Few B2B sales people regularly do research on their prospects throughout the sales cycle. But with an increase in automation, the need to know your prospect becomes more important every day. Sales research helps to break through the noise during outreach and also builds trust during discovery and beyond.
As mentioned in our “What is Sales Research?” blog, we break down sales research into 3 core activities.
Here are 10 great places to research your prospects.
This is the “go to” for 99% of B2B sales people who actually do research on prospects. LinkedIn is the best place to start researching both the people and companies you are prospecting.
- What it is: The largest professional network on the internet with over 57 million companies and 800 million people.
- What to look for: Companies that match your ICP and people who match your buyer personas, as well as those who are connected to you. Posts about items that are relevant to your solution or personal information that you can relate to the problem you solve.
- How to use it: A fast way to find 3-5 pieces of data for cold outreach. Also a great way to find connections for warm intros.
Remember, while LinkedIn is a great source of information, it is not the only source and the insights you are gathering here are the same as just about every other salesperson out there.
Anyone who is moving beyond LinkedIn is in the Top 1% of researchers. Accessing these sources will unearth unique insights that the other 99% of sales people are not seeing, providing an edge for outreach, discovery and the rest of the sales process.
There is a lot of great information here for B2B salespeople. First it is a fast way to stay up to date on company news. Additionally, many executives have a Twitter presence. But unlike LinkedIn, followings are often small and DMs quiet, making Twitter a great place to connect and standout.
- What it is: An online news and social networking site used by 67% of B2B companies and over 192 million daily active users.
- What to look for: A quick and easy way to stay up to date on company news. People Tweet about both personal and professional things, helping to get a complete picture of your prospect. Also, many executives have a presence on Twitter, but in some cases followings are small and DMs are quiet, making it a great way to reach prospects (just be sure to do it right)
- How to use it: Connect directly with executives via DM. Create personal connections to build trust with your prospects.
3. Annual Reports (10-K)
All public companies in the US are required to release an annual 10-K report. The report contains in-depth information like strategy, risks, and new initiatives. It’s a lot of work to wade through, but the results can be significant.
- What it is: A comprehensive report filed with the US SEC that contains relevant financial data and business information.
- What to look for: New initiatives, risks, organizational structure and subsidiaries.
- How to use it: Truly understand the company to prep for discovery. Is there something mentioned in the 10-K that you can help with? Mention you read the 10-K in outreach.
4. Quarterly Earnings Calls
Every quarter, US public companies have earnings calls to keep investors and analysts up to date. Like the Annual Report, earnings calls can contain a goldmine of information about risks, strategy and initiatives. But earnings calls are also interactive, with analysts getting an opportunity to ask questions, which can sometimes unearth something new.
- What it is: A conference call between the management of a public company, analysts, investors, and the media to discuss the company’s financial results during a given reporting period
- What to look for: Drivers of growth, risks, new projects/initiatives and key hires or changes to the executive suite.
- How to use it: This is where CEOs and CFOs brag about what they are doing well (if things are going well) and explain away the problems (if things are not going well). Identify some insights that pertain to your solution so you can help the company solve issues or accelerate growth.
These are articles written by third party sources about companies or people. This is a great place to find big news that the company isn’t talking about or smaller items from non-mainstream sites. Keep in mind that often the “news” is a reprint or slight modification of a press release.
- What it is: Public articles about a company or a person at the company.
- What to look for: Initiatives or issues at a company. Quotes from executives.
- How to use it: Find items that aren’t being talked about by the company or use news to get a different perspective on what the company is talking about.
This is where companies are sharing their thoughts on trends, product use cases, customer stories and other content related to their business. Blogs provide a great way to get inside the head of your prospect as it allows you to see exactly what they are thinking about, what’s important to them and to discover new initiatives that may unearth a need for your solution.
- What it is: An informal online journal that captures an author’s views on an individual subject (sorry, I had to define it just to keep the system going).
- What to look for: Look for items related to the company’s products or industry, use cases as well as insights from different authors.
- How to use it: Blogs generally provide a broader view of how a company views their industry, and they are a great way to gain an insider’s perspective. They are great for preparing for meetings and for starting a conversation with a prospect.
7. Press Releases
Unlike news, press releases are published by the company itself. Press releases announce partnerships, product launches and other major initiatives. This is a great place to pull a quote from a senior executive.
- What it is: A short, compelling news story written by a company about something they consider to be noteworthy, and then sent to targeted members of the media.
- What to look for: New product releases, funding, M&A activity.
- How to use it: Press releases are what the company deems newsworthy. Tell your prospect that you learned about something specific from the release and how you are relevant to that.
Understanding what departments are hiring within a company provides direct insight into what part of the business is important. This information provides insight for understanding where there may be budget available for your solution.
- What it is: Job openings and job descriptions include details on what people may do, who they may report to and the type of technology they may use.
- What to look for: Parts of the business that have significant hiring, job titles and activities.
- How to use it: Identify the reason why companies are hiring, who the hiring manager is and what tools they will be using. Determine how you help solve the problem and reach out to the hiring manager so you can help with the overall initiative.
A great way to get in-depth insight on key executives for companies in your pipeline. Because podcasts are less scripted than other research sources, you can often learn more about what executives are thinking about their company.
- What it is: An audio (or sometimes video) program that digs deep on a particular subject.
- What to look for: This is a great place to find unique information that isn’t published anywhere else.
- How to use it: Pull quotes from the guest – nothing beats a quote from the CEO, especially when no one else is using it.
Access information on funding rounds and key firmographic data for startups and other private companies.
- What it is: Crunchbase provides private company data, including about teams, funding status, growth trends, tech stack, web traffic and investments.
- What to look for: Funding rounds and more importantly what they plan to do with the money raised.
- How to use it: Do not reach out to someone saying “congrats on the funding round, let me sell you ‘x’”. Instead align your solution to the reason they raised the funding. This could be to reach certain milestones, to build certain teams for or to expand into new regions.
Gathering insights about your prospect is only the start. Taking those insights and crafting them into relevant messages that can be used to book meetings or prep for calls is where the true art comes in. Prospects receive an inordinate amount of emails and phone calls, and sit in too many sales meetings with unprepared sales people. Taking the time to truly understand your prospect – and how your solution fits – is a significant differentiator and puts you on the path to becoming a trusted advisor and closing more deals.
Finally, while research is super important, it can also be time consuming. Studies show that sales people spend 15% of their time each week doing research (and only 33% of their time in primary sales activities). CheetahIQ aggregates insights from most of these sources and displays what is most relevant to give you up to 6 hours back per week and to help find those hidden insights.