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When I explain to friends what I do for a living, one of the first questions they ask is, “what do companies use all this data for?” It’s a great leveller, because it makes me think about the basics ─ what is the REAL business value?

And one of the most basic ─ and important ─ uses of data is to find the perfect prospect. There can be nothing more fundamental than to understand what it is that you offer and who are the customers likely to want it. Data ─ properly harnessed ─ allows you to match your products, services and messaging to the sectors, companies and contacts that deliver the richest returns. It saves you time, cuts your costs and boosts your bottom line.

Fundamental it might be, but easy it is not. I see many businesses who struggle to translate theory into practice. So the following five steps will help you to identify the companies, sectors, contacts and solutions that will deliver your perfect prospect ─ and make the most of the opportunities they present when you do.

1. Find ─ the prize

It sounds simple, but you can’t find the perfect prospect without first understanding what the prize looks like. Led by your data you can do this by asking yourself questions such as: am I trying to grow customer numbers; am I trying to improve customer profitability; do I want to increase share of my current market or expand into new ones? Answering these questions provides you with defined objectives that will guide everything that follows.

2. Find ─ the companies that need you

Using consolidated internal and external data, you can identify the similarities and synergies between the customers you already know about and those you don’t. Based on the objectives you have already identified, your data solution can help you customise your prospect search based on criteria such as geography, sector, employee size and current business performance.

It allows you to understand the companies that are hot targets for your sales teams right now, create intelligent lists that take advantage of real-time data to keep track of emerging (or declining) prospects and find companies that look like your best customers.

3. Find ─ the sectors that need your products

Now you understand the customers in familiar sectors, it’s time to expand your horizons to unfamiliar ones and open up huge prospecting potential. An effective data solution can, for example, run keyword searches that discover the sectors talking about the kinds of products and services you offer.

In a matter of moments you can find new markets, profile prospects, understand their financial status and diversify your customer base ─ which can improve your business resilience.

4. Find ─ the contacts who count

So far so good, but your sales teams still have a mountain to climb. You have given them the answer to the first critical question ─ which company to call. You now need to provide them with the answer to two additional questions ─ when to call and what to say.

Your data solution can give your sales team the ‘in’, by: delivering real-time information on the key contacts within your prospect companies, including accurate contact details such as email addresses and profiles on each individual; access to business triggers, such as expansion and new hires; and timings for key business events, such as budget cycles.

5. Find ─ the right data solution

Each of the steps above depend on a single common strand ─ an effective data solution. And these steps are a good framework around which to select a data partner. Test potentialproviders: is data constantly up to date and refreshed; is the solution easily accessible, integrating with other solutions such as Salesforce CRM; does the solution blend internal and external data, combining multiple data sources into focused insight; is it easy-to-use, simple to understand and straightforward to apply; and does it bring additional value by working towards wider business goals such as Account-Based Marketing?

By Rob Eaton, Director of Sales, International, at Avention