This blog is the first in a three-part series that will review how-to  prepare for a meeting generated from a cold call.  I’ll first dive into best practices about researching the person or people you’re going to meet.  The second part of the series is about researching the company and the industry, with the end of the series talking about pre-meeting communication.

The sheer amount of information available to B2B consumers about a particular product, service or industry, can be a huge advantage to a salesperson or a deal killer.  It depends on how the seller, not the consumer, uses it.  Now more than ever, salespeople need to allocate time to do the research required to prepare for meeting a prospect

“I love the product, but I didn’t trust or like the salesperson.”  Said no one ever.

Because of technology, salespeople, now more than ever, need to create a personal connection with decision makers.  If you “listen” to B2B consumer research you’ll get a clearer picture of the need for a salesperson to prepare for their meetings.  Consumers believe that 88% of salespeople are knowledgeable about their product, but only 24% are experts in the business. Both prospects and customers who responded to a survey completed by [IDC] feel the salesperson was not prepared for their first meeting.  There’s also data that validates the benefits of using social media to prepare for a meeting.   73% of salespeople that use social media as part of their sales process outperformed their peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.

As a salesperson, researching the person you’ve scheduled a meeting with is critical to having a successful first meeting.

The four resources that I believe are the best are LinkedIn, Google,  Facebook, and Twitter.  Salespeople often ask me “How much research do I need to do?” My answer is, “It depends on how quickly you find your bridge.” The first step in the process is understanding what your research goal is. It’s pretty simple; your goal is to research a prospect until you find content that you are confident will help you to create a connection.  You could luck out and find it in your first search, or it could take you 20-30 minutes, it depends on your detective skills.

Most salespeople don’t use research tools correctly. Too often I hear, “I looked at their LinkedIn profile, and their Facebook page. I knew what they did in their current position; I looked at their prior work experience on LinkedIn, and all they had on FB was pictures.  There wasn’t much information there.”

I recently had a conversation with one such salesperson and walked them through how to take a deeper dive into the data available to them.  Here’s what we did.

Initially, they were correct; there wasn’t much on the surface when we visited LinkedIn.  One of the reasons for that being that the salesperson didn’t have a premium account (which is a must have in my book).  When we took the approach of “What can I find that I can use to start a conversation when we looked for that bridge to a personal connection?”, we found a lot. We looked at the pictures of the people who endorsed the prospect and found a connection to an individual that lived three doors way from the salesperson.  When we looked on Facebook, we found the prospect read a lot of “The One Minute” books series, we learned the prospect and the salesperson both have read all of the books John Grisham has published.  We looked into the places that the prospect had “checked in” on Facebook and learned that the prospect and the salesperson both had children that played soccer at a local sports arena.

The salesperson was getting the picture; he was starting to understand not only the goal of his research, but how to dive deeper to achieve that goal. In less than 15 minutes the salesperson had three things he could use as his bridge to a personal connection. When we looked at Twitter, we found what the salesperson felt was the holy grail.  The salesperson and the prospect had one thing in common that would make the perfect bridge – they were both sci-fi fanatics.  Fortunately, for this salesperson in this particular opportunity, that was the content bridge that got the prospect to re-engage and eventually partner with the salesperson.

In our next blog, we’ll discuss both the company and the industry your prospect is in.