It’s surprising how little has been done to make the tried-and-true sales call more effective. Compared to the focus on bleeding-edge technologies that scan the Internet for information about your company, there’s little attention paid to a task thousands of salespeople do every day.
I‘ve received sales calls from many Fortune 1000 companies, and nearly every experience has left me in a complete state of disarray. The salespeople showed little to no understanding of my immediate or long-term needs. In fact, they rarely knew anything about my business except that it’s in the “software industry.” They could be selling products I might need and not even know it.
If they tied their products to my problems and challenges, I might be more compelled to buy them, or at least willing to learn more. If you’re among the salespeople who initiate at least 10 calls per day, take note of these three questions you should answer before you dial.
#1. What does this individual do?
A prospect’s title and company name are meaningless — unless you know the person’s specific job responsibilities and details about the business. Many industry codes that CRM systems provide are vague NAICS codes or high-level generic classifications such as “software.”
The simplest way to fill in these blanks is to visit company homepages, or even Wikipedia pages, which tend to have more general, accessible company descriptions.
#2. What does the business need?
To gauge a company’s current gaps and pain points, review its job postings. They generally offer more succinct descriptions of the company and provide useful information, including the types of employees and skill sets they need.
If these companies categorize job posts by department, you can see exactly which areas are growing or lagging and position your offering as an efficiency booster or cost reducer.
Establishing mutual interest is key to getting the conversation past the initial pitch and into an area where you can clearly demonstrate specific value to a potential buyer.
#3. Which companies are competitors?
We’ve found that competitors and investments drive business behavior more than customers and partners do. Is this person’s company a market leader or an underdog? If you’ve sold to its competitors, you can also explain how other companies use your product to overcome challenges.
There are many places to find this information, including sales intelligence tools such as InsideView, OneSource, Hoover’s, and S&P Capital IQ. If the company is publicly traded, you can get data from Yahoo! Finance as well.
Now that you’ve gained key information about your prospects and are prepared to move forward with a meaningful, relevant sales call, determining the quality of your prospects is the next essential step.
Here are a few suggestions for utilizing the information you’ve gathered:
- Measure: Once you capture prospect information, evaluate whether it had an impact on the sale. Did the prospect ask for more information or pass it along to another contact? Have you arranged a paid or free trial, or did the lead request one? These are all quantifiable metrics that can assess lead quality.
- Automate: If you have access to technical resources, much of your prospect data can be aggregated. DBpedia is an API for Wikipedia that enables you to get company information that often reveals product details and information about the competition. Freebase from Google also provides these details.
- Personalize: Your key talking points need to reflect a deep understanding of the user’s current setup and how your offering can improve it. Make sure to provide a reference and a comparison point that highlight the benefits of your product. If your prospect doesn’t currently use a product similar to yours, come prepared with examples of how similar companies benefited from adopting your solution.
Sales calls aren’t a new, innovative tactic for generating leads, yet many salespeople overlook key details that can transform an initial conversation into a meaningful, relevant interaction.
By taking a few extra minutes to research backgrounds, needs, and markets, you stand a much better chance of engaging your prospects and creating a connection that guides them to the most logical purchase decision: your product.
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