Tag Archives: b2b sales

Free Sales Intelligence Part 2: Alerts & Readers

Continuing on my last post…salespeople have access to a mountain of information on their prospects and customers. What’s more, this deal-accelerating content doesn’t cost a nickel.  The only risk is getting trapped in a time vortex by visiting too many sites, reading too much content and finding too few gold nuggets. The only sure way to avoid the vortex is automation. Excellent paid solutions exist that address this problem; however, sales and social intelligence gathering doesn’t require a big budget. You can automate at least 50% of your intelligence gathering and monitoring processes with free tools.

The following is a 101-level guide on using common free tools to harvest information on your prospects and customers, and create alerts that will always keep you up to date. Today’s post provides an overview of Alert Solutions and Feed Readers. Please let me know if you have any thoughts or additional ideas on the subject!

1. Alert Solutions

Alerts are an important tool to help monitor clients, contacts, leads and industries in real-time. For those of you new to alerts, they often take the form of emails and are essentially automated search engine results. Google Alerts is the most commonly used alert tool. Once set up, it will send you up-to-the minute emails whenever new content appears that matches your search terms. The content could anything from news, blog posts, video, discussions and even books.

For example,  if your client is SALESFORCE, you can create a general alert for the search term “SALESFORCE”. Whenever new content (like news, videos, blogs and discussions) is posted, you’ll receive an email. Now SALEFORCE is a big company, generating lots of content. To manage information flow, you may want to add more specific search terms like “SALESFORCE FINANCIAL RESULTS” or “SALESFORCE ACQUISITION”.

Types of Alerts You Can Create

Industry – Creating an alert with search terms for your industry can help you keep up to date with competitors and new companies, which can help you generate new leads.

Geographical – You can combine an industry alert with a specific geographical key word to generate leads and monitor your existing clients more accurately within your sales territory. Remember that you can use standard Google search parameters and syntax when creating Google Alerts. For example, if you need to put more than one state or province in your Alert, you would put a capitalized OR between each one (e.g., Ontario OR Quebec).

Company – You can create an alert based on the company name or web site URL of your potential and existing clients, as well as your competitors.
People – Create alerts on the names of your leads and contacts to monitor their latest activity on the web. For more accurate results, you can put their name in quotes (e.g., “John Smith”) and you could also provide their blog name, company name or job title.
Here are a few of the standard alert terms that I regularly use with a company name:
ACQUISITION [company_name]
FINANCIAL RESULTS [company_name] in Google News
PRESS RELEASE site:WWW.[company_name].COM
PRODUCTS site:WWW.[company_name].COM
[ceo_name] [company_name]
[company_name] in Google News
[competitor_name] in Google News
[company_hame] in Google Blog Search
How to set up a Google Alert
1. Go to http://www.google.com/alerts
2. Enter your search term(s), such as a company name, contact name or industry (just like you would in Google).
3. Select the Result Type (Everything, News, Blogs, Video, Discussions, or Books).
4. Select How Often you want to receive updates (As-it-happens, Once a day or Once a week).
5. Select How Many results you want (Only the best results or All results).
6. Select the destination for your alert, either an email address or a feed reader, such as Google Reader.
7. Click “Create Alert.”
See this example of some alerts for Salesforce. This is the page where you would manage your alerts as your contacts and prospects evolve.
2. Feed Readers
Feed readers are information aggregators that reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites and other online content for updates. They allow you to create a unique information space or personal newspaper providing content that is uniquely relevant to you. Once subscribed to a feed, an aggregator is able to check for new content at user-determined intervals and retrieve the update. The content is sometimes described as being pulled to the subscriber, as opposed to pushed with email or IM. Unlike recipients of some pushed information, the aggregator user can easily unsubscribe from a feed.

Aggregator features are often built into portal sites, Web browsers, and email programs.

Feed readers allow you to receive published abridged content from multiple sources (e.g., a blog, company web site or news site) in one place using a feed reader application. It saves you the time of visiting each site you’re interested in, rather than having to visit each one and browsing through all its full content to find what’s important to you. Examples of feed readers include Google Reader, Feedly and Bloglines.
When you see the following RSS icon on a blog or website,

simply click on it and then select your favourite feed reader application from the pull-down list.
Get started with RSS
  1. Go to the Google Reader  web site and set up an account.
  2. Once you have an account and you log in, click on “Your Subscriptions”
  3. Click “Add a Feed” to add a feed you already know, such as the blog of an industry expert or feed from a trade magazine you regularly read.
  4. To find new sources or check information sources that you regularly read for RSS feeds, just do a Google Search and look for RSS feed buttons on the website of your search results.
Example 1 – A search for “Aviation News” in Google Reader returns the webpage for the aerospace and defence trade magazine Aviation News. In the news section of their website, I found RSS feeds and I clicked on the news stream that was of interest to me to subscribe. Now Aviation News appears in my Google Reader, and I can even search within these feeds for a particular company or person before a meeting. It’s  that easy.
I hope this 101 guide to alerts and readers was helpful to you. Let me know what you think about FunnelBlog and this post by commenting or emailing feedback@funnelboard.com.
Thanks for reading!

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Lead assignment by social proximity. There’s gold in them thar processes.

Lead assignment is at the heart of every organization’s sales processes. Since people buy from people, not companies, the most important question asked of B2B sales managers is “who should work the deal or account?” It can also be the most complicated.

The importance of the process is directly proportional to transaction or account size. For medium to large B2B opportunities, a simple round-robin type assignment process just doesn’t make sense. For these deals, most businesses manage assignment using criteria like industry vertical, geography, opportunity size, product type and track record. Whether the processes are informal or formal, the objective is to apply these rules to maximize sales. Unfortunately, most B2B companies are missing out on a key opportunity to achieve this objective.

As every salesperson knows, people buy from people they know, like and trust. When offered roughly equivalent solutions, buyers will always pick the person who created the “know, like and trust” relationship. What’s more, common relationships, or social proximity, is THE most important factor in relationship building.  

People are psychologically wired with a trust equation that gives disproportionate weight to social proximity. That’s why sales leaders have always subjectively factored relationships into lead assignment. However, this approach was limited by its very subjectivity and perceptions of “unfairness”. Managers also didn’t have the benefit of social network visibility. Before social media, how many of us could list our “2nd degree connections”? If you’ll excuse the cliché, lead assignment by social proximity was only  employed when an insider relationship jumped up and bit us on our collective  asses.

Well, no longer. Thanks to the emergence of business social media, sales managers can now access hard social proximity data . When salespeople share social accounts with their employers (which is happening increasingly), it becomes possible to create objective rule-based lead assignment, using LinkedIn “degrees of connection” and Facebook “common acquaintances”.

The most important factor in the “know, like and trust” equation, social networks, can now be used as a primary means of lead assignment.

For those of you who aren’t yet social media converts, below is an example of how it works. I did a search on LinkedIn for Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce. Two of my connections are directly connected to him, which I would never have known without LinkedIn.

Assuming I am a candidate to work a deal with Salesforce, a sales manager could (i) evaluate my connectedness to decision-makers at Salesforce, (ii) compare my social proximity to other members of our sales team, and (iii) make an informed and objective lead assignment decision.

Successful selling is becoming more relational than transactional. Social selling is accelerating this evolution. Sales leaders cannot afford to ignore the opportunity to assign leads based on social proximity. It makes common sense, and it also makes money.

If you have any experience, processes or tools that you use to take advantage of social proximity in lead assignment, I would love to hear about them.

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