The old saying goes, “Information is power.” In sales, that’s more true than ever. Fortunately, the Internet has made researching prospective clients and preparing for your next sales appointment quick and easy.
When preparing for a sales call, you can browse to a prospect’s website to research their business, search for other key decision makers, and review recent company news.
Search engines can help you find additional information, such as recent hires, number of employees, and general information about the prospect’s industry. But, Internet searches only go so far. As more companies take advantage of social media, researching prospects on social media sites is a great way to learn more about your prospect.
FaceBook (www.fb.com) is the undisputed king of social media. More than a half-billion people have FaceBook accounts, and fifty percent of FaceBook’s active users log in every day.
If you’re selling, there’s a good chance your prospect’s company (and potential buyer) have FaceBook pages where you’ll find a wealth of information about their business.
People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on FaceBook – if you’re not actively using FaceBook to prospect (and market your company), you’re definitely missing some sales.
Awareness of Twitter (www.twitter.com) has exploded from 5% of Americans in 2008 to 87% in 2010, and business use has never been higher.
Twitter’s search function allows you to find mentions of your potential client’s company and key decision makers, and the site’s people search feature helps you find users who list your prospect in their bio.
Following these Twitter accounts can help you stay abreast of the latest company news and help you gather deeper insights into what your prospect is working on and what it important to them.
LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) remains the number one business to business social network, where professionals sign up to connect with other business people and industry veterans.
Reviewing a company’s LinkedIn profile can tell you about other employees that work for your prospect, and how you might be connected to them.
You’ll also find information that will help you relate to your prospect – where they went to school, other positions they’ve held, and even hobbies they enjoy.
You’re already searching a prospects company name, buyers’ names, and industry information before you go on your first sales appointment, so staying on top of updated prospect information will give you the leg up on winning business long term.
All of the popular search engines offer a free news alert service (www.google.com/alerts, www.bing.com/news, alerts.yahoo.com) that will send updated web and news content to your Inbox.
It’s also a good idea to set up alerts on your prospect’s competitors, executives and key decision makers.
These updates can give you additional reasons to contact prospects and clients, and give you additional insight into what is happening behind the scenes.
Bringing it all together
Web based CRM sites such as SalesForce (www.salesforce.com) will help you keep track of multiple prospects, deadlines and milestones.
SalesForce includes direct links to both FaceBook and Twitter to help you monitor clients and prospects in real time.
Be sure to build out your database to track both business and personal data about your prospects and decision makers. The wealth of information available on the Internet makes it easy for a sales professional (or company owner) to go into a call well prepared.
The best things? Since not all salespeople take the time to leverage web research and social media tools, doing your homework can help you set yourself apart from the competition and improve your sales performance.