found that an InMail with the exact same copy as an email will get a 33% higher response.
Following these steps distinguishes you as credible and valuable expert in your industry – not just another job searcher or sales rep.
4. Harness The Power Of Trigger Events
Trigger events signal that your prospect has a need for your solution. You can qualify prospects properly by monitoring these trigger events. Hiring sprees, investment announcements, and new office openings are common examples.
For example, the content of a company’s social pages will reflect how tech-savvy they are. If a company is very active on social and are publishing relevant, up to date content, there’s a good chance that company places a high priority on technology and social media. This means they’ll probably be more willing to talk about your social media software for employees.
- Tools like Google News are excellent for looking up big events.
- Tools like AngelList and Crunchbase will help you keep tabs on startups.
- Bloomberg’s company lookup is a valuable tool for larger businesses.
5. Look At Your Current Customers
Before choosing you, your customers were probably approached by reps offering similar products/services. And chances are, they thought their decision through before deciding your company was the best choice.
So why not use them to find out more about your potential prospects?
Asking questions like:
- What problems do we help you solve?
- Why did you choose us over our competition?
- What are you biggest frustrations with xyz?
- What would make product/service even better?
Will reveal common pain points, problems, and desires of customers. And if a large portion of customers have a specific desire or problem – you can bet that a large portion of prospects and potential customers will too.
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Fileboard’s Top Ranked Sales Blog has all the Sales Secrets you need to win. Three powerful ways to gather info from customers are:
For solid customer surveys, offer a reward for participation, and avoid questions that take longer than 5-10 minutes to answer. This is your chance to extract vital information. Not only will you learn a lot about your customers, you’ll also garner insights into the effectiveness of your current cold calling strategy. Make this worth their time. Remember, they’re doing you a favor to help you sell better. Fileboard also allows you qualify prospects based on their engagement with your marketing and sales collateral. The story doesn’t end here, but Fileboard also quantifies your sales touches to qualify prospects based on their behavior!
Finally, you can hold one-on-one interviews with customers and prospects. Next time you close a sale, ask your new customer why they chose your service over another competitor.
Try to do the same for leads/customers that you lose. Follow up and find out what they liked about your competitor and what made them leave.
As the above methods show, research doesn’t have to be boring and painful. On the contrary, it can be interactive and social, and in some cases alert you to “ready to pick” sales that can instantly be closed without a superhuman effort.