Someone once told me that one of the early sales training tricks IBM taught its new sales teams was to 'look on the walls'.
This was to help them find an area that they can talk about with their prospect to help start the relationship. It might be a sailboat, the family of three little girls, or a breed of dog in the photo that is on the wall or desk.
This makes infinite sense, and I hope you do this. However in 2012, if you're simply waiting until you're sitting in their office - you've lost a great relationship building opportunity. You might be thinking I'm referring to Facebook - but no. Most private Facebook profiles are locked so you can't find information unless you become a friend.
Your answer is LinkedIn, the business persons social network which is getting more popular by the day. If your inbox is like mine - you'll be swimming in invites to connect (I get 15 - 20 a day). With half a million kiwis on it - you're likely to find your business prospect or client there.
It is irrelevant if you are a Linkedin member or not for this purpose. Linkedin profiles are open to anyone to view.
Your scenario. You're going to see a new prospect. Tom Jones of Apex Insurance.
Here is your 2012 action plan:
1- Find out about his company. You know of course to review their website.
2 - Search Google or Linkedin for Tom. If he has a profile it will come up in either search.
3- Lots of gold here. If Tom took the time to fill it out properly, you'll find his current achievements, position and responsibilities as well as all past ones. You'll find his skills, , affiliations. honours and awards, certifications, skills and expertise, recommendations, websites and interests. Next look through what Groups and Associations he belongs to.
These will show you Tom's interests, as well as give you insight into his industry and with additional research into the groups other members if you're looking for more prospects.
4- If you are a LinkedIn member (it only takes first, last name, email and password to join) you can additionally search LinkedIn for the Apex insurance company profile if they built one. Find it by searching Linkedin under the company search (the default is people, just hit the arrow to change to company). If you get too many results i.e. 15 Apex Insurances (individuals), hone your search by doing an advanced search and add in country. You'll find interesting statistics in LinkedIn that aren't on websites.
Now you are ready for that meeting