After doing my homework on prospecting, I thought I knew all the different strategies, and methods.
… Wow, was I wrong.
I recently had the chance to sit down with two top salespeople and discuss how they identify prospects, and convert them into customers.
Towards the end of the conversation, we spoke about the different tactics they use during the research phase to create a strong connection with a prospect, and both reps had fresh ideas to share.
Here are three unique prospect research strategies that save time while dramatically boosting your prospect knowledge.
1) Scan the company’s job board.
This strategy never surfaced in my research, but I discovered that it’s an incredibly effective way to learn how a company is growing, where it wants to grow, and what holes need to be filled.
Here’s how to dig into a company’s job board for prospect research.
Step 1: Go to a company’s website and click on the “careers” page.
Is the company looking for salespeople? How about HR practitioners? Engineers? The area the company is hiring for most aggressively can tell you a lot about its priorities. For example, if a particular organization has several job requisitions open in the finance department and you sell financial services, you might want to reach out.
Step 2: Read the job responsibilities and requirements
Now it’s time to probe into individual job descriptions. If you notice that many roles require analysis skills, here’s a chance to talk about your analytical tool. If leadership expertise is a priority and you happen to sell leadership training, make the connection.
Pro tip: Make a list of recurring words and phrases in job listings. If I notice “social media” pops up again and again, I’ll want to mention this buzzword when I’m pitching my product.
Step 3: Call the person in charge of hiring
Well before you talk to the decision maker, it’s a wise idea to talk to the person in charge of hiring. More often than not, a recruiter wants to talk about the company and open jobs, so this is a good person to reach out to.
During the call, try to determine:
What are they looking for in a candidate?
What are the specific skills they’re seeking for this role?
How many people are they looking to hire and where do they see the role going?
If your service offers a solution to any need that might arise during the conversation, you’re in business.
2) Read financial statements.
This strategy only works with publicly traded companies, so skip ahead to #3 if these aren’t your targets.
Roughly 75 days after a company’s fiscal year ends, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires that it publishes a Form 10-K. This document provides stockholders and potential investors visibility into the company's finances, and its goals moving forward. Company leaders will often discuss what went well during the year and how they hope to improve in certain areas.
This type of information can be critical in the sales process, bringing a clear need or focus to the spotlight.
Here’s how to take full advantage of financial statements.
Step 1: Head to SEC.gov
Each Form 10-K is published on the SEC’s website. Locate a company’s form by either typing in its stock symbol or full name.
Step 2: Read “business” first, “risk factors” next
Both of these areas are found in Part 1 of the 10-K. The business section is where readers will learn about the company’s strongest assets, the state of the market it’s operating in, and major events inside the business.
Next, head to the risk factors section. While it’s great to know where a company is succeeding, having an understanding of where they need to improve is even better. Salespeople often struggle to create a need; with this section, the need is already apparent.
Step 3: Sift through management’s analysis
In the second part of a company’s Form 10-K, the management team will chime in on where they believe the business is heading. This is where salespeople can hear directly from the decision makers about what’s coming up in the next weeks, months, or even years.
Pro tip: Along with SEC.gov, another useful place to learn about a company’s financial status is NASDAQ.com. Type in the company’s stock symbol to see all their SEC filings, which includes financial statements.
3) Call low.
If online research isn’t going well, another option is to actually call the company of interest and just say hello. After all, the best way to learn about a company is to talk to someone who works there, right?
Salespeople will often hold off on calling a company until they get the decision maker’s direct line, but the reps I chatted with clued me in on just how valuable a junior employee can be for prospect research.
Step 1: Call low on the totem pole
Reaching out to a top-level executive normally results in running into a gatekeeper. But by reaching out to someone a little lower in the org chart, we can avoid that gatekeeper, and pick an employee’s brain. This is an opportunity to build rapport and learn about the company from an insider’s perspective.
Step 2: Call the main company line
Unfortunately, not every company provides the phone numbers of all employees. That’s why I loved this trick.
When you’re not able to find an employee’s direct line, try the main company line, explain that you’re lost in the phone system, and ask to be referred to someone in particular. This is a great way to get in touch with a decision maker or influencer who might have a gatekeeper.
The tricky part, though, is this only works once. Calling two or three times asking to be referred to different people won’t improve your credibility with the account.
While my initial research led me to the usual tools, these three strategies stand out as unique ways to learn about a company quickly and efficiently.
What other unique sales research tricks do you have up your sleeve? Share in the comments.
Originally published Oct 16, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017