If you have never been somewhere before, and you are going to venture there then you need to get directions from someone you know, check out a map, or rely on a GPS. Regardless, getting to where you want to go requires more information to guide you along your route.
It is the same with sales. To get to a closed deal you need to know more about where you are at now, where you are trying to go, and all the stages in between. It is especially true when it comes to mapping an account. By that, I mean identifying all the key decision makers and influencers who you need to convince that going with what you are offering is the right decision.
Many salespeople struggle to gather intelligence on their prospective clients and illuminate the identity of those decision makers and influencers. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to learn this kind of information, and you may not have to leave your desk to do it. Are you up for some detective work? Let’s get started.
I know you asking yourself, “Is that it?” The answer is “yes”. It’s as simple as that. Just ask someone at your prospective client involved in the purchase decisions related to your product or service. However, you need to be careful. You need to be certain that your question will be well received. You have to have earned the right to ask. Ideally, you should only ask when you have exhausted every other avenue first. Not everyone likes to provide information that is easily accessible elsewhere. Don’t make people do your work for you.
LinkedIn Tip #1
Again, start with the obvious and search based on the title and/or key words related to your typical buyer. Expand your search, if need be, geographically or by industry vertical. Then research further to identify people within the department(s) containing your target decision makers and potential influencers. You’re trying to build your version of their org chart based on what information LinkedIn has but be careful because the information is only as good as what people have provided for their particular profiles.
LinkedIn Tip #2
Leverage the past and search for people who used to work there. Hopefully, you know some of them or know someone who knows someone who used to work there. If their employment there was relatively recent then they likely still have relevant information about how staff are organized and how they operate. They may also be able to tell you a bit about the political landscape which no org chart or LinkedIn search will ever tell you.
LinkedIn Tip #3
Look at how many connections you share with people who work at your target accounts and determine who would be the best source of referrals. They may even have knowledge about the people and the organizations you are targeting so be sure to seek their assistance.
Think about other suppliers who call on the same accounts and reach out to them to compare notes and possible co-pitch or co-market with them, assuming their products or services are complementary. They may have a more established relationship with the prospect or may have been calling on them for a longer period and accumulated more information along the way.
There are plenty of places you can conduct research online by:
- checking out their annual report if they have one available
- checking for mentions of them in the news and/or their news releases
- seeing what Wikipedia has to say about them
- checking out Youtube for videos about or containing your targets
- looking at Slideshare for corporate presentations that might be helpful
- seeing what industry directories, chamber or board of trade member lists, or other industry resources have
However, don’t fall into a trap of doing more research than selling. The former should serve the latter so be careful not to get caught up in what could become “busy work” with no sales outcome.
Ideally, all of these efforts are intended to create multiple inroads or touchpoints you can leverage within your targets. You still want to engage each one of them appropriately and strategically. You want to be respectful while not spending too much time with an influencer at the expense of a decision maker. Furthermore, once you are having a dialogue with them, you do not want to waste their time with questions whose answers your research should have already addressed.
You want to have a collaborative conversation that surfaces their pain points and, hopefully, indirectly provides you the opportunity to position you, your company, and your product or service as the cure to their pain. Glengarry Glen Ross did salespeople a disservice with the “Always Be Closing” mantra. In today’s world when it comes to convincing influencers and decision makers, it should be “Always Be Listening”. If you listen hard enough, your prospects will tell you all the things you need to know.