The purpose of researching a lead before reaching out is twofold. First off, it will help you recognize which leads may very likely become buyers, and which ones probably won’t feel the need for your product. Essentially, it will eliminate time wasted running after unqualified leads. Secondly, a big part of what sets inbound selling apart from the old-fashioned, outdated sales model is its focus on personalization. Personalization guarantees that your prospect knows why your product or service is relevant and builds that extra level of rapport needed to get to the sale.
The truth is, there is so much information available out there that you have no excuse not to research.
Who to Research
Unless you’re selling straight to a customer, you will be best off researching both the company you are selling to, and the prospect who works for that company. The prospect you will be speaking to will most likely be either an influencer, who will benefit from your product but doesn’t have buying power, or a buyer, who may not get direct benefit but is the one who deals with transactions. Keep in mind which one of these you will be speaking to, because your approach should not be the same for both.
The best place to start off is the company’s website. Here, you can identify if this is an industry you even cater to, or a company size you deal with. If not, don’t cross them off your list just yet, because maybe you’ve found a new market for what you are selling. However, it may not be top priority. On their website, you can also see if there are any pain points that you can fulfill. For example, at AbilitySEO, we help companies improve their marketing with an inbound approach. By visiting a prospect’s website, I can tell whether or not they are employing inbound best practices, and how we can or cannot help them with that.
See if the website has information on positions they’re looking to be filled. If they’re looking for something related to your field, you’ve hit the jackpot- you know they’re willing to invest in that area. Also keep an eye out for this on the company’s LinkedIn, or hiring websites, like Glassdoor (bonus: Glassdoor can give your other clues, like company culture).
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for your prospect on the website. What is his or her position at the company? Has she or he written blog posts for the company blog? Read them.
LinkedIn is a great research tool. On your prospect’s profile, see what their current and past positions are. Do they provide information on projects they have been or are working on? Also check out any groups they are a part of, and what they’ve been sharing. Here, you may be able to identify pain points of theirs, and if nothing else, at least it will give you insights into what they are into. Another thing to check- do you have any mutual connections? Maybe your connection can give you an “in”, or it can be a talking point that just gives you that little boost of trust. You can also check the company’s LinkedIn account to see if there’s any information there that isn’t on the website (like job openings, as mentioned above).
Twitter is where both companies and individuals post what they care about. Check both of those accounts to see what’s being posted and retweeted. What is the prospect interested in and passionate about? What kind of image is the company trying to make for themselves?
Press and Media
Has the company been in the news recently? Read their press releases. Evaluate whether the going-ons in the company will make them a better or worse fit for what you’re selling. What about their competitors- anything in the news recently about them that can help or hurt your chances?
If the company is public, you can find all its financial statements here at the SEC. This information can be useful to see how the company has been performing.
CRM and Marketing Automation System
This is an important step.Your CRM, coupled with your marketing automation system, shows you what the prospect knows about you. If the prospect has visited your website, read your blog, or signed up to your email list, that is recorded here. Your sales approach will differ depending on the lead’s knowledge level of what you have to offer.
Yelp and Google Reviews
Customer reviews are a fantastic place to find out where a business needs improvement. If customers complain that the company lacks in customer satisfaction and what you’re offering can help fix that, you’ve hit the sales jackpot.
Other Places to Check
- Industry blogs
- Google searches of both the prospect and company- the more you can find, the better!
Remember, you want to come across as informed, not creepy. Just a cursory check of all these resources to see how you can best personalize the sales process is all that is necessary.