Sales Skill #1: Researching Prospects
If you know about the prospect, you can craft your approach so that it resonates with that prospect’s individual needs and concerns. Without this skill, every cold cold call (and indeed every first contact) becomes an uphill battle to create credibility. Here’s how to hone this skill:
STEP #1: Decide what’s really important to know. There’s a wealth of information out there about every company and every person, so make have an idea of what’s going to be useful before you start digging. In most cases, it will be information that either relates to the prospect’s use of your product or potential points of rapport or interest between you and various contacts inside the prospect.
STEP #2: Learn whatever tools are available. Your company may have access to online programs that help you research. If so, learn them and use them. Your company not supporting you in this way? Not to worry. You can "do it yourself" by following the subsequent steps below.
STEP #3: Go to Hoovers.com and do a search on the prospect’s corporate name. Unless the company is very small or very closely held, you’ll likely get a summary of the company and its business model, the basic financials, and the names of a few top executives, even if you don’t have a subscription. Cut and paste the most important parts into a newly-created document.
STEP #4: Check their public filings. Go to www.sec.gov, click on "Search for Company Filings," then "Companies and Other Filings." Enter the corporate name and find the most recent 10K or 10Q report. Scan the financial tables, the list of executives, the descriptions of the prospect’s business model, and the "issues and uncertainties." Cut and paste the most important parts into the document.
STEP #5: Examine the prospect’s website. Examine what the company has to say about itself, then examine recent press releases. Cut and paste anything that look interesting. Check to see what kind of person they’re hiring. That gives you a good idea of how and where they’re planning to expand and where they’re short of resources, all of which might be valuable to know.
STEP #6: Check out the social network. Based upon the names you’ve found in previous steps, look at the online resumes of any potential contact. Take note of anything, like references to a personal life or conference speaking engagements, that might offer a "hook" for rapport building. Cut and paste whatever looks interesting.
STEP #7: With Step #1 in mind, review your findings. In most cases, you’ll find that your summary document gives you a better understanding of the prospect’s firm than most of the employees who actually work there.