The traditional sales practice in B2B is becoming less and less effective. This is a direct result of shifts in the sales model from push to pull, partly due to the fact that more and more information is available online. The role of the B2B seller is changing rapidly and is also threatening it in its very existence. Forrester research indicates that in the US alone, 1 million B2B salespeople will become redundant in the next 3 years. The shift to online is massive: 70 percent of purchase orientation is done online and the online share of purchases is growing rapidly.
The added value of sales no longer lies in 'selling'. In fact, creating or expanding business relationships isn't about selling – it's about building trust, relationships, and creating value without selling.
Customers have changed and their knowledge level and insights have improved. Sales people are only allowed to join on the condition that they add value and knowledge and therefore know the customer and his problems well. Focusing on the customer is also called Account Based Marketing or Account Based Sales, and is one of the major B2B sales trends of the moment.
So, today's salespeople need to know everything about the customer's industry, know their specific business issues, as well as individual stakeholders, and provide a unique insight based on this. Broadly speaking, sales intelligence contains all the information that can be useful to improve sales effectiveness.
Sales intelligence helps salespeople spend more time selling and less time looking for information and tracking data. In addition, it makes lead generation and lead nurturing more effective.
The advantage of Sales Intelligence
A report from the Aberdeen Group entitled 'What B2B Sellers Need to Know Before the Call’ gives some compelling reasons why sales intelligence makes it easier to close the deal.
Aberdeen: trigger events
Aberdeen speaks her research about 'trigger events'. Trigger events are a sub-set of the sales intelligence space. They are real-time changes in the social, economic or business environment that can have an immediate impact on marketing, sales and service interactions.
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A sales trigger is an event that you can use to contact a customer or prospect. The book Shift, by Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto describes in an excellent way how Trigger Events work and what you can do with them to turn 'Prospects' into 'Customers'.
Sales Triggers: the right conversation at the right time
As a sales manager, you want to ensure that your team is a good and valuable discussion partner for your customers. You want to find opportunities in the market and continue to score with known and new customers. You can't afford to be surprised by changing circumstances, such as takeovers or a change within the DMU, which suddenly leaves you sidelined. How do you do that when there is so little time and so much information?
Sales triggers ensure that a sales department is aware of what is going on with customers and prospects. The information can come from various sources, from the trade register and the news, to social media and industry information. They are an opportunity, a hook to make contact with a new customer or to stay in touch with a trusted customer.
Different types of sales triggers also require different responses. There are real 'deal breakers' that demand immediate attention, triggers that give you a reason to get in touch and information that is simply good to know. Nice to know vs Need to know. Any events that can put a strain on your current relationship are deal breakers.
5 steps to a good use of sales triggers
Step 1: determine
You take the first step by determining what the important sales triggers are for you. Look at your existing customers and think about what would be a reason to contact them. Are there events on LinkedIn that you can respond to? Are there keywords or hashtags you can use to search the internet and social media?
Step 2: monitor
If you know what your sales triggers are, you can look for them. You can search yourself or, for example, use Google Alerts. You can also keep an eye on all your customers' websites and follow their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. You can log in to the Trade Register and find out what happened based on your customer's Chamber of Commerce number. This sounds cumbersome and it is. There is so much information. How do you make sure that you don't miss anything, but at the same time don't get overwhelmed with useless information? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? By using a system that monitors the news and social media for you and that automatically notifies you as soon as a sales trigger occurs.
Step 3: respond
As soon as you have found – or had them found – your sales triggers, you can take action. Use a standard approach for this. Sometimes that is a reply to a tweet, other times it is a well-chosen email.
In any case, you have a reason to contact us. It is then important to help your customer and not to make an appointment at all costs. It's about showing commitment, not about forcing something.
Step 4: Analyze
Measure what's happening. Which emails work, which sales triggers are most profitable? See what works, what doesn't and adjust your approach accordingly.
Step 5: follow up
Provide follow-up & lead nurturing. A conversion will (almost) never take place immediately. You have to make sure you keep the customer. Keep your contact warm by learning from the interests and respond to them with the right information. By using sales triggers you can get started step by step. You know what is going on with customers and prospects, you discover sales opportunities and you can take targeted action.
Sales Triggers work
Coming back to the Aberdeen investigation: This shows that 63% of the Best-in-Class companies are currently using or implementing formal trigger event tools – notifications, RSS feeds, alerts, posting/tagging updates and the like. The average was 52% and among the worst performing companies, only 45% used such tools. With this, the use of the trigger events directly correlates with better business results. this image is reinforced when users are compared with non-users. In the figure below we see that increased customer loyalty, better sales forecasting, and a higher percentage of individual sales success directly coincide with the use of sales triggers.
As mentioned, the added value of sales no longer lies in 'selling'. Creating or expanding business relationships is about building trust, relationships and creating value without selling. Sales Intelligence is very important in this regard. The right knowledge at the right time is also known as a Sales Trigger. Such trigger events are essential for a successful Account Based Marketing and Account Based Selling program.