Before The First Meeting: Have You Done Your Homework?

If you’ve spent any time as an advertising salesperson, you’ve learned that our reputation out there isn’t particularly good.

Too many of our colleagues and competitors walk into a prospect’s office with a media kit, a “new advertiser package,” and no knowledge of the client’s business.

The bad news: this makes it tough for everyone. Businesspeople are reluctant to let us in, because they don’t want to waste yet another hour with another unprepared peddler.

The good news: if you can get in the door, it’s not all that hard to set yourself apart from the others.

You just have to do your homework.

Radio television salespeople should do their homework

Photo by jminso679


Hubspot recently compiled a list of 18 Places to Research a Prospect Before a Sales Call.  #18 in particular stood out to me:

18) Yelp

Does your prospect work directly with consumers? If so, browsing their Yelp page is a great way to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses. For example, maybe 40% of their reviews mention their poor customer service. In your initial email, you can give a few suggestions to improve service. Or maybe multiple reviewers praise their reasonable prices. You might offer to share some strategies for directing customers to the most high-margin products.”


My book, Breakthrough Prospecting, has a chapter devoted to pre-call preparation, and a long section on preparing the right questions for a first call. If you don’t already own the book, you should buy it.

If you already own a copy, it’s worth noting that Breakthrough Prospecting makes a great gift.

Buy Breakthrough Prospecting Here


Sam Richter, author of Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling, has an interesting method for using LinkedIn on a first meeting. You might call it the “Guess What I Found” method:

Richter searches the prospect’s LinkedIn profile for something interesting and different, and then makes sure to work it into the conversation:

Before I meet with people I like to do a little bit of homework. You’re a busy guy, and I don’t like to waste your time. Guess what I found? I was looking at your LinkedIn profile and I see that you are on the board of directors of the Hochstein School of Music and Dance. That’s really interesting, do you have a family member involved in dance? How did you get into that?’

…It sounds a little bit corny, but I have to tell you it really works because the first part of that: ‘Hey, before I meet with people I like to do a little bit of homework.’ Right there you’ve just differentiated yourself from pretty much every advisor, every accountant, every lawyer, every salesperson this person’s ever met with… The second you say to somebody, ‘I did a little homework on you and guess what I found?’ When you say that phrase, ‘And guess what I found?’ you have the other person’s full attention. ‘What’d you find?

As my boss and mentor Jim Doyle likes to say, the wing-it days are over. The information you need to be prepared is as close as your laptop or your smartphone.

It’ll take you 15 minutes or less to get ready. Those 15 minutes could be the difference between making a sale and getting thrown out of the office.

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