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Rich Lucia remembers when swagger and simply being there were all salespeople needed to succeed. The consultant and speaker, who held sales positions at IBM and Exxon Mobil Corp., lived through a time when salespeople knew more about their products than anyone else did.
Today, technology buyers get free information from corporate websites and news outlets as well as from colleagues and social media. Survey data from Google and research outfit The CEB indicates that customers typically are 57% of the way through the sales process before reps even communicate with them.
To survive in this climate, sales teams need tools such as sales management software to target prospects more accurately before reaching out to them.
Docurated, which sells content retrieval systems that help sales reps search across multiple data repositories, uses LinkedIn to target prospective customers and monitors Twitter to learn about their interests and any content they may have published. But it's hard for sales reps to master the language of a particular industry so they can tailor pitches. Meredith Bell, Docurated's vice president of sales, said the company uses its own platform to "match insights that we get about people with the way we communicate," and then suggests the best ways to talk to a prospect.
"The hardest thing is keeping on top of changes," Bell said. "People come and go from companies a lot, so we're trying to anticipate what companies are looking for and need right now."
Salespeople have to be proactive in data collection and personalize it to help them in sales meetings with educated buyers, Lucia said. Knowing a prospect's profile cold and anticipating his wants and needs during a sales meeting is the goal, so the company's data collection strategy has to be set up to give the rep what he needs.
RampRate, an advisory company for IT infrastructure, cloud services and hardware, needs to identify a company's IT budget and principal buying decision makers before it connects with potential customers.
To help sales reps in the field, the company relies on Salesforce.com’s customer relationship management system and an assortment of other sales management software, including Nuiku, mobile virtual sales coaching software that gives the reps real-time information about an account.
RampRate CEO Tony Greenberg said his salespeople could spend up to 50 hours researching and vetting prospect data before a call is placed. Much of the data RampRate needs is unavailable online, so the company combines data from "champions," or lead sources who provide a list of relationships and referrals, with third-party data to single out whom to sell to.
"You have to be ignorant to not know everything about a client before you call them," Greenberg said.
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