Before I get on a roll here, I want to make it clear, there is such a thing as too much preparation. Preparation for your initial contact is the core of your success in cold-calling or FirstCalling as I refer to it. However, it can also turn into an excuse to not pick up the phone, or walk into the building, or hit the keys on the keyboard. Get what you need to serve your purpose for that first call and then stop. There will be plenty of time to dig deeper in your research once you have successfully completed your FirstCall.
As I mentioned at the end of my last post, there has been dramatic innovation when it comes to information available on the web. There is more than you need out there, so put your energy into discovering what you need to know about your prospect. Everything else is simply a distraction and a drain on your valuable time. I recommend you focus your research on two key areas:
- Company information and background about the company that you have selected.
- Personal information and background about the person you will be talking with.
Companies have a need to communicate more each day. Size of company only dictates the amount of data that is flowing. There is a core set of data points that every company will provide in one forum or another. These include but are not limited to:
- Primary Industry
- Business Purpose
- Contact Information
- Leadership, Management and Corporate Governance
- Financial Results
- News/Press releases
- Job Openings
This is not an inclusive list but is representative of most organizations, at least those based in the US. Because of the desire and sometimes the legal requirement to communicate this information, it is up to you to know where and how to find it. Just be glad you are living in the age of the internet.
Let me share some of the best sources that I use to gather all of the information above that a company shares, intentionally or otherwise. Please note that all the services and sites that follow are free, or offer a version of their service that is free. That is typically all you need unless you are really getting deep into client acquisition. Future posts will dive deeply into some of those fee-based services.
GOOGLE (www.google.com) – If it isn’t already, Google should be your best friend. You will be blown away when you see what is available to you with a little know how using Google.
Google Site Search
Search using xxxxx site:yyy.com
X = terms you’re searching for
Y = Web site address
Example here for Hershey Foods: suppliers site:hersheys.com
The search results in taking you to Hershey’s Supplier Guidelines for EDI
Find email addresses using Google
Use * to find an email address like this entry in the search bar: *@companyname.com (or whatever their domain is)
The search returns multiple pages of listings with employee email addresses being displayed. As you can see, there is much more information available including phone numbers and titles. When you do a search like this, there will usually be lots of pages. Click on Page 10 or deeper to see what is buried in the search results.
One of the most interesting searches that I have come across is this next one. You cannot imagine what is on the web for all to see.
Google Company File Search
Search using “xxxx xxx” filetype:yyy
X = name of company
Y = filetype
Popular File Types:
- Microsoft Excel (xls)
- Microsoft PowerPoint (ppt)
- Microsoft Word (doc)
- Adobe PDF Format (pdf)
Here is an example using Costco. Type this into the search bar:
Pretty amazing isn’t it?
To keep track of you’re most important prospects or customer activity use the following service (the free service works great).
WWW.GOOGLEALERT.COM This will give you options to select which companies to track, the frequency, and what type of information you would like to review.
Other web sites that can be of help in your efforts:
MANTA (www.manta.com) is a US company locater that provides
- Basic D&B Information
- Free registration
- Search by company name or geography
WAY BACK MACHINE (www.archive.org) shows views of
- What a website looked like in the past
- Shows sites that no longer exist
FIND ARTICLES (www.findarticles.com)
- Search newspaper & magazine sources
- For searching companies & people
INSIDEVIEW (www.Insideview.com) I will be writing an entire post about this company and the amazing capabilities that they offer their clients.
- Basic company information
- News/press releases
- Job openings
- Executive Listings
- Financial information
YAHOO FINANCE (www.finance.yahoo.com)
- Financial and EDGAR filings from SEC site
- Stock Price trends
- Pretty much everything you would like to know about a company
PROSPECTS WEBSITE – While these sites and services above all provide an amazing amount of useful information, do not overlook the value of the prospects own website. Many times the very information you are looking for is contained within their own website. Take advantage of the Search function that most sites provide. An example of useful information found this way happened to me this past summer with a telecommunications company in Alaska. I was trying to gain a better understanding of the company and the challenges that it faced, and where there might be a need for my services. Buried within the Investor relations tab and several tabs below it, I came across a Powerpoint presentation that the President of the company used to present to some of the large investment firms on Wall Street. In it, she addressed her key initiatives for 2008 and one of those listed was “To improve our Procurement processes and complete a Vendor Consolidation initiative”. When making my FirstCalls into this company, I referenced their President’s goal and it got me the audience I needed. I had several requests from people that I talked with at the company to send them a copy of the presentation. Pretty cool huh. I knew more about their company than they did.
By using these tools in the appropriate situation you should never again be disappointed when trying to find useful information about the company that you would like to have as your next customer.
Let’s continue with Preparation in the next post by sharing sources and techniques to learn more about the individual contacts that you will be interacting with. As usual, try these sites and techniques out and then come back and tell our readers what you experience. Share the results of your efforts.