How to Use Basic Research to Increase Sales Success – As Easy As 1-2-3

February 23, 2012 by  Filed under: Sales 

If you have ever had to competitively interview for a job you will recognize the value of research. When selling yourself to an employer you are trying to help that person understand that you – and you alone – are uniquely qualified to solve certain problems or to advance certain objectives. Sales is essentially the same thing. You must research your prospect and understand what issues and objectives are most important.

When dealing with businesses, recognize the more you can link your solution to the improvement of a financial outcome the better. For example, if you are asking a business to distribute your product, you need to walk them through how your product will add significant net new revenue to their organization. Or, perhaps you are working with products that heal injuries faster and better than any other product. You must then help the prospect understand what the decrease in healing time will mean to his/her business (i.e., getting athletes back on the field faster). The bottom line is to understand the prospect, the business, and the needs and objectives. This requires research and active inquiry.

How do you conduct research? There are a number of ways. The primary idea is you are trying to gather intelligence about the company and organization that can help you understand their needs and enables you to communicate how your product or service creates value for them. Here are three of my favorite methods for collecting research on prospects as I prepare for a meeting.

  1. Basic Internet Searches: The easiest way to conduct research is to use the internet. Private companies, government agencies, academic institutions, etc., often publish information useful to researchers. If the internet avails nothing in this area ask people in the community, read press releases or news articles. Additionally, use your network to gain information. In particular, LinkedIn offers a wealth of knowledge for research, as this is where business people interact with social media. If the product is more personal, then Facebook, or other social media sites might produce some intelligence.
  2. The Company’s Website: If a company is publicly traded they will have their annual report on their website. The annual report will tell you a great deal. You do not have to read financial statements to gain insight from that report. Every annual report has an opening section written by the chairman or president. This message is typically universal. By understanding the key points of that message you will be able to begin the process of mapping the features of your offering to the needs of that company.
  3. The SEC: Another way to get even more detailed information about public companies is to examine the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) reports. For example, public companies are required to post a 10Q report with the SEC. If you are interested in a company’s strategy, pending legal issues, competitive landscape, and a host of other items of information, then go into these SEC reports, which are publicly available. To access this SEC information use a tool called Edgar found at For a quick example, here is a link to the SEC documents about Nike: Click Here.

Gordon E. Whitehead
Dr. Gordon E. Whitehead is a leader with experience in business management, business development, information technology, and bringing new products to market. He graduated from George Fox University, a private liberal arts university in Newberg, Oregon, with a Doctorate in Management and as a Richter Scholar. His professional highlights include: United Sates Marine Corps Captain, Director of IT at Nike, Varsity Football Offensive Coordinator for a championship team, Head Varsity Girls Basketball Coach, and an Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach. He is an experienced business leader in technology, business development, and organizational management.

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