Finding New Client Information – Old School!

A few old school tips on finding client information… Salespeople are always moaning to me about not having enough people to ring or about not having enough leads to prospect. Even in this world of endless information online and social media they still tell me that they do not have enough leads!

Here’s the thing. There are plenty of clients out there but you have to take some action to find them. Salespeople moaning and whining about this subject always reminds me of a child saying that they’re bored in the middle of the summer holidays. Nonsense.  There’s always something to do, they’re just too busy focusing on their own perceived boredom and not on what they can do. These salespeople are just the same. They are spending far too much time moaning and far too little looking for new clients!

It sounds unbelievable as I write this but I once gave one of my sales consultants Wales as a territory. That’s Wales the country not whales the animals. He came back to me a week later and said that there was no business in Wales. I asked him how he knew and he said that he’d rung everyone.

Errr, right. There’s always more clients out there to prospect so stop moaning, get of your ass and take action.

The tips below are great for beginners as we all need to start somewhere but they’re also good for experienced salespeople too. There’s no rocket science here, just good, solid sales habits. Infact, I hope that experienced salespeople read this and think, “I knew all of that,” because at least that proves that you haven’t been asleep thus far in your career.

And, despite the fact that you may know it all, I still think you should read it and whilst you’re doing so, check that you really are not missing any opportunities. Many clients I have worked with kick themselves when they realise that they are not consistently doing what they know.

I am currently in the process of updating and making all of my articles evergreen. Since I wrote this article, social media has really taken off and sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc have become very important in acquiring client contact details and information… and yet many still moan that they cannot find what they want.

I also see very little evidence of this information being used really smartly. Used, yes. Smartly, no. Just having a name is not enough. Just reading something about them is not enough. You need to be able to uncover information, work this into your approach, know what will interest the person you are approaching and what is likely to add value for them and much, much more.

I decided in this article NOT to update with the latest use of social media as I have written other articles about this and I believe that salespeople of today would benefit from reading about old school methods of finding information. In different ways and in different businesses, many / all of these techniques still work incredibly well alongside social media research and, when used in conjunction with social media techniques, can vastly improve the results that you get.

As I have said many times, a one-trick pony is still a one-trick pony no matter how good or how impressive that trick is. And one day that trick will get old so it better know some more and they’d better be good.

1. Check client websites.

Client websites are a great source of knowledge. Search them. Digest them. Understand them. Use them to work out how to approach them. How you engage them. Know how you fit in and how you can add value.

In some ways life got easier with all this information that is available today. In others it got harder.  Mediocre, pre-canned approaches no longer cut the mustard. You need tailored, personal, engaging, value-based approaches and much of this information can come from client websites.

Learn how to read them quickly and use the information within. Most can’t. Don’t be one of them. Be different. Be extraordinary.

2. Google them.

The internet is phenomenal. I’m no great expert but I know there are more contact details on the internet that I could ring in a 100 million life times and it’s growing every day. Thing is, as the internet grows so the names get harder to find. Invest a small amount of time now in finding out how to search effectively.

There are many free courses online which teach you how to search intelligently, indeed Google and Yahoo have fairly comprehensive instructions in advanced search terms if you choose to read about them. An hour on the internet learning how to search properly a few years ago drastically improved my ability to find more of what I wanted in my search enquiries and has saved me many hours of work since.

Once you have a client name that you want to approach, dig deeper and look for their fingerprint on the net. What do they do? What have they said? When? Where? With whom? Why? What were their thoughts on the matter? This is the gold dust and this is what you should be searching for.

3. Your clients’ clients.

Most salespeople do a deal and then either walk away from their clients or try and sell them something else. This is incredibly short sighted as your clients represent a shortcut to your long-term success. Getting a referral from a happy client is one of the most powerful sales approaches there is.

Why not organise a meeting with one of your happy clients and ask for a testimonial? If they’re happy with that ask them for a referral. Even better, tell them how your product can help their clients and how that in turn will help them. You’ll be amazed how helpful they can be.

Many salespeople do not ask for referrals for fear that their clients will say “No”. Many clients might say “No” but you only need a small handful to say “Yes” to boost your sales exponentially. I have only ever met a handful of sales professionals who always ask for referrals. They were all very successful.

Be honest with yourself, do you always ask for referrals? Probably not. Don’t worry, it’s never too late to start!

4. Your physical sales network.

All salespeople should have their own network of individuals who they can contact for help, advice and support. Some of you may have this at work but in my experience, not many. Mutually supportive and beneficial sales networks rarely occur by accident. Most are set up deliberately.

If you are a sales manager this is something that you must build within your business. If you are a salesperson then you need to create your own network. Be imaginative, who would be the best people to have in your network? It does not have to be colleagues, it could be your friends, your clients, your coach…

Think about who you can help and how. To get the sales edge you need to constantly add value to your network and make it easy for them to help you to succeed.

In my business my network consists of people in a variety of fields who can help me in a variety of ways. In today’s marketplace your physical network may well extend onto and merge with your online networks.

5. Trade directories / brochures / show magazines etc.

Many trade directories are relatively cheap to buy and can be packed full of information. With the internet you can now view sample pages of many of them online and compare the information that you are getting. This is pretty important as not all trade directories are created the same. Some are far more up to date than others and some are far more open to approaches from salespeople than others. It very much depends how and why the names were collated in the first place.

Brochures, show magazines etc can be picked up for free and are often much more valuable for finding client information. Far fewer salespeople walk floors and pick up trade brochures than they used to. This is a shame as they contain useful information from companies who still want to network and be represented in the real world.

Coupld with online information and research you may well give yourself an edge on competition who are only using LinkedIn.

And now a couple of really old, oldies that many of you younger ones may never have partaken in. I have deliberately left these in this article as I believe they are still important.

Despite what some may tell you, there are still clients and prospects who are not on LinkedIn, who joined but are not active and who do not take part in social media. I can name several of my clients who meet these criteria and they are all CEOs / MDs. You can criticise them if you like, call them what you will, but if you want to reach them you will have to embrace a different approach…

6. Ring and ask.

Just ring the company and find out the information that you require. I often work with individuals who say that companies have “no name policies” and that potential clients will not give out any information. When I ask them how many calls they have made it is usually very few – sometimes only one.

One of my biggest breaks as a young salesman was breaking into a large software company. They had a no name’s policy and refused to give out any information. Many of my peers had tried a couple of times and failed and I had been handed this potentially huge but unassailable account.

At this stage in my career I had no magic tricks, very few strategies and even less experience. The one thing I did have however was hunger and persistence. I wasn’t going to be beaten and I rang and rang and rang this client. I kept ringing and ringing and ringing the client over a period of days and eventually someone gave me my lucky break

As my mum used to say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!” Great advice.

7. Call the sales dept and ask for…

Here’s a little trick that one of my first sales managers taught me. This tactic works really well if you know which company you want to talk with but you cannot find the right people to speak with. He pointed out to me that the one group of people in an organization who can rarely keep their mouths closed are the sales team!

If you really cannot find the names of the people that you need to approach then give the sales team a try! It’s easy ot get through (who won’t put you through to the sales team?) and they’re usually pretty talkative. Who knows, they may even become a part of your sales support network!

8. Read! Read! Read!

Spending some time every day reading is not only an enjoyable part of my day it has also delivered several of the best clients that I have ever approached. Many of these I had never even heard of until I read something written by or about them! I’ve picked up really hot leads in newspapers – national and local – magazines, trade magazines, online ezines, circulars.

One of my first MDs hated me sitting reading the industry press because he thought that it was a “waste of time” but I wasn’t listening because I knew just how many of my clients had been “cherry picked” this way.

Probably every company you will ever want to deal with has at some time or other spoken to the press, launched a new product or put out a press release. This is a great way in to companies and one that rarely fails when done well.

Now if you’re reading this thinking that you’ve already tried this approach but that it didn’t work, it’s probably because your approach was too focused on you and your products. The key to making this approach work is in making your opening gambit totally client and individual centric.

Let’s say an outsourcing company have just won a new contract to roll out some software with a national company and they are bragging about it in the paper for some PR. They’re going to get plenty of call from salespeople saying things like…

“Hey Mike

This is John from XYZ software. I see you’ve won the contract for Blah National – well done. We specialise in that kind of roll out and I’d like to talk with you about it. Can we meet?”

Let’s face it – this is not going to work! Not by a long shot! Think about it…

1. Why does Mike care?
2. Mike knows you don’t really mean “well done”!
3. This is the 5th call today he has had like this!

You need to research more and plan your opening gambit carefully. There are many different approaches that could work… Why not practise now and think about how you would you approach this one in such a way that it showed the client that you were genuinely interested in them and their company?

9. Your personal network.

At the age of 19 I was sold a pension by a friend of mine. He had gone to work for a company selling pensions and the first thing he was asked to do was list 200 people he knew on a piece of paper. If the employees could not write down 200 names then they were sacked!

They were then asked to go and “practise” their techniques on 200 family and friends. If they couldn’t do this they were sacked! If they didn’t make many sales to their family and friends, guess what, they were sacked!

I suppose that the company thought this was a great way of testing their potential staff and also a good way of making sales because surely a large number of “friends” and family would make a purchase if only to “help out” the employee! Even if they didn’t make it in the trade the company would have made a few sales before they left! Clearly it was a dumb-ass strategy but the principle that we all know a lot of people remains sound none-the-less.

I think that you need to know your stuff well before you approach your friends and family because they will hopefully be your friends and family long after you retire or change jobs.

That said, if you’re remotely social, your personal network will be able to help you a lot but (and I do find this a bit bizarre) they probably won’t unless you find a way of suggesting that they can. I think sometimes it’s just easier for them not to.

So there you are, 9 great ways of finding new client information. Why not share your favourite ideas and tips by commenting below. Happy hunting.

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