Just yesterday I got a LinkedIn message from a salesperson who wrote this:
If you are not serious about IMPROVING your presence on LinkedIn, you are wasting your time on LinkedIn. I know my statement hurts, but it is TRUE! My specially designed “one-on-one 6-hours Elite Coaching Program” will help you connect with decision makers so you can sell your photography, coaching programs, or guitar lessons without having to make any outbound calls.
So, if you are interested, please let me know. I am sure your LinkedIn presence will ROCK in 2021. You can book on my Calendly link here, but hurry – my time is limited.
I realized he had no idea what I did. I couldn’t help myself so I wrote him back and asked him if he could increase my dog training business.
He rambled on in an email. We began chatting and I asked if he even knew what I did? He had no answer for me. At that point, I stopped the conversation and told him that he is the type of sales rep that gives the rest of us a bad name.
Forrester research has shown that while 88% of sales executives are knowledgeable about their own products and services, aka one on one coaching to sell more guitar lessons, and only 24% of them understand their customer’s business and the challenges they face.
Doing your homework not only shows your customers that you care, it separates you from your competitors and helps you build rapport and credibility faster. When you’ve done your homework, you won’t pester customers with questions that you should already know the answers to.
Think about yourself as a consumer. When someone takes the time to look you up online to discover your mutual interests and experiences, you’re both more eager to work together. (And no, it’s not creepy. I get that question all of the time. Just tell your customer, “I hope you don’t mind but I looked you up online. I like to know a little more about the people I’m going to serve.”)
My husband bought a truck on the spot one day when a savvy seller used that approach. (This video got over 500,000 views on LinkedIn, maybe because the car salesperson did a much better job than me!)
It used to be the only way we could discover a prospect’s needs and objectives was to meet over a cup of coffee or perhaps by telephone. If we were lucky, we might be able to invite a mutual colleague to add to the conversation.
Today, you must do your homework and learn everything you can about each of the decision makers on the call.
Here’s how I conduct background research before a meeting:
LinkedIn: I love LinkedIn. Why wouldn’t you go on LinkedIn and learn everything you can about your client so that you can uncover shared values and deepen your rapport?
“Oh, you support the Red Cross? So do we!”
“I see that you’re really involved with the Humane Society and you have four dogs. I’d have 10 dogs if I could.”
I built great rapport with somebody very influential just a few weeks ago talking about his King Charles Cavalier. Build rapport by looking up your prospects interests on LinkedIn, but it doesn’t stop there.
Connections: You can also find out about your mutual connections. Bringing up mutual connections creates instant credibility on a virtual sales call.
Position: In addition to their interests and connections, check out their current position. How long have they been with the company? Were they recently promoted? Who did they work for prior? Have there been any trigger events in the company? In other words, what’s changed? Have there been any recent acquisitions or staffing changes?
A friend of mine who is a top seller, Karen Keating, always checks out trigger events prior to her sales calls because, as she says, “New executives are more likely to make changes.”
Activity: What are they posting commenting on agreeing with disagreeing with? “Audrey just posted that she got an award for diversity and inclusion.” Complement her on it. If you know she’s not an outdoors person, don’t brag about your recent trek up Kilimanjaro.
Achievements: Check out their licenses, accreditations and achievements. A few months ago, I listened to a podcast given by the VP of the company before my sales call with him. When I mentioned this at the beginning of the call, he became so animated that he extended the call by thirty minutes! And, in case you’re wondering, I got the deal.
In addition to LinkedIn, check out the company website, Glassdoor reviews, financial statements, and, of course, Yelp reviews. You need to know what their customers are saying about them. What works. What needs fixing? In other words find ways to get closer to your customer. Discuss mutual interests and research potential challenges. I once heard a phrase that has stuck with me: “Show me you know me.”
Too many sellers blindly pitch products and rattle off generic solutions that could apply to anyone. Let them know that when they become your customer, you’ll always have their best interests at heart.