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Should Sellers Do Their Own Research?

by David Brock on October 31st, 2022

I see a lot of discussions about “forcing sellers to waste selling time by doing their own research.” Increasingly, I see people recommending outsourcing this research, freeing the time up to make more calls.

Clearly, too many sales people don’t know how to do research, as a result, they waste a lot of time. There are many that don’t leverage the tools effectively. So there is a lot of room for improvement in the research that sales people do.

But I would never take the research responsibility away from the sellers, whether they are SDRs, AEs, or some other role.

There are several reasons, I think this is a critical selling skill and responsibility. While others can do the research, presenting the seller the data, the reality is that too often, we lose context, we don’t understand what the data means. For example, if I’m presented the data that a company has grown their ARR by 70% over the past year, I don’t know whether that’s good or bad. The company may have had a bigger goal, and they failed to achieve it. Their competitors may have grown by 120%, so they are failing relative to the competition. More importantly, what caused the 70% growth? What did the organization do to achieve this growth, how did they establish the goal, what strategies did they put in place, etc?

One of our biggest failures in understanding our customers is that we don’t know what the data means, we don’t know the context, we don’t know how to apply it. And most importantly, we don’t know how to engage the customer in conversations about what this data means to the customer.

Doing the research is about more than the data, it’s about understanding the customer, deeply. It’s about understanding the context, connecting the dots to customer strategies, priorities, and goals. We need to understand the data relative to other organizations (i.e. their competition or the industry). It’s about figuring out how we might leverage that data to better understand the customer, how we might help them, and where we have opportunity to create value.

Doing the work to get this data is critical in helping sellers engage their customers in business focused discussions.

It could be, fairly, claimed that sellers spend too much time getting the data, distracting them from engaging customers. I think the root issue is the lack of business/financial acumen training for sellers. We spend too much time focusing on product knowledge and how to sell. But we don’t train people on the most important things to their customers; their business and how their business performs.

The absence of this development means that sellers waste a lot of time doing research, trying to figure out where to get the information, or how to leverage it in the customer conversation.

The reality, with good business/financial acumen skills, it doesn’t take that much time to do the research. Prepping for a prospecting call, particularly with many of the tools that are available, can only take a few minutes–since the seller understands what business information she is looking for to engage the customer in a high impact conversation.

If the seller is making a number of prospecting calls, grouping them by industry/market, helps leverage that research much more effectively and efficiently.

Just before a call, looking up the organization’s web site, understanding recent changes, looking up the person’s LinkedIn profile; these help prepare us to engage the customer in terms relevant to them.

Customer research isn’t just about the data or information about the customer, but it’s understanding what it means and how we can leverage it, increasing our ability to engage the customer in conversations about things they care about.

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