The best places to research contacts and potential buyers

By Anders Björklund

The best places to research contacts and potential buyers

You will run into trouble if you try to do cold outreach without doing your homework. The modern buyer doesn't have the time or the patience to address fundamental questions with answers that you can find through a basic search — nor do they have the time to fill you in on their needs or challenges.

If you send an email or pick up your phone without gathering the needed background information, you stand to annoy the target person.

Prospect research is essential — and to help you out, we've put together a list of some of the best places to research buyers before interacting or conversing.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become a staple of buyer research — it is the most centralised, effective platform for gathering valuable information on potential buyers. 

If you leverage LinkedIn to guide and support your buyer research efforts, there are some key steps you should follow. First, find your buyer, and check out each of the following areas of their profile:

Experience at their present job and role

Most people list primary job duties or significant projects they've worked on. This information can help you understand their decision-making authority and position within their organisation.

Experience in their former jobs and roles 

Customise your messaging based on their career history. For example, is this their first time making this purchasing decision? Or have they done this many times?

Your shared connections and interests

If you have a connection or a group in common with your potential buyer, bring it up during your conversation. Ask how they know this connection to establish a sense of credibility and set the stage for a possible referral opportunity.

Your shared groups

Click through their groups to scan their interests and see what's being discussed.

Recent activity

Have a look at what your buyer has shared and posted. Also, check if they have ever published an article or a document.

The buyer's Twitter profile

If your potential buyer has a Twitter account, spend some time to get a sense of what they're interested in. If they consistently show interest in a particular issue, familiarise yourself with that issue.

It would help if you weren't ham-handed and direct about everything you saw on their feed, but it helps build a profile and understand their interests. 

The company's Twitter

A company's Twitter account often gives you valuable information and input on its messaging, communication, mission, and culture. 

Leveraging Twitter to get a read on the company can give you the perspective needed for a targeted, effective pitch that suits how the company operates.

The modern buyer doesn't have the time or the patience to address fundamental questions with answers that you can find through a basic search — nor do they have the time to fill you in on their needs or challenges.

The company's press and media releases

Press and media releases often give you valuable context into how the company operates and how they perform. Discussing announcements like leadership changes, product releases, or financial statements lets a buyer know you've taken a sincere, vested interest in their business.

That information can also help you determine the most appropriate subject matter to touch on during your call. For example, if you know where their business stands, you can better picture what they need to hear.

The competitor's press and media releases

Any influential announcement a competitor has made may colour how your potential buyer looks at your company's offering — either as a competitive advantage or an unnecessary expense in the face of more pressing priorities.

Where does their company stand relative to its competition? Suppose you have a pulse on how their industry peers are performing. In that case, you can frame your pitch with an extraordinary sense of urgency — pin down the company's current market position and give yourself the space to demonstrate how you can improve it.

The company's finances

You should review its financial reports if your potential buyer works for a public company. This might give you an idea of how well it performs, possibly the challenges it faces, and a frame of reference for where the company stands, allowing you to interpret how your suggested solution can enhance its footing.

Various sources

Read what your potential buyers read, what your potential buyer and the company publish, and at least the last few posts. Referencing the company's content demonstrates that you are interested and have done your homework.

It would help if you also looked over popular industry sources and blogs to understand the trends and challenges your potential customer is likely facing. You want to demonstrate that you're in tune with their challenges, interest, and needs — that mostly starts with understanding the nuances of their industry.

The Facebook and Instagram profiles

Facebook and Instagram are less professional but more personal social networks — so you're less likely to find immediate, relevant, company-specific information on them than on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Still, checking out your buyer's Facebook and Instagram profiles to pick up personal tidbits about them doesn't hurt. But be careful with this intel — weave it naturally into the conversation. You don't want to be intrusive or creepy with an overly personal appeal.

Your marketing automation system

This might be the first time you're researching your potential customer — but maybe not the first time they've checked you and your company out. So, search your contact person's name in your marketing automation system to turn up existing contact records or interaction history.

You might find this buyer knows much more about your product, solution or service than expected — or they might have demonstrated specific interest in certain features your solution offers.

This kind of information gives you a fresh perspective on their familiarity with your product, solution or service and where they might be in their buying process — allowing you to make a thoughtfully tailored appeal on your reach out or response.

Your CRM

In addition to the marketing automation system, research your CRM to determine if someone else within your company has been in contact with this potential customer and what the outcome was.

Don't overwhelm a potential customer with aggressive interactions or inundate them with too many suggestions. Instead, see whether they've previously engaged with your company or not— that perspective will let you know when you should press the gas.

Buyer research is central to having productive conversations with a new contact or a potential buyer. And make sure that you never go into any engagement blind — you must prepare thoroughly for all kinds of interactions with focused, thoughtful intel gathered from various sources.

Google Results

Search for the potential buyer and the company to bring up more info — good or bad. Next, search your buyer's name in quotes to surface any other information about them that might've fallen through the cracks. Like researching your prospect on Facebook and Instagram, this method gives you a more personal perspective on your potential buyer. When googling the company, select high-quality sources and reliable third-party publications when going this route.

This approach will give you more accurate intel about the potential buyer, the company's performance, and issues the potential buyer and the company might face. 

This insight can make you seem more in tune with the company's unique challenges.

The above tips are general; you should pick a few more sources when researching similar local places, e.g., Yelp, Quora, Glassdoor, Crunchbase, AngelList and more.

Buyer research is central to having productive conversations with a new contact or a potential buyer. And make sure that you never go into any engagement blind — you must prepare thoroughly for all kinds of interactions with focused, thoughtful intel gathered from various sources.

You may also be interested in this article about the principles of 'buyer first.'

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Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about what and how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B. Asks a lot of questions, and knows what to do with the answers.
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