Stymied about what to say when you contact prospects? It can be especially tough if you feel like you don’t know enough about their organizations to craft a relevant message. Recently, I received a note from someone who was frustrated with sales-call planning. She wrote:

“In your books, you talk about the importance of doing research prior to contacting a prospect. I’m having a hard time with that. I sell to marketing departments. But since companies don’t share their information publicly, it’s really tough to find out what issues they have. What should I do?”

And she’s right. It’s virtually impossible to find pertinent information online. Companies don’t want to have their problems exposed to the public unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Four tips for sales-call planning:

  1. If you consistently sell to the same decision-makers, go ahead and make assumptions. Assume that they have similar objectives and face similar challenges as your other clients. For example, most marketers today are under intense pressure to bring in more high-quality leads and justify their marketing expenditures.
  2. If you typically sell to certain industries, immerse yourself in them. Join their associations, attend their meetings, get their newsletters and dig into their websites. Another great resource for learning more is via LinkedIn groups. You’ll find groups focused on certain industries as well as job positions. Personally, I belong to groups for sales vice presidents just so that I can keep up to date.
  3. Prep some questions ahead of time to ensure you learn what’s on your prospects’ minds. As a starting point, use your assumptions and what you’ve learned in your immersion. When you actually meet with prospects, you’ll want to find out their perspectives on these important topics.
  4. Don’t be afraid of not knowing everything. No one expects it. They just want you to be knowledgeable and show you’ve done your homework.

So, next time you’re preparing for a sales call, make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Jill Konrath is the author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies. If you’re struggling to set up meetings, click here to get a free Prospecting Tool Kit.