An email from one reader asked what research he might do that would allow him to gain the commitment of time from his prospects. This is to overestimate the value of researching, and it is to misunderstand what it takes to gain a commitment for a first meeting (which is covered in greater detail in The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales).
The Limits of Research
There is very little that you can learn about your prospective client through research that will cause you to gain an appointment with your prospective client.
You may want to look at their work history to discern what they’ve done in the past, which may help you understand what kind of roles they’ve had in the past, and you may also find things they are proud of having done. You can look at their education, and you might be able to find some connection, like the fact that your prospective client went to the same university as your brother in law. On LinkedIn, you can see what groups someone belongs to, you can see what they found valuable enough to post, and you can see what their interests are, none of which is very helpful when it comes to gaining a commitment for a meeting.
What comes next is going to be painful for some of you:
You are researching your client because you have call reluctance. You have call reluctance because you don’t know what to say to gain an appointment, and you are searching for some way to make it easier. But if you already don’t know what to say, then saying, “You went to the same University as my brother in law,” is only going to make things worse for you.
The key to gaining a commitment is having something worth trading time to acquire.
What Are You Trading for Time?
When you are asking for an appointment, what you know about your client specifically is not as important as what you know about them generally. Your dream client isn’t likely to meet with you because you stalked their social media to learn things about them personally. They’re going to meet with you because you have something of value to trade for that meeting.
To gain the commitment of time, it’s much easier to trade what you can teach your prospective client about their business, about their opportunities, about their challenges, and about the decisions they are going to need to make in the not too distant future.
Later, Do Your Research
When you are prospecting, you need to do the minimal viable amount of research about your prospect, and the maximum research necessary to have a commanding disparity when it comes to business acumen and situational knowledge. Once that appointment is scheduled, however, you need to do more research, the kind of research that gives you some greater clues as to who you are meeting with before you have that meeting.