What kind of research do you do before you pick up the phone for that first customer call? A cursory glance at LinkedIn? A quick click through the company’s website? Doing your research before you call helps you earn your customer’s trust and build a rapport more quickly, but most importantly it allows you to best demonstrate the relevance of your product. Rather than wasting precious minutes identifying yourself, your business, etc. you can spend the call time discussing your customer’s business and your ideas for how your product or service could bring them value.
According to HubSpot, ‘The information gleaned before even reaching out can turn you from a salesperson into a consultant. Instead of talking at a prospect, you're starting a problem-solving process that you both have a stake in.’ We’re inclined to agree (check out our thoughts on consultative selling), so with that in mind, here are a few of the websites we like to check when researching our prospective customers.
LinkedIn is a great resource for finding out about your customer from a professional standpoint. By looking at their work history, you can discover how long they’ve been with the company and their responsibilities there. Armed with that information, you have a fairly good idea of whether or not this person is a decision-maker and the right person for your call. You can also see any shared connections, which illustrates that you move in the same circles as your customer and helps build trust.
Scroll to the bottom of your customer’s LinkedIn profile and you’ll also get to see what they’re interested in – the groups they are part of, influencers they follow, etc. It’s often worth joining a group for industry insights and to give you another view on your customer’s personality and needs – are they asking questions, seeking or giving advice, contributing to discussions, and so on.
Other social media
When it comes to other social media, Twitter is our main port of call. If your customer has a personal Twitter account, do they use it for business or does it reveal more about their interests – information you might be able to use to establish common ground, which is essential in developing the customer relationship. What about the corporate Twitter account – what content are they pushing, who are they engaging with, what are they retweeting?
Blogs are another good source – if your customer writes a blog, give it a read. It might be something you can introduce into the conversation. And if the company has a blog, this is likely the best place to see what they have been up to and who they are trying to reach. You can tell from our blog, for example, that we’re trying to provide valuable content for sales and marketing people! (I hope it’s working!)
78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers
So obvious it’s hardly worth mentioning, but when you’re looking at the company’s website have a good nose around and make sure you check out anything about their mission statement or values that will give you a good idea of the business’s ambitions. The news/publications page will also tell you about recent activities and any particular products the business is promoting.
Google, meanwhile, will tell you about any company news the business is not promoting – or that they haven’t got round to putting on their website yet. You can even set up Google Alerts to make sure you’re notified the instant anything happens in the company or in the industry. It’s worth building a picture of how the business is developing or changing so that you know whether now is likely to be a good time to make your call.
You can also Google the individual you’re planning to make contact with. Here you’re looking for items of interest such as participation in sports events, a starring role in a local amateur dramatics production, or dedication to charity works – things you can safely say they would be happy for you to know about and drop into conversation, should you share any of those interests.
Competitor’s websites and industry news sites
Check out other companies and industry analysis to see what else is going on in the market and how this might affect your customer. Of course, knowing how a company will react to market dynamics is not something you can easily predict so don’t rule out calling on the basis you think it might be a bad time; give them a call and show that you understand their business environment. At the very least, you’re introducing yourself and proving yourself to be an ally.
Company research sites
If you aren’t finding what you’re looking for from these sources, you could try looking at some more in-depth websites whose sole business is trading company data. AngelList, for example, specializes in start-ups, while Crunchbase is a source for industry trends, investments and news. Jobseeker website Glassdoor allows people to leave reviews of companies, so you can find out a bit about the working environment, as well as signs of business growth if lots of new jobs are advertised. Ultimately, there’s an endless amount of data online – it just depends how far you’re willing to go to look for it, and how much time you can afford to invest.
Check your CRM
Before you pick up the phone, make sure you’ve checked your own company records to see if someone else has already contacted this customer and how it played out. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs on repeating a conversation.
Finding the time/value, creepy/insightful balance
The amount of time you spend researching is not a science. Some people say 5 minutes, some say 15. I think it depends on the complexity of the industry, how new it is to you, and how much value you think you can bring to the business in question. For a company that you think could develop into a major client, it’s worth spending some extra time preparing. However, delay too long and one of your competitors might get in there first. Research will be a continual part of the sales journey as you try to lead the customer through the pipeline, so at some point you need to pick up the phone and take the first steps.
There is no shame in knowing a lot about a company and you shouldn’t be wary of proving this knowledge in conversation – as long as you’re confident in it. However, knowing too much about an individual can border on creepy so make sure you keep it professional, drop it into conversation as naturally as possible, and be led by their reaction. If they don’t want to talk about it, leave it alone.
Armed with all this research, that first call should be a successful one and hopefully from there it’s only a matter of time before you get to sit down with them and wow them with your business proposal – presented from the Sales Enablement tool on your mobile device, of course!
How long do you spend researching your prospective customers? We’d love to hear from you!
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