We’ve all heard the statistics: anywhere between 60-80% of the B2B buying process is complete before the Sales team has become aware of a prospect. The customer has taken charge of the buying process, and the Sales team is missing out on valuable opportunities to influence prospects. But this doesn’t mean that outbound sales and marketing is dead—it means that sales and marketing teams need to be smarter in their outbound strategies.
One way to get ahead is to anticipate a prospect’s needs in advance, perhaps even before they’re aware of the need themselves. This allows your Sales team to engage far earlier in the process and guide the prospect’s buying decision. To do this, you must identify “key triggers” that result in a need for your product or service.
Key triggers will vary by industry, company, and your specific offerings. To identify relevant triggers for your business, consider: what drives a customer to require your product or service? For example, if your company sells accounting software for mid-sized businesses, a few scenarios that might cause a need for your product might include:
- Considerable company growth
- Purchasing a new facility in another country
- A merger or acquisition
- A new CFO joining the company.
Such scenarios would precede the company’s decision to search for a new accounting software package. Rather than wait for prospects to come to you, search for these triggering events to anticipate potential demand and reach out early.
In my experience, most business executives are aware of the key triggers that indicate a need for their offerings; however, fewer have invested in the tools or processes needed to track and act on these triggers. How do you create a trigger-based business development strategy?
- Invest in technology: Knowing your customers’ key triggers isn’t enough—you have to actively scan the market for these events and activities on an ongoing basis. Use tools such as Google Alerts, LinkedIn Alerts, M&A databases, and revenue trackers to watch for key triggers.
- Build integrated sales and marketing processes: Once triggers are indentified, they must be pursued—and this will require collaboration between Sales and Marketing teams to handle effectively. Create a collaborative plan for handling these prospects that can be put into action as soon as a key trigger is identified.
- Soften the pitch: While identifying triggers enables you to get your foot in the door early, it also requires a more delicate approach. Buyers are used to running the show and don’t take well to being “sold to” early in the process. Avoid overwhelming or turning off the prospect with an aggressive sales pitch.
While not all potential customers can be identified in this manner, knowing and searching the market for key triggers can provide an important competitive advantage. By acting proactively, companies can not only build better customer relationships early, but also get ahead of competing firms.