Sales intelligence goes from “what” to “how”
By Matthew Schwartz
When sales execs end a telephone conversation with a prospect by saying, “Let me get back to you on that,” they may as well hang it up right there. The phrase betrays a lack of preparation that buyers won’t suffer for a second (particularly during a prolonged recession).
“You’re taking the chance that [the prospect’s] boss walks into his office and asks, ‘Hey, you made any progress on this?’ and the prospect has to say, ‘Well, I’m waiting for someone to get back to me,’” said Jim Dickie, managing director of CSO Insights and co-author of the company’s 2009 study on Sales Performance Optimization.
He added: “Now the boss says, ‘Well, move on to something else.’ So when the sales exec does call back, the buyer’s priorities have been reset because [the seller] didn’t create a sense of urgency when he had the opportunity.”
To avoid that scenario, sales execs need to be armed with knowledge and information before they pick up the telephone. Half of the battle, of course, is locating basic information about companies and prospects, and on that front sales execs are getting better.
But sales execs’ ability to properly access information for prospecting still needs improvement, the study said. To wit, more than 70% of sales managers said accessing sales knowledge about competitive information required “some hunting” or “significant hunting” to find, according to the study. Nearly 55% of respondents said obtaining sales knowledge about customer references and case studies required some hunting or significant hunting. The study, which took the pulse of 1,800 senior sales executives, also found that 51% required hunting or significant hunting to find details about past customer purchases.
“It’s not that they don’t have access to knowledge, they have access to too much knowledge,” Dickie said, referring to the information overload sales executives face when accessing the Web. “[Sales execs] need to separate data from knowledge and knowledge from insights if they are going to demonstrate to potential buyers that they really help them solve problems.”
Indeed, the study found a correlation between finding information and landing a deal. Firms with easier access to information require fewer calls to close the average deal. They also report more accurate deal forecast ability, lose fewer deals to competitors and have fewer cycles end in no decision.
The report stressed that while sales reps have a better grip on the “what” in researching information – what is the size of the company, for example – the knowledge that is now most pressing revolves around how-to questions: How do I create advantage over our competition? How do I gain access to the C-suite? How do I respond when the customer said our price is too high?