When attempting to sell a technology solution to a targeted account it’s clearly imperative to know who has responsibility for the system, process or application that you are trying to support or replace. Spending sales time to investigate the right contacts can work if you have an existing relationship with someone in each of your target accounts. Someone who can help you navigate their own organization. But if you are targeting new accounts, your first consideration will typically be to buy a database of appropriately titled contacts, to give you a place to start.
The challenge is that there’s no way that the contact database vendor can classify all of the possible roles each contact on the list might have. The database should provide contact titles, but titles can be misleading and often do not match purchase decision authority. Not only are there thousands of different role possibilities, there is no easy way to identify which person, or title, has which responsibility unless you build a custom list. And the truth is, responsibilities change more quickly than contact details.
Not surprisingly then, many processes that could benefit from an understanding of who has what role, are left having to rely simply on titles. It happens frequently in job searches. Often hiring companies, faced with a glut of applications, will only consider candidates who have held the exact same job (determined by title) as the one they are trying to fill, regardless of a candidates qualifications. It also happens in selling when sales people are required to engage with a specific set of titles in their target accounts. On initial consideration, you may think that it doesn’t matter. You call the Director of Infrastructure Management and, it turns out, he’s not the right person. You ask him who is. Problem solved! The reality is that to actually engage someone in a business conversation today requires that you communicate via email and voicemail first. If the benefit you are offering doesn’t resonate with that person, you may never get to engage with them or anyone else in that company.
Another approach is to always target the C-suite. After all, they do have ultimate responsibility for deciding on all budgets and purchasing decisions. Of course, the reality here is that even when they are required to sign-off on purchases because of the contract size, they rarely make decisions alone. In fact, when economic conditions worsen the size of buying committees typically increases.
Indeed, unless you have an existing relationship, getting access to the C-suite can be far harder. Plus with more and more of the purchase process being undertaken online, engaging prospects at an early stage is vital if you want to influence the purchase process and steer it towards your own solution. That requires marketing to get involved and it’s important for both sales and marketing to be aligned around who the target decision makers are and what roles, responsibilities and characteristics they have.
Gaining online visibility, and then access, depends on having highly relevant messaging. Focus messaging on the wrong titles and not only does efficiency dip but also the opportunity to demonstrate the value add of your solution. Arriving late to the party means joining in during the competitive bidding stage – think low margin. Arrive early and you can help set the purchase criteria in your favour and increase the perceived value of your solution – driving up average order sizes and increasing profitability.
So where do you acquire a database containing the contact details of those with the most appropriate roles and responsibilities? In the case of IT solutions, install-base lists which include details of current applications and technologies installed along with demographics and contact details, can prove quite valuable and offer a place to start. But this is where we circle back to our original note of caution – the limited value of titles alone. One look at such a list will convey how varied titles can be between companies, and how challenging it is to determine what roles and responsibilities are covered by these numerous titles.
Augmenting your contact list with role and responsibility information derived from solid research and marketing intelligence can provide the information needed for better targeting and sales engagement. The shape of the research should follow two paths: first, broaden the scope to include the varied positions which encompass the roles and responsibilities you’re targeting, then use an experienced third party to phone verify the right contacts. Lastly validate the information by researching the details of contacts’ roles by asking about the specific challenges they have that depend on their role. Understanding the challenges is key to engaging them in timely and relevant conversations and to bringing value to your prospect during the sales process.
In addition to creating a custom built phone confirmed database, prospect surveys can prove a powerful tool in gaining such intelligence. These surveys typically have a success rate of between 5% and 10% (as compared to call-centre conversion rates of 6 in 1,000) and, properly done, can yield information regarding each respondent’s particular issues. Of course, it’s important to be targeting the right roles and to have done as much prequalification on the survey invitees as possible. The result: the ROI on prospect surveys will be considerably better than for cold calling.
If you’d like to know more about choosing a contact database supplier who can meet your needs, please download our complimentary guide Choosing the Right Contact Database Supplier. Click on the button below to access your copy.
What’s your experience with purchasing a contact database? What results did you achieve?