In the old days, you knew who to contact to make business. There were a few job functions, and a few levels of seniority. A name with job function was usually enough for you to hit the bullseye more often than not. But as businesses diversify and become more complex, this becomes more difficult; and even for the “data-aware”, old habits die hard.
I had an interesting conversation this week with a potential business partner I was trying to reach out to. This was an organisation that I had done a bit of old school research on, understood their target market and modus operandi as best I could from their website and LinkedIn, and decided that it was definitely worth investigating further. So with my “sales research” head on, I made the call to their London office with a name & job role in my hand that I thought would give me more information and might be able to progress the idea of a partnership. When researching, I always start with people who can give me the most information and confirm / correct my assumptions, rather than diving in cold.
So I speak with John, tell him what I do and where I think there may be a great fit with his company. John goes silent for a moment, and then puts his hand across the receiver and says to his colleague “this chap wants XYZ, what’s the name of the fella that deals with this? He’s in Europe right?”
After a bit more muffled deliberation, John gives me the name and number of the man who thinks he can help me, though he’s not sure of his exact role but it’s “definitely more his area than mine”
In this reality, I put a call straight through to my newly identified contact. The vagueness of the information made me think “I’ll call this guy, he’s probably not the absolute contact, but I’m definitely one step closer”. We have a great conversation over 20 minutes once he gets the general idea of my proposition. He’s a lovely guy, and it turns out that what I’m proposing is possibly something that would be of mutual benefit to our companies. I send him an outline of how we work and we promise to speak again in a week, although I may have to bear with him as he is travelling a lot and has a fair few other priorities. As we are closing the call I tell him I’m just dropping on to LinkedIn to connect with him. And that’s when I discover that he is the CEO of this business.
In my alternate reality, I go to LinkedIn 1st to search specifically for this name. I discover that “that fella in Europe” is the CEO. This is all well and good, but I then decide to get more of a hook. I search for him in our online business universe (which I can use to populate CRM automatically). On a single page I discover his email address, as well as 7 web references related to him that lay out his history and future vision for the business in blogs, interviews and articles. Armed with this information, I sharpen my pitch substantially, and make my call.
Data is the lifeblood of the modern economy, but the arrangement of that data into information and knowledge is what really helps to make those better, more memorable connections. Research is key. The important point here is that, for the busy sales professional, that information is available in neatly packaged bundles. Somebody else has done it for you, so that you can make more calls and enter validated, more accurate, more complete contact information into your CRM. No longer do you need to spend vital time trawling the internet, if you have the condensed information at your fingertips. And for the data-shy salesperson, you don’t even have to re-key the information anymore. You still have to click the “update CRM” button with your hand however, but I’m sure someone somewhere is working on that.