Sales research is an important part of the entire sales process. Sales research helps you to find the right prospects, book the initial meeting, and provides the insights needed to lead your prospect through the entire sales cycle. The results from sales research are “Sales Intelligence,” and applications that provide this information are called Sales Intelligence Tools.
- Salespeople run the risk of targeting the wrong prospects. A recent study showed that 50% of prospects in the pipeline are a bad fit.
- Salespeople have trouble booking meetings because their generic emails get lost in the sea of sameness.
- Salespeople aren’t prepared for discovery meetings, struggle to build trust, and to demonstrate value to their prospects. A slightly outdated study from 2013 (but still extremely relevant) shows that buyers believe less than a quarter of salespeople adequately prepare for discovery calls.
The following figure shows how B2B buyers see the level of preparedness from salespeople in discovery calls and the best approach for solving each problem.
Figure 1. Insights from B2B buyers on salesperson preparedness.
Today, sales research is more important than ever. Buyers dissatisfied with the lack of preparation from salespeople. And, the growing adoption of sales automation tools means that buyers receive more emails and phone calls than ever, much of which isn’t relevant. Meeting prep, which consists mostly of research, sets the foundation for a successful sales process.
Types of Sales Research
As discussed above, sales research impacts the entire sales cycle. It encompasses 3 core activities, as shown in the following figure.
Figure 2. Types of sales research.
Phase 1 – Who is your prospect?
Here you need to research the best companies and people to prospect. To be successful you first need to understand your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) – what types of companies most often have the problem you can solve and are the best fit for your solution. You also need to understand your Buyer Personas – which people inside of your ICP are the right people to contact. Once you understand your ICP and Buyer Personas, there are a bunch of sources for finding specific companies and people that fit. The most common place to look is LinkedIn.
Phase 2 – How do I contact my prospect?
Here you look for the right contact information (email, phone, etc.) so you can reach out and contact your prospect. With the shift to remote work, addresses and work phone numbers have become less important, and cell phone numbers (for calls and texting) have become the key information required, along with valid email addresses. Once again, there are many sources for this kind of information, with some of the most popular being ZoomInfo, Seamless.ai and Infotelligent.
Phase 3 – Why should I contact my prospect?
This final phase is the most nebulous and most often overlooked part of the sales research process. Here you are looking to understand key insights about your prospect that will help you book a meeting, lead a successful discovery call, build trust to become a trusted advisor and to improve sales metrics. LinkedIn is a major source for this kind of information, but this is where most people stop and only focusing here leaves a lot of the key insights uncovered. Other useful places to look are job openings, company website (blogs and press releases), news articles, financial reports for public companies, funding rounds for private companies and other social media sites such as Twitter. These insights are scattered across the web and comprehensive Phase 3 research should be gathered from multiple sources.
The Sales Research Challenge
Unfortunately, while Phase 3 is extremely important, it can also be time consuming and often the best insights are overlooked. CheetahIQ aggregates data from over ten sources across the web, displaying all the key insights in a single location. This can save up to 6 (or more) hours per week that can be spent on other sales activities. And, with these insights at your fingertips, you will be more prepared for discovery calls, able to become a trusted advisor more quickly as well as improve your overall sales metrics.