We’ve discussed this in previous posts, but the average discovery meeting costs over $700. In some enterprise environments, this number is a lot higher.
This means it’s critical for your team to be doing the things they are supposed to in order to maximize these at bats.
We all know that doing your research before an initial meeting is important, but how many of your reps are actually doing more than a cursory glance at a LinkedIn profile?
Do you have any way of understanding your team’s call preparation, or is this a total black box?
In this post, we’re going to share how we’ve been able to operationalize the process of doing pre-meeting research here at Troops.
The Reality of Pre-Meeting Research
Many companies are lighting money on fire today due to the lack of rigor around pre-meeting research.
If you’re operating in a highly transactional — SMB sale — it might be fine to show up to a demo with limited research, but if you’re dealing with more sophisticated buyers they are going to know whether or not you came prepared.
The average SaaS company has 7 competitors which means that you need to win on customer experience. In this scenario, that means showing up to a call knowing as much as you possibly can about the person you’re talking to and how you can help their business.
Getting Started with Putting Rigor Around Research
In order to keep your team accountable to doing pre-meeting research, you need to instill a process with both doing and inspecting it.
Getting this right has a few components:
- A consistent place where research is stored across the team
- Guidelines & training on what good research looks like
- Ability to easily audit research for managers
- A feedback loop that demonstrates the value of meeting research
Let’s unpack each element.
Avoiding a Bunch of Disconnected Evernotes
Most companies today are operating in a world where there is no defined place to store pre-meeting research.
When you have people utilizing a combination of Google Docs, Slack, Evernote, emails, and notepads, how can you possibly determine at scale whether people are getting on calls prepared?
Sure you can probably listen to a discovery call recording or two, but your reps are probably having 4-5 new discoveries per week, on top of the calls in the middle of the funnel. Listening to calls is also a very time consuming way to audit this at scale which makes it break down pretty quickly.
We recommend having a dedicated place in Salesforce where research is stored. This can be a long text field area, attachment to a record, or event the use of an adjacent platform like Quip.com.
At Troops we use a Salesforce field called “Company Research” on the opportunity as well as a field that indicates the first meeting date.
The benefit of using a field is that you can quickly audit its contents.
I know some other companies require attachments to be uploaded (or they use Quip). I’ve never used these tools, but it seems like managers would be required to go in record-by-record to inspect the quality of the research which is arguably the most important thing.
Guidelines and Training
Your reps should know exactly what good research looks like. Training them on your methodology on how to do it should be a part of their onboarding, and this should also live in an easy to access guide that they can pull up at any time.
Research criteria obviously varies based on the market you’re in and what you’re selling, but here are some basic things we look at:
- What products do they sell?
- What is their positioning?
- Recent news
- Key Executives → get them from the website, go to LinkedIn, type each exec in and look for connections and connect the dots.
- If Public: 10k (for public companies) → In the main letter the CEO articulates where they want to take the business and the top initiatives they have.
- If Private: Crunchbase → who invested? Can you connect the dots from the prospect’s executives to investors of ours?
- Hiring pages
- G2Crowd and Owler for who their competitors are and what their prospects are saying.
There’s certainly more, but this should give you a good starting place.
If you really want to push your reps to think critically, you might want to think about including a hypothesis on how your product can help that organization based on what they learned. This is something that some of the GTM teams at Slack do.
"We create a 'Value Hypothesis' for strategic accounts and big bets for the quarter/year. It is a healthy forcing function for understanding the value and business impact your solution can provide, and getting your prospect/customer engaged. This can’t be done effectively without research.”
- Zach Lawryk, Solutions Engineering Leader at Slack
Once you’ve put together a research guide or methodology, you need to make sure you train the reps on it and make them do a few sample exercises to test for proficiency.
Likely Your Biggest Gap: Manager Auditing
Even if you do a good job training your reps, over time their zeal for preparation might wane.
This is why it’s critical for your managers to hold them accountable. If you’ve followed our advice by putting a section in Salesforce, managers can inspect whether this information is getting filled out, along with the quality of research.
One approach: create a report that your managers look at weekly.
At Troops, we have an SLA, that 20-30 minutes of research needs to be done by the morning of the meeting.
If this does not happen, reps are called out in a public channel with prompts where they can update their research as well as see our guide.
Having a time-based SLA like the one above requires you to have a date which you can trigger off of. Again we recommend, the “First Meeting Date” field which is required to be input into SFDC when a meeting is set.
The way we audit for quality is by giving managers a channel they can subscribe to which shares company research as its complete.
Why this is so helpful is because it gives them an opportunity to investigate the quality of information which is the best indicator of whether they are prepared for the call.
From here, managers should be using this as a way to help their team and coach them up.
“The best way to do this is to make sure the sales management team isn’t just using the pre-call planning section as a way to ensure the reps are doing it. Instead they should be using it to proactively coach the reps based on the notes that entered to conduct more productive/effective calls.”
- Jim McDonough, VP of Sales Threat Stack
One interesting side note about this practice, is it often gives others in the company opportunities to chime in with additional information or connections that might be relevant to the account.
Understanding & Communicating the Feedback Loop
Now measures like ones above can be helpful, but ultimately you need to help your team understand that putting in this preparation time is actually going to make them more successful.
On the flip side, it can be useful to validate whether not doing this hurts performance.
One we’ve seen companies do this is by inspecting early funnel leakage against the research quality. Granted, there are many reasons why deals might slip out of your funnel early on, but this is one data point worth looking at. At the same time, you can look at your closed won opportunities, against key early stage fields like company research and MEDDPICC (or however you are capturing your sales methodology).
Once you’ve looked at the data, share the information with your team and each rep individually. Hopefully there is a correlation between being prepared and winning, but you ultimately need to look at the numbers to tell.
When you show up to a call and have done your homework, prospects notice. It engenders a feeling that you understand their business more than most vendors which will make them more likely to buy from you.
Now that we understand this, it’s on us as managers and leaders to make sure our team has the process and accountability they need to drive the best customer experience.
Did we miss anything on keeping your team accountable to showing up to meetings prepared? Let us know in the comments if there’s a best practice we missed!