The Art of Sales Research: how to do it well and how AI can help?
Most sellers spend hours every week researching their accounts, leads, or contacts. What to search for? Where to look? What to do with all that information? Doing the proper research gives sellers an edge to close deals. In this blog, we're giving you tips on researching like a true mastermind!
The information-driven economy
Salespeople are fundamentally knowledge workers. They are responsible for acquiring and applying knowledge to make informed decisions and recommendations in the context of a selling process. They need a deep understanding of their product, their customer's businesses and their industry to effectively sell.
They must constantly stay up-to-date on market trends, new technologies, and customer needs. Hence, one of their main responsibility is to conduct research. It can be leveraged:
To personalize your messaging before you send a prospect an email or cold call them
To understand the latest news about a company you're actively trying to sell to
To identify a trigger event for an account
To re-engage with an account that went silent
To build rapport and have 🔥 small talk at the beginning of a demo
In today's information-driven economy, salespeople who can effectively gather, analyze, and apply knowledge are the ones who will succeed. In fact, according to a study by HubSpot, salespeople who do their research are 70% more likely to achieve their quota and 82% more likely to exceed it.
Samantha McKenna, founder of #Samsales Consulting pioneered the SMYKM concept ('Show Me You Know Me'). According to her framework, doing proper research on your prospect will not only help you better understand their needs and tailor your pitch accordingly, but it will also show them that you're invested in their success and willing to go the extra mile.
What to look out for?
With that in mind, let's dive into six different types of information you should be researching before your next big customer call:
1. Industry Trends
One of the most important things you can do before a sales call is to research current trends in your potential customer's industry. This can help you better understand their pain points and challenges, as well as provide insights into how your product or service can help them succeed. For example, if you're selling a marketing automation tool to a company in the retail industry, you might want to research current trends in e-commerce and customer behavior. This information can help you tailor your pitch to their specific needs and make a stronger case for your product.
Sources of information: industry publications, conferences, and analyst reports.
2. Company Culture
Another important factor to consider when researching a potential customer is their company culture. This includes things like their mission statement, values, and work environment. Understanding a company's culture can help you better connect with your customer on a personal level and build rapport. For example, if you're selling a team collaboration tool to a company that values transparency and open communication, you might want to highlight how your product can help facilitate these values.
Sources of information: Company websites, compnay social media profiles, and Glassdoor reviews.
3. Decision Makers
Knowing who the decision makers are within a potential customer's organization is critical to closing a deal. Before your sales call, make sure you research who the key decision makers are, their roles within the company, and their past experiences. This information can help you tailor your pitch to their needs and concerns and also help you understand the decision-making process. For example, if you're selling a project management tool to a company, you'll want to know who the project manager is and what their pain points are to better sell your solution.
Sources of information: LinkedIn profiles, company websites, and industry conferences, attendees at a company webinar
Understanding your potential customer's competition is another key aspect of account research. This can help you better grasp their market position, their strengths and weaknesses, and how your product or service can differentiate itself from competitors. For example, if you're selling a CRM tool to a company in a highly competitive market, you might want to research what their competitors are using and highlight how your product is different or better.
Sources of information: industry publications, analyst reports, peer review websites (i.e., G2, Capterra, Gartner), and competitor websites.
5. Company Financials
Understanding a company's financials can help you better understand their priorities and goals, as well as provide insights into their budget and purchasing decisions. For example, if you're selling a software solution to a company that has recently received a round of funding, they may have more budget available to invest in new tools and technologies.
Sources of information: annual reports, financial news, financial data (i.e., Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance) and company websites.
6. Company Compelling Events
Finally, understanding significant changes that happen within a company helps to identify an immediate need for a solution. This can include things like a merger, acquisition, new product launch, or leadership change. Understanding these events can help you position your product or service as a solution to their problem.
Sources of information: press releases, news articles, and company websites.
Hold on a minute... it's not that easy
Thinking research is a piece of cake? Think again. It's easier said than done, as the devil lies in the details. Get ready for a reality check. Here are 3 main hurdles most sellers face:
Volume of information From internal to external data sources, sellers are overwhelmed with information and data sources pointing them in different directions. It becomes extremely time-consuming to comb through it and identify the sources that are trustworthy and that have the information you're looking for.
Accuracy & reliability There is nothing worst than making a decision based on inaccurate information. Decisions have to be made on the best available information. Hence, evaluating the accuracy and credibility of the information collected must be done carefully to avoid errors and misleading results. On top of that, identifying reliable information is even harder when dealing with a rapidly changing business environment.
Making sense of it Information without a conclusion is a bit useful. Salespeople must be able to synthesize the information they gather, meaning they must be able to connect the dots and identify patterns in the information. It will help them to first get an understanding of the prospect's business/needs and then, identify the appropriate action to take.
How to go about it?
Taking a structured approach to research is key in order to do it efficiently and effectively. Here are a few tips:
Consolidate: Pull information from various relevant data sources based on the information you are looking for
Structure: Organize the gathered information in a structured indexable framework, so you can easily refer to it.
Synthesize: Extract the essence of the information for each category. Highlight the 1-2 key take-aways, so it's most easily digestible.
Analyze: Draw one or multiple conclusions when you look at the information holistically. This step will vary based on the underlying question you are solving.
These 4 steps will ultimately guide you toward making more information-driven decisions on your pipeline and taking the best actions to close deals.
How can technology help?
Doing all of this research can become extremely time-consuming. On top of all their 100 other tasks, the average salesperson can spend hours every week on research... that's time they don't spend on revenue-generating activities.
This problem represents a perfect use case for the newest AI technology: large language models (LLMs).
These models have been popularized under the 'generative AI' term and by applications such as ChatGPT. They have the ability to ingest large volumes of information (i.e., text, video, image, code) and make it incredibly easy (and intuitive) for users to synthesize it using plain English queries (otherwise called prompts).
Tools like Pod embed this new generative AI technology directly into sellers' workflows. It helps to streamline the research process by
Pulling information from a variety of different sources directly in Pod
Synthesize it using LLMs
Make it more easily accessible
Recommend actions based on the information (e.g., email generation, CRM update, best next steps, etc.)
LLMs are transformational. It's only the beginning.