This post is in reply to a comment left by Louis Gudema on my last post. If you haven’t checked out Louis’ blog, you should. He’s writing some excellent stuff about modern sales and marketing over there.
As timing would have it, Louis just updated me that he has a new (free 83-page) ebook out of interviews with sales and marketing leaders. I took a quick look and I recommend you grab a copy. (Oh, I’m it, hopefully that’s a plus.)
Louis asked about the usefulness of Sales 2.0 tools, like Sweetspot, the tool I wrote about in my last post, to highlight trigger events when not all trigger events are public information.
The way I see it is trigger events are nearly always useful to your selling because they are changes in your buyer’s environment that can create instability and that instability can create a need that your product or service can address. Without a trigger event it’s very likely your biggest competitor will win–status quo (aka “do nothing”.)
But Louis is right trigger events come in two “flavors”: “Observable” and “unobservable” (I made up these labels in case you prefer different ones–I won’t be offended). That is those that are observable from outside the company (i.e. public) and those that are not.
Observable Trigger Events
Examples of “observable” trigger events are events like senior management changes (like a new CEO), some merger or acquisition activity, company growth or new funding (such as VC funding).
These items tend to be announced, particularly for publicly-listed companies, as it’s the law in many cases and these companies are constantly being followed by Wall Street analysts who ply their trade from this information.
You get these from Sales 2.0 tools
This information that is in the public domain is the stuff you tend to get from Sales 2.0 tools like Sweetspot or Insideview or Owler. These tools in general (caveat on Owler as they are working to generate some of their own information as time goes on) are adding value by processing the “fire hose” of public information out there; filtering it for you; customizing it to your target account needs and then presenting it in an easy to digest way to you the frantic salesperson.
This way you can get what you need in the way of trigger event information at the beginning of your day before your Starbucks has had a chance to cool down. I’d argue in the real world this is quite valuable.
Unobservable Trigger Events
But the publicly observable trigger events are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more “unobservable” (from the outside) trigger events popping up every day at most of your target accounts.
Unfortunately as these trigger events are not public information you will need to work harder to get this information. It won’t come to you in one neat dashboard or email every morning.
These unobservable trigger events are items like: which projects are getting funded, which projects are not getting funded or are getting cancelled. Middle management changes that don’t make the news or the company doesn’t particularly want to promote, such as who’s being let go and who’s taking their place.
But these sort of trigger events can be even more important to your selling than the public ones, for example if the person leaving or arriving runs the area that your product serves, you really do want to know about that.
You need an “informational interview”
When you’re job hunting career coaches tell you to set up “informational interviews”. An “informational interview” is not a job interview it’s a meeting with someone in the firm but not the hiring manager. In this meeting you ask background questions about the company so you are fully informed when you finally do get an official job interview.
There really is not much difference between job hunting and selling a product or service. When you’re job hunting you’re just selling the product called “you”.
When you’re selling to a key target account and you want to know about those “unobservable” trigger events, the way to find out is set up some “informational interviews” with people at your target accounts.
You need a coach
Actually the person you meet for an “informational interview” does not even have to work at your target account. They simply need to know what’s going on there and they need to trust you enough to share the information with you. This is in fact the exact definition of a “coach” as created by Miller Heiman in their book Strategic Selling.
Your “coach” can be a salesperson in a non-competitive firm that has sold to your target account for years and now is “embedded” in that firm so they know the scoop on a lot of the politics there. It could be a friend who works at the firm, but not necessarily in your target department, or analyst that follows the firm, or a consultant, or IT person that maintains their systems etc. Each person that can “coach” you can help you find those “unobservable” trigger events that could be “gold” for your approach to that account.
Only worth it for your top accounts
Of course “informational interviews” like this take a bunch of time so it’s not worth doing this for all your accounts. For many accounts, the “observable trigger events” served up by Sweetspot or Owler or Insideview will be plenty.
But if you have a few big “whales” you really want to land then “informational Interviews” to find “unobservable trigger events” could be your ticket to a big sale.
I hope this answers the first part of your question Louis!