In 2008, there’s no excuse for walking into a sales call and saying to the prospect, “Tell me about your business”. The Age of the Internet dictates that you should know something about the prospect’s business before you arrive for the first meeting.
I’ve long since learned to look at the company web site, and to Google the prospect, when preparing for a meeting. What I didn’t know is that there are some simple, easy tricks to dig up additional information — from the search engines, and from an “Invisible Web” that the search engines can’t get to.
Sam Richter’s “Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling” is subtitled “Web Search Secrets for the Inside Info on Companies, Industries, and People.” I’ve had the book for a couple of weeks now, and have found myself referring to it often as I do my research. Among the tips I’ve already put to use:
1. Many decision-makers have someone screen their calls — but they read emails themselves. Having been unsuccessful in getting past the gatekeeper on the phone, I’ve used a technique from the book to smoke out an email address and then emailed the prospects directly. It’s gotten me two meetings so far.
2. Preparing for a meeting with a new General Manager at an auto dealership, I found a newspaper article on his previous dealership in California. This turned out to be a great conversation-starter. The article didn’t show up in Google or Yahoo, but the book pointed me to another source I hadn’t heard of.
3. I found out that my local public library offered free access to several “pay” information services, and that I could log on from my office computer.
You’ll find that not every technique works every time — you’ll go down some blind alleys as you try out the methods in the book. But if you want to be fully prepared on a sales call, the Internet is an indispensable tool. And Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling is an extremely valuable guide to getting the most out of the Web as efficiently as possible.
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