It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know and Who Knows Your Prospect

By Heather Baldwin

Remember back in high school when that new girl showed up and you just knew you had to meet her? How did you do it? No doubt you did some research – figured out her name, where she came from, what classes she was taking – and then started looking for connections among your circle of friends to figure out who knew someone who knew someone who knew the girl. By following that relationship path and then spending some time talking with her – bam! You had a date for Friday night.

In a sense, that’s what Spoke Software does for sales professionals. This Web-based service enables users to identify prospects and gain access to buyers by leveraging their relationship network across the three steps of prospecting.

1. Identify leads. The Spoke system includes information on more than 500,000 companies and 28 million people. You can search this massive database by geography, industry, company size, title and more. So say your prime target is VPs of marketing at pharmaceutical companies located in the Bay Area with at least $500,000 in annual revenues. Enter those parameters into the system and Spoke will give you a list of targets, including the company’s contact phone numbers and standard email conventions.

2. Research your leads. Spoke amasses all the information available on the Web about each company and person in its database. So once you’ve identified specific prospects, you’ll be able to look up their company’s financial information, relevant news feeds, analyst reports and any information available on that prospect – who they are, their role at the company, previous positions, biography, quotes from articles on the Web and so on.

3. Get access to your leads. This is where Spoke’s social networking function comes in. Spoke lets users map out their relationships with people inside and outside of their companies. Thus the system can identify linkages between people and create relationship paths from sales reps to their prospects. Spoke will start your reps down that path by giving them a list of people they know who may know their target directly or by a degree or two of separation. From there, it’s simply a matter of the sales rep working those connections to gain an introduction to his prospect.

When Amy Guarino arrived in April at Right90, a hosted software and services company that helps organizations implement better sales and operation planning processes (www.right90.com), her first goal as VP of sales was to aggressively build a pipeline, leveraging off the current customer base. She says, “Spoke was extremely helpful in that effort as I was able to quickly identify the right sales operations individuals in the firms that I am targeting.” Recently, she discovered one of her company’s board members had a connection to the head of worldwide sales operations at a large semiconductor firm on her wish list of next customers. The board member facilitated an introduction and Right90 is now engaged in a conversation with that prospect. The connection, she says, saved her one to two months of work trying to gain access to the contact.

“I have been selling for more than 20 years, but have noticed that over the past 5 to 10 years, corporate decision makers have been bombarded with selling messages,” Guarino observes. “As a result, getting through to them with a valid value proposition is getting more difficult. Spoke has provided me with a way to gain immediate credibility with high-level prospects and allows me to be productive and focused in my selling efforts.”

In late May Spoke Software released version 2.0 of its hosted Web application, which includes the new Spoke Pro. Spoke Pro gives sales professionals a full set of advanced features – advanced company search, account tracking and integration to Salesforce.com and Siebel CRM OnDemand. Spoke Pro can be licensed from the Spoke’s Website (www.spoke.com) for an introductory price of $49 per month.