So, you’ve landed a meeting with a long sought-after customer. Chances are you’ve already done some research to get your foot in the door, but are you able to articulately connect the dots between their business objectives and your product or service? Do you even know what their business objectives are?
Most people—especially senior executives—don’t want to be sold to. “The companies that do the best with our team are the ones that understand our business, know the competitive landscape, can articulate our strategy and then orient around those solutions that best help us advance our technology strategy and, more importantly, our business strategy,” says CIGNA Corporation CIO Mark Boxer.
So deep knowledge about the customer is your team’s greatest asset—knowledge about the person or people you’re meeting with, about the company’s and/or the business unit’s overall strategy, their goals, and what they’re up against.
In other words, you need to do a lot of research.
Let’s look at the areas you should cover:
1. Biographical History
How long have your contacts been in their current positions? Where did they work before? What have been their responsibilities? Where are they from and where did they go to school? Are they members of any professional associations? Do they serve on any boards?
2. Personal Interests and Affinities
Now, you’re digging even deeper to learn what makes them click and what you may have in common. You’re looking for hobbies, interests and affinities. Maybe they have a unique or compelling background or family story. Perhaps they have a special interest in mentoring women or young people.
3. Overall Company Strategy
What direction is the company taking and has it changed recently? Are they courting a new customer base? Have there been recent executive changes or other announcements like mergers or acquisitions?
4. Current Focus
What are your contact’s current business objectives and initiatives? How do they measure success?
5. Key Challenges
With economies and technologies ever changing, companies are facing a multitude of challenges. Is your potential customer facing disruption–or a new competitor? Are they reorganizing and cutting jobs and facilities? Are they facing legal issues? Have they had to deal with product recalls? Has there been a recent management shakeup?
So, where do you find this information?
LinkedIn may be your first source but should not be your only source. For one thing, not all executives even have a LinkedIn profile, and many are not fully completed, or updated. Plus, it typically doesn’t contain the totality of all information you need.
If you want to get personal information, check to see if they have accounts on Facebook and Twitter. If they do, and if they update their accounts, you could learn a lot. But you still may have to verify what you find and make sure it’s current.
One of the best sources of information is published interviews. Some are useful strictly for learning the person’s professional or business focus or about a new product they’ve launched, assuming the interviews are recent—no more than a year old. Some interviews dive deep into personal territory and can yield helpful insights into who they are, where they come from, and what matters to them. Even older interviews that are more personal can be useful.
Resources that identify overall company strategy and current focus or challenges can be found in a variety of places. Check out the company website for announcements of new products, new hires, upcoming partnerships, new vendors, and new initiatives. Look for current articles on the business, press releases, and quarterly earnings call transcripts. Of course, there’s an art to reading these transcripts. You’re looking for new announcements, trends, and forecasts—much of which can be buried in answers to analysts’ questions after the leadership’s prepared statements.
So you’ve done your homework. Now what? We recommend organizing the information into a one-pager–what we call an Account Anatomy. It’s a briefing document that zeros in on the company strategy and priorities, sales triggers, and the key people your team needs to know so your team doesn’t get overwhelmed.
Taking the time—and it is time consuming—to do this homework gives you an immeasurable advantage over the competition. While your competitors yammer on about product features, imagine how refreshing it would be to your customer when you show a deep understanding of their interests, their focus, and their challenges—and deliver some thoughtful recommendations that address those issues. The goal? To be the vendor who “gets” them–and position yourself as the business partner they’ve been seeking.
Research is time consuming and assigning a team member to tackle it may not be the best use of their time or your resources. So, you can always have Boardroom Insiders manage that critical part of your preparation for you—from researching and delivering profiles of key executives to developing Account Anatomy documents for your team.