A problem that many sales professionals struggle with is getting the proverbial foot in the door in order to book a meeting with their key prospect. The process of identifying the ideal prospect profile, getting the meeting, and establishing a relationship is filled with countless obstacles.
Though challenging, the truth of the matter is, prospecting is a fundamentally important way of drumming up new business—and your chances of doing so are greatly improved by doing some simple, yet critical research on your target demographic and ideal customer profile.
This requires an investment of your time to research and really understand your subjects, but it will have a considerable positive impact on your sales processes as a whole. Despite the negativity that often surrounds prospecting efforts, in particular cold calling and emailing, they can be effective if you do your research in advance. This is particularly helpful because your prospects will appreciate it and credibility is established early on when you don’t just blindly reach out to them.
Here are some ways to get you started:
1) Their Website
Peruse your prospect’s website, because it can contain a treasure trove of information. Skim through their content and analyze what they are focusing on and why. This includes current events and news, which could be announcements about recently launched products, promotions or awards given to the company – often announced via press releases.
Additionally, read through case studies and white papers posted on their site. This will give you an idea what it important to them, and what aspects of their business they like to emphasize and promote. Plus, you will also get a sense of what is important to their customer base. All of these elements can make for some great icebreakers, as well as help position yourself as someone genuinely interested in solving problems, not just closing a sale.
2) Social Media
If your prospect has social media, and who doesn’t these days, follow it. Start with the big 4 — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or a combination of all the above (plus other networks). It will give you a direct window into a company and an opportunity to understand more about them while still being able to engage with them.
3) Industry News
Another critical research component is learning about your prospect’s vertical or specific niche, and the top challenges associated with their company — then figure out how your products or services could help them. One way to do this is by following relevant websites and magazines within the industry.
You should also keep an eye on what your prospect’s competitors are doing. Perhaps one of them has recently come up with an innovative product that could spell trouble for your target down the road? In addition, try to stay abreast of research studies that are pertinent to their industry and vertical.
4) Consumer Behavior
An essential component to getting your foot in the door is the ability to empathize and think like your prospect. This includes understanding their target customer, and how your product may provide a solution or bridge a gap in some way. This directly ties into my previous point about staying current on what competitors are up to because it will help you anticipate what might be on your prospect’s mind.
Timing is critical in sales. Be mindful of your timing when you reach out to a prospect. Ideally you want to catch them at the right time in their buying cycle in order to be able to start a dialogue about your products and services.
For example, say you are selling accounting software. You would not want to approach them as they are getting ready to close the fiscal year – it is a stressful period in their business. Similarly, you would not want to try and convince an online retailer to switch phone systems in November as they ramp up their operations during the holiday season.
Ultimately, prospecting is a labor-intensive effort — there is no denying that. It often takes multiple calls and emails to make that first connection. When you finally get there, your research and preparation will pay off because you’ll be better prepared to engage in meaningful conversations with your prospects.