Regardless of what you sell, the quality of the information you know about your prospects affects how effectively you close them.

A defined sales strategy and a solid pre-call research process will make the difference being winning and losing a sale.

According to Kelley Roberson at The Robertson Group, the idea behind effective pre-call research isn’t in spending, “hours scouring the Internet or news services.” Instead, Kelley measures effective research by how intelligently you can communicate with your prospects about the key business issues they face.

A study by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business found that 92% of B2B prospects won’t even schedule a meeting from a sales representative that simply cold-calls or emails them.

This is where industry expert Larry Prevost says the pre-call/pre-sales approach comes in. While we’ve been told for years, “do your homework” most sales people opt to “wing it.” Larry suggests that instead of thinking of this task as inundating, we approach it as, “investigative business analysis.”

Our job is to find information that supports whether or not our product will solve a problem our prospects have in a way that will also save them money. The process we develop should at least:

  • Qualify our targets as buyer’s – not just browsers
  • Increase our odds of setting a meeting
  • Effectively save time for both our prospects and ourselves
  • Elevate the professional image we relay to our prospects as a resource and trusted advisor

Jim Domanski at TeleSalesMaster takes it a step further, suggesting that,

“Ultimately, the information or data you need lies in the hearts and minds of your prospects and nowhere else.” If this is truly the case, then getting a prospect on the phone is absolutely crucial to a sales victory, and the only way to do it is to know enough about them to send a message they’re willing to listen to.

For this Jim suggests that we use a “Familiarization Process” that has been designed to work for both researching online and over the phone.

What you need to know before you get a prospect on the phone:

  • What do they do? Their industry, their products, their line of business
  • What do they sell? Know which products and services they offer, and how your offering solves a problem or proposes an improvement to one or all of them.
  • What’s top of mind? If a company releases a new product, hires a new manager, or receives new funding, that news is probably on that prospect’s mind. Use news as a conversation starter, and an excuse for calling.
  • Who are their executives? Understand the organizational chart. You want to contact the executive that’s most likely to make a purchase decision, but it’s important to know how the executive fits into a company. Also find out what you can about executives. Do you share hobbies with any of them? Do you share connections with any of them?

You can find all of this information through a basic Google search or a perusal of a company’s website, but a sales intelligence application will provide a much faster and deeper solution.

What you need to find out from a prospect once you have them on the phone:

  • Was your research correct? Rather than repeating all the product details you’ve discovered, use them to supplement the conversation; instead of saying, “I see that your product does x,y, and z,” say, “Your manufacturing business could grow significantly with….” If your research is wrong, your prospect will correct you immediately.
  • Who is in charge of making a purchase decision regarding your offering? You can learn an organization’s decision makers online, but you can’t always find out their decision making process.
  • How can you reach the right decision maker? Some executives prefer email communication, others ignore everything but Twitter.
  • When can you reach the right decision maker? If your decision maker is out of town for 2 weeks, you don’t want to pester their secretary twice a day until they return. Find out when is best for them, and work off their schedules.

Once you’ve checked off all eight points of prospect information, your sale can smoothly move ahead. If you skip any of these points, however, be sure that you’ll revisit them later in the sales cycle – potentially to your own demise.