They say that people buy from people they like and people like people who know them. More and more B2B salespeople must become trusted advisors rather than transactional order takers.
A lot is written about the customer journey and influenced them over the course of that journey with content designed to inform and influence their decision-making. Whether you are about to engage a prospect at the beginning or towards the end of their journey, it is critical to know as much about them as possible to differentiate yourself from competitors. Preparedness can impress and give you an edge.
The following seventeen things can help you prepare in engaging a prospect.
#1: Google Them
While it may seem like stating the obvious, people often overlook the power of Google and the information it can illuminate for them. There is a joke that says the best place to bury a body is on page two of Google search results. Take the trouble to go to page two and beyond if there are still pertinent results worth pursuing.
#2: Review their LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn has gone from an online job board or the electronic equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce to one of the most critical professional networking platforms. Many LinkedIn profiles are rich with data that is free and readily available to you. Why not take advantage of it?
#3: Look for mutual connections
I used to work in film and television and the only way you found work was by who you knew. Without LinkedIn and the Internet, networking your way to a new job was challenging and took much more time. LinkedIn makes networks transparent so you can leverage mutual connections to map your way into an account. You can also identify the best referral source based on the number and/or strength of your shared connections.
#4: Where they went to school
You cannot underestimate the value of alumni. What if during your review of their LinkedIn profile or research, you learned that you went to the same university, took the same program, or both have an MBA. Any of those things in common could help you make a connection and build rapport with your prospect.
#5: Past roles
Look at their previous roles to see where they worked, who might’ve worked with them that you already know, and what kind of intel you can gather as a result.
#6: Recent Activity
Check their recent activity to see what they’ve shared, liked, or commented on to get a gauge of their interests and the kind of content and news that gets their attention. Look at the Pulse channels and influencers they follow too. They will also give you some insight into their interests and what gets their attention.
#7: New connections
See who they connected with recently, especially if it was with a shared connection or competitor.
Take a look at the groups they are members of to see if you share any mutual groups or to flag groups you should consider joining as an indirect way of targeting them.
#9: Contact Information
You would be surprised how many people don’t bother checking the contact info section of someone on LinkedIn to see what they include. Sometimes they provide their email and/or phone number. That’s a gift for salespeople! They might also share the social account information or links to their blog or some other sites containing valuable information. You just have to look.
#10: Chrome Extensions
There are some Chrome Extensions that can help make you more productive with your prospect profiling. Here are just a few. Discovery will show you if someone on LinkedIn shares any friends on Facebook, bringing another connection path to your attention. LinkedIn Connection Revealer will give you an idea of how many connections someone has. Rapportive for Gmail will reveal their social profiles within your inbox. eLink will automate some of your interactions to introduce you to prospects and build engagement. JustClipIt will enable you to capture profile data for a variety of social networks including LinkedIn.
Sometimes people are more easily engaged or connected with via Twitter than LinkedIn, so it is worth considering as another avenue for making connections and building rapport. Furthermore, you will be able to get a better sense of them by who they follow, what they share, and with whom they interact.
Since Instagram has grown to be the number two social network in the world, there is a good chance that your prospects have an account there so check it out. See what they are sharing and learn more about their interests.
Just like Instagram, Snapchat is growing, and you should, at least, be paying attention to it. Its membership may skew to high school and college-aged people right now but increasingly brands and organizations are establishing a presence. Ignore it at your peril.
#14: Industry or Trade Associations
Just because a lot of new and emerging platforms are mentioned here, it doesn’t mean the tried and true approaches like leveraging industry or trade associations should be ignored. They say to fish where the fish are so if they happen to be members of industry or trade associations then give some thought to how you can navigate your way to your prospects via those same associations. See how much you can learn about the members of an association from the association’s website. Sometimes there’s a searchable directory.
Presentations hosted on Slideshare garner engagement and can be embedded within LinkedIn profiles as well as websites. Look at Slideshare to see if your prospects or their companies have shared any presentations from which you can derive valuable information.
While many people have spent time on YouTube watching cat videos or videos of dogs on skateboards, it is worth remembering that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world filled with valuable information. Take a few moments to see if there are any videos about or containing footage of your prospect.
YouTube might be the larger video platform, but many organizations choose Vimeo because of it has a more professional look and feel. It is not overrun with ads, and the videos tend to be of more professional quality. There could be a good chance that your prospect and/or their organization chose to use Vimeo instead to host their video(s).
Now I recognize that giving seventeen things to do before engaging a prospect would seem like a daunting list, at first, glance. Many would dismiss one or more of them as a waste of time. I am not suggesting that you spend hours using all of them to learn more about a single prospect. However, I am suggesting that you try as many of them that spark your interest at least once and keep what works for you. Not every one of your prospects will be active in social media so you may not want to devote too much or anytime to seeing what their digital footprint might be if is going to be nonexistent.
It is not about spending an inordinate amount of time on researching your prospects. It is about being more productive and efficient using tools and methods that your competition may have ignored. It is about finding insights about your prospects that will enable you to build trust and rapport better and more deeply than your competitors.
Are you up to it? Do you have other tools and methods that you would like to add to the list? I am all ears.