Know Your Trigger Events for B2B Sales

by Shannon F.

What does a bonsai tree have to do with this post? Not much, but read on.

If you sell a B2B product or service that depends on perfect timing, you must focus on trigger events that introduce the need for whatever it is that you sell. Every purchase involves a trigger event, but only some purchases can be predicted based on that event.

These two types of purchases—purchases that can be predicted based on trigger events and purchases that cannot be predicted—must be handled in two distinct ways. We’ll start with purchases that cannot be predicted. Typically, when a company needs to make a sudden purchase, the decision comes down to particular features and—detrimental to your bottom line—price. Decision-makers research options themselves, not giving you a chance to consult. By the time you arrive at the scene of the bidding war, you are essentially just a number.

Unpredictable Purchases

For example, someone forgot to water the bonsai tree in the lobby of XYZ Co, and the plant has sadly expired. The decision-maker at XYZ Co quickly researches local nurseries and gathers prices for various bonsais, ranging from $200 to $1000. Your company, a corporate plant service, is among the “bidders.” You may have to sell a bonsai practically at cost in order to win the deal. The benefit to you? You can check in regularly with XYZ Co to see how the bonsai is holding up and charge them to prune it, water it during holiday weekends, etc. You can also convince them that they need bonsais in other areas of the office, citing the tranquility and aesthetic appeal of this ancient horticultural tradition. But the bottom line is that it’s a lot more work to form a relationship with a company after the purchase.

Predictable Purchases

In the case of a predictable purchase, salespeople have far more time to act on the trigger event, establish a timeline, and make a larger profit than in the scenario above. For example, XYZ Co is planning an office relocation; this is great news, since you can safely assume that they will be decorating their new office space with items such as plants. Now that you can predict a purchase (plants) based on a trigger event (office move), you are able to get in early, build a relationship with XYZ, and render your competition irrelevant.

An office relocation can take 6 to 18 months, depending on the size of the company, so you have plenty of time to make sure you are on XYZ’s radar. You engage them at various stages with free information, such as whitepapers about the health benefits of plants, a link to your blog post about choosing the right indoor plants, etc. Later, you schedule a time to go over XYZ’s new floor plan and make suggestions for optimum plant placement. XYZ trusts you, since you seem to be a knowledgeable expert in your field. When they do some online research and find only great things about your service, this trust is confirmed. Instead of initiating a bidding war and making a decision based on price, XYZ awards you the contract without bothering to talk to any of your competitors.

So what trigger events apply to your industry?

Commercial Real Estate/Space Planners/Architects/Real Estate Lawyer: Lease expiration date is forthcoming; office move announced

Voice and Data/Telecom/IT/Office Furniture/Corporate Art/ Office Equipment/Office Products/Security/Printing and Rebranding/Commercial Mover: Office move announced; merger announced; new initiative or growth announced

Software/Outsourcing/Personnel Services/Coaching and Consulting: Downsizing announced; new initiative or growth announced; staff changes announced

Remember that trigger events tend to be disruptive yet fluid times in the life of a company. At the early stages of an office move, for example, companies are not entirely sure what direction they are going to take. This is an excellent opportunity for you to introduce new ideas and inspire possibilities.

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