There is so much information readily available at our fingertips that we can take advantage of when prospecting and preparing for meetings. It’s up to each of us to know those resources, use them to our advantage, and start a first meeting steps ahead.
Of course, companies differ on the amount of information they publish about themselves. But before a first meeting, you should know what pretty much most of that information is. These companies have taken the time to write it and publish it, and we need to read it, learn from it, and use it to craft our opening questions.
Imagine these two scenarios where you’re meeting with a prospect for the first time.
Scenario #1: You each sit down and you open the conversation with something like, “So tell me about your business,” or “So tell me about your benefits program.”
Scenario #2: You each sit down and you open the conversation with something like, “I see that service business are showing promising growth in hiring these days, and it looks like Company ABC is playing an active part. Congratulations. What kinds of things are you seeing with the pool of candidates?”
In scenario #1 you’re asking the prospect to tell you information that can be easily and/or possibly found on the company website, in job postings, news releases, and articles in local publications. By asking questions like this, you’re taking valuable meeting time to have the prospect tell you information that you could and should have learned prior to arriving for the meeting. By the time the prospect has educated you with enough background information to start digging into the good stuff, it’s probably nearing the end of the meeting time.
In scenario #2, you’ve demonstrated to the prospect that you are not only current with economic happenings, but that you understand what business they are in, and you’ve done research on the company and know about their recent hiring activity. Instead of just talking nuts and bolts about the benefits program or the business, you are immediately breaking the ice by getting her to talk about her business at a more in-depth level and mutually sharing thoughts and observations. This first question might seem like just a conversation starter, but what you can learn from the answers will form the basis for your following questions and the areas of opportunity for you, as well as the prospect business.
Scenario #1 might be easier prior to the meeting because you don’t have to do any prep work, but it makes you work much harder during the meeting and it becomes a challenge trying to justify a second meeting. This is also a disrespectful way to spend the valuable hour of time you’ve asked the prospect to give you.
Scenario #2 requires a time investment prior to the meeting researching and preparing, but the meeting is so much easier and significantly more productive leading to a much easier natural conclusion of a second meeting. The types of questions you’re asking in a meeting like this are not just using an hour of her time, but it’s giving her an opportunity to analyze her own business with your assistance.
Here are a few ideas for researching prospects:
- Read company website – all of it from company descriptions to products and services to team members, community activities, and news releases.
- Google the company – this is where you find the articles from local or industry publications, awards, new releases, and job postings (if they don’t publish these items on their own site).
- Look them up on LinkedIn – Find their company profile and see what information is included, review who works there currently, who has left, and who was recently hired.
Photo by Ed Townend.