OPINION

BI: The Secret to Successful Customer Relationships

A sales manager once told me her secret to success. Whenever preparing for a meeting, she would always conduct research on where the prospect went to college. She would find out which school the prospect attended, and then leveraged that information by using it to make a connection during her meeting. She even had two separate teams to bring to the prospect, since she was based in Texas and many of these prospects attended either the University of Texas or Texas A & M.

It may sound a little unconventional, but it worked. This knowledge strengthened her approach, which provided a way to gain a meaningful and familiar connection with the prospect and ultimately close the sale.

Knowing Your Audience

The secret to this sales manager’s success was quality knowledge gained through business information technology. According to a study published by CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking sales and marketing excellence, companies that excelled at sales knowledge management saw the number of sales reps meeting or exceeding their quotas increase by 25 percent.

Based on this statistic, one can see knowledge gained on a prospect and his/her business leads to successful sales. The answer seems simple: research your customer and you’ll be more successful. But therein lies the challenge: time. Time is a valuable commodity, and time spent gathering and sifting through bulky data to get to relevant information simply isn’t a good way for a sales rep to operate when there is pressure to make the calls, go to meetings and close the sale. Unless, of course, the information provided to you is high quality, accurate, timely, and presented in a way that is easy to digest.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

This is where business information solutions come in. Business information tools which use technologies to sift, sort, gather and extract relevant data in an easily digestible format provide a way for sales reps to gain in-depth sales knowledge quickly. Having access to this key information gives users a more potent understanding of the issues, backgrounds and connections that create a competitive edge. By learning this kind of information, customers and prospects have good reason to be impressed with the sales professional based on the insight and knowledge he or she gained about their business. However, although many sales professionals know they should be doing this level of research, they do not feel they have enough time and end up looking for shortcuts.

Typically, one of these shortcuts is using a search engine. The problem is search engines do just that: search for “any” and “all” information. When it comes to knowledge, sales professionals need a deeper level of information that is often difficult and time-consuming to obtain when using only a search engine.

Make Technology Work for You

New technologies such as pattern recognition, natural language processing and Web mining are now being used to combine unstructured content into a single business information solution that can be used to gain in-depth information on sales prospects and clients in a quick, yet thorough way. The result is a consolidated view of valuable information stemming from analyst reports, news sources and executive profiles that can make a significant impact on the success of any sales initiative.

Further, by extracting and presenting valuable, hard-to-find information from unstructured sources, business information technologies uncover key insights that were once buried within thousands of unstructured text reports and Web sites. In addition, Web-mining technology can be used to enhance biographical information such as work history, professional affiliations, attributed articles and quotes, education background, and compensation. By taking advantage of this searchable data, sales professionals are able to build stronger relationships with key decision-makers, allowing them to approach a sales opportunity with greater personalization.

Smarter Preparation Leads to More Confidence

Business information technologies also provide users with insight into the strategic initiatives, corporate relationships, strengths and weaknesses of major publicly traded companies. Using advanced language-processing technology to distill data from trusted, objective financial analyst reports and other key resources, sales professionals are able to gain the confidence necessary to better present their products and services and address a customer’s specific business challenges.

By taking advantage of business information technology, sales representatives are able to be significantly more effective throughout the sales process, which results in quicker close rates and increased revenue that can have a dramatic impact on a company’s bottom line. In fact, sales organizations that choose not to use business information solutions are placing themselves at a severe disadvantage — both competitively and financially.


Brad Haigis is vice president of products at OneSource Information Services, a leading provider of business information.


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