The way I see it is trigger events are nearly always useful to your selling outreach efforts because they are changes in your buyer’s environment that can create instability and that instability can create a need that your product or service can address. Without a trigger event it’s very likely your biggest competitor will win; Status Quo (aka “do nothing”.)
Trigger events come in two “forms”: “Discernible” and “indiscernible” (If these labels do not work for your business, by all means change them!). These labels are meant to describe observable from outside an organization (release public information) and events that are not observable (or private or closely held).
Discernible Trigger Events
Examples of “observable” trigger events are events like management changes (like a new Marketing Manager or Director), a merger or acquisition, a new product line or expanded territories, additional funding or going public or private, new funding (such as VC funding). There are many sources of this information such as websites, industry journals and websites, RSS feeds from news services, information from customers, suppliers, insurance agents, etc.
This way you can get what you need in the way of trigger event information at the beginning of your day before your Starbucks has had a chance to cool down. I’d argue in the real world this is quite valuable.
Sample Triggering Events
• Consultants – New products, new markets, new locations, new requirements, hiring, layoffs, more travel, etc.
• Clothing Stores – Weddings, Weight loss, weight gain, expanding families, new babies, etc.
• Insurance – New cars, boats, new drivers, moving, combine business and personal insurance, exotic property, etc.
• Financing – larger inventories, more shipping, modes of conveyance, additional warehouse space, IT needs, etc.
Indiscernible Trigger Events
Publicly observable trigger events are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more “Indiscernible” (from the outside) trigger events popping up every day at most of your target accounts. Unfortunately as these trigger events are not public information you will need to work harder to get this information. It won’t come to you in one neat package or email every morning.
These unobservable trigger events are items like: which projects are getting funded, which projects are not getting funded or are getting cancelled. Middle management changes that don’t make the news or the company doesn’t particularly want to promote, such as who is being let go and who the replacement is.
But these sort of trigger events can be even more important to your outreach than the public ones, for example if the person leaving or arriving runs the area that your product serves, you really do want to know about that.
The “Informational Interview”
When you’re job hunting career coaches suggest “informational interviews”. An “informational interview” is a meeting with someone in the organization other than the hiring manager. In this meeting you ask background questions about the company so you are fully informed when you finally do get an official job interview. There really is not much difference between job hunting and selling a product or service. When you’re job hunting you’re just selling the product called “you”.
When you have an outreach plan for some key target accounts and you want to know about those “unobservable” trigger events, the way to find out is set up some “informational interviews” with people at your outreach targets.
Actually the person you meet for an “informational interview” does not have to work at your outreach target. They simply need to know what’s going on there and they need to trust you enough to share the information with you.
Your “coach” can be a salesperson in a non-competitive firm that has sold to your target account for years and now is “embedded” in that firm so they know the scoop on a lot of the politics there. It could be a friend who works at the firm, but not necessarily in your target department, or analyst that follows the firm, or a consultant, or IT person that maintains their systems etc. Each person that can “coach” you can help you find those “unobservable” trigger events that could be “gold” for your approach to that account.
Employ this Strategy
Of course “Informational interviews” require a significant amount of time and should be reserved for your top five to ten outreach targets. If the target is publicly traded, there is a wealth of information at hoovers.com, SEC.gov, and Bloomberg.com, etc. Information on private companies is a bit more difficult to assemble. Websites such as libguides.uwb.edu, Bloomberg Business Week’s, factset.com, etc. represent some examples. On the local level, don’t forget about the Better Business Bureau and local Chambers of Commerce.
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