Effective Prospecting Research to Scale Your Results
Every sales development rep (SDR) needs to do research as part of their prospecting and the more guidance their leaders can provide around this process, the more efficient SDRs can become. A clearly defined process for each stage of prospecting research can help SDRs accomplish one set of tasks then move on to the next set of tasks, rather than wasting time bouncing back and forth between the internet, CRM, and sales engagement platform for prospect information.
The TOPO prospecting methodology—touch patterns, templates, and prospecting research to customize messages—provides the guidance to enable SDRs to maintain the consistency required for effective prospect messaging. Knowing where to look, what to look for, and how long it should take are the keys to incorporating prospecting research into an overall sales development process.
EFFICIENT RESEARCH PROCESS REQUIRED FOR SDRs
Every SDR incorporates research into their prospecting activities, but with all the available sources, it is easy for an SDR to get sidetracked doing too much research without context for how it will be used in messaging. TOPO’s high-growth data set shows that SDRs should complete 75 to 100 activities per day, but without a clear and deliberate process for prospect research they cannot be efficient with their time.
An SDR starting with a list of accounts for outbound prospecting must understand the basic characteristics of the accounts, identify the correct contacts at each account, and discover and select relevant insights that can be used to customize messaging. Each of these steps requires a variety of research activities. And again, SDRs often wind up spending too much time looking at multiple online sources without a clear understanding of when to stop.
Even inbound leads require research since the goal of an SDR is to qualify the lead and schedule a meeting with sales. Just because someone downloaded a white paper doesn’t mean they are interested in engaging with sales.
The natural inefficiencies of research can be solved with a step-by-step process where each task is defined by where to look, what to look for, and what to do next. For example, SDRs should spend three to five minutes researching an inbound lead and seven to 10 minutes researching an outbound prospect.
DEVELOP A STANDARD PROSPECTING RESEARCH PROCESS
TOPO’s prospecting research process guides the discovery of insights needed to customize messages with relevant information to engage the prospect. The SDR starts researching at the account level, identifies the right contacts, then explores specific contacts to understand persona challenges to create relevant messages.
- Identify peer accounts. The SDR needs to know the prospect’s industry, location, offerings, likely customers, and expected use case to identify a peer account with similar characteristics. In some instances, this is the only research step required.
- Search for account context. SDRs can review external sources to discover relevant insights for triggers that help set message context (e.g., company website, Google News).
- Identify existing contacts and find new contacts. If prospecting at a large company, building a buying center may include discovering three to five contacts at the account. A single contact is all that is needed for smaller companies. Explore the CRM and a contact data provider to discover new contacts at the account.
- Search for contact context. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is the best source to confirm the prospect’s title and to discover any additional insights. Store the insights in the notes section of the prospect’s record in the sales engagement platform or CRM.
- Customize messages with prospecting research. Use the research to customize messages with pre-existing elements that are relevant to the prospect. The approach should be the same for emails, voicemails, and LinkedIn messages.
- Determine the impact and effort of required research activities. Keep SDRs focused on finding just enough insights to tailor their message to the persona and industry. Carefully evaluate whether extra research actually adds value in the prospecting process.
- Design the research process for an average prospect but enable SDRs to be prepared for anything. The limited amount of information shared online by most prospects is the basis for designing the research process. SDRs need to know how to identify an excellent prospecting opportunity because the prospect shares a lot of information. They also need to understand how to handle a prospect with little to no information available online.
- The research process should follow a set of logical decisions. SDRs should logically seek answers to one question at a time (e.g., “Can I work this prospect?,” “What persona is this?,” and “What industry are they in?”) and one platform at a time. This provides a more efficient SDR workflow.
- Specify the amount of time an SDR should spend on prospect research. SDRs should take three to five minutes to research a warm, inbound lead. They should spend seven to 10 minutes researching a target account for outbound messaging.
- Practice SDR research and customizing messages as distinct skills. In the SDR onboarding process, train SDRs on following the research process, analyzing insights, and customizing messages to certify SDRs on their ability to execute each action repeatably.
A repeatable research process is required for all sales development organizations. Leaders that provide clear guidance to SDRs about what to look for, where to look for it, how much time to spend, and what to do next will find that their teams operate more efficiently and effectively. It is the relevance to a prospect’s challenges that makes a message more likely to generate a positive response to a meeting invitation, which is the ultimate sign of successful prospecting.