Use Trigger Events to Light Up Prospect Attention

Blog79_TriggerEvents-1I just returned from conducting a multi-city series of MERGE workshops for top sales performers. The number one complaint I heard repeatedly from attendees—how difficult it has become today to prospect for new opportunities.

Most all agreed what once generated interest in prospects no longer does. Cold calls, executive emails, even referrals, have lost their ability to open doors.  Call me a contrarian, but I disagree.

Most prospecting efforts are ill-conceived, poorly planned and executed. But there is one other reason.

Prospects find themselves inundated with people who want to speak to them or sell them something at the same time they’re buried in information.

The average business person now sorts through 200 emails a day, who knows how many voicemails and, in a recent book reviewed by the Society for Human Resource Management―151 Ways to Manage Your Time—executives are interrupted 73 times every workday. That’s every 6.5 minutes.  To understand how this plays out, read the following excerpt from the book:

“Increasingly for business people, managing a myriad of job and home-related activities has become an all-consuming chore. We are so stressed that our relationships and job performance suffer. Why? Because we organize our time and our lives poorly: We spend five years of our lives waiting in lines, three years in meetings, and two years playing telephone tag. We get interrupted 73 times per day, interfering with our productivity, and take an hour of work home every night, interfering with our family time.”

No wonder it’s tough to find time to think. Of course, prospecting is harder than ever.

Bring a Fresh Perspective

The Rain Group recently conducted a study of buyers to determine what the “winner” did differently than the “second-place finisher.”  Its study found “winners connect the dots between customer needs and their company’s products and services as solutions more often than the second-place finisher.

Out of 42 factors, “educating me with new ideas or perspective” was number one for the winners verses 42nd for the second-place finisher. Clearly, diagnosing needs isn’t nearly as important as simply demonstrating understanding of those needs.

Buyers today have a good understanding of their needs. However, they do look for new perspectives on solving their topline issues. This opening offers a significant opportunity to unlock doors. And you do it by creating triggering events to bring new insight to their issues. Timing is key.

Capture Prospect Attention

To attract the attention of prospects, I urge you to do a little homework. Zero in on top of mind issues that preoccupy your prospect. Research those issues forwards and backwards. Understand their origin, evolution, and impact on your prospect’s firm.

In this research, you are likely to find triggering events:  changes in their companies, markets, or personal lives that trigger the need for adjustments, and possibly a buying decision. For instance, a weak economy is a triggering event that impacts prospects. When the federal government established ObamaCare, it triggered a significant change in operations for businesses, hospitals and physician practices.

I have had tremendous success using triggering events to open up significant opportunities.

Find the Right Trigger Event

You can pinpoint a triggering event with ease. As we discuss in my book MERGE, take out your magnifying glass and look deep into your research. Find a fact, an event, trend, a competitor move, whatever you need to prepare your triggering event message.  Make it clear, compelling and actionable to gain the initial meeting and increase your chance of a second meeting.

To find the right message, use the power of the Internet to fine-tune your research antennae. You will gather much of the background information from the company’s website. Naturally, public companies are easier to research than private ones. Here are some resources.

  • KnowX is the place to start for finding information about businesses, people and assets, and can help you discover any critical relationships between them. Run a background check on a business, locate assets, and investigate property value and more using public records from across the nation compiled from official data sources.

  • If you are in the employee benefits or pension business, research Free ERISA to find out about employee benefit and pension plan filings.

  • Hoovers will provide you with lots of information on both private and public companies.

  • First Research will help you discover unique opportunities hidden in more than 1000 industry segments! First Research is the leading provider of market analysis tools that help sales and marketing teams perform faster and smarter, open doors and close more deals.

  • LinkedIn is one of those resources that people overlook. Put company names and people into the advanced search and see what you find. You may also find a contact that can help you frame the triggering event message.

  • Weber State University’s  Stewart Library is one of the best resources for private companies.

  • Of course, Google is a great resource for topics and companies.

Over the past year, I have found an amazing tool, InsideView ( that has made my job much easier. InsideView finds and alerts me to triggering events which drive my prospecting strategies. It monitor lots of sources of data to alert me of triggering events as a management change, earnings announcement, press release or a contract award. At this moment, I monitor 18 triggering events. Here is a partial list:

  • Expanding operations (hiring, opening new offices)

  • New offerings (product launch, FDA approval)

  • Acquisitions

  • Leadership changes

  • Underperformance (missed earnings expectations, sales growth below competition)

Vision for a Solution

Success with any sales call means first understanding the prospect/customer/client’s vision for a solution to the issues they face. What are they trying to fix, accomplish or avoid? Then, connect your solution. Your triggering event message allows the prospect to justify spending his or her valuable time with you.

An example:  A retirement advisor helped many companies with high-employee turnover to increase 401(k) plan without increasing the cost. Most companies face this challenge, but struggle to solve it, and end up doing so at higher cost.  In this case, high cost of retirement benefits is your triggering event.

Take a closer look at your target market and ask yourself the following:

  • What issues do the C- suite executives talk about?

  • What keeps them up at night?

  • What do they want to fix, accomplish or avoid?

  • What drags down their profits that you can fix?

  • Where could they increase revenues?

  • What business processes can they improve?

  • What areas could you improve to give them a competitive advantage?

  • What big dangers lurk in their industry and how can you minimize impact?

Ladies and gentlemen, create your own trigger event―get busy researching your prospects.

See you on the upside, Bill
Welcome your thoughts at [email protected]

[NOTE: Some ideas in this post are adapted from a recent blogpost on with credit to Kendra Lee, the author of Selling Against the Goal, and president of KLA Group.]

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