Creating credibility means having done all of your research and intelligence gathering on the company you want to pursue and then demonstrating you’ve done your homework when you meet with the prospect-client executive.
Gathering information leads to insight
The tools for intelligence gathering and doing our research are now at our finger tips – social media has truly revolutionized our process for client learning because we now have instant access to real time social conversations. Yet, sales professionals often miss leveraging this intelligence despite it’s now become known as the quickest way to be in a position to contribute insights and create a foundation for long-term, collaborative relationships – trusted advisor relationships –with prospect-client executives.
As described by the authors of Clients for Life: How Great Professionals Develop Breakthrough Relationships, connecting with an executive requires three levels of prospect-client learning, and with social media we also need to apply this same thinking with our real time intelligence gathering. The three levels of learning are, namely:
- The prospect’s-client’s industry
- The prospect’s-client’s organization
- The prospect’s-client executive
As sales professionals we must become savvy at understanding social sales and how to master Sales 2.0 tools in order to effectively compete in today’s new world of selling, where Buyer 2.0 is in charge of the buying process.
Doing research within your network to determine if a connection is able to provide a credible introduction is a smart way to leverage this resource. And remember, it’s not all about you (“Go-Giver”). Offering up a little bit of sugar goes a long way. According to a research study presented by the authors of Selling to the C-Suite, a recommendation from someone inside an organization will usually-to-always produce securing a meeting 84% of the time; a credible referral from outside the company will usually-to-always secure a meeting 42% of the time. Pretty impressive…this isn’t old fashioned, outdated cold calling!
When you identify people in your LinkedIn network, for example who have first or second level connections to you, it’s time to set up a live conversation. Pick up the phone and ask the connection questions that will determine their level of relationship and standing with the executive you want to approach. Be focused on two things this connection may be able to help you with:
- What information do they have that can help you with the three levels of prospect-client learning as described above?
- And, do they have a credible relationship with the individual you are trying to meet?
If the person you are connected to doesn’t have a credible relationship with the executive you want to meet, proceed with caution. This is a good time to ask them if they know someone else that you could talk to.
What are some of the questions and insight you need to ascertain from your contact to determine if they have a favorable – or even better yet, a credible – relationship with the executive you’re trying to pursue?
- When was the last time they spoke with the executive and who initiated the call?
- What was the nature of their conversation? Was their value delivered?
- When was the last time the executive asked them to serve as a resource or deliver value around a problem, or shared confidential information with them?
- What has the executive done for them or with them in the past six months? If there is an answer here this could be an indicator that there is a trusted advisor relationship. This is pretty darn sweet when we learn this!
If the person in your network appears to have a favorable relationship with the executive, and better yet one in which is credible, then the next step is to ask for an introduction. Watch for an upcoming article on how to use the intelligence gathering and research you’ve done to move your executive level social conversation to a phone conversation.
Always find ways to give back to the person in your network who has just shared insight and their time with you. And if they are in a position to provide an introduction for you to the executive you are targeting, be sure to treat the prospect-client with kid gloves. In sales we all know that relationships and time are essential to building a profitable stream of business; we must respect both.