If you want good results when meeting someone for the first time, you need to “Sherlock”.
Maybe you are meeting a new contact, prospect, potential sponsor, stakeholder or interviewing a potential employee (or applying for a job!). Whatever it is you need carry out some basic research on them. In the same way that Sherlock Holmes determined a lot about people by looking for subtle clues you need to seek clues of your own. If you do you’ll be better prepared and the meeting is likely to be far more successful .. and the good news is most of the clues aren’t subtle, they are obvious.
Pre-Meeting Research Method
There are lots of information sources, social media, Google, company website,
My first move is to seek out the person’s details on LinkedIn. Not everyone is on LinkedIn but it is likely that someone from the business is and this is a source of information; especially if you are linked to that someone at the company. Check the person you are meeting. What is their role, how long have they been in post, where were they before?
LinkedIn often provides business and personal profile information. Facebook is also a source of information, especially of a more personal nature, and this can be valuable in knowing what makes people tick.
Twitter lets you know what they are Tweeting about, in other words what is possibly important to them right now.
I’d also do a quick Google search. This once saved me a lot of hassle when I discovered a prospect had been in court a few times … learning what they had been prosecuted for made me decide not to do business with them!
A visit to the company website will provide huge amounts of information. What news stories have they on the site, what is their mission and what are their values? What products or services do they sell? Do they have other branches (overseas maybe)? How many employees do they have? Are they into social media?
Check the About page. Does it have staff bios?
There is a hug amount of information on their website if you take a few minutes to look.
Companies House website
This will give you an idea of turnover, profits, directors (including which other boards they sit on). Worth a search.
Undertaking Sector Discovery
Knowing as much about the persons sector is very valuable. What pressure is it under, is there new legislation, how has economic change affected it etc. Where are the problem areas.
They will be impressed if you understand the basics of their sector (but not impressed if you are too clever at showing off your recently acquired expertise). The best way forward here is to ask questions rather than express views. A wise question reflects far more positively on you than a quick bit of headline grabbing.
Information can be gleaned for trade press, websites and people you know in similar businesses. Why not drop them an email and ask them for a single-sentence synopsis of the sectors problems?
With the right information you start to move from being a sales person to a valued advisor. This means you will be called when they need help.