How to Guard Your Sales Prospecting Against 'Fake News'

Jake Shaffren

The 2016 presidential election in the United States brought “fake news” into the vernacular of a growing number of Americans. While some use the term to deny the truth of any news story with which they might not agree, most view the term to encompass stories which are basically fabricated out of thin air.
It is not a new problem. Whether it has been labeled as propaganda, rumor, misinformation or hoax, people have been making things up for a multitude of reasons for millennia. As such, determining the truth of any piece of information has been problematic for just as long.
But when you’re in sales, learning the truth about a prospect’s needs is critical. Nowhere else in the sales cycle is independently verified information from trusted sources more important. That process has historically meant placing phone calls, making inquiries via networking groups, or conducting surveys, among other options. You rely on the information you get through these channels, but you also know they are fraught with uncertainty.
When you get information from sources that aren’t completely trustworthy, you’re flying blind. You may plow ahead by setting up a meeting with a prospective customer, then spend hours putting together the perfect pitch, only to find out your information was off base, and the customer isn’t ready to buy, or has little need for what you’re selling.
How can you avoid wasting both your and your prospects’ time and taking the risk of being permanently shut out?
One benefit of the current era of “fake news” is that several organizations have created lists of advice on how to spot fake news, and several of these suggestions are perfectly applicable to determining truth as part of the sales process.
Consider the Source
Where did the information come from? Have you received verifiably true information from them in the past? If you only overheard a conversation, or read between the lines of a tweet from a potential customer, that’s not enough to kick off the sales cycle. You need information that has been human-verified, at the source.
What’s the Support?
How did your source get their information? Is the information you’re hearing consistent with what you already know about your prospect? Unless your source is talking directly to decision-makers at the company, you’re still risking wasting your and your company’s time on prospecting that may not pan out.
Check Your Biases
If what you’re hearing is exactly what you want to hear, it’s possible that it might not mean what you think it means, if it’s true at all.
As rumors about companies proliferate on social media, sales people can be sent into a tizzy of trying to discern the truth before the other guy does. It’s the equivalent of “fake news,” and like fake news, it propagates a lot of wasted time and energy. But by using tools that present an accurate view of situations, events or decisions made by companies, you can feel confident about approaching your prospects with the solutions they actually (and factually) need.

Explore Existing Tools
I can write about this topic because the company I work for, DiscoverOrg, provides sales and marketing teams with the data they need to find the right person to sell to, at the right company, at the right time. Even better, the platform includes a “buying insights and scoops” feature that provides human-verified information on when decision-makers are likely to consider a purchase. Now, hours you previously spent zeroing in on a prospect can be used to perfect your pitch.

Jake Shaffren is the director of sales development at DiscoverOrg, responsible for new pipeline generation and SDR team oversight.