If you want to understand your prospective customers, differentiate your sales team and demonstrate your commitment, you really need to adequately research accounts. There is no quick fix, it can take days to do properly, but it will pay dividends for the foreseeable future as your sales and marketing teams outperform their competitors.
So, if account research is critical to your team's performance, where are the best places to look if you want to really understand your customer and ensure that your messaging and approach are on point? Here are the 10 places that we suggest would be the first places to look:
The annual report should be your first port of call when researching any account. It's a fantastic document (often accompanied by various presentations) filled with critical information that will tell you a great deal about the company in question. So your account research should start here and you should spend time to really understand it. What will you find in the annual report?
The company strategy and key targets are outlined by the CEO.
It will tell you what did and didn't work in the previous year.
What they really need to achieve in the next twelve months and the expected outcomes.
Financial results - whether they made a profit and which direction their income is headed in.
Any major activities - like acquisitions or divestments.
Key divisions, departments, and regions.
The most important executives in the business (and on the board).
Environmental and other corporate targets or statements.
Different countries expect and demand different ways of approaching an annual report - some have sophisticated brochures, and others have largely dull text-heavy content. It's worth hunting them down as they should sit at the heart of your account research.
Shareholder events take place at least once during the year for most established businesses. It tends to see the key executives (often the CEO, CFO, and regional directors) report on the progress against the company strategy and takes place at some point in the midst of the fiscal year.
Invariably there will be lots of slides presented at these events and they will contain commentary about performance and challenges.
As the name suggests, publicly listed companies have a duty to report their performance at the end of each quarter. Like the shareholder presentation, the quarterly results report on the performance and opportunities or issues that the company is seeing in close to real-time. Where an annual report will talk about strategic goals, the quarterly results will talk about how they are performing progressively across the year.
Keep a close eye on company news. News that the company wants you to see will be featured on its website and across company social channels. However, news that they may not be so proud of will be featured across various sites that can be found via Google. We recommend setting up a Google notification for any news that might be relevant to your research and ongoing knowledge of the account.
The most consistent way to find key company contacts is LinkedIn. A Navigator account will be useful here. LinkedIn should be monitored on a regular basis so that you can find any recent new recruits. It's also a great way to understand areas like:
Job titles and an explanation of their role.
What the contacts have done previously.
Who they are connected to in your network.
Internal project or department names.
How employees talk about the company.
An area that many people wouldn't expect to visit unless they were in the market for a job - but job boards can be a goldmine to understand more about your customer and their business. Yes, you will find out what jobs are being recruited for and this will give an indication of upcoming projects and needs, but the really important information sits in the job profiles themselves. They almost always explain the business in simple terms and will outline the key parameters for the job (e.g. which division or department it sits in, who it reports to, and what technology the employee might need to use).
Every industry has its own set of analysts researching the market, company, or sector. If it doesn't, it will almost certainly have a number of trade magazines or associated websites. These analysts or industry observers and writers will provide comments and opinions about the company and how it is performing. Similar to the job boards, the information contained is designed to speak to an external audience and therefore there will be lots of interesting information and written in plain English.
Neighbours and Acquaintances
Who do you know who has worked for or with the company that you are researching? If you know people who have an inside track, go and speak to them. If you don't know anyone who has worked for them or partnered with them, maybe you know people who have used their services or bought products from them. Any and all information can be really valuable so it's definitely worth listening intently.
Your CRM System
This might sound like an unusual piece of advice, but if you work for a company, your predecessors may have already collated information on the account. Most CRM platforms can offer a wealth of information.
Reach out to your partner community - particularly the sales team selling non-competitive products or services in the same sector. They may already have done this research and might be able to share some non-competitive information with you. If they can't share specific documents, they may be happy to talk through the account and help to explain what they know or believe they know about the customer.
How do you research accounts? It really isn't that difficult provided you know what are you looking at and what you are looking for. Look in these 10 locations and you will find out so much information. It can take days out of your diary to do this, so many people decide not to do it - but if your competitor does the work, you will be outsold and out-marketed every step of the way.
If you want to know more about the area, you can find a great whitepaper explaining the area of account research at the following link - ABM | Account Research | Account Based Marketing (viewpointanalysis.com)
Part of our 'technology matchmaking' service focuses on account research - from ABM account research to strategic account research and everything in between. If we can help and do the research for you, just let us know. More information on the various services we offer in this space can be found at - Sales Account Research | Customer Intimacy (salesteamservices.com)