Midmarket companies and larger SMBs seem to fall into three camps: the ones who understand the power of social sales and actively work to build a plan of action, the ones who are coming around to this idea but not doing much yet, and those who are turning a blind eye and are missing a great window of opportunity.
When Google launched in 1998 none of us in professional selling had any idea how it might change the way the world of business-to-business selling worked. I can remember the first day I heard about the search engine – it was early 1999 and it seemed like a nice, helpful tool – not a world game-changer as it has become. The search engine changed everything, and so has the company.
Buyers now have such an advantage to learn about your products and services on their own time in their own ways. Buyers can get exhaustive research done and have the upper hand now in communication with sellers like us.
But before you get too depressed about the state of the power of buyers, think again – sellers have as much of a chance at research as our buyers do. Many of us just need to get a lot smarter about it.
How Many Sales Research Tools Are There?
There have never been more tools to allow you to search for insight about the contacts you’re speaking with and their company. Certainly in the hundreds, there are dozens of helpful tools for free and for fee which can teach you about the important things you need to know.
Learn about the company your prospective buyer works for.
What challenges and successes are there?
Currently what is the state of the company?
Are there any new executives? (new executives often equal opportunity)
Understand the industry your buyer is in, and who their customers are.
What is important to your buyer (both the person you are talking with and their company)
Next, learn insight to see if and how your products or services can help your buyer.
If you are convinced that they can, shared that with them. Find ways that differentiate you from others in your industry and sell against the dreaded state of “status quo”. Your “sales pitch” will be a value-added approach to helping solve a buyer issue.
Keep Track of Your Buyers
Create a list of prospective customers and track what they are talking about on LinkedIn, Twitter, and on their website. Use a social monitoring tool for efficiency. As you notice trends or learn more about them, you can be of more help to them.
Also set up alerts for key words in your industry, region, or sector. If I have prospects and customers in the banking industry, I’m going to track banks by name and if I have a geographic territory, by location.
Set up alerts for when executives leave your target companies and customer companies. Track where they go, and who took their place.
If you can set up a process and methodology to track these changes with potential buyers and existing clients, you are miles ahead of many in mid-sized companies. Initially it takes discipline but once it is set up you’ll see how great it works to give you an ongoing supply of prospects and topics to discuss with them.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.
Lori Richardson is recognized on Forbes as one of the "Top 30 Social Sales Influencers" worldwide. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside sales teams in mid-sized companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.