Prospecting for Gold

Back in 1849, 300,000 people raced to California to take part in a genuine human stampede, sparked by the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill. Today, salespeople are rushing to prospect, attracted by the sparkling gold of data analytics.

Business-to-business prospecting is driven by two main drivers. First, demographics. Demographics are statistical data relating to a population of businesses, for example, how many employees they have, locations and industry. Demographic information is readily available from many sources, including Dun and Bradstreet, Hoovers and InfoUSA.

Second, psychographics. Psychographics is the study and classification of businesses according to their attitudes, aspirations and other psychological criteria. For example, are they open to trying new vendors? Do they have growth strategies in place? What kind of corporate culture do they have?

Two businesses with similar demographics may have quite different psychographics. For the salesperson, they would like to focus on businesses which fit their demographic profile, and also demonstrate psychographics receptive to new offerings. Historically, psychographic information was inferred from data which could be acquired. For example, if a company attended a certain trade show regularly, that might indicate they might be open to exploring new ideas. The business-to-business direct mail industry made prospecting an art form by using response lists from similar offerings. For example, if an employee attended a seminar on “How to Manage Effectively”, they might be open to a book entitled “101 Ways to Manage”.

Today, psychographics is routinely derived from a company’s employee web behavior. For example, if your business sells copiers to other businesses, and an employee from XYZ spends 20 minutes on your website – including five minutes looking at all the details of your Super Supreme copier – this behavior provides the seller with considerable information.  If this information is matched with demographic information, say by determining XYZ is within a certain salesperson’s territory, has a A+ credit rating and 500 employees, it may warrant a sales contact.

As the seller gains experience with their web traffic, they can score individual contacts using psychographics and demographics. Some will warrant a quick sales call, others will be dropped into work streams managed by marketing until they score high enough for sales to be involved. As way to encourage a “first contact”, many organizations use a chat feature which many buyers find less intrusive, and provide a good entrée into the selling organization.

Web psychographics also help determine who the buyer is. Unlike personal emails, many corporate emails provide a clue to the name of the individual, and domain information is easier to determine. Because of the ease of doing research online, many buyers will do their own research directly, rather than delegating homework to others. This sometimes makes it easier to go straight to a decision maker.

Cold calling has always been difficult. Today, with sophisticated voice response units and voicemail making telephone contact difficult, and security concerns limiting the “drop by” field sales call, online psychographics provides the sales organization a concrete methodology for prospecting .

There’s gold in them there hills!