I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
Quantitative data about prospects and client accounts is important, but it does not provide a complete picture of customers’ needs. For example, primary and secondary quantitative data provides important facts and figures about a company, such as its financials, satisfaction levels, and revenue growth, but this quantitative data does not reveal all of, or perhaps the true, customer needs. What about important insights that go beyond the numbers, such as:
• What is the prospect’s strategic direction and needs?
• What are the prospect’s specific and hidden needs outside of what is covered in the RFP?
• How does the prospect make decisions and who is involved?
• How are we truly performing when it comes to servicing existing accounts?
Fortunately, qualitative data exists to help you zero in on customer needs — you just have to know how to find it. You can only glean this level of clarity by asking probing questions and carefully listening to what your clients have to say.
How do you uncover qualitative data about your prospects and existing clients?
Wouldn’t it be great to have the following kind of insight into one of your largest clients?
“I would say that the thing that would bring them over the top would be some creative customer service ideas. That is the one area where we are lagging behind. Overall, customer service scores and results are not as positive as I would like them to be. So, the goal would be to raise customer satisfaction scores to excellent instead of good.”
You don’t have to be a fly on the wall to obtain this type of qualitative data. The quote above was uncovered by an account forensics investigation. Forensics is simply the process of uncovering evidence to reveal the truth. When applied to sales or account management, a forensics investigation takes place to examine the state of your client and prospect relationships through in-depth interviews. You can conduct your own sales or account forensics investigation or you can bring in a third party to conduct and analyze the interviews.
To begin the forensics process, an investigator conducts in-depth interviews with executives, managers and employees at your client and prospect companies to reveal how your company is really performing. It is important to be open-ended in this process. “Yes/no” and multiple-choice questions will not uncover the data you need. You must allow respondents to open up and provide expanded insights.
Once you obtain feedback from the executives, thoroughly and objectively analyze the findings to draw conclusions about how your prospects and clients truly view your company and its performance.
Most importantly, you must act on what you learn. Failure to make improvements and changes based on the qualitative data you uncover will give your prospects and client companies reason to believe that you are not capable of proper follow through.
Uncovering both quantitative and qualitative insights about a prospect or existing client provides a complete, rich picture to help you more effectively shape your pitch and solution. One type of data without the other provides some level of insight, but putting both quantitative and qualitative data together results in a deeper clarity and understanding that is needed to achieve the most effective results possible. In the sales world, this can mean the difference between landing that big account or watching your competitors win.
Rick Reynolds is a co-founding partner and CEO of AskForensics, which assists Fortune-ranked companies in winning and retaining multi-million dollar accounts.