The Internet has changed the way companies sell, and buyers buy. Unless you have been living on a deserted island for the past 15 years, I know that statement did not send shock waves through your consciousness. And even if you had been living on a deserted island, you probably had Internet access anyhow. However, I am not talking about companies’ ecommerce or online auctions.
Rather, I am talking about the traditional salesperson calling on a prospect or even an existing client—the one-on-one client relationship—that the Internet has completely redefined.
Unfortunately, most business executives do not yet fully grasp the scope of change. Nor have they grasped the opportunities it presents to the companies that understand how to leverage the Internet to grow their traditional business.
In today’s world, where virtually everyone is exceptionally pressed for time, there is an expectation by many buyers that you know the answers to questions before you walk in the door (or pick up the phone or send an email). How can you get the information that will make a great first impression? How can you differentiate yourself from the typical salesperson? How can you learn what you need to understand your prospects and their key issues prior to any meeting? The answer is Sales Intelligence.
The Power of Sales Intelligence and the “Fourth R”
Sales Intelligence is one of the most effective tools for improving a company’s sales effectiveness. When you understand your prospect, their company, their industry focus and their issues, as well as details about the individual with whom you’re meeting, then you’re able to customize the presentation and conduct a meaningful sales call.
Historically, students of business and sales are taught that success comes from mastering the traditional “Three Rs” of reading, writing and arithmetic. If you learn to communicate effectively, write a good proposal, understand a financial spreadsheet and manage a realistic budget, the chances are good that you will succeed in business.
In today’s value-oriented business marketplace, the “Fourth R” – research – is the tool that truly differentiates one business from the next and one salesperson from the next. If you understand what interests the people you meet with--if you know what they genuinely care about--you gain permission to ask relevant questions and engage people to share what they most likely do not share with others.
When you are armed with relevant data, you are able not only to ask better questions, but also to massively increase your credibility. Remember, people buy from people they trust. And people trust people who can intelligently engage in meaningful dialogue.
The “Fourth R” is a powerful tool that, once applied in every sales interaction, will elevate you to the top 1% of all salespeople. Unfortunately, effectively practicing the “Fourth R” is not intuitive. Many people, even those who have grown up using the Internet, have little knowledge of how to conduct efficient searches and, thus, waste an incredible amount of time searching for business information. The good news, however, is once you know where and how to search, it can be easy to embed the “Fourth R” in your sales process.
Following are a few of the resources featured in the Know More! training program (http://www.samrichter.com/) and bestselling and award-winning book, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (http://www.takethecold.com/). When you use these tips, you will be well on your way to mastering Sales Intelligence and winning more business than you ever thought possible.
- Google Filetype Search: From company proposals to vendor and client lists, companies think that the files they post online for colleagues to download are secure. But if not properly protected, Google can index the data and make it available to people who know how to look for it.
1. Enter the information you want and/or the company name (use quotations around phrases, e.g. “paper industry” or “Widget Corporation”).
2. Enter filetype: (filetype colon) and then choose a filetype extension (e.g. pdf = adobe acrobat; xls or xlsx = Excel spreadsheets; ppt or pptx = PowerPoint document; doc or docx = Word document). For example…
o “Paper industry” + “membership list” filetype:xls will search for paper industry membership lists in Excel format. Or, said another way, …a PROSPECT list for companies within the Paper Industry.
o “Plastics industry” + trends OR issues filetype:pdf will locate research reports and/or articles related to trends or issues in the plastics industry.
- YouGotTheNews:Your clients and prospects are amazingly passionate about one thing: themselves. When you can find a recent news article about the person and/or company you’re meeting with, it’s a great way to establish your credibility and engage in meaningful dialogue.
- Go to http://www.yougotthenews.com/and search thousands of local and national news sources. For the best results, make sure to put company or individual’s names within quotes (e.g. “Acme Corporation”). On the results page, use the tabs to sort your results by news type.
- Insideview.com: Register for your free account at http://www.insideview.com/. Enter the name of a company and then choose from the result list. You’ll find basic company information, including approximate revenue and number of employees.
· LinkedIn.com: Prior to any meeting, visit http://www.linkedin.com/and enter the name of the person with whom you are meeting. With more than 250 million executives in LinkedIn, the likelihood is great that your prospects and clients have a profile. Learn about the person’s work background, educational history, interests, awards won, and more. Even see whom they know that you might know and ask for a virtual introduction.
- Your Local Library: One of the most powerful business research resources is your local public library. Big companies with big budgets pay for expensive databases and list building services. What you probably do not realize is that most libraries have the same or similar databases that you can use, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
How? You can access expensive databases free of charge through your home or work computer any time you’d like. Just find your library’s website and look for a tab or link called “databases” or “online resources.” Click on the link to access the database and enter in your library card number. In seconds, you’ll be logged into premium subscription databases at no charge to you or your company.
Follow these tips and resources, and you will be well on your way to mastering the “Fourth R” and Sales Intelligence. Most important, you will begin to know more than you ever thought you could (or should) about your prospects, clients and competition.