voice-messageBack in November, I was standing behind our booth at Dreamforce when two CIOs stopped by. We started chatting and at some point I asked them:

How often do you respond to a salesperson’s voicemail?  

Never, they shot back in unison.  

… Actually, that’s not totally true, one of them corrected. I pretty much never respond to voicemail … but if someone is talking about something I’m working on right now, that’s when I’m calling back.”  

The importance of preparedness and relevance of messaging are not new concepts in sales, but I think this anecdote underscores just how critical it is to know your customer and his priorities. Finding out whom to call, when to call them, and what they’re working on are absolutely vital components to any sales person’s success.

The problem is that kind of research can take a lot of time. And the more time spent researching, the less time spent selling.  

Companies like mine, DiscoverOrg, help sales organizations focus on what they do best -- selling -- by doing the research for them. Our clients are people selling/marketing to IT organizations, so we provide them with things like org charts, direct contact information, and intelligence on organization’s current projects.  

With this knowledge, sales reps can tailor the right message to the right person in the organization at the right time. And do it much faster.

In fact, one of our clients saw their sales team’s selling time increase by 60% when they began leveraging our services for their research. Think about that for a second. How would your numbers look if you were given 60% more time to focus on selling? 

A good research partner is an incredibly valuable asset, but I get it -- not everyone can leverage third parties to do their research for them. So …  

How can sales reps get the research they need without cutting selling time?  

The first place I recommend looking is obvious: the prospect. Ask your customers and prospects what their priorities are and what their biggest pain points are. After all, no one knows better than they do.

But ... what if your customer won’t tell you? Whether they know it or not, many customers have already shared those answers. You just have to know where to find them. From my experience in prospect research, here are three insider tips for where to look:

Tip 1: Financial Reports

In my experience, some of the most overlooked and underutilized research tools are companies’ financial reports. Most 10Ks, for instance, actually lay out the top risk factors for the company. It might read, “If our company’s IT Infrastructure fails, we can expect x, y, z, repercussions.”  

A quick skimming of those reports should make it an easy game of connect-the-dots to determine where your solution can help. And best of all, they’ve already told you how important your solution would be!  

Tip 2: Company Directories

Here's another rather sneaky research tip. When you call a company’s main phone line, follow the prompts to get transferred to their help section. Almost without fail, the options they give will tell you what their most common problems are. For example, “If you are having trouble with the new SharePoint rollout, press one.”  

Tip 3: News Alerts

Big or small, most companies are being mentioned or quoted online. Using tools like Newsle, you can set up alerts for when a prospect (or company) has been mentioned online. That way, you don't have to be actively searching but rather having alerts set up so you can act when the time is right.

For example, you could receive a notification that your prospect was recently quoted around the negative impact of employee productivity when employees have to be seated at a desk all day. If you have a solution, such as a standing desk product, this would be a great opportunity to swoop in and introduce yourself.

Ultimately, I admit, research can be a slog. And yes, it takes time away from selling. But if you take advantage of tips like these, you'll get the information you need while saving time to sell. And as our story teed up, our CIO friends are only calling back the one who’s done his research.

Of course, these tips are not limited to other best practices. How are researching the critical information you need to capture a prospect's time? I'd love to hear them in the comments.

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Originally published Dec 13, 2013 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


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