This is a post about : Why Sales Prospect Research Needs to Change!

Researched over 1,000 prospect companies

Over the past two years I’ve researched over 1,000 prospect companies and their executives for our clients, sales team, and myself (we eat our own cooking around here!).

Our clients range from financial institutions to technology companies, from inside sales teams to global account managers. They all have a similar need – to conduct sales prospect research, qualify leads and gain more insight on their current relationships.

When I ask salespeople or business developers, “How do you do this today?” they usually respond “I go to Google and LinkedIn, and I make notes in my CRM database.”

Desperate search

Sound familiar? While these two “data” sources help them with lead generation and contact management, it can be a tortuous and superficial process. It’s worth noting that people don’t mention using their CRM tools… because the problem with CRM systems is that they don’t help the prospect research process. Relationship intelligence is limited, there is no sales prospect research process built-in and data entry is often manual. Most people say, “There needs to be a better way”.
lots of search results

The challenge with the “Google” approach to sales prospect research is that you only get results based on what you type – you must identify the best search terms yourself, from the company name to the person’s name, to other search keywords applicable to your business. It’s a trial and error process. Once you have come up with the “perfect” search (assuming you have time!) you may then need to review several pages of results and often times the best articles are buried several pages down.

Now with LinkedIn, you only see information that people choose to make public – what’s usually missing is an email address and phone number. Another challenge with LinkedIn is that many senior executives have chosen not to create a LinkedIn profile at all.

lockedin screenshot

So if LinkedIn doesn’t provide the information you’re looking for, where do you go next? You go back to Google and start the long process of searching and scouring the results to find what is relevant….

And there’s another pitfall with the LinkedIn approach …. Say you go to LinkedIn and search for a person and include their company name. Lots of times you can’t find the person. As an alternative, you may try searching the company on LinkedIn and then review the list of associated people with hopes of finding the person you’re looking for. Many times this approach doesn’t work as well. So here’s a trick to help you locate the person’s LinkedIn profile … I use Google rather than LinkedIn to find LinkedIn profiles. Now you may ask why?

You must remember the data on LinkedIn is added by its users. People spell their company’s name differently, therefore leading to fragmentation. This results in multiple people connected to multiple company names even though they all work for the same company. It’s easier to type “John Smith, ABC123 Company” into Google because Google will provide LinkedIn profiles matching the person’s name and with different versions of the company name. This also covers the second pitfall when the person no longer works for the company you think they work for.

But that’s just one trick I used to do when I was trying to make the “old way” better

So what’s the alternative? We now use a sales prospect research software solution to make our research process more efficient and effective. A good prospect research software platform will:

  • provide hard-to-find information, like contact details
  • pull and consolidate information from multiple sources (here’s an industry secret: there’s no nirvana data source out there!)
  • do the searching for you, and eliminate noise from the search results
  • give you the capability to customize searches, in the context of your business priorities and the specific attributes of the person or company you are targeting.

The four features above will benefit users right from the start, by:

  • letting you spend more time connecting with prospects and less time researching
  • making the sales prospect research process more comprehensive and systematic
  • getting better results – finding insights that accelerate your relationship-building

There is no one sales prospect research solution that solves everyone’s needs. The key is finding a tool that best fits your (and your company) needs and priorities. It’s essential to try out these solutions and put the software through its paces in the context of your business and your prospects.