So you have found a list of potential customers or a book of list or some other source of prospect leads, what do you do now?
The first thing is to compare the companies on the list to your ideal customer profile and the preferred market or vertical markets who are better suited for your products and services. Discard any companies on the list that are questionable based upon your criteria. If they are larger, public companies, then check them out against sources such as a Hoovers or Dun & Bradstreet (I know D&B owns Hoovers but they keep them separate) or some other independent business research service.
Now for the fun part, it is time for you to check out the prospect companies website. A simple AND difficult process – depends if a company is less than sharing of their information on the web. More often you will find a treasure chest of information on these websites. In fact, there are 12 things that I look for on these sites – and you should look for them also. Here are the big twelve…
Ten Things to Find on a Prospect or Customer Website
- A Listing of the Company’s Vision, Mission and Values Statement. Gives you an idea of what is considered important by management.
- A Listing of the Management Team – with Photos and Biographies in many cases. This is a great source of ideas of how to contact the top management team and what is their legacy with other companies.
- A Summary of Financial Statements – if a public company you will find this often, a private company is less likely to post this info. (To get a indication of financial success look for a business journal in the area and the lists they provide. While it could be only an estimate, this can be a good indication of their size and strength.)
- Read about the history of the company. Where did it start and what events have changed the direction of the company. I have found name changes, significant mergers or acquisitions, shifts in core products or business, etc. Very valuable for understanding what drives a company.
- Get a complete product and service overview. Including brand names owned and managed by a company including brand names you should be aware of when dealing with a prospect.
- What state is the company today. Read any statements from the CEO, Chairman or President to get a feel for the state of the company.
- Where are there key locations? Websites will show the addresses for headquarters, division headquarters, sales offices, manufacturing plant locations and warehouses or distribution centers. Also, branch offices and retail outlets are usually listed on websites. These provide addresses and phone numbers for your information.
- Press Releases posted on a company’s website are gold mines of information. New products, mergers, acquisitions, new officers hired or promoted, new plants or upcoming IPO’s.
- For Public Traded companies, find out about quarterly investor calls with the financial analyst as these are great sources for business trends, financial data, strategic direction and any real problems facing the company at that time. This is a required listen for all major account sales people.
- Look for their customer list. This will give you an idea of the markets they cover and the level of industry or market coverage.
This is the key information you should target on your prospect’s website. There could additional nuggets of information depending upon how much information a company shares with the general public. By the way, this is usually a good indication of how open a company in discussing its true or real issues to be solved. The more you find on the website usually relates to a more open communication when you are in the company. When you see little to no important information on the website, you will find a closed communication situation with a only need to know attitude by most managers.
One last point about getting a website address. Several sales people have told me that when the get a list or lead they get a company name but no website information. Good point. There are three methods that I use to get a website url or address.
- One, is to use Google. I search for the company name and most of the time I will get an information site with the company address listed.
- The second method I use is to use the contact name and search the web for their name using Google, Yahoo or Bing. If I get the person’s name, I look for press releases with a contact name which usually includes an email address – with the company website address.
- The third method is to go to the local business journal and their Book of Lists. Usually these book of lists will include the website addresses for the local companies.
In summary, use the web as a great source of information before calling the prospect. Learn as much as you can prior to contacting the prospect so you can prepare your questions and points of interest in order to get their attention the first time. Make the web work for you starting now. It is a great source of information.