Woody Allen says, “80% of success is showing up.”
Woody Allen is wrong.
He should say, “Showing up will make you 80% successful.”
It’s like getting to the 80-yard-line and then not scoring. It doesn’t count for much. And, it’s the equivalent of getting 80% of the way through your sales cycle and finding out your prospect is going with your competition.
I don’t know anyone in sales that wants to be 80% successful. If you are happy with almost winning the sale, stop reading now and go back to watching Dancing With The Stars or American Idol.
Oh, you’re still reading? Good. Let’s get to work.
The secret to success is showing up prepared. There are many ways to prepare for a meeting or sales call. This article is focused on LinkedIn because it’s my favorite place to start and often the best source of insight. Not every prospect uses LinkedIn, however, so learn these strategies and apply them to other technologies and other sources of information. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are great as well. Keep in mind that often the best source for information is your own offline network. Who do you know that knows your prospect? This is small industry. Somebody knows something. All you have to do is ask the right questions.
LinkedIn is one of the best ways to ensure that you are prepared in terms of your prospect. Most salespeople spend too much time memorizing their PowerPoint deck and every feature and benefit of their product or service, and not enough time (think, none) preparing intelligent questions or searching for commonalities that will help them to connect on a personal level. But not you…not anymore. What you will be able to accomplish in under fifteen minutes will take days, weeks, or even months off your average sales cycle.
Assuming you already know your prospect’s name and company, follow the steps below in advance of your next sales call or meeting.
Find your prospect on LinkedIn. Click through to the profile and look for:
How you’re connected to your prospect. Often, you’ll find that you are a 2nd or 3rd degree connection and that you have a mutual connection that you can reach out to for insight and the inside scoop.
Previous employment. Has your prospect worked with or worked for anyone that you know? Have you done business with a former employer? Perhaps you worked for the same company at some point?
Education. Do you love the school football team? Do you hate the school football team? Did you go to the same school? Did your prospect earn a degree that is completely unrelated to her current position? For instance, I look for people who attended law school but do not practice. Or a VP of Sales that studied molecular biology. Makes for a fun conversation.
Websites. Does your prospect have a blog or link to a non-profit organization or foundation? If so, click! Read the blog and print a post or two out to bring with you to your meeting. Same thing about the social cause – be prepared to ask questions about your prospect’s involvement.
Twitter. Many LinkedIn users list their Twitter account. Click on it and uncover what your prospect likes to tweet about. Is it something related to business or does your prospect tweet about a hobby or personal interest?
Status. What is your prospect working on? What has your prospect commented on?
Recent activity. This gives you an understanding of how active your prospect is on LinkedIn. If there’s no activity, that’s an indicator that your prospect is a passive user and that you’ll have to do a little more digging to find out what’s new.
Interests. If you’re meeting with the VP of a fleet maintenance company and your prospect lists fine wine or marathons, it’s time to study up. People love to talk about their passions, and this is your opportunity to uncover the path to your prospect’s heart. Come prepared with relevant information and questions.
Groups and Associations. What groups does your prospect belong to? Anything look familiar to you? Are you members of the same group? Are there groups listed that stand out as unique or unexpected?
Honors and Awards. How is prospect known within his industry? Is there something recent that you can congratulate her on?
Recommendations. What do others say about working with your prospect? What is he known for? What value does she provide?
Additional applications. Some LinkedIn users will turn on the Amazon.com, WordPress, LinkedIn Events, TripIt, or SlideShare applications (to name a few). If so, you’re in luck. Check to see what books your prospect has read recently and be prepared to ask engaging questions about how your prospect has used something he’s learned from that book in his business. Has your prospect traveled somewhere you have been (or perhaps to your birthplace)? What events has your prospect attended recently?
Sound like a lot? It is. A lot of gold.
And it’s all on one page, right in front of your face. With a little practice it will take you only a few minutes to uncover enough insight to warm up a prospect at a first meeting.
I’ll make you one guarantee: you walk in armed with the information you gather from your prospect’s LinkedIn profile and you will instantly differentiate yourself from the 98% of salespeople (think, your competition) that show up and “wing it.” And, being prepared with engaging questions sure beats looking at the walls in your prospect’s office trying to come up with something pithy to say about bass fishing.
Interested in learning more about how to use LinkedIn? Captain Reman has created a 52-page ebook that spells it all out in easy-to-implement steps.