A Guide to Researching Leads Before a Sales Call
August 29, 2018
Not everyone’s a natural-born salesperson, and for a lot of professionals, the sales call is a daunting task. You’ve most likely experienced a call that went from bad to worse in an instant, where you seemingly fail to impress your prospect no matter how hard you try to sweeten the deal.
You think you used the right language, prepared for the call, and worked hard on understanding what to offer a particular lead. Still, your prospect keeps talking about your competitors, asks for a service you don’t offer, or remains disinterested and nonchalant throughout the whole ordeal. In these scenarios, it’s tough to get off the phone in one piece. More so, get even close to selling anything.
The painful truth of the matter is that these situations arise merely because you didn’t do enough research about your lead.
Why It’s Important to Research Your Sales Leads
The world keeps on turning, and it’s not going to stop just for you. In this fast-paced industry, buyer needs and demands are ever-evolving. As marketers and sales professionals, we have to adjust to behavioral shifts caused by a multitude of technological advancements and lifestyle transformations.
More importantly, the information you have about your lead will not remain the same for long. Researching your sales leads will help you contextualize their situations, problems, and needs beyond a simple buyer persona or stage of the buyer’s journey.
Only once you understand the whole story behind your sales lead’s goal-oriented behavior and activities can you begin to grasp the full context of how your products or services can best address their needs. This personalized knowledge will help you avoid disastrous results from using the same generic tone, voice, and message across all your sales calls.
Simply put, understanding the context in which your prospect arrived at the other end of the line will help you tailor and individualize your sales strategy.
Know the Who, What, Where, When, How, and WHY
While your marketing automation software or data analytics tools will likely provide behavioral data that can enlighten you about your lead’s readiness to buy, these individual behavioral triggers are not indicative of their real intention or motivation.
Remember, all the actions your prospective buyer takes is driven by a goal. They need something. But, what do they really need? Why do they need it? What channels or platforms do they use to research the solutions to their problems? When do they need it?
You most likely already have the answers to these questions, but failing to connect the dots will mean you don’t have a complete understanding of your prospect’s needs, wants, and motivations.
Connect the Dots
When you connect the dots, you can understand the contextual situation or scenarios your prospect is experiencing. Most likely, they’re performing multiple tasks simultaneously to achieve the goals they set for themselves and their organization.
So, when and where do you come in?
Timing is Crucial
The date, day, and time you make your sales call is crucial. When you understand their context, you can pick the perfect time! For instance, when a prospect performs a trigger action (i.e., spending time on your pricing page) that indicates intent to purchase, you should follow up ASAP!
But behavioral data shouldn’t be your sole source of information for identifying your lead’s context. Interestingly enough, a bit of research and common sense can add significant insights about what your prospect’s current situation is.
Something as simple as wishing them a Happy Birthday on that special day can work wonders to personalize your approach.
Furthermore, if the prospect’s business is seasonal, you should always try to reach out in their time of need. For example, a Halloween store will be more receptive to buying a new inventory management system leading up to October than they would during most other months of the year.
Contextualizing buyer situations and experiences isn’t as simple as your marketing data makes it seem. But thankfully, there are things you can uncover to make life a lot easier.
Contextual Information You Should Be Looking For
As a B2B sales professional, you need to arm yourself with information about the company you’re selling to. Visit their company website and become familiar with their mission/vision. Knowing what they want to be as an organization will allow you to determine how your products and services can help them achieve their goals.
Make sure you understand their product or service offerings, and how much they’re selling on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis. Take note of their business size and the number of employees they have. Do some research about their competitors as well so that you can contextualize how your product or service can help them stay ahead of the market.
Hop on news sites and find out whether anything has been written about them as of late. Are there any business or legal issues they’re facing? Do their customers rave about them? Has the company been part of any recent events? Are they running any PR campaigns?
These pieces of information will help you contextualize their current status or situation.
Personal and Professional Background
Is your prospect the right person to talk to within the company? For example, your lead may be a member of the research and development team instead of the purchasing department. In that case, the sales cycle may become much longer because that person has to pass you on to another department. Dig around and find out the position your sales lead holds in the company.
At the other end of the line is a human being, so it’s essential for you to know what you can about them. Who are they? How old are they? What’s their educational background? Maybe you went to the same school or belong to the same fraternity or sorority group.
How long have they worked at the company? What are their roles and responsibilities? If they’ve just recently started at the company, they may not have the decision-making power to purchase and adopt your product or service.
Do they seem happy with their job? Are they vying for a promotion or trying to impress their boss? Maybe your product and service can help them get the edge they’re looking for in terms of impressing the higher-ups. Look at their social media profiles and find out what you can.
No, you’re not being creepy or stalker-y. You need to build a persona so that you can better understand and relate to them. Knowing these details will help you find a conversation starter or ice-breaker.
Pain Points and Challenges
Once you know the basics, you can do a deep dive into what their challenges and motivations are. This is where you formulate your strategy for positioning your brand as a solution to their problems.
Look at reviews and client testimonials. What are people saying about the company? Are there any customer complaints? With the current business size, published revenue, and customer following, do you think that they’re trying to scale up? Can your products and services help them do that?
It could also be that their current processes are ineffective at providing excellent customer service, so they’re getting bad reviews.
Where to Research Your Sales Leads
Sales and marketing professionals who have been in the business for a long time can sometimes determine whether a lead is qualified or not within a few minutes of research. But, relying on instinct too much can result in missed opportunities.
Researching your sales leads can take time, but if you know where to look, you can better standardize your process and come up with a more efficient workflow.
The business website is the first place you should go to gather information about your lead’s company. Look at their “About” page to get a general overview of how their business started.
Does it provide information about its founders and employees? You can see on their website how they present their brand, what their products and services are, who makes up their core team, and more.
Maybe you can test their operational process by submitting an inquiry through their Contact Us page or using the live chat feature. This will help you identify gaps in their system that your products and services can address.
Check out the topics they talk about on their blog. They may have published a post about a new product they’re launching or a how-to article that helps you better understand what they do and what they offer.
Check for any of their announcements. For instance, they may be in the midst of a company expansion that may affect the way they see your products or services. Maybe your offer is an unnecessary expense with that they’re currently going through, or it could help them achieve their current goals faster and more effectively.
Find your sales lead on LinkedIn to get to know them on a professional level. Look up their professional history and current job description to build context. Take a look at the groups they joined and the content they’ve shared to gain insight into their professional interests.
You can even find other people on LinkedIn who list the company you’re looking up as their employer. Maybe there’s another employee who’s in a better position to decide on purchasing your product.
The customer testimonials on your lead’s business website are hand-picked to show the most positive reviews. However, people candidly talk about brands on social media. Check out what people are saying about their experience with the brand. Maybe you can find a gap here that your product or service can fill.
You can also look up your lead’s personal Facebook account. This will help you get a glimpse of their personality outside of work. You can try weaving the personal tidbits you learned into the conversation to open up a dialogue and make them feel at ease.
Google Search Results
Google the business name and see what articles have been written about them. You may uncover news articles or press releases published about the business. Be sure to read articles from reliable third-party sites.
Search engine research will also provide you with details about who their competitors are, and whether your lead’s company is ahead or behind the competition.
The Company’s Financial Statements
If it’s a public company, then you can gather its most recent financial reports from the SEC. This will give you an idea of how well the company’s doing and help you assess whether they’re encountering any financial difficulties.
Go to comparison sites and see how your lead’s products or services fare against their competitors’. Maybe some reviews reveal poor customer service or low product quality.
You can mention that during your sales call so that you can highlight how you can help their business offer better products or a better customer experience.
Other Social Media Platforms
Most businesses now adopt omnichannel marketing, so they have pages on social networks other than Facebook and LinkedIn. Some still heavily use Twitter, and if you’re reaching out to a B2C business, they’ll most likely have an Instagram account.
Don’t forget to check out any relevant platforms your lead’s company is using. Look at Quora as well and see whether your sales lead has asked any questions about your offer.
Marketing Automation and Internal CRM
What does your lead know about your company and what you offer? Check your marketing automation software if your lead has read one of your articles. This information will help you tailor your approach during the sales call.
Apart from keeping track of your lead’s demographic information, your CRM should also monitor their engagement history. These will arguably be the most critical bits of information for establishing a working context for your leads. You should always be personalizing your sales call based on what emails they’ve opened, what pages they’ve viewed, and what ads they’ve clicked.
Things to Keep in Mind
When researching leads before a sales call, it’s important to get as much information as you can. Don’t stop until you get all the details you need to build a complete contextual situation.
No matter how highly qualified your lead is, you should never fail to do your research and prepare for your sales call. The extra 10 or 15 minutes you take for this may make all the difference in converting them into a happy customer.
Once you’ve managed to successfully deliver value during the sales call, it’s time to start thinking about closing.