Tag Archives: social intelligence

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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Free sales intelligence 101 – Part 1

Salespeople are fortunate to have access to more information on their prospects and customers than ever before. The challenge is to navigate this ocean of content without drowning or becoming distracted.

For those who aren’t using sales intelligence, here are some of the reasons why you should.


1.  Situational awareness drives lead conversion. Understanding the business and personal environment in which a person lives is critical to effective selling. How can you help? What challenges is their business facing? How do they spend their spare time? What are their passions? The answers to questions like these allow you to tailor your message and find rapport-building shared experiences and connections. Understanding = authentic relationship-building  + trust + helping = selling.

2. They expect preparation!  Demonstrate to the prospect or customer that you have done your homework and care enough to understand them. Today’s customers and prospects spend less time in sales meetings, do web research before meeting with vendors and expect that you’ve done the same.  Failing to meet their expectations by arriving/calling unprepared or “wasting time on a fishing expedition”, as one sourcing professional said to me, sets the stage for failure.

3.  Your customers are talking to you through social media. Are you listening? Individuals and companies are broadcasting their priorities, interests, activities and trigger points via social media. Ignoring social intelligence = ignoring the customer.

4.  Speak their language.  Information gathered from sales & social intelligence sources provides insight into personality and individual communication styles. Communication 101 tells us that people generally fall into several “types” based on personal preferences and age. For example, people born after 1979 (Gen Y) prefer to communicate through technology channels like email and social networks much more than via telephone . If their profiles  shows a tendency towards “introversion and thinking”, you’d want to adjust your communication style accordingly ( e.g.  plan to explain every feature of your proposal, respect personal-professional life separation, avoid humour in serious situations).

(If you’re interested in reading more about personal styles, I posted on the subject previously and shared some links at http://funnelblog.com/2012/04/05/personality-testing/).

Great paid solutions that aggregate information from hundreds of sources and automate sales intelligence gathering are only a Google search away. But you don’t need to pay-to-play.  There are plenty of free sales intelligence tools that will up your sales game, so don’t let money stand between you and increased sales productivity!

Here are some free sales & social intelligence tools that I recommend (and use):

  1. Google Alerts
  2. Social Alerts
  3. RSS, blog and news search and subscriptions
  4. Job change alerts (www.jobchangealerts.com)
  5. Bloomberg/BusinessWeek Business Profiles
  6. LinkedIn

In my next post “Free sales intelligence 101 – Part 2”, I’ll discuss these tools in greater detail and describe how they’re used to drive sales productivity.

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