The Internet has seriously upended the relationship between B2B buyers and sellers. A dozen years ago, buyers were much less informed about your company, products, and competitors than they are now. Back then, social media was in its infancy and it was much more difficult to collect vendor information than it is today. There was time for sales reps to engage their prospects in Solution Selling “discovery sessions” because buyers only had a limited grasp on what a potential solution would look like. In many cases, prospects were looking to vendors to assist with problem diagnosis. The seller drove the purchasing process.
According to research performed by the Corporate Executive Board a few years ago, 57% of the purchasing decision is now completed before the purchaser contacts any vendors. Purchasers have quietly collected intelligence from websites, white papers, industry analysts, social media, and peers.
What is the secret of successful sales reps?
So how does a sales rep get ahead of this trend and not passively wait for their demand gen group to pass them a few good leads? One way is to leverage the information bazaar that is the Internet and identify companies that are more likely to be considering solutions like yours. In a 2012 Harvard Business Review article titled “The End of Solution Sales,” Adamson, Dixon, and Toman identify the traits of successful sales reps in this new era of the informed buyer. Successful reps:
- Evaluate prospects according to criteria different from those used by other reps, targeting agile organizations in a state of flux rather than ones with a clear understanding of their needs ;
- Seek out a very different set of stakeholders, preferring skeptical change agents over friendly informants ;
- Coach those change agents on how to buy, instead of quizzing them about their company’s purchasing process.
It is the first bullet where sales reps apply trigger events. By identifying firms that are “in a state of flux,” successful sales reps are targeting companies when they are most open to considering new ideas. With trigger selling, the goal is to be the first person calling into an account when they are amenable to new processes and products. Furthermore, sales reps are using a hook that demonstrates they have performed at least a minimum level of research before calling a prospect or emailing a decision maker.
It’s all about timing!
It is this ability to time your calls and provide a quick understanding of the prospect which greatly improves your outcomes. Furthermore, sales triggers provide multiple benefits beyond call timing:
- Warm up Call – By providing an account or contact specific hook, the sales rep is signalling that she has invested time in researching the company and contact. This improves the likelihood that the prospect will grant you an audience.
- Relaxation – The sales rep is more likely to be relaxed when calling into the account. Cold calling is stressful for most sales reps. Simply by warming up the call and providing an opening hook, the sales rep is more likely to be relaxed. Likewise, being relaxed is more likely to be perceived as professionalism.
- Prioritization – Sales triggers are available to competitors as well. A hot trigger should be acted on immediately. Otherwise, competitors or sales reps with other offerings will have already made their calls. Once a few other reps have called into a prospect, he or she is much less likely to take a call. The maxim “he who hesitates is lost” holds true for sales trigger calls.
- Contacts – Sales triggers often include a few contact names. These are often C-level execs at the firm, but the trigger could also include product managers, marketing directors, or the heads of business development.
Track your customers!
Current account trigger events can also be used to facilitate the relationship with a customer or prospect as well as to adjust pipeline forecasts. Benefits to tracking customers include:
- Reason to Call – A sales trigger provides a reason to check in on current customers and prospects. It could be a simple congratulatory note or a phone call to discuss the implications of the announcement. Often these impromptu conversations can result in quick status updates. They also keep your company top of mind without being intrusive. Whether a short message or a full conversation, event-triggered check ins signal your continuing engagement with their firm.
- Impact to Pipeline – A trigger event may have a direct impact to your pipeline. A change in a C-level executive could slow down a deal or portend a change in strategy. Likewise, a venture round may expedite investment activity at a firm resulting in an improvement in the deal forecast.
- Impact to Renewal – A company which is growing rapidly is a good prospect for increased spend while a company with negative triggers or the departure of buying committee members could be at risk.
- Pre-Call Status – Triggers provide a quick review of events at a company prior to scheduled calls.
Quick Case Study
Consider the value of the following sales trigger:
This growth trigger signals the potential need for executive recruitment services, equipment, financial services, employee benefits, etc. It also indicates that the company is doing well and committed to staying in the region. Linking from the trigger to the full article provides additional information about First Utility Limited:
- It has grown from 70 employees in 2008 to 1,500 today;
- It has increased its customer base to one million households;
- It is committed to its offices in Coventry (600 employees rising to 170) and Leamington Spa because of the level of education in the region and the “driven and committed workforce”.
- According to the CEO, customers sign up with First Utility as households realise they are overpaying for electricity.
Think about how much different a warm call is knowing the above information. A cold call would probably be ignored, but a warm call congratulating them on their growth or commitment to the area is much more likely to start a relationship. Likewise, if your company has a low-price strategy or is growing rapidly, you can emphasize the similarities between your firms.
If First Utility is a current client (congratulations), then the trigger provides a positive reason to discuss expanding the products and services you provide them.
Triggers are an important tool for sales reps to catch up with the informed buyer. If purchasing departments and buyers are leveraging information to gain advantage over sellers, sales reps should also look for an information advantage. Triggers provide a reason to call into a company when it is more likely to be open to new ideas, processes, and vendors.