Leads continue to be a bone of contention between sales and marketing with sales reps feeling that most leads aren’t worthy of the name.  B2B sales reps are notorious for ignoring or cherry-picking leads, particularly if they believe that marketing has placed lead quantity above lead quality.  This lack of lead quality was a primary concern in David Mamet’s drama Glengarry Glen Ross:

“These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they’re gold, and you don’t get them. Why? Because to give them to you would be throwing them away. They’re for closers.“

The idea of the best leads being funnelled through management seems rather quaint.  While marketing generates and nurtures leads, the majority of B2B business is directly developed by sales reps. 

These aren’t purchased lead lists or names collected from webforms, but hard-earned connections built over time through warm calling, networking, account monitoring, and selling deeper into an organization.  At B2B firms, leads are often generated through building relationships across complex family trees and jumping on opportunities as they arise.  One way to find these new opportunities is to license a sales and marketing intelligence service with high precision sales triggers.

Sales Triggers Signify Corporate Disruption

Sales triggers warm up cold calls and provide a reason to reach out to prospects.  These timely insights help identify whom to call along with a messaging hook which ties the event back to your value proposition.  They are moments of organizational disruption when new processes and vendors are more likely to be considered.  Triggers provide insights into inflection points when processes are likely to be modified.

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In B2B sales, timing is critical.  Most companies are subject to the status quo.  They go by the maxim, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  If there are no change triggers, then companies are likely to continue with the same processes and vendors.  Trigger events are often associated with a disruption to the status quo.  A few examples of high-leverage sales triggers include

  • A new C-Level executive is looking to make her mark
  • A start up receives VC funds which kick off an aggressive product development, hiring, and marketing push
  • A company announces a relocation to larger facilities

It is these disruptions that provide a strong first-caller advantage to sales reps that quickly act upon them.  They also provide a reason to reach out to current accounts or prospects.  A trigger-based conversation is much more compelling that a scheduled check-in call.

Furthermore, when sales triggers are tied to company and executive profiles, it is much easier for reps to qualify opportunities and plan their pitch.  Thus, triggers should be part of a broader sales and marketing intelligence solution.

According to Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling, “Sellers who use trigger events outperform their colleagues and clobber competitors.”

Trigger Precision is Paramount

You should think of sales triggers as second-generation news alerts with higher precision.  To be valuable, they must accurately capture both the company and the event type.

First generation alerts were fairly generic, difficult to setup, and were often poorly targeted.  Even if properly setup, they quickly became “alert SPAM” – messages that distracted the rep and rarely provided value.  Around 2003, I setup alerts on some of the major tech companies.  I forget whether they were setup in Yahoo! or Google, but they quickly became noise as they suffered from a series of problems:

  • The alerting service looked for any mention of a search string. Thus, I received baseball scores for the San Francisco Giants as they played at AT&T Park.  Microsoft was also hampered by a broad set of non-business-related mentions, particularly after they launched the Xbox.
  • Each company required a separate alert.
  • The alerts weren’t tied to my company research database (how quaint that sounds) so if there was a mention of a partner or executive, I had to login to the company database to perform additional research.
  • I only received alerts on companies that I had previously targeted. Thus, it failed to identify many companies not already on my radar.
  • For quoted companies (publics), alerts included a broad set of non-sales topics (e.g. stock price movements, analyst forecasts, dividends). Thus, golden stories around executive changes, new product launches, and expansion plans were buried amidst the dross of market ephemera.

Nowadays, sales triggers are tied into sales intelligence platforms such as Sparklane and visible from within your CRM or on your mobile device.  Users can view the triggers alongside company profiles and drill down to the details.  If there are other companies or executives mentioned in the story, they can click on a hyperlink to view the desired profile.  If a sales trigger represents an actionable lead, the company and executive information can be quickly uploaded into the CRM.

Instead of receiving many low precision alerts, a single daily email covering all companies is sent to the sales rep.  Furthermore, the sales rep does not need to setup the alerts and specify the search phrase; they simply follow the company and the sales intelligence vendor identifies stories related to the company and desired trigger topics.

Trigger Prospecting

Sales Triggers are also available as selection criteria within Build a List Prospecting.  Thus, reps can target executive changes at firms in their territory.  Reps no longer need to worry about targeting firms explicitly by name (of course, named account reps will define their territory as a list of companies) and can instead describe their ideal companies, executives, and event types.   This Ideal Company Profiling (ICP) is critical for Account Based Marketing (ABM).  Trigger-based prospecting also helps sales reps generate sales triggers for any company in their territory that meets the desired criteria; thus, reps can identify high-leverage leads at firms that aren’t yet on their radar.

While old fashioned alerts were useful, they lacked the precision and workflow integration of sales triggers.  Sales reps can now identify their own Glengarry leads and immediately research and build action plans around them.

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