Your buyers are researching solutions. They spend hours Googling and searching the web prior to any conversation they have with you, and they expect that you are doing the same due diligence on them.

The questions I hear most often are “What and Where do I find information that can help me on my sales calls?”

Here’s how to find ‘intel’ and become better prepared for sales calls:

Leverage LinkedIn’s Company Pages

  • Look at “How You’re Connected” and identify your 1st degree connections. Reach out to your connections, let them know that you will be meeting with one of their colleagues and ask if they can help you understand company initiatives.
  • If you have a 2nd degree connection you can identify who you have in common and ask for an introduction.
  • Look at the company’s posts to determine what matters to them right now. This information can be useful as you prepare your presentation, giving you the opportunity to cater directly to their pain points. (Be sure to check their Twitter, Google+ and Facebook pages as well).

People Research

  • Build out an organizational chart with every person’s name, their title, and if they are a key decision makers in the buying process. For example: The economic buyer, the shopper, the technical buyer, the manager, the end users etc.
  • You can send an InMail or connection request to introduce yourself and/or a personalized request to connect on LinkedIn. For example, you can say, “I am meeting with NAME in your department in a few weeks and I thought it might make sense for us to connect.” When they connect, send them valuable content full of insights that helps to build your reputation and credibility within the team. By social surrounding connections inside of a company you are talking to, familiarity with many of the influencers will help you move deals along more quickly.
  • If you they are in the same office, when you are there for your meeting, you can ask your contact: “I am connected to Jane Smith from this office on LinkedIn, but I haven’t had the chance to meet her in person yet, if there is time would I be able to pop my head in and say hello?” Many times they will walk you over themselves.
  • Look at your connection’s posts to determine what matters to them right now. This information can be useful as you prepare your presentation, giving you the opportunity to cater directly to their pain points. (Be sure to check their Twitter, Google+ and Facebook pages as well).
  • Stay engaged with them by commenting on their content and sharing relevant content with them. This establishes credibility for you as a salesperson and trust between you and the prospect.

Build Rapport

  • Gather information to build rapport with the people who will be in the meeting. Often their names are right in the calendar invitation.
  • Research their background, hobbies, schools, and content they and their company are sharing on social media. To build rapport you don’t have to like or agree with the content they share on social media, but you should read it and understand their position or thought process.
  • Follow them personally on Twitter (often you can find that in their LinkedIn contact information box).

Check Out Their Competition

  • When you understand not just what is happening in their industry but what direct competitors are doing, you position yourself as a trusted advisor, not just a sales person.
  • BONUS: Through LinkedIn’s Search you can identify former employees that you are either already connected to or have a common connection(s) with, and they are a great source of discovery. You can ask questions regarding the culture and the decision making process from their perspective.

In addition to LinkedIn:

Visit Their Website

  • Read any news, blog posts, and press releases to uncover what initiatives are happening presently. This will help you understand what they currently have going on and will help you appear as if you have done your research, should something come up in the meeting.
  • Read about who they are (“About us” page), clients they work with, and awards they’ve won. Make note of important milestones and be sure to mention highlights in the meetings.

Google the Company

  • Review their annual reports, if available, as this can be a good indication of the direction of the company.

So now you have some great insight into the business and what matters to them. It makes forming your questions easier and positions you to offer subject matter expertise that is relevant to them. You are now positioned to be the vendor of choice.

Looking for more resources on how to leverage LinkedIn to grow your business? We have a bunch for you right here.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.