Almost three years ago to the day, I hopped off the NYC subway and began my walk back to our office in Brooklyn, feeling defeated. I finally had the opportunity to meet with the Managing Partner of a law firm in Manhattan, an appointment that took months to secure. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned.
Despite turning on my “charm”, (whether or not this actually exists, is debatable) he seemed completely disengaged and bothered by my questions, providing nothing more than short answers. Within 20 minutes, I was ushered out of his office with almost no more information than I had walking in.
Knowing the importance of the meeting, my VP called me into his office when I returned and requested a recap. I told him that it didn’t seem like the Partner had any interest in hospitality, and that despite my best attempts at a thorough needs analysis, he didn’t provide me with any information.
"We need to understand who the competitors are, and what they are doing in the marketplace. This will allow you to make specific recommendations given your knowledge of the industry."
The following exchange has stuck with me since –
VP: “What questions did you ask?”
GC: “I was doing my best to gain a better understanding of the firm – where were they based out of, how long has he been with the company, how many partners are at the firm….”
VP: “Well, there you go. Which of these questions could you have found out the answers to leading up to the meeting? Do you think the Managing Partner of one of the largest firms in New York wants to have to explain information that could be found on the front page of the company website?”
The feedback was blunt, but it was true – not thoroughly researching both the firm and the Partner set me up for failure even before I walked through the doors.
UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS
Looking at the above example, a little research goes a long way towards generating more targeted questions – “How many Partners are at the firm?” becomes “I see Jack Smith has been leading the Real Estate arm of the firm for the past 10 years and given that it is your largest practice group here in NYC, what can you attribute to its success?”
1. Research, Research, Research
The tools that we have at our disposal (LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, Company Website, etc.) are almost endless. Properly utilizing them is critical towards gaining a better understanding of your client or prospect. How much revenue do they bring in, what does its Executive Leadership team look like, how many employees are at the company, etc. are easy questions that can generally be answered online in minutes.
What has the company done lately? Are there any recent mergers or acquisitions that could affect the business? Is there any news in the industry that may positively or negatively affect the business? Here we can use tools such as Google Alerts and LinkedIn Sales Navigator to further our knowledge of the company and industry.
This will allow you to ask targeted questions to show that you have done your homework, and allows you to control the conversation.
2. How do they make money?
This simple question is often taken for granted. Understanding that a law firm practices law is easy, but what kind of law? How many Partners are dedicated to each practice group? Who leads them? Are there any recent high-profile cases that they have been a part of? This is key in order to appropriately justify your product by focusing on what is most important to them and how you can help the business.
3. Learn the competition
Gone are the days where it is enough to say “we work with similar companies…” to provide case usage. We need to understand who the competitors are, and what they are doing in the marketplace. This will allow you to make specific recommendations given your knowledge of the industry. Websites like Owler and ZoomInfo can provide you with comprehensive lists of competitors in the marketspace, along with key information such as revenue share, company size, and office locations.
- It is very important that the research you bring to the table is relevant to the client or prospect that you are meeting. If you are meeting with a company of 50 people, it would be unwise to suggest they buy a full suite lease because you work with a company of 1,500 that does the same!
UNDERSTAND THE CLIENT
A few years ago, I did a quick LinkedIn search on a client who had purchased two Premium seats to a concert on Ticketmaster and discovered he was the President of a Fortune 500 Media company located in New York City. Despite my usual efforts, I simply could not get through his assistant to speak with him and all of my e-mails predictably went unanswered.
The fact of the matter was that I was not truly putting in the proper research and separating myself from the hundreds of similar emails he receives daily.
"It is our role to understand how our product or service can specifically help him or her to reach and exceed their goals."
Through a Google search, I found a Podcast he was featured on and listened for clues that could help me get in the door. At the end of the interview, he was asked what three albums he’d take with him to a deserted island. By the end of the week, a brand new copy of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass was delivered to his office with a note “Hopefully when you’re on that deserted island, you now think of the Barclays Center too!”
Upon receiving the gift, I was able to immediately illicit a response and secure a meeting at his office.
Too often as sellers we fail to go the extra mile to truly understand our prospects or clients on a deeper level, when in reality a little research can go a long way.
1. What do we know about our prospects and clients?
Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn – you’d be amazed on what information you can find with a simple Google search. Where did someone go to school? Do they have children? Favorite band? Is there a sports team they are passionate about?
Finding out your prospect or client is a huge Taylor Swift fan will not alone close the sale, but this research is about providing yourself with as many advantages as possible throughout the sales process.
Unable to get past the Assistant to the CRO of a Software company, I discovered on LinkedIn she was a graduate of the University of Virginia. With the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament being hosted at Barclays Center that year, I invited her and three friends to join me in the company suite for the Semi-Finals. Through this research, I was able to provide her with a once-in-a-lifetime experience and build the relationship beyond incessant daily sales calls and e-mails. In turn, I was able to work with her to schedule time to meet the CRO at his office two weeks later.
2. Understand their role
As a seller, knowing that we are reaching out to the Head of HR is not enough. It is our role to understand how our product or service can specifically help him or her to reach and exceed their goals.
- For example, you may discover that the firm you are meeting with has a Summer Associate program that they frequently post about on the company Twitter page. When meeting with the Head of HR, you can prepare a strategy to discuss ways in which your product can improve recruiting strategies, specifically targeting the Summer Associate program. In many ways, what we are doing is providing our clients with the tools needed to look like a “rock star” within their organization, and it’s our job to paint that picture clearly and concisely.
Truly understanding your prospects and clients is relevant regardless of what you are selling. The principles are the same whether it’s group tickets, suites, or a sponsorship deal. Taking the time to research and gain knowledge of the industry will dramatically improve your chances of closing the sale, and help build stronger relationships with your clients that you may continue to upsell and bring in additional revenue.
Greg Crawford is the Manager of Premium Partnerships at BSE Global (Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets). He's been in business development in sports for more than 8 years. He spent time with the Aspire Group at Rutgers University before spending 3 years at the New Jersey Devils in the NHL. Now at BSE he's responsible for interacting with businesses and high net work individuals in an effort to sell premium inventory and hospitality at the Barclays Center. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Sport Management from Rutgers. You can learn more about Greg and connect with him by visiting his LinkedIn profile here.