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They Ask, You Answer
They Ask, You Answer

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Learn the principles of the They Ask, You Answer by taking our most popular course, taught by Marcus Sheridan himself.

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Hone Your Digital Research Skills To Succeed At Competitive Selling!

Hone Your Digital Research Skills To Succeed At Competitive Selling! Blog Feature

May 21st, 2018 min read

It’s a fact: digital skills are essential to succeeding in today's competitive business landscape --but keeping up with the changes is becoming more and more difficult.

A recent CapGemini/LinkedIn survey revealed that while more than half of organizations surveyed acknowledge a widening digital skills gap, and while even more agree that this shortage is hampering digital transformation efforts, many still have no formal plan in place to improve.

How can this be?

Most organizations in today’s world understand the importance of digital literacy and intelligence, but it can be challenging to identify the right starting point.

While learning new technology and tools are a key component to making the move, it’s more about the mindset and agility of the people in an organization that will make or break the transition to digital.

In other words, to remain competitive in your industry (especially if you’re in marketing or sales) you must be driven to stay digitally savvy.

Your digital skill level and literacy is determined by your “ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.”

This is why digital skills and digital research in particular are especially important today when it comes to competitive selling.

What Is Digital Research in Competitive Selling?

Competitive selling is about defining how you’ll “differentiate” your offering and create value for your market. It’s about carving out a spot in the competitive landscape, putting your stake in the ground, and winning mindshare in the marketplace – being known for a certain “something.”

Done right, digital research is a stepping stone on the path to becoming a competitive seller.

In the context of competitive selling, digital research, is your ability to use online resources to find, assess, and leverage information to inform a decision about a sales opportunity or account.

It could include sourcing new leads, finding current industry and market trends or details about a specific company or vertical, as well as information about a particular client or prospect.

Let’s say you’re preparing for your next big sales meeting and you need to do some general research and information gathering.

LinkedIn can be a treasure trove of information for you, but only if you are familiar with the platform.

If you are familiar with LinkedIn and how to use it you’ll have access to:

  • Current and Past Experience: Most people list general job responsibilities, projects they’ve worked on, or current goals and initiatives they will be working on soon. This will help you get a sense of what exactly their job entails so you can ask better questions.
  • Shared Connections: Look for connections you have in common with your prospect and use that as fodder for your sales conversation. How do they know this person? This is a great opportunity for a referral.
  • Recent Activity: What type of information is your prospect sharing or liking on LinkedIn? Take a look at your prospect’s activity to help you determine the best way to tailor your messaging. It will also give you talking points for future conversations.
  • Company Background: What does the company’s profile say? Did they post a recent press release? Blog article? White paper? Photos? This type of information helps you understand their position in the marketplace and identify any changes that may be happening in the organization.

You’ll have greater insight into the prospect and be able to draw conclusions about their needs. You’ll be able to better connect the dots between what you know about the prospect/company, current market/industry trends, prospect pain points or challenges, and your solution.

If your digital skills (in this case, your LinkedIn skills) were not as sharp, you may have never been able to take advantage of this resource. You may not have found a great deal of insight to frame your conversation and may have ultimately lost the sale.

Why Does It Matter?

The value of digital research in competitive selling really comes down to one thing: knowing your audience.

When you’re a master of digital research, you have the ability to go above and beyond an average sales rep and really stand out.

By keeping a constant pulse on market trends, industry updates, and your target personas, you’re well-positioned to adapt and change as customer needs shift.

Creating buyer personas based off of your research makes it easier to target the right audience in the most effective and engaging way possible on the right channels.

In fact, 65% of companies who exceed lead and revenue goals have updated their buyer personas within the last six months, according to a recent study.

Bottom line: Sharpening your digital research skills will equate to improved sales performance and results.

When you’ve done your research and understand the factors influencing the market, industry, and your target audience, you’ll be more knowledgeable and confident walking into each and every sales meeting.

This, in turn, will create an appreciation from the prospect and you’ll have a greater chance of being viewed as a trusted advisor from the very beginning of your relationship.

How to Improve Your Digital Research Skills

Understand the Difference Between Fact and Insight

The first step to improving is knowing and understanding the difference between a fact and an insight and seeking insights.

Facts are the definitive “whats” of a particular subject and can be valuable pieces of information, but it’s the “why” behind the “what” that truly leads to a deeper understanding about the motivations of your prospects and customers. That “why” is an insight.

Knowing the difference between the two will help you prioritize the right information, which will help you create more compelling sales stories and presentations.

Let’s look at an example:


38% of salespeople say getting a response from prospects is getting harder. (HubSpot)

If, let’s say, you’re offering online sales and marketing training and you were to share this with a prospect or client, they may think: “hm, that’s an interesting bit of information, but so what?”

Clearly they appreciate the fact, but they need more context. That’s where the insight comes in.


Based on this statistic, it’s clear that people are inundated with messages every day and they’re doing more ignoring than responding.

Instead of trying to break through the clutter of their inbox, you must be active and involved on the platforms your prospects turn to when they are “in the moment” and ready to be entertained, educated, or make a purchase.

Social media, for example, is just that. 

As you learn more about Digital and Social Selling, you’ll learn actionable ways to reach prospects more easily.

Competitive sellers are laser-focused on adding value to every interaction they have with prospects and customers.

While sharing facts, figures, and statistics can be helpful, your audience wants to know what you think. They want to know why you think this fact is important to share and how it affects them.

Set A Goal & Deadline.

Remember to set a goal, and even a time limit, for your research efforts.

It’s easy to get off-track and go down the digital wormhole of research, but when you have a goal and stay focused on that goal, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Conducting digital research is a process that takes time. Setting a goal and identifying your ideal results and outcome as well as a deadline will help you stay focused and motivated.

And you're more likely to enjoy the process because you know exactly what you're looking for and trying to achieve. 

Check Your Sources.

It’s pretty easy to find almost anything you need or want to know online, but we don’t always know if it’s 100% accurate. For this reason it’s good to either try to find the same information from multiple sources, or if possible, the original source. Even then, make sure that it is a reliable source. Nothing can hurt you more than acting on inaccurate information.

Get Started

To gain a competitive advantage in the market today, it’s more important than ever for you to conduct effective digital research and hone your ability to interpret information into insights.  

Your sales argument will be compelling and more persuasive by pointing out your unique differences backed up by facts and insights, and you’ll be more likely to book qualified meetings and close more deals.

Wondering what other digital skills you should be focused on improving? You’re in luck! Join us on Thursday May 31st at 1pm EDT to learn the top 5 digital skills all sales and marketing professionals need to focus on improving.

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