Why Research Is Important to Selling

By Tom Hopkins

Why do you need to research your prospective clients and their businesses? So that when you’re getting ready to close the sale, your lack of knowledge won’t trip you up. You do all your research simply to build to that final moment when your buyer gives you the okay to deliver your product and to start building a long‐term relationship with her or her company.

For example, if you sell air‐treatment systems to homes and businesses, and you find out that a particular business must manufacture its products according to exacting standards, that’s important information to have. Why? Because it means that the business must have a high level of concern for cleanliness and precision. And your air cleaner can help them get there.

If you discover that the company is growing, but it hasn’t expanded its work site, you can probably count on the fact that its employees are working in close proximity to one another. And the closer the proximity, the greater the likelihood that germs can spread rapidly from one employee to the next. No employer can afford to have people taking a lot of sick time. There’s another benefit of your air‐treatment system.

If the business’s financial reports show solid growth and explosive future plans, you know that it’s poised for change and probably wide open to new ideas. Show the company that your air‐treatment system is state of the art and expandable, and you’ll be more likely to get their interest.

The more you know about a potential client, the more competent you appear and the stronger you will be when you present your case.

The same principle that you use when you sell to business applies when you sell to individuals or families: The more you know about their background, the better. You’ll warm people up faster when you talk about their interests, jobs, and kids than you will if you know nothing other than their address and phone number.

For example, if you’re still selling air‐treatment systems, and you know that one of their children has allergies or asthma, that’s another bullet in your arsenal of benefits when you present your product.

You may be wondering how you’d find out about that child’s asthma. You can do that in one of several ways, including a brief survey‐type phone call asking if anyone in the home has or has ever had allergies or other illnesses that are affected by the quality of the air in the home and adding that information to your notes for each client.

In addition, companies that sell data lists, known as list brokers, often have enough information about potential clients that you can find out what types of pets they have, cleaning products they purchase, and whether they make a lot of long‐distance phone calls. How do they get this information? Think about it.

Have you ever filled out a survey about the products you use in order to receive free grocery coupons? Do you send in for rebates on products? If you do any of this sort of thing, those companies don’t just send your coupons or rebates and toss your reply card. They store that valuable purchasing information about you in their databases for future reference.

It may take a fair amount of legwork to find a good list broker. Getting a referral from someone in a noncompeting business would be great. But if you don’t know anyone who has used a list broker, start by asking for suggestions from a local quick‐print company. Their clients may have had great success with particular list companies.