At this point, buyers have really high expectations from brands. They don’t care about your product. Instead, they want to hear how you can help them solve their problems.
B2B Marketing and Sales leaders recognize that there’s an opportunity to make better use of data out there on the web to identify the right prospects and create more personalized and relevant experiences for them.
Yet, most organizations are struggling to turn the mountain of data into customer insights. Many business teams – especially SDRs who are at the front line with prospects – are held back by the amount of time they have to spend doing research to gain the insights they need to personalize their outreach and have engaging conversations.
In many cases, SDR teams are spending way more time doing manual research and data entry than on selling. But with the rapid pace of innovations in data mining, sales development teams can now use scalable solutions to access actionable, real-time insights on the companies they sell to.
In this post, I’ll outline the top places you can go to learn about your customers. Then, I’ll highlight a few solutions that help you automate the research process and identify key buying signals.
First, let’s just take a quick look at the best places to research buyers before a sales conversation.
Every rep gets the value of LinkedIn, but it takes a while just going through the different sections of one person’s profile. You should look at:
- A prospect’s current job description to get a sense of their domain and primary responsibilities.
- Their past jobs to get a sense of their background and areas of expertise.
- Their recent activity to see what your prospect has recently shared and where.
- Their recent activity to get a sense of the topics this person is interested in.
- Shared or mutual connections between herself and the prospect.
- The groups the prospect has joined to see what’s being talked about.
2. The prospect’s Twitter account
This can help you get a sense of what they’re interested in. Take a look at what articles they retweet, which influencers they are engaging with, and which events they’ve spoken at. Go back through their feed to see if there are any notable trends in their interests and what they’re hoping to learn.
If this person has asked questions on Quora related to her company, you’ll get a sense of what they are hoping to learn and some challenges her company is currently facing. Even if they haven’t asked any questions, you can get a sense of what they care about based on whom they follow and topics they follow.
4. The target company’s LinkedIn and Twitter profiles
The company descriptions and recent updates will give you a sense of how the company presents itself to its prospects and customers. This will help you understand how to present yourself to your buyer.
5. The News or Press sections of the company’s website
Take a look at what’s going on recently. Perhaps they just opened a new office or made a new executive hire in the department you sell into – these are signals that they are experiencing growth and may be in-market to evaluate your solutions.
Google your prospect to find blog posts they’ve written, articles that mention them and conferences they’ve spoken at. If you find an article that features them in an interview, you may be able to get insights into key initiatives they are heading up and pain point they are looking to solve. You could reach out to them and reference their own words in your message.
7. Your Marketing Automation Platform
Look in your marketing automation system to get a sense of how much this person knows about your company. Your marketing automation system stores data on which of your website pages a prospect has visited and any emails they opened and clicked on. Seeing what sort of content the prospect has engaged with on your website will let you know how knowledgeable they are about your company and product. Use this information to tailor your approach to their current stage in the buying process.
8. Your CRM System
Look into your CRM to check if another member of your sales team has reached to this prospect in the past and what happened then.
Glassdoor will tell you which positions the company is hiring for. If they are looking for new employees in a department or business unit related to your product, that is a sign that the company is clearly investing in that area of their business.
10. Angelist, CrunchBase and PitchBook
These databases are useful for understanding your prospect’s funding rounds, investors, team members, news, competitors, customers, partners, sub-organizations, board members and advisers, and other related details.
Although these places all provide useful insights on your target prospects and accounts, it would take forever for an SDR to manually go through all these places, take notes, synthesize the data to craft the perfect intro email!
Tools that are help you gather customer insights at scale
At this point, there’s a range of tools that automatically crawl public websites and social networks and uses algorithms and techniques like Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning to put useful, contextual information about companies and prospects in front of reps. Here are some of the emerging solutions.
DataFox delivers account-level buying intelligence gathered from over 1,000 news sources to help reps gain key insights needed to engage prospects. DataFox analyzes news articles, financial filings and public pages on social networks to provide buying signals such as when a company makes a key executive hire, opens a new office, receives a round of funding, or launches a new product – all in one place.
A rep can set up a list of accounts to track and get a daily summary of key news from these accounts delivered right to their inbox. Datafox can also provide alerts into Slack or deliver their data into other applications through its signals API.
DataFox has gained traction with fast-growing technology companies and financial services companies. As their customer Twilio has said: “Our outbound reps used to spend over half their data on research and data input. With DataFox, our reps spend more time actually calling prospects, with personalized messages that open doors to valuable conversations.”
Knowing which technology your prospects use can help you personalize your messaging and make sure your pitch resonates. With Datanyze, you can take a snapshot of your prospects’ technology choices everyday.
Datanyze can alert you when a key account has added or dropped a competitive or complementary solution so you can reach out right away. They also offer a free Chrome Extension that you can click on while on a prospect’s website to see which tools they are current using.
Socedo analyzes millions of Tweets every hour to help B2B marketers and salespeople identify the prospects who are showing interest in their product category.
You can put things like your your key competitors, partners, influencers in your space, and the conferences your target audience would attend into Socedo. Then, whenever a prospect you care about does something on Twitter that’s relevant to your business (e.g. they just Tweeted about going to an upcoming event your marketing team is sponsoring), Socedo will push this data into your marketing automation platform.
In your marketing automation platform, your Marketing Ops person can choose which relevant signals to sync into Salesforce, so that SDRs and sales reps can access this information natively in Salesforce. Below is a Marketo Sales Insights widget that sits in Salesforce that features a timeline of a target prospect’s activities.
Alternately, marketing can set up an email campaign to alert sales reps to certain activities from prospects in their pipeline as soon as certain activities happen.
Here at Socedo, our SDR team has found real-time, email alerts particularly helpful, because they remind an SDR to reach out to a prospect sooner. Below is an example of an alert email our SDR – Jesse – received:
After receiving this sort of alert, our SDR – Jesse – knows that he has a reason to reach out: he can congratulate Kelly on Brightcove’s award nomination and lightly remind her about how our solution can help her achieve her goals.
Disclosure, Demandbase is a Socedo customer.
Demandbase provides contextual information on target accounts and contacts to help SDRs reach out with personalized messaging. These insights are delivered within a comprehensive Account-Based Marketing platform that automatically surfaces in-market accounts and contacts based on your ideal customer profile.
To start, you would fill out a questionnaire for each product you sell. You would enter your target job titles, the key topics your target audience cares about, your existing customers and competitors.
Then, Demandbase uses Artificial Intelligence to automatically serve up a list of recommended target accounts, the summary stats on each company, contact info for key decision-makers, and the intent signals that explain why a certain account and particular contacts are recommended.
I watched a demo on how Demandbase’s own SDR team is using their platform for prospecting and I was impressed with the way they’ve organized the data they have on each account.
In this screenshot, their AI engine has recommended Silver Peak as a company to contact, based on Silver Peak’s activities on Demandbase’s own website around topics Demandbase cares about – like “content personalization” and “website personalization”.
In the platform, a rep can drill deeper and see which pages of Demandbase’s website Silver Peak employees have visited. Looking at the list webpages gives a rep insights into why Silver Peak is interested in Demandbase.
For Silver Peak, one can also see a list of recommended contacts. The interesting thing here is that next to each contact, there’s a list of recommended talking points based on the person’s activities on the web, including recent articles that quote the prospect and blog posts they’ve written about.
For each contact, Demandbase surfaces her recent documents that match the topics the rep cares about. It’s easy for a rep to click on an article, read it and get a better understanding of this prospect’s priorities and pain points.
One of the biggest values Demandbase brings to the table is that they’ve done a good job of pulling relevant information from the corners of the web into one place for SDRs to digest. Their user experience reflects an understanding of how SDRs do manual research.
Owler is a free, crowdsource business insights platform that sales reps and business development professionals use to stay on top of the companies they care about. You can use Owler to quickly understand a prospect’s company and their competitors.
Once you enter a company into its web platform’s search box, Owler pulls up a page featuring key facts about the company, including their estimated revenue, funding situation, employee count, competition and how a target company is being mentioned in the news.
You can also subscribe to receive email snapshots on companies you care about. Unlike other tools mentioned in this list, Owler is free because the data they have is all crowdsourced.
One caveat: some information, like the set of competitors, is not accurate. I searched for Socedo and noticed that most of the companies listed as our competitors aren’t companies we usually compete with.
At this point, it’s easier than ever before to get access to external intent data – which can help SDR and Marketing teams reach the right prospects, at the right time.
If you’re looking for more guidance on how to build out cadences for your SDR team, you can check out Socedo’s playbook in the post How SDR Teams Can Use Nurture Sequences and Contextual Data.
How are you doing the research to prepare for sales conversations? Do you have any favorite tools that help you stay on top of clients you care about?