Nine Ways to Uncover Trigger Events And Shape Your Prospect’s Buying Vision

Blog117_WhyTriggerEventsSalespeople run into speed bumps on the buyer’s journey all the time. One troublesome bump is understanding the prospect’s vision for a solution, and it trips up even the smartest salesperson.

That vision ties directly to what the prospect wants to fix, accomplish or avoid.  Sounds simple to get at but most salespeople find it extremely difficult.

Consider a salesperson in conversation and he hears an issue the prospect is trying to solve. Knowing his product or solution is a good match, he jumps right into presentation mode. Natural progression, yes?

An example─A salesperson who sells software that helps other salespeople generate more leads speaks with the head of sales who indicates his team is not getting in front of enough qualified prospects. His software can be customized to the sales chief’s product and will open up more doors.

It makes sense at this stage to show the sales manager how this software works, right? Wrong! This salesperson hasn’t discussed the issue of sales leads with the other buying influences and has not dug deep enough to find out if getting better leads will solve the salespeople’s problem.

Each person with influence in a complex sale, and there are many, has a different and unique idea about the solution to his problem. It’s why complex selling can confound even the best salespeople.

Salespeople seem to think it’s the organization that has the vision for the solution. But it’s only individual human beings who do. So if you want to improve your sales performance and maximize opportunity potential, you must be absolutely clear about the decision makers’ collective concepts or visions for a solution before presenting your proposed solutions. Clear?  Great.

Now let’s move on to a key aspect of smart selling and their ability to shape prospect vision.

Power of Trigger Events

The difficulty for the salesperson lies in the nature of buying. When I buy something, it is always in response to a change in my situation. The change can be positive or negative, but regardless, I must make a decision about what I do. One option is to do nothing. Or I can conduct a search for alternative solutions.

The most powerful and frequent sales competitor is the prospect’s current situation, the desire to maintain status quo. Or do nothing at all. However, the savvy salesperson can quickly turn this into an advantage by demonstrating to the buying influence the need to change. This need can be found by examining the defining moment for each and every sale.

A defining moment is what we call a “triggering event” that shifts your prospect’s perception of his situation, so he realizes the need to change.

Change cannot occur without a trigger event happening first─it sets off the entire chain reaction of the buying process.

A trigger event could be a change in the law compelling the prospect to comply with the new regulation; it could be a shift in market segment, recession or boom, causing him to look at how he positions his firm in the marketplace; or it could be a new competitor with a superior product at a lower cost. Trigger events might be positive things like advances in technology that force companies to scramble to keep up with innovation.

Trigger events lead buying influences to look for a solution and, consequently, they bring you into the picture. While the trigger events represent a change in the law, competition, environment or personnel, the buying influences or prospects typically do not change (or buy) until they’ve experienced one.

One of my clients sells voluntary employee benefit programs to companies. These programs allow employees, through payroll deductions, to buy various financial products like life insurance, disability, or long-term care at a lower cost than they can obtain individually.

However, my client’s “clients” are not the end-users but rather the brokers and agents who take these products to the end-user. Up until our workshop training, my client’s salespeople had conversations around the competitiveness of their products, and would simply set meetings up based on product conversations.

So we shifted the focus. We had them focus their attention on what issues the broker faces in his business, not the product.

The broker, whose primary business was employee benefits and health insurance, faces sizeable competition with a resulting cut back on commission income. What’s more, his clients sought free services which further cut into margins. Worse still, it was becoming near impossible to differentiate his firm from the competition.

The broker needed new product offerings to make up for losses. But his office manager had concerns over taking on new products his staff was not equipped to handle.

Find the Trigger Event

The broker’s vision for a solution was to add products/services to provide value to his clients without increasing staff time, or requiring them to secure more internal resources. The head of client administration was also concerned with resources but wanted a solution to the communication issues they faced with many clients. My client needed to shape his product offering to connect with both of these buying influences’ vision.  My client needed to find a credible trigger event.

Salespeople tend to find that trigger events aren’t immediately obvious. Organizations will often bring in salespeople to help solve their key problems; if you don’t know what the trigger event was that prompted this invitation, simply ask.

As an example, imagine yourself as a salesperson at a top-rated financial software company where you have received an inquiry from a chief financial officer about one of your programs dealing with tax guideline compliance. Unless you ask, you will not learn that the trigger event was a notification of an impending Internal Revenue Service audit.

Other questions to ask to uncover trigger events:

  • What key problems are your prospects telling you about?

  • What key problems are your prospects not telling you?

  • What are the individual events behind each of their problems?

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

  • 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 the impact?

Easily Accessible Resources

It’s easy than you think to pinpoint a triggering event; it takes seeing and thinking beyond the obvious. As we discuss in my book MERGE, use a 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 pull back the curtain on your prospect’s buying vision.

Use the power of the Internet to augment your effort. Don’t stop at the company’s website for information. Everyone does that. Here are nine great resources to boost your findings:

  • Start at KnowX, the place for finding information about businesses, people, and assets. You can even discover the linkage between critical relationships. 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. KnowX was retired in July of 2017, but as an alternative source, see

  • If you’re an employee benefits or pension executive, then you know to research Free ERISA to find out about employee benefit and pension plan filings.

  • First Research helps you discover unique opportunities hidden in more than 1000 industry segments; it’s the leading provider of market analysis tools to help sales and marketing teams perform faster and smarter, open doors and close more deals.

  • LinkedIn is one of those golden 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.

Another key tip: I have found an amazing tool, InsideView ( that has made my job much easier. InsideView finds and alerts me to triggering events that drive my prospecting strategies. It monitors lots of sources of data like management changes, earnings announcements, press releases or contract awards. I monitor dozens of triggering events at any given time, and you can, too. Here’s 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)

Blog117_WhyTriggerEvents2Actionable information is one of the best ways to simplify the complex sale. Actionable information will alert you to triggering events. And triggering events will become the sturdy joists supporting your house of selling. Don’t underestimate their power of triggering events to illuminate the motivations of all the buying influences in a given prospect account, and their power to help you see clearly their vision of a solution.

See beyond the obvious and reward yourself with fewer speed bumps on the way to closing the complex sale.

See you on the upside,

For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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