by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Business Development, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Presentations, SalesTagged as: Preparation
You’re about to meet a new sales prospect, or interview a new supplier. Or, you’re about to meet a new company, and you know very little beyond their name and industry. How can you find out more before you find yourself in front of them? There are four basic techniques you can use: Internet Research, Directories/Public Library, Better Business Bureau and Regulators, and Networking.
Of course, most people have been doing research for years, usually quite successfully. But sometimes it is useful to have a checklist, or perhaps pick up a different technique. Read on for my take.
Before you begin, be clear about what you are looking to find out. For example, are you looking to learn more about their business ethics, or more about an industry that is new to you? Are you trying to find out about whether their business prospects are good, or about their underlying technology? Are you looking to profile their leadership – or understand their product line. Or are you trying to balance out two competing job opportunities? Before you do any research, spend an hour writing out the questions that you are looking to answer – it will make the research task that much easier – and faster.
1) Internet Research
a) The most obvious technique is to check their web sites. There may be a number of clues embedded within it, including the names of distributors, suppliers, and others that may be useful later in your networking efforts.
b) Go to Google, and type in the name of the industry, company, the names of the senior managers, and any other pertinent information. You’d be surprised what comes up.
c) Try other search engines (such as Bing and DuckDuckGo). They all use different search algorithms, so expect different information to come up.
d) Go to LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and others, and see if the companies (and their leadership) have profiles there, and review their status updates and Twitter conversations/#hashtags. As an aside, most recruiters use these social networking sites to both source – and disqualify – possible candidates, so be careful about what you post for others to see.
e) If there are any corporate or management blogs, read the blog comments.
f) Search career site (such as Indeed, LinkedIn, etc) job postings to see what positions are currently open. This may provide clues regarding future initiatives.
g) Look at GlassDoor.com, which posts employee reviews on the company.
h) Finally, find the chat group/bulletin board/forum site for the industry you are researching, and review any comments. A warning, however: take many of the public comments with a grain of salt – they are often written by anonymous disgruntled customers or employees, and you cannot know the other side of the story.
2) Directories/Public Library
With all of the electronic avenues available, it is tempting to ignore what the public library has to offer. Every market area has business directories that have listings containing plenty of detailed information on just about every organization. Look through previous years’ directories to get a sense of how your target company may have changed. At the same time, most libraries have online subscriptions that will allow you to search all trade publications/magazines/newspapers/etc. And often, these are available remotely – you just need a library card to access them from your computer.
3) Better Business Bureau and Regulators
Has there been any consumer issues with the company? Call your local Better Business Bureau to find out! And if the person or organization is in a regulated profession, check the regulator and professional association to see if there have been any complaints lodged against them.
By far the most important way to find out about an organization is to use your network to “connect” to those who are in the know. Use the techniques above to identify target individuals, then cast a wide net to see how to contact them. (Think about the expression “six degrees of separation”: you can get to just about anyone through a friend of a friend of a friend.) At worst, you can pick up the phone and give them a call directly, without an introduction.
There is no excuse for attending a meeting without detailed background knowledge of the people and company. While the degree of preparation obviously depends on the purpose of the meeting, becoming a Sherlock Holmes can make a significant difference. How much research have you done for your next meeting this week?
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