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What's you typical research process before a sales call?

What do you check? Company linkedin, company website? Personal linkedin? Recent company news?


What else? How much time do you usually spend preparing for a sales meeting?

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33
sahil
Notorious Answer
+13
Deepak Chopra of Sales
Pre-call research is the difference between a mediocre and great meeting. Do NOT skimp on it, and stop thinking that doing a light skim of LNKD and company website for 10 mins is good enough. Plan to spend 30 mins researching before each call, and you'll see a massive increase in conversion to opportunities. Here's what I used and taught my sales teams to do:

- Research the human: Sales is deeply personal. You should honor that by doing comprehensive research on your prospect(s). Look up their LNKD work history sure, but then find their twitter. Read any news article they are quoted in. Find out about where they live, what hobbies they have, etc. (As an aside: DO NOT mention you did this. DO NOT say "Oh I saw you have 3 kids that play soccer in Austin!" cuz that's hella creepy. But if you do know that about them, perhaps mention that you love BBQ in your warmup. Mention that you are a soccer fan during the pitch. Talk about raising kids at some point. You want THEM to say "Oh I love BBQ! I have 3 kids who play soccer!" etc. Let THEM find the connection. Then you can be "surprised" and say "Oh wow I had no idea! Tell me more...") #sales Nothing sells faster than "serendipity", so make sure to manufacture some.

- Research the company: You should be able to ACTUALLY describe what the company does. Not just say "cloud-based data mining blah blah" whatever jargon they use. You should know their product. Their strengths. Weaknesses. Competitors. Read their reviews on G2, Yelp, etc. Look up their funding history. Recent press releases. Etc. You should have all this info readily available. (But again, DO NOT use it. Do not say "Oh I already did all this research on your company." Just have the knowledge available so when you are having a convo, you sound educated on the space.)

- Prepare the Top 3 Hits: Before every call, I list out my top 3 hits. These are the top 3 things I MUST say on this call. Every call should have a unique top 3, so it's not just your best 3 value props. That's dumb. As an example, if you are selling a CRM tool to a company that's scaling their sales team for the first time, your top 3 could be:

1. Lightweight - We're easy to implement and deploy, so you don't need a heavy sales ops / engineering lift to get started.

2. Customizable - New sales teams change processes a lot. We're a flexible solution so we can keep up with your changing strategy.

3. Benchmarking - We can offer support on how your sales team is performing vs. others that are a similar size. This gives you some data to help inform how well you are doing as you scale up the team. 
Incognito
Arsonist
+9
Master of Disaster
Thanks @sahil ! Solid advice as always.
Hannibal
Opinionated
+3
Senior Account Executive
@sahilthis is so spot on... I definitely do the creepy social stalking part and it pays off big time. I always tell my team that people buy from people and you have to find a way to create a memorable connection. I also love the exercise of having a top 3 - it could be value prop and or takeaways that you are trying to get out the call/meeting. Must have action items!
ju
justatopproducer
Opinionated
+1
National Consultant
I like the thought that is put into this response but there is absolutely no way I have enough time to do all of that. Do you only have like 1 meeting a day @sahil?
CCP
Opinionated
+5
VP, Business Development
I do something similar with a first, second and third prize but that's information I want to gather. So I prep key questions rather than key features and benefits. But I agree, prep is SUPER important. 
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
love the 3 hits advice!
TheRealPezDog
Notable Contributor
+8
Account Manager
This is some of THEE best fucking research advice I've ever seen.  I once discovered one of my prospects was a garth brooks fan and I happen to have a wildly successful soundcloud cover of "Ask Me How I Know" and I sent her the link and got the GD Meeting.  Would've never known she loved Garth if I didn't venture OUTSIDE of her LI Profile... 
The_Honey_Badger
Opinionated
+5
Account Executive
This is a document that I created for my internal team.  This covers different research avenues, and some of it (google alerts) can be automated.  It's long, hope it helps.  This is mostly from "Smart Calling" - but I added resources too.

Google News Alerts Google News Alerts 

( http://www.google.com/alerts) is a free service that needs to become part of your Smart Calling toolbox. Google will send you an e-mail at the frequency of your choice (even daily) that notifies you of any new content posted to the web containing the search term(s) that you determine. At a minimum, you should have alerts set up with your main competitors’ names and those of your biggest customers. You should also include both the company name and the names of individual decision-makers of your most highly coveted prospects. You can enter queries for whatever you’d like, including specific terms such as “building permits in 68137 zip code.” Google is your part-time lead generator, and works for free!

Smart Calling Tip 

Past customers are one of your best sources of new business.

There is gold in this list. And don’t be afraid of the customer quit buying because of a problem. The problem will still exist—or at least be remembered—if no one bothers to contact them. However, calling will give you a chance to fix it. And if the previous buyer left, go through the Smart Calling process with the new buyer. You can always reference the previous relationship, and you have some history to work with. Exploring the Wealth of Online Information Your

Prospect’s Website

Your prospect’s website should be your first online destination. Again, what you sell will determine where you drill, but aside from the obvious facts you would find at their site, here are a few other ideas about specific places to go: The “About Us” Section. This is often where you’ll be able to find names, bios, and contact info for key people, as well as details on how the company began, who they serve, what benefits or tools they provide, and perhaps who some of their major clients are. Press Releases.  These provide timely information that the company obviously believes is newsworthy, as well as potential contact names when you’re otherwise coming up empty. Heather Beck, a sales rep with testing equipment manufacturer Acterna, said that she was more than once unable to get a contact name from an operator or anywhere on a website but found someone quoted in a press release that she could then call. Though this person wasn’t the buyer, speaking with him gave her a start with some names in the investigation and navigation process. Mission Statements. Ryzex Group manager Peter Andrachuk suggests looking for keywords and phrases that signify importance to the company. For example, evaluate the company’s mission statement or simply the description on their home page of what they do. If they say that one of their goals are to “make the lives of their customers easier through automation of daily, routine tasks,” then that could be a phrase you could use in a letter, e-mail, voice mail, and opening statement.

Job Postings.

These could indicate situational change, such as expansion, and certainly personnel change (new people in new roles—perhaps that of the buyer). A sales rep for phone equipment told me he would call into the department that handled the company’s telecommunications and discuss the upcoming needs they might have with the additional employees. In addition to checking a company’s site for postings, check www.Indeed.com, a compilation site for online job postings. Company Site Searches. Some company websites have a search box that makes it much easier to hunt for specific information within the site.

Here’s a way to do it using Google: Type your search term in quotes, then site: companysite.com

For example, if I am looking for sales managers at Verizon, I would search “sales manager” site: verizon.com

Guessing E-mail Addresses. If you know a company’s e-mail address protocol, you can likely guess addresses if you know names. For example, if on a press release I see that the PR manager’s name is Pamela Dennard, and her e-mail is PDennard@ABCorp.com, then I have a fairly good idea what Jerry Noble’s e-mail will be at the same company.

Other Online Resources 

There are numerous places you can go to gather intelligence online, several of which I'll mention. However, I could just skip my entire discussion on using the Internet to gather information and defer to Sam Richter, whose life’s work is devoted to just that. Sam’s book must be a part of your library if you are serious about prospecting. It’s Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling—Web Search Secrets: Know More than You Ever Thought You Could (or Should)about Your Prospects, Clients, and Competition (www.TakeTheCold.com). Sam is an expert at finding information about people, companies, and industries online, and his book provides advanced tips for using search engines as well numerous sites to visit to collect intelligence. There’s information available online that you probably never thought was accessible. Sam and I have done a number of seminars and webinars together, and what he teaches is must-have information for Smart Callers.I of course won’t try to paraphrase his entire book, but here's just a taste of just a couple of the techniques Richter:

Google. “Filetype” Searches You can type a company name in quotes and then filetype:, followed by a file extension to locate online files publicly available. For example, if you’re looking for white papers a company had posted on its site, you would type “JohnsonEngineering” filetype: pdf. This can be done for all types of files, such as PowerPoints, spreadsheets, and documents. (Sam also cautions that it may not be ethical to use everything you find because it is possible to locate files that a company did not realize were actually posted at its site.) Street View. Depending on what you sell, it could be useful for you to see an actual photo of your prospect’s location. Click on “Maps” at the top of the google home page, and enter the street address. Then you can use the various tools to move the photo around and zoom in. I wish I was getting a commission on my recommendation for this book, but I’m not. If you are serious about Smart Calling, though, you absolutely need it. It’s under $25. Trust me on this; get it. Sam’s site(www.TakeTheCold.com) also has other free resources for you that can Smarten your calls, including a free toolbar.

Smart Calling Search Tip: Geographic software company LizardTech’s John Ruffing shared an interesting idea about finding people who are buying. If you sell to governments at any level, do Internet searches for “Requests for Proposal” and your keywords. He said that most government entities must post their RFPs, and this is therefore a good way to find them.

Blogs

Anyone can blog—and many millions do, even if they have nothing to say (which is often the case). However, if your prospects blog, you can glean some very valuable information to help you connect and hopefully help them buy. Also, your prospect or your prospect company might be mentioned in a blog. Again, potentially valuable information that could help you make a connection with your opening or voice mail. It’s worth checking for blogs written by and about your prospect and the company at www.blogsearch.Google.com
******Business Resources:******* This list is certainly not all-inclusive, so I suggest you check our resource center at www.SmartCalling.com for updates and other informational resources.

Data.com, formerly Jigsaw (which was acquired by Salesforce.com in 2010) is a user-generated database of more than 32 million people (doubled in just three years from the first edition of this book) and their contact information. Each contact lists a phone number and an e-mail address. Many of the contacts have direct-dial phone numbers—an invaluable resource for Smart Callers.

NetProspex (www.netprospex.com) - similar to Data.com in that it provides contact information that is crowd-sourced. Their differential advantage is that they use humans to call contacts to verify and update information, constantly cleaning their data.

American City Business Journals (www.BizJournals.com) publishes the local business newspaper in most of the major markets. You can check out this site for national business news, as well as the local news in your city or market. I personally subscribe to the Phoenix Business Journal, and it is an invaluable source of local business news and sales leads. In almost every weekly issue, I can find an article that provides a reason to contact a business for a sales opportunity. It should go without saying that you read the trade publications for your industry and those that you sell into. You can find trade journals ( http://smallbiztrends.tradepub.com) and subscribe to them for free. Social Networking—or Social Not-Working? (Good Perspective on Social Media)

Another new social networking site probably popped up in the time it took you to read this sentence. Certainly, many of these sites could provide valuable Smart Calling intelligence. Particularly if there are communities devoted entirely to buyers in your industry (similar to the groups on LinkedIn). However, they can also be a tremendous time toilet. One of the main arguments against using social networking sites for prospecting is that if you are, for example, targeting higher-level buyers, they might not be on these sites. For my money, Dan Kennedy is one of the top marketing and sales minds in the world. In his “No B.S. Marketing Letter,” he cited research conducted by the blog www.UberCEO.com that found that not one Fortune 100 CEO had a blog, only 2 had Twitter accounts, and a scant 19 had a personal Facebook page. UberCEO claimed that it was “shocking” that so many top CEOs were so disconnected. Twitter—these folks are busy. Kennedy says that the higher up the ranks you go in business and affluence, the less use of social media you will find. He explains, “It’s really silly to believe any really important, exceptionally productive business leader is devoting time to these things.” Gavin Ingham, (www.GavinIngham.com) a UK-based motivation and sales speaker and author, said it quite well in his own blog: What if your clients have not embraced blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc? In some markets, the lion-share of individuals have not even heard of these sites, they do not read blogs and many over 30 do not even have a Facebook account. To them, Twitter is something they do not understand or see the point of. I know many busy executives who make important buying decisions for companies who are “too busy to mess about on the internet” as they have “a real job to do”! How do you reach these people through social media? You don’t. Not yet anyway and maybe you never will.  Some people do not have the time or interest for social media. Some people do not and might not “get” social media. Social media is incredibly powerful but you cannot use it to reach and engage with people who have not yet embraced it and who do not use it. Social media is powerful but it is not a wonder solution that wipes out all others. Social media is a “communication” channel and as such should only be part of an overall sales and communication strategy. I can just see some sales managers reading this right now, saying, “That’s right! See. We shouldn’t be wasting time online on these social media thingies. We need to be pounding the phones, making calls!” Whoa. Not so fast there, pardner. There is no denying the explosion in the popularity of social media. Granted, not everyone embraces it. But if you’re like me, and are—or were—a resister or late-adopter—keep something in mind: You are not your customer or prospect. It doesn’t matter how you feel about tweeting or Facebooking, if that’s where your customers are, that’s where you can get valuable Smart Calling information and should be. Again, I’m not going to address your overall social media marketing strategy. That is a much larger discussion that experts discuss online every day.  

Twitter Personally, I took the plunge into Twitter before the first edition of this book (www.Twitter.com/ArtSobczak). I built up my number of followers, and still schedule tweets daily (I know, that really sounds funny). I do keep my posting activity almost exclusively business-related. For Smart Calling intelligence purposes, you may be able to find useful information about prospects and their ideas, issues, and them personally. In addition, many companies have Twitter accounts, so this could provide useful insight as well that you might be able to use as the basis for connection. As part of my routine when researching prospects, I check Twitter to see if they are active. With one prospect, I noticed that she had an account, but only tweeted occasionally. I noticed one where she was on vacation and tweeted that she was thrilled her resort had Skinnygirl Margaritas (a brand name). Of course I wasn’t going to lead with that on our initial call, which happened to go very well. Rapport was built, and I was comfortable enough at the end of the call to ask her about SkinnygirlMargaritas. We had a good laugh, which did not hurt the relationship-building. I did get the business. If you have certain prospects you are coveting, sign up for a service like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, where you can create private lists of those you’d like to follow and monitor their conversations. You can also search hashtags to find conversations about specific topics, groups, or interests. (A hashtag is the # followed by the word.) For example, as I was writing this paragraph I did a search on # salestraining. It returned a page of tweets from other sales trainers, but also one from a sales manager who asked, “I’m going to provide webinars for my team. What pitfalls should I avoid?” I will answer that with some good content, and then that provides the basis for a Smart Call. Also, you can follow prospects you would like to make contact with. Unlike LinkedIn or Facebook where they must accept your invitation to connect, you may follow anyone. You could call them and reference something they had tweeted. Or, you could reply to their tweet and engage in a virtual conversation before contacting them.

YouTube I’m not sure if YouTube fits in a social media conversation, but I am sure that it is the second-largest search engine, only behind its father, Google. This means there is a lot of people looking there, and a lot of stuff posted there. Don’t get me wrong; you won’t want to waste time viewing videos of dancing cats. (Unless, of course, they belong to your highly-targeted prospect.) But if using video is part of your targeted prospect’s business, you could find some real gems. Video is becoming more popular by the second, and most of us have the capability of shooting and uploading a video at any time with the Smartphone we have in our pocket. I found a brief video of one of my prospects, a sales manager, who gave a brief motivational speech to his team to kick off a sales contest. One of his reps recorded it and uploaded it to YouTube. The guy did a pretty decent job, and I complimented him on a sales call to him. How many salespeople who called on him did the same? Finally, this should not be a revelation to you: Look at social media as you would any other activity that requires a time investment on your part. Pick the outlets that are most likely to yield good Smart Callintelligence, analyze how much time you need to invest in them, discern what your potential return could be, and create your pre-call planning accordingly. You now have a clear idea of the information you’d like to have about your prospects before speaking with them, and a number of places you can go to find it.
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
smart tip about google alerts. I use it for my name + company name. I'd be keen to see what you can find about a prospect using it.
thesalesdocrx
Valued Contributor
+5
SDR Manager
Depends on how far into the "sale" I am.

If it's an open opp and I'm in the negotiation stages - I already have my plan.

If it's my first cold call - no more than 1 minute.  60 seconds on the phone will tell you a lot more than 5 minutes of research.
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
1 min for the first cold call is I think standard. How much time do you spend before you open an opp and after the call?
Chep
WR Officer
+10
Business Development Team Lead
LinkedIn and company website usually. If I find a sick article that relates to my product and the prospect I will give that a read but doesn't always happen
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
how much time it usually takes you? do you do all the research at once? or just before the call about the specific company?
Chep
WR Officer
+10
Business Development Team Lead
Usually just before the call and depends on the profile/website, but for ones filled with relevance I won't spend more than 5 minutes total on a prospect, and even that is reserved for all-star prospects with a ton of relevance online. Usually, only a minute or two is how much time I will spend trying to find my relevance.
Ace
Arsonist
+9
CEO
I check all those things that you mentioned above
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
do you do that just before the call?
Ace
Arsonist
+9
CEO
Once when the lead comes up and once to brush up before the call
CuriousFox
WR Officer
+11
Needer of Life Alert
Company website
LinkedIn 
Google
ZoomInfo 
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
so it takes you like 10-20 mins? less? more?
CuriousFox
WR Officer
+11
Needer of Life Alert
It really depends on the size of the company and how many execs I need to research. 
Show 2 more replies
Beefany28
Politicker
+6
Business Development Representative
depends on the company, but mainly their website! 
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
what do you look for?
Beefany28
Politicker
+6
Business Development Representative
I look for their team and see if there is an office manager, or cfo, ect to make it sound like I had previously spoken to that person...
cw95
Politicker
+6
Pricing Executive
Always find if you mix up the persons name and the company in google you'll find random articles relating to them e.g. 'X First name, Company, Second Name, Revenue'. Doesn't work 100%, just the way Google operates sometimes! 
heronious
Good Citizen
+1
Senior Account Executive
I always start by looking up the contact name in CRM to see if they are known to us.  
alyshahzi
Celebrated Contributor
+7
Sales Development Representative
I generally check the prospects linkedin profile to verify if they are the right KDM. Checking company's website to know about their scale of business and leadership is a plus too.
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
what do you look for on the company's website?
MichaelScarn
Business Development Representative
Them, Us, Both. Say something about the company, say something that we have in common, say something about how we both could use what we’re selling 
Th
Theloanemperor
Opinionated
+1
Loan Officer
figure out how i can reciprocate and add to their business prior to calling. Researching whether the prospect does enough business to be worth the time and effort of winning them over. (Referral partner based business). Prospecting directly to the consumer i need to call them and weed out whether or not they actually qualify for for the product i sell, which is mortgages. So the weeding out process actually starts AFTER i've sold the client on using me, which is rather tedious as you typically have to spend time with the client to find out if they can even get your product after selling them on consulting with you. - memoirs of a tired loan officer
Queen_of_the_funnel
Opinionated
+2
Sr Manager of Business Development
I google the account and the person I’m speaking with. I also scan for any news and/or corporate initiatives listed and then game plan how I tie my company to what they are trying to accomplish. I do everything I can to make everything taylored to them and showing how I can provide a solution/ better way to whatever their currently doing/utilizing 
1
Opinion on asking "Industry Question" to a Decision Maker/New Prospect at the start of a Demo/Discovery call? (Recommended in sales trainings)
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10
27
More calls = more sales? Or More research = more sales?
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50
11
8 Software Demo Mistakes that Scream ‘Rookie’
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10