It’s Your Job to Know The Details

HomeColumnIt’s Your Job to Know The Details

People tend to buy with emotion, then justify their decision with logic. The more you know about your prospect and what piques his or her interest and emotions, the more effective you’ll be – especially during these difficult economic times when a mere tidbit can be the difference between earning new business or losing it to a competitor who is able to establish a stronger connection with the prospect than you do.

A good friend of mine, who started his administrative career in local politics, went on to become a lobbyist with an international public advocacy group before settling in to his current job as an executive for a large national corporation with strong ties to the local community. While his background and notable experience qualified him as the perfect candidate for the position he now occupies, it was his keen ability to relate to people that earned him his high-profile job. Though he’s required to network with a wide variety of organizations and groups, both civic and private, he has a knack for connecting on a personal level with each individual he comes in contact with. He does this, I have found, by noticing the little details that are important to the people he is speaking to, and using those details as the basis for his connection. In other words, he becomes interested in what interests others. As a result he is well liked, well received, and very well connected – all of which are strong trademarks of a successful businessperson.

After a recent meeting for a project we were collaborating on, where he once again captivated his prospect with particulars that no one else seemed to know about (including myself), I complimented him on his ability to relate specific details in a way that drew prospects in, and ultimately turned them into clients. I slapped him on the shoulder and said, “You really know the details that interest the client, don’t you.” He looked at me and replied with a smile, “It’s my job to know the details.”

What a great line, I thought. Yet while his comment impressed me, I initially qualified it to his years of experience in politics and as a lobbyist. After all, they’re expected to know details – which may be part of the reason why we’re generally leery of them. Yet this was purely a win-win business transaction where the details were being applied to forge bonds of trust in a professional relationship. That’s when I realized that I was too quick to dismiss the relevance with which those words can be applied to all of us in the business world.

While there’s a general sense of awareness of the importance of fact finding in business, it’s never been engrained in such a bottom-line way. Why should attention to details be reserved for the politicians and lobbyists? The bottom line is that if you’re in business, it’s your job to know the details.

  • Use Internet Search Engines to Research an Organization. Your favorite search engine is the best place to start when researching your client’s organization. The type of information you can generate will range from articles on the company to press releases issued by the company. Read up on the latest news and keep notes of the important facts which you can use in presentations and conversations with your client when appropriate.
  • Visit the Organization’s Website: Believe it or not, most people aren’t aware of every detail posted on their own website. A company’s own website is loaded with information that is important to them – which is why they posted it. A couple of years ago I gave a speech at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new school my company was building. During my speech I mentioned some interesting facts about the school’s history and the local historical figure the school was named after. The principal and superintendent were very impressed with my presentation and, after congratulating me for my attention to detail, asked where I was able to find such interesting information on their school. It was on their very own website…
  • Public Records: Though it may be hard to believe, not everything can be found on the internet. In fact, some of the most valuable pieces of information can be found in public records, and traditional libraries. Sometimes a photocopy of an old article, or a print out of some obscure detail found on microfilm can make the most memorable impressions on a client.
  • Social Network Sites: Don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites. In addition to the information people post on their personal pages, you can connect with mutual friends and who can help you close the gap between you and your prospect with a recommendation or referral. These sites also provide information your prospects themselves might post, such as their high school alma mater and hobbies, which can be pertinent in your future dealings with them. After years of doing business with a particular client, I learned through a social network site that he loved to surf. The very next day I had a courier deliver a beautiful book for his coffee table filled with surfing pictures and a handwritten note letting him know that I appreciate his business. He loved it.
  • Personal Network Groups: Despite the internet’s efficiency, nothing can beat the effectiveness of personal interaction within networking groups. Join clubs and associations that allow you to network and start making connections.

Once you’ve done your research and collected pertinent details, you’re ready for your event or meeting with your prospect – but before jumping in, be sure to qualify your intentions. The great Dale Carnegie once wrote, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Top salespeople never come across as patronizing because they are genuinely interested to learn as much as they can about their prospect’s business. This very important fact is entirely up to you as no one can control the way you use the information you research except yourself. You may have information, but that doesn’t equate to knowledge, and it certainly doesn’t equate to knowing how to treat your prospect with genuine dignity and respect.

There’s an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That in and of itself is an important detail – but it’s not the kind that can be researched. That comes from within.

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