LN Company Dossier: What Could Have Been

LexisNexis Company Dossier Company Overview for FedEx

I’ve worked in the sales intelligence space for fifteen years and was convinced back in 2002 that LexisNexis Company Dossier had the inside track on the sales intelligence space; but a sales intelligence version (Prospect Portfolio) of the offering wasn’t built until about five years ago.  By then, the market had already passed them by.  Thus, when I wrote my 2015 Field Guide to Sales Intelligence Vendors, LexisNexis didn’t make the cut.  I don’t think it will make the 2016 version either.

LexisNexis has an incredible archive of news and company information, but beyond news tagging they do little to add value to the content sets.  The user interface is little changed from 2002 and information is presented at the vendor versus field level.  Thus, the family tree is single sourced (Directory of Corporate Affiliations AKA DCA) as are the executives.

The FedEx profile shows executives from DCA, NetProspex, and Professional Contacts as separate lists.  Users either pick one vendor or download and de-duplicate multiple lists.  With DCA, Company Dossier lists only five FedEx executives but only two have titles.  No other sales intelligence vendor would provide executive names without titles or job functions.

DCA provides five executives for FedEx, but only has titles for two of them.

Company Dossier has fairly standard company prospecting, but lacks peer searching, a feature available in many other offerings.

When Competitors are shown, it is merely a hyperlink list with no details about the companies.  Other vendors display mini-profiles of competitors which provides additional insights.  Likewise, financials display key reports without visual cues to sub-totals and grand totals.  They don’t even bother to label the name of the report, but simply call the section “Annual Figures.”

The Balance Sheet is not labeled, sub-totals and totals are n0t called out, and numeric values are flush left making them more difficult to read.

Company Dossier retains its legal focus even though it would be easy to build a non-legal version.  They display the auditor and legal counselor just below the business description and provide a deep set of legal content, much of which has little or no value to sales reps.  News searching is Boolean based although everybody else shifted to Google-style keywords over a decade ago.  While Boolean searching can be quite powerful, most sales reps have no idea how to build such searches.

Another gap is the lack of overrides to update or correct datasets.  Information is presented as is from the vendors so will be weeks or months out of date following key events.  Thus, news stories will indicate that the CEO left the company or the firm was acquired, but the company profiles will continue to show outdated information.

This is not to say that Company Dossier lacks value.  They have excellent news precision with a multi-year archive, SWOT reports from MarketLine, and M&A profiles.  My concern is more that they fail to make the most of what they have.

Using Sales Intelligence Services to Prepare for Sales Interviews

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

  1. 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?);
  2. Reviewing corporate SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
  3. Researching the firm’s competition
  4. 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

Avention OneSource Business Browser provides a broad set of company and industry intelligence including family trees, executive profiles,  competitors, financials and filings, company news, SWOTs, analyst reports, earnings call transcripts, and industry research.

“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.

Happy Job Hunting.