This is part 2 of a 3-part blog series on account-based selling (ABS). If you’re looking for a detailed look at what’s involved when setting up an ABS foundation for your company, check out our introductory post: How to Get Started With Account-Based Selling.
For this second section, we compiled a list of steps you should follow to make investigating prospects as straightforward and painless as possible (Part 3 is going to help you translate and leverage all of these prospecting insights into an actionable outreach strategy). At this stage, you’ll have a list of target accounts, so what you need to figure out now is the most efficient process of going after the companies that you believe should absolutely buy your product — no matter the price. The solution to this will lie in the way you approach the company research phase.
Here’s our prospecting research guide:
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Step 1: Prioritize your outreach
Generally speaking, recent opportunities and accounts with inbound activity should be the first ones you go after. Use this list to guide you. It’s organized by lowest hanging fruits:
- Active / recent opportunities: These are the accounts that you or your team members have already been engaged with to some extent, so start with these guys. Go after the ones that will be the easiest to close and will offer the best long-term opportunities for your company.
- Inbound activity: You know inbound leads have a higher likelihood of at least being somewhat interested in your product, because they’ve already been checking out your marketing materials (e.g. webinar registrants, free tool downloads, ebook downloads). Prioritize these accounts second.
- Follow-up tasks: Is there anything that needs to be wrapped up from previous communications? Has someone you thought was a sure thing not emailed you back in a while? Investigate those accounts next.
- Untouched: These are the accounts that are completely cold. You already know they’re a great fit for your company because they’re on your account list… so get in touch!
Step 2: Research each company
While this isn’t horribly challenging, per se, research does take some time. Knowing a ton about your customer before you even reach out to them is what separates the great sales reps from the mediocre. So keep in mind that the extra effort will definitely pay off in the long run. Use the following resources to investigate the account while turning your attention inward to focus on the product you’re selling and how it will help a company achieve its long-term goals.
Targeting a public company
While entries in the 10-K will require some notable sifting through to gain usable information (they’re lengthy), it’s definitely worth the extra effort to spend some time looking at. The report will lay out extremely relevant information documenting performance, key strategic aims, and a company’s goals moving forward. Gather what they are up to, what they want to accomplish, and how your product or service ties in. Press releases can serve as additional cues to what’s important to a company at that moment (e.g. product launch, expansion, rebrand).
For private companies (especially startups)
Start by looking at everything that’s out there about them, and how they present themselves to the public via their website and these three sources: Crunchbase, LinkedIn, and AngelList. These resources will offer you a huge amount of insight into what has been happening at their company as of late. For example:
- Crunchbase is a database that compiles everything out there about a company and offers all the information boiled down to one easy-to-consume site. It’ll give you stats like the amount of funding a company has received (+ from whom, + how much), who their competitors are, who’s currently employed, and what’s been said about them on Twitter. After looking at a profile, even if that’s only for a few minutes, you’ll leave with a relatively thorough idea of where the company stands and have some nuanced insights to inform and/or define your outreach strategy.
- AngelList is similar to Crunchbase in terms of insights, but might offer you some additional information on specific companies (e.g. their top customers, what types of jobs they’re currently offering), and industries (e.g. what startups are trending this week). Note that AngelList and CB will both be particularly useful for research on startups.
- LinkedIn: You probably don’t need a primer on how to find and build lists of LinkedIn contacts that you’re interested in, but also realize that checking out a particular company’s updates and content strategy on their feed will show you the professional accomplishments they’re proud to have achieved. This will give you a better qualitative glimpse at their place in an industry, and makes for a great compliment to the number-driven stats of the previous two sites.
For online companies
For online companies, use software tools to investigate how your product can play into the prospect’s tech stack and pain points, based on your company’s industry and specialization. There are many out there that offer up a surprising amount of intelligence directly relating to what the executives at your target companies are mulling over day-in and day-out. Use this data to make them to listen to you. Choose based on your industry:
Are you selling software or services around content? Check Buzzsumo to see what your named account has been writing about and what keywords they’re targeting. Digital advertising or search marketing? Spyfu will be a useful resource that helps reps understand their target’s current spend with search and display, including banner ad copy, click-through rates, and average spend of active campaigns. Moat offers creative agencies a snapshot of what designs a company is using to advertise. And if you create infrastructure solutions, try using Google’s PageSpeed Insights – it’ll tell you what Google’s tests believe is slowing down your prospect’s site, and suggest how to speed it up for both mobile and desktop.
Our own Insider browser extension for research and prospecting can also work wonders – it combines services like AngelList, Crunchbase, LinkedIn, and Alexa into one easily accessible spot, and will tell you exactly what technologies an online company is using in one click.
Step 3: Use call mapping
You can go extremely deep and get really technical with this type of stuff, but for a first hand account on a prospect’s current projects, consider spending time calling and working with gatekeepers. You actually might be surprised at how much information they’ll offer up if you simply talk with them.
Pose questions along the lines of “Who’s the best person to talk to here? or “I’m trying to figure out if we might be a good fit.” Maybe even try calling a department that might not be the right one and ask the assistant to help you out. The main take-away here is to spend some time searching for potential decision-makers so that you know exactly who to talk to, or at least which teams at the account will see your solution as valuable when it comes time to do targeted outreach.
Your turn: What resources do you use to prospect into your target accounts? How do you prioritize your outreach? Feel free to leave your answers in the comments below.
About the Author
Sam is the director of marketing at Datanyze. He's a big John Hughes fan who occasionally fills the DZ office with the sweet sweet sounds of 90s rock giant, Creed.Follow on Twitter More Content by Sam Laber