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4 Sales Trigger Events That Are Completely Overrated

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If you’re not using trigger events to sell, you’re missing out.

We preach inbound sales on this blog -- that’s hardly news. That means no cold calling, no untargeted outreach, and no more spray-and-pray.

Selling with trigger events -- some kind of social activity or event that signals your prospect’s company might be thinking about a purchase decision -- is one of the best ways to get started with inbound. After all, you’re reaching out to a buyer who has specific questions with helpful advice and answers.

But not every trigger event is worth pursuing. The four trigger events below are often cited as signs you should reach out to a prospect. But not so fast -- they aren’t sufficient reasons to reach out on their own.

4 Sales Trigger Events That Aren’t Always What They Seem

1) Funding Round

I know, I know. A funding round means more money, more growth, and more reasons to buy things. It means a prospect’s business has been taken seriously by external investors, a good sign that the company is stable enough to make long-term strategic decisions and purchases.

What could possibly be bad about a funding round?

Here’s the thing -- if you know about it, everybody knows about it. Websites like AngelList and Crunchbase collect information on funding rounds, acquisitions, and mergers, so the information is available to anybody who’s paying attention. Funding rounds are also good publicity for a company, so you can bet they’ll be promoting the news heavily too.

Which means that everyone whose product is slightly relevant to the company is going to reach out to try and sell them something. They’re probably inundated with requests for meetings (not to mention are incredibly busy growing their company), so you have to differentiate yourself from the pack if you’re going to make this trigger event matter.

How to make this trigger event matter: Whether it’s finding their pitch deck, learning what investors liked about their pitch, or figuring out where they want to next, unearth information that’ll make your outreach more than "So I heard you just came into some money … "

2) New Executive

New executives are often recommended as a valuable trigger event because a high-level personnel replacement can signal a sea change in a company’s strategy. The thinking is that a previously reticent economic buyer will have been replaced by one who’s more eager to talk and ready to take things in a new direction.

But that’s not necessarily the case. Executives come and go all the time, and that new COO may simply be a replacement for someone amicably moving on to a new venture. You’ll need to do some more digging to figure out whether there’s a deeper reason for the change.

How to make this trigger event matter: You have to figure out the circumstances behind the personnel change and whether they're conducive to a sale.

Ask the following questions:

  • Was the previous executive forced out or fired?
  • Is the new executive an internal promotion or an external hire?
  • Was the hire accompanied by other signals of strategic change (new departments, unusually fast growth of a certain team, mergers, or acquisitions)?
  • Has the company made any public statements about the new hire beyond the typical “We’re excited to have X on board”?
  • Was the hire accompanied by signals of company stress (several quarters of losses, downsizing, cancelled expansion plans)?

3) Bad Quarter

The first bad quarter a company suffers after a few years of strong performance is often hailed as a great time to reach out. The reasoning goes that if the company is doing poorly, surely they must be looking around for a way to turn things around.

They probably are, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re looking externally or ready to make a big strategic shift. And while some decision makers can shake it off and move on to the next play, understand that a bad quarter might cause others to become warier of making big decisions.

How to make this trigger event matter: Do some recon on the decision maker, perhaps through social media outreach or taking advantage of common connections. Are they a risk-averse person, or are they likely to tackle problems head-on?

Also determine whether the bad quarter is relevant to your offering. If a core metric of the business suffered badly and your product just isn’t that relevant or won’t do much to move the needle in that area, it’s probably not the best time for the company to buy.

4) Successful Quarter

Successful quarters are often viewed similarly to funding rounds -- clearly, the company’s doing something right and is able to grow, so it’s probably looking around for things to buy.

But successful quarters don’t mean that much on their own. For example, if a company has been growing for three straight years and last quarter was just their 12th straight good quarter, it’s not so much a “trigger” as it’s business as usual.

How to make this trigger event matter: Strong business performance is often accompanied by more telling trigger events, like hiring for new roles, introducing new product lines (both signaling a strategic expansion), or opening new offices (indication of a physical one). These trigger events are much more valuable, so if a company’s growth has started to pick up steam, look for other signs that they’re in the market for new products.

What trigger events do you think are overrated? Let us know in the comments below.

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