One mistake salespeople make in discovery is asking questions they should have answered through their research. These questions will show they didn’t prepare for a first meeting. While failing to do research is harmful in an average pursuit, it’s worse in an enterprise-level opportunity.
This article will provide you a template for a professional level of research. This strategy will improve your discovery call and prepare you to create value for your contacts. It will also allow you to develop better questions.
Step 1: Your Strategic Target
The first step is to research your strategic target. Start by reading the company’s website. You want the advantage of knowing more about them than any of your competitors. Few salespeople will dig deep enough to acquire information that is one click away.
Read the “About Us” section to get a better understanding of what the company does. Then, look at how your strategic target differentiates themselves from their competitors. If the company has a list of logos of companies they serve, note who buys from them. Also, look at the leadership team and their backgrounds.
You also want to know who their competitors are. You can ask ChatGPT about who competes with your strategic target. You can also research their reviews and what the workplace is like by going to a site like Glassdoor, keeping in mind it may be prudent to discount the worst reviews.
Step 2: Publicly Traded Companies
If you are calling on a publicly traded company, go to the company’s investor page and download the annual report. Every annual report will have a chairman’s letter to investors that spells out the company’s initiatives in the coming year and how they will improve their results. Note the initiatives and look for ways you can contribute to their stated goals.
It can be even more helpful to read the section of the annual report that covers risks to the company’s plans. Every annual report requires this section so investors, especially institutional investors like pension funds and mutual funds, can make wise decisions. Institutional investors invest billions of dollars in large companies. By reading the risk section of the annual report, you may be able to identify potential problems that you can help your prospective client address.
Step 3: Private Companies
It's difficult to get information on private companies, especially those that are closely held. These private companies stay private for a reason and they don’t share information about their results. You can still find useful information by searching the company website and reading everything you can find. You are likely to find information on employees who are promoted, new locations that are opening, new product lines, or contracts the company recently won.
You may also get a sense of their size by using a source like Business First, a publication that covers companies in large cities.
Step 4: Industry Trends
Very few salespeople have been taught or trained to do research on their prospective client’s industry. This is a major mistake. A two-part approach can work best for this type of research.
First, explore the industry to identify headwinds and tailwinds, trends that can hurt or help your prospective client. Every industry faces headwinds, a set of trends that challenges companies. Most salespeople ask their contacts to tell them about their problems, but it’s far better to know about these before your first meeting. By doing this research ahead of time, you can speak to your contact’s problems without having to ask about them directly.
Tailwinds are the trends that provide your target company with opportunities. By understanding these advantages, you can help your contact and their company take full advantage of them. Mentioning this critical information in a first meeting can help you differentiate yourself.
After you’ve researched the headwinds and tailwinds, look at the clients your company already serves. If any of them are in your dream client’s industry, , contact the salespeople who serve them to discuss their challenges and your company’s role in solving their problems and helping them generate better results. Knowing what their peers are experiencing and how your company is helping them provides you with insights you can use in your sales conversations.
By doing this internal research, you may be able to discover what works well in your target’s industry. You will improve your discovery when you can ask effective questions that prove that you have a strong understanding of your client’s business and how they can produce better results.
Step 5: Researching Your Contacts
Your contacts are likely on LinkedIn. Most will have written their own profiles, which contain what they want you to know. For example, I called on a purchasing agent whose profile suggested he was only interested in reducing the price when salespeople called on him.
Create a link to the profile or download it as a PDF, but don’t stop there. Consider the buying committee that you engage with most of the time. Look for people at the target company with similar roles who will likely need to be part of the decision-making process. At some point, you will need to build consensus, and this will help you lay the groundwork for that.
Finally, if you have any connections in common, you may be able to reach out to ask them to share what they know about your contact at a new opportunity. You may learn something helpful, and you can repay that favor.
How to Research Your Strategic Targets
Buyers complain about salespeople who know nothing about their business and their industry. By doing a professional level of research, you give yourself the advantage of having done your homework.
Save this research, archive it, and make it available. This is especially true for the industry insights that will give you a head start on your research into future strategic targets.
In a time when sales organizations are turning to technology to solve sales problems, you create a strategic advantage by providing a sales experience that creates value for your prospective clients. This approach will cause your contacts to prefer to buy from you because you know things that others don’t.