Trigger Based Selling: Everything You Need To Know
2023-10-23·14 Min Read
by Max Woo

Trigger Based Selling: Everything You Need To Know

The game in sales has always been to find warmer leads, more personalization, and greater volume. You can always spend more time researching prospects which will give you higher personalization, or you can work harder or hire more BDRs to make calls, but it’s very difficult to throw more bodies or money to find warmer leads. Most of the time you are just hoping the leads that are being targeted are somewhat in the right moment to buy.

That’s where trigger based selling comes in. Trigger based selling tries to catch prospects during their window of need, implementing this strategy can help you catch your customers at the exact right time and they are 5x more likely to buy from you.

What is Trigger Based Selling?

Trigger based selling aims to get your offering in front of a prospect at exactly the moment they’ll need you. Usually some activity, market signal, or event will act as that sales trigger which will prompt your sales team to reach out. The goal is to catch your prospect during their window of dissatisfaction or need. There are other types of triggers that are more opportunity based, but they are not as strong as dissatisfaction triggers. Opportunity based triggers are events that may prompt a change or need, such as executive hiring, funding announcement, or a press releases that indicate that the account can benefit from an offering. Dissatisfaction based triggers are harder to find but sticks out as pains prospects may be feeling. An example of a dissatisfaction trigger could be a open role your prospect is hiring for which has been live for more than a few weeks, this could indicate that there needs to be a change in system for them to fill that role, and a pain they are feeling is ultimately days that role has been outstanding, and the solution could potentially be you. Later in this blog we will outline a bunch of examples of sales triggers that you can use in your strategies.

Trigger based selling is also widely used in a B2C context, and with AI being more ingrained into everyday sales workflows, soon B2B sales may take on similar strategies used by B2C marketers when it comes to trigger based activities.

How B2B Trigger Based Selling will evolve with AI

Recent trends have indicated that the traditional business development role would likely shift from the sales org to the marketing org. Ok maybe we’re not there yet, but companies are certainly embedding BDRs into more marketing initiatives and pushing BDRs to be more comprehensive and involved in the overall sales funnel. A recent study showed that finding alignment between marketing and sales led to a 208% boost in marketing value, and 108% less friction. Now whatever that means, we can't ignore that even intuitively having better alignment between those two functions will lead to meaningful outcomes. A more concrete data point from the same study is that 80% of marketing leads are ignored by sales. Sounds familiar? Blaming either sales or marketing for this stat would not be productive, because BDRs will not take action on a lead that adds no value to their pipeline, and marketing will not take action to deliver “better” leads because it's simply too difficult to pre-qualify and hand-off to sales. What happens if we are able to find better alignment between the two? According to Marketo, companies experience a 67% effectiveness increase in deals closed. The key to driving this increase can be found in communication but also leveraging new age tech stack to breed mutual collaboration.

With the rise of AI, there is no doubt a slew of new tools popping up on the market. Most of these tools position themselves as personalization, but most of these tools will not work or need a lot of human input for it to deliver the promise. We talk about why AI personalization fails to deliver its promise here. What AI hopes to do for outbound is what B2C companies have figured out a long time ago, which is to enroll buyers into a funnel without any interaction with a sales person through use of tactics such as placement, personalization of content, recommendations, predictive analytics, virtual assistants, social listening, marketing automation, etc. What we see this becoming is essentially evolving sales functions to marketing. It's beyond alignment, it's the merging of the two functions over time. Sales with enough automation and volume becomes marketing, and if companies can get past the barrier of being marked as spammers with the volume increases, the only missing piece is personalization and trigger identification. All of this has to be done in a cost effective manner of course.

Commons Sales Triggers

To understand what kind of triggers can be identified in an automated way and dissected using AI, we must first understand what triggers are relevant for our value proposition. It comes down to the pain you are solving and how it manifests itself for you customers and how your prospects may express them online or through some kind of interaction that you may be able to monitor.

In this section we will talk more about some of those common triggers that show indicators that buyers may be experiencing that window of dissatisfaction. These are surface level triggers that are talked about frequently, but for the uninitiated we'll give a brief overview. In the next section we'll give some anecdotes of less common triggers and strategies that go a level deeper. Sales triggers in a nutshell are just events or circumstances that create opportunities for salespeople to engage with potential buyers and ultimately close a deal. These triggers can vary depending on the industry, target audience, and product or service being sold. Here are some common sales triggers:

  • Change in Leadership: When there is a change in leadership within a company, such as a new CEO or senior executive, it often leads to a shift in priorities and strategies. This is when new offerings can find a wedge into those shifting priorities. Even better is if the change in leadership comes with an announcement that clearly outlines some of those changes, and maybe your offering would help achieve a particular change.

  • Funding or Investment: Companies that have recently secured funding or investment may have additional capital to spend on new products or services. This financial influx can be a trigger for sales opportunities. This is a pretty crowded trigger and most sales teams have abandoned this due to the amount of competing cold emails whenever a company gets funded.

  • Product Launch or Expansion: When a company launches a new product or expands into new markets, they may require complementary products or services. Outbound that target these companies with solutions that enhance their new offerings or help them tackle the new market could find themselves in with this trigger.

  • Mergers and Acquisitions: M&A activities can disrupt a company's operations and create opportunities for new products and service offerings. A lot of consolidation may also occur from these types of events which may see old software being thrown out and exploration with new and more comprehensive offerings. They may need integration solutions, new software, or other services to navigate the changes effectively.

  • Regulatory Changes: Changes in regulations or compliance requirements can create opportunities for sales in industries that need to adapt to these new rules. Companies may seek out compliance software or consulting services. If you are betting on regulatory pressure creating pains and blockers for prospects, now's your chance.

  • Technology Upgrades: As technology evolves, companies may need to upgrade their IT infrastructure, software, or hardware. Salespeople can offer solutions that improve efficiency, security, or competitiveness. Websites such as G2 may offer an inside look into what softwares companies are using, and if your value proposition compliments or integrates with some software that may be painful to use or have gaps, this is a great way to find prospects.

  • Contract Renewals: The expiration of contracts or service agreements is an ideal time for salespeople to engage with existing customers. They can discuss renewal terms and explore opportunities to upsell or cross-sell additional products or services. This is more for account managers and more of an internal trigger, but a diligent business development team could also track this, especially if there is not yet an account management function within the organization.

  • Industry Trends: Staying informed about industry trends and emerging challenges can help sales teams identify opportunities. Companies facing industry-specific challenges may be receptive to solutions that address these issues. You may also want to target and monitor niche newsletters and press sources for the industry you’re serving, for example the healthcare industry has its own newsletters that provide detailed industry updates and trends on technology.

  • Competitive Advantages: If a competitor faces challenges or disruptions, it can be an opportunity to approach their customers with alternatives or improvements. Increase in competition for a particular industry or niche always leads to management making decisions that are riskier in hope of staying on top, this is a time where they'll be more open to adopting new products that could potentially give them an edge over their competitors. Highlighting your company's competitive advantages is crucial in such cases.

  • Seasonal Trends: In some industries, there are seasonal buying patterns. Identifying these trends and timing your sales efforts accordingly can improve your success rate. This is more of a repetitive and internal trigger, but you can monitor external sources for less cyclical trends that perhaps come in waves and you need to position yourself for a battle and a slew of outreach when those opportunities occur.

  • Trigger Events in Prospect's Business: Beyond industry-wide triggers, it's essential to pay attention to events specific to a prospect's business, such as expansions, layoffs, or changes in business focus. This provides opportunities for you to provide a solution that may offset costs but still get the job done.

  • Website or Social Media Activity: Monitoring a prospect's website updates, blog posts, or social media activity can provide insights into their current priorities and interests, allowing you to tailor your approach. The term that has been coined for this is “social listening” and allows you to track announcements or changes in prospect's business that may present an opportunity for your product to serve a purpose.

  • Customer or Employee Reviews and Complaints: Online reviews and customer complaints can indicate areas where your solutions could address pain points or shortcomings experienced by potential customers. If your tool solves an internal problem such as an HR tool, monitoring employee complaints could also be a trigger and provides a great hook for you to talk to a decision maker.

  • Publicly Available Financial Data: Keeping an eye on a company's financial reports or earnings calls can help you identify financial triggers like revenue growth, profitability, or cost-saving initiatives.

There are no doubt tools in the market that help you track some of these triggers. CB Insights, G2, Crunchbase, and other private reports often publish new insight over industry trends. A resourceful sales team that cares about particular trends may set up alerts for new releases from multiple sources. How can AI enhance the process of trigger identification is the key to working with multiple triggers? One area of tooling is rising which hopes to integrate many sources of data and triggers into one, which allows you to find relevant triggers automatically and faster. Clay.com being a product led company that positions themselves as “not just a data provider, but all the data providers” aims to do just that. For companies that have unique and deeper triggers that need fishing out, having a custom built workflow and solution could also add tremendously more value compared to generic triggers aggregation.

Examples of Deeper Triggers

Finding deeper triggers requires a step beyond looking for commonly used triggers such as reading this blog. Your sales leaders, and the rest of your organization needs to deeply think about the main problem that your product or service is setting out to solve, then employ divergent thinking instead of convergent thinking to come up with all the ways that problem could manifest itself online or ways where that dissatisfaction can be captured. While you are brainstorming, write each of these down because the next step is to think about how to automate identifying these triggers. The best way is to find these triggers manually, only then will you have a solid understanding of what it takes to farm these triggers. Think about if there are existing tools that can help you monitor each of these triggers, and if the triggers are extremely time consuming to find and the workflows required to then identify contact and turn them into a lead is tedious, talk to your tech team to see if they are willing to automate that work or alternatively try look for software that can help you integrate trigger data in a sales context and aggregate leads in a way that makes sense to you.

Here’s an example of a deeper trigger. You are a newer startup building a competing product to a more established company. You’ve identified a gap in the market that users want but the more established company is not willing to solve. In thinking about the pain, one way it could manifest is complaints about that particular missing feature or an overall dissatisfaction in the existing product itself. Dissatisfaction from customers of competing products may be a great signal. Monitoring your competitor’s complaints or help forums can provide golden opportunities to snatch up unhappy users and customers, especially for an earlier stage company.

This type of strategy can also be employed for any sales team selling a value proposition that addresses poor employee retention or experience. There are many company rating websites where employees can write reviews about their employers, the most commonly known is GlassDoor. Although recruiters and HR professionals must hate this platform, employees are able to anonymously criticize every aspect of the business. If employee complaints are a great trigger and hook for you, here’s how you may be able to identify if an account is worth targetting. Search for companies that fit your firmographic criteria on GlassDoor, run reviews from worst to best, expand each review, look for negative reviews that talk about the particular pain point that you may be able to solve. To be more comprehensive, go to the section specific for your pain, maybe it’s employee benefits, maybe it’s D&I, and looking for additional feedback that could indicate that this company needs improvement. A step further to identify dissatisfaction is to take a look at the overall ratings board and see where the category of dissatisfaction you service sits relative to other categories. If it’s poor in relation to others, it could be a great hook for you once on the phone with a stakeholder, probably some HR leader. This seems like a tedious process, but it could boost conversions by 5x as mentioned before, because there is both a trigger for need and a hook to get them interested.

Speed up your trigger selling process

To make your trigger based selling more effective and also to not bore your sales team out of their mind, pay attention to which part of this process can be automated. The answer in most cases is that 90% of the work to find triggers and the right decision makers can be fully automated and dissected using AI with summaries to the trigger. Plus, you can always sweeten the entire process by building a LavaReach workflow that eliminates the need to do any manual work. So, simplify your trigger identification and account mapping process with LavaReach today. With hundreds of integrations, custom workflows, and automations that work with your tech stack, AI automations and co-pilot workflows can be the perfect accompaniment to your trigger selling processes.

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About Max Woo

Max Woo is a multiple time founder with years of first-hand experience in B2B sales and revenue leadership. He has a consistent track record of helping companies experiment and implement outbound in SaaS and other industries. Throughout his career, Max has set up numerous outbound motions for the first time for companies that previously had not found success with sales led customer acquisition. Max also regularly shares his insights on LinkedIn in areas such as trigger based selling, AI enabled customer acquisition, outbound automations, prospect research, and more. He is dedicated to empowering sales leaders and individual sales people to not only become better professionals, but also learn to embrace unique strategies and build experiences that are tailor fit for the way their prospects can realize value, and he believes that empathy for customers and prospects always triumph against tactics that just closes the deal.