When conducting account based (ABM) research, it is necessary to develop a broad view of your customers and prospects which includes company, contact, and industry research. Unfortunately, open web research is quite time-consuming and your sales reps are unlikely to consistently engage in general research, so consider Sales Intelligence vendors with editorial research teams.
Executive research should go beyond the Leadership page and LinkedIn profiles. One option is Boardroom Insiders which gathers rich executive profiles on CxOs written by business journalists.
For industry research, look at Vertical IQ, IBISWorld, or First Research. Vertical IQ and First Research are strong offerings for sales teams that sell broadly across many segments but are not verticalized. They are written in plain English and include Q&A sections. The content in IBISWorld is more formal but better suited for verticalized teams.
At the company level, consider Dun & Bradstreet Hoovers, InsideView, or DiscoverOrg. All three provide company and contact profiles, list building, and sales triggers. D&B Hoovers goes deeper on global coverage, family trees, and industry profiles, DiscoverOrg offers the deepest set of technographics and rich bios, and InsideView provides excellent sales triggers and social media intelligence.
If a US public company, look at its 10-K (annual report). Firms generally discuss their competitors. You can locate the 10-K on a company’s investor site, through sales intelligence vendors, or free Edgar sites.
If a private company, look at Owler, a free site (See below). This is crowdsourced so may include firms that aren’t true competitors.
Look at sales intelligence services such as D&B Hoovers or InsideView. Hoover’s competitors are editorially generated and include top three flags (see below)
Within IT, look at Forrester Wave reports. Another option is technology category searches in PE/VC databases such as DataFox, Crunchbase, Pitchbook, or CB Insights. Keep in mind that companies within the same segment may not be competitors, but partners, customers, etc.
Many industries have industry specific market research that includes competitors. A few general market research firms also provide competitors (e.g. MarketLine, Euromonitor, Global Data, and Freedonia). Top Competitors are also available in IBISWorld, Vertical IQ, and First Research.
Zoominfo and a few other vendors identify similar companies based upon proximity in articles. This finds competitors, but also customers and partners so should be carefully reviewed.
For new technologies or industries, D&B Hoovers offers Conceptual Search which identify companies associated with key phrases (e.g. Marcellus Shale, Obamacare). This is more of an associated companies list and will identify firms in a topical ecosystem. For example, “Harry Potter” identifies studios, publishers, toy makers, theme parks, and thematic tours. (See example below of conceptual search on Marcellus Shale). Conceptual Search lists may be refined by standard prospecting filters such as industry, geography, and size.
If none of these work, use peer list searches (industry code lists) or keyword searches in sales intelligence vendors. If cost is a concern, go to your public library and see if they have ReferenceUSA, AtoZDatabases, or Mergent Online. Each of these allows you to build peer lists based on industry codes, company size, and geography. If you need help, ask for the business or reference librarian to assist.
Industry market research firm IBISWorld rolled out its new Call Prep Insights Salesforce connector. The service delivers IBISWorld market research and Q&A content to sales and client relations professionals. IBISWorld insights are displayed on the Account record as Market Intelligence with over 1,300 industries and sub-industries covered. Regional versions are available for the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.
“IBISWorld Call Prep Insights facilitates consultative selling by enabling value-added outreach to prospects and clients,” states the firm’s User Guide. “IBISWorld Call Prep Insights delivers data, strategic insights and tactical talking points for hundreds of industries that your front-line staff can use for more engaging conversation.”
Market Intelligence, published at the 5-digit NAICS level, includes
Major industry trends
Conversation starters on industry risks and opportunities
Five-years of historical metrics alongside five-year forecasts
Industry and sector metrics include industry revenue and revenue growth, employment growth, average wages, and profit margin. Sparkline graphs provide both historical context to these metrics and industry projections. These details are particularly useful when speaking to C-Level executives as well as finance and operations teams.
Industry structure covers topics such as capital intensity, regulation change, technology change, competition level, market concentration, and major companies with their market share.
The Engagement section provides “a short discussion of the key Issue and Threat to the industry. These items are associated with SWOT-type research that shows the macro trends that companies should seek to actively manage in order to exploit opportunities and mitigate risks.”
Call Prep Questions are divided into internal issues and external impacts. They include a short discussion of the issue followed by a set of questions the sales rep can ask to engage the prospect.
Having recently engaged in an industry research project which employed both First Research (a set of industry overviews available within Dun & Bradstreet products) and IBISWorld content, I found IBISWorld to be more technical than First Research which is written in plain English for non-experts. Both services offer Q&A content which provides a set of c-level questions that work as discussion openers. Thus, First Research may be a better fit for territory reps and junior relationship managers while IBISWorld would better fit the informational needs of named account reps, verticalized reps, and experienced relationship managers.
Companies are auto-matched against IBISWorld’s universe of 14,000 companies. Otherwise, users can manually search for industries by keyword or NAICS.
Pricing begins at $55 per user per month. Both Salesforce Classic and Lightning editions are supported.
“The sales environment is not only getting more competitive, it’s getting more intelligent. Salespeople need to go beyond being experts in their products. They need to showcase how they will solve business problems. That’s why we’re launching the IBISWorld Call Prep Insights Salesforce app. Professionals will have an industry cheat sheet of talking points at their fingertips to better engage with their clients on the most important issues impacting their businesses,” says Carmen McKinney, VP of Product Development.
Update: Avention was acquired by Dun & Bradstreet and Business Browser was renamed D&B Business Browser. The blog is no longer available online.
Avention recently published an excellent blog by Jay Webb, President of the J. David Group, concerning preparing for sales interviews. His firm specializes in placing sales reps at technology companies. Webb marveled at the frequent lack of preparation by job candidates who fail to understand the company, its industry, and the individuals conducting the interviews. They often make silly mistakes like saying they are looking to work for a smaller company when they are interviewing for positions at larger organizations.
Webb emphasized the value of preparing technology sales candidates for interviews and noted six areas of focus beginning with the product. He observed that candidates often fail to sign up for software trials. Not only are they not researching the products they are looking to sell, but they are failing to show interest to the sales and marketing departments at the company where they are interviewing. Of course, not all technology companies have software trials, but there are still webinars, white papers, and other tools for researching the product and demonstrating interest to the firm.
Other preparation steps include
Researching both the organizational structure of the company (who reports to whom) and corporate family tree structures (how big is the company? What other industries is it involved in? Does it have additional offices in other cities or countries?);
Reviewing corporate SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
Researching the firm’s competition
Understanding the firm’s industry
“In [staffing] sales we use tools such as Avention (OneSource for those who remember that name) to do account research. Turning that idea on its head, I am able to provide candidates with a report containing the relevant information they need, gain a little more control over the process, and save time so I can work more deals,” blogged Webb
“If I can deliver better prepared candidates, I stand a better chance of winning,” wrote Webb. “Additionally, if my candidate is that prepared, they draw from the higher end of the salary range, which means more commission for me. What’s more, when a candidate is that attractive, hiring managers move very quickly for fear of losing them to their competitors. More sales, higher value, and faster close. That’s pretty easy math.”
In short, every sales rep should view the job interview as if they are a strategic sales rep preparing for their top client. Why would any sales director hire you if you are unprepared for a critical meeting?
Of course, not every candidate has access to Avention products, but there are company resources available for job preparation through academic and public libraries. On college campuses, look for OneSource Business Browser, Bureau van Dijk Orbis, Capital IQ Academic, LexisNexis Academic, Factiva, or Mergent products.
At public libraries, you should check out ReferenceUSA, Mergent, or AtoZ Databases for company research.
I would also look at Owler and CrunchBase for free online research. Both provide company overviews, funding data, and news alerts. Of course, company websites, LinkedIn, and social media should also be reviewed.
For industry research, check out Plunkett Almanacs, First Research, IBIS World, MarketLine, Freedonia, Euromonitor, Mergent Intellect, or Business Browser’s industry module.