Our VP Sales, John Macleod explores a key step in maximising the returns from your marketing efforts, and progressing ‘sales ready leads’ through the sales pipeline : Research the Lead.
Once you have studied the attitude and urgency of the salesperson in reading the lead it’s time to dig deeper and get to know your process.
Before you go too far, there are a few simple checks that would be advisable as you research the lead. The lead qualification criteria,should already be in place, with a defined criteria for the leads that have been assigned to you. Double check that all the points of qualification have been done, and that the lead is in fact a fit for your offering. Pay particular attention to the authority level of the contact, and the need of the organisation. Now to find the perfect lead is almost an impossible task, so don’t be overly critical if there is a couple of points that need expanded upon. That said if the lead is fundamentally not a fit for the criteria that has been set; pass it back to the marketing team as quickly as possible with constructive feedback so that improvements can be made in the qualification process.
It is crucial that you do your homework as early as possible. If a conference call or face-to-face appointment has been arranged for you, don’t be tempted to wait until closer to the time. You could find some valuable insight that might be worth you acting on now to make sure you stay one step ahead of your competition. So where should you look to find the information that will enhance your chances of closing the business?
The first thing to do once you have read all the information available on the lead is to investigate the company’s website. When you engage with the prospect, it will be important that you display significant knowledge of their company structure, background, offering and message. Some organisations have a strong brand identity and ethos which you can use to your advantage by highlighting similar traits when you speak with them. Depending on the solutions or services you have expected to be introducing them to; you may also pick up on several additional needs to your offering from your research that may not have been identified when the lead was found.
Look out for any news feeds or press releases on the company you will be pitching to. This may not be on their website so search around on associated sites and social media for further information. A change of senior management, recent acquisition, merger, new product launch etc. can be great ammunition to build up a strong sales case, and can be used to establish credibility by displaying that you’ve done your research.
The next thing to do is the research the contact(s) you will be meeting with. You may have already come across them on their company website which is great. If the contact is senior in the business they are often displayed on the site. Take particular care to read the description, as this is how the company you will be selling to has chosen to portray the individual. What is important to them should also be important to you.
LinkedIn is clearly another great tool for this, as you often get a clear insight in to what the contact wants you to know about them. Leveraging some of this information can be a great way to build rapport, establish credibility, and form a bond with the prospect. Looking out for previous job roles, employment history, duration in role, associated contacts etc. can all be valuable ways of building up a profile of the contact before you engage with them, by finding out what they are about and what is important to them. If you have any shared connections then even better, as the mention of a contact that is known to both of you can build trust and relevance early on in the relationship.
The last stop in my research would be social media. You have already researched the contact on LinkedIn, so take it one step further and start getting a feel for the company and the other individuals that the prospect works alongside, read the profile descriptions, have a look at what posts they are putting out etc. Any small snippets of information you glean during this process may become hugely valuable during the next steps of the sales process. Twitter and Facebook can also be worth exploring as you could find information on charities the company or prospect support, team building events, and information shared from other companies. Any information like this can be brought up during conversation and help you find common ground with the prospect.
The old cliché of people buy from people still rings true, and the more information you have to help you display knowledge, establish credibility, build trust, and form a bond with the contact; will help you turn an interested prospect, in to a delighted customer.
What's next? Download our free eBook now to get your copy of our top ten tips for progressing marketing leads through your sales cycle.