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Selling Tactics
Using the "Hidden Web" to Research Your Customers
By Jill Konrath, President,

Did you know only 20% of the information on the internet is accessible through Google? That's right, the majority of the info you need to plan a great account entry strategy is on the "hidden web" housed on secure servers.

Did you know only 20% of the information on the internet is accessible through Google?

That's right, the majority of the info you need to plan a great account entry strategy is on the "hidden web" housed on secure servers.

But in sales today, it's imperative to know as much as you can about your prospects, their business and their industry prior to meeting with them. Armed with in-depth information, you can craft enticing phone messages and develop a compelling account entry campaign that is literally irresistible to prospective buyers.

And you're busy too! You can't afford to spend 1-2 hours every day searching through a bunch of irrelevant sites filled with worthless drivel.

Fortunately there are shortcuts to finding those invaluable nuggets of information.

Last week I interviewed Sam Richter, President of the James J. Hill Reference Library - one of the best online business libraries in the entire world. He took me into the "hidden web", telling me about a multitude of sites I'd never heard of before.

After talking with him, I raced home to my computer eager to find out the scoop on some of my hot prospects. Without spending too much time online, I found some great information that I can't wait to use.

If you're pursuing business with a big company, looking for more data on an industry or need to find good prospects, check out these sites:

  • Corporate Information This site is full of detailed information on public companies. Registration is free, but required. After typing in my prospect's name, I had immediate access to 27 highly relevant articles supplied by various analysts. A goldmine!

  • Edgar Scan Incredible information on public companies. You can do benchmarking against competitors on it too. I loved the graphical display of the financials and trends.

  • News Link It's often hard to get good info on companies headquartered far from where you live. At this site, you can find and search the local press which generally carries more information, more often.

  • Thomas Register Full of info on manufacturers; great for identifying other companies similar to your best customers. For fun, I entered in "printed circuit board makers" and found 183 of them - five in my own state.

  • Biz Stats More good benchmarking info. Lots of financial ratios and statistics. Small businesses can see how they compare to others in their industry too.

  • Archive When Sam told me about the WayBack Machine, I didn't believe him. Take a look at how your prospect's website looked all the way back to 1996. Great for researching companies involved in mergers/acquisitions. Interesting to see the historical perspective.

  • Biz Journals With press coverage in over 60 US markets, you'll find in-depth information coverage of your prospects. Also sign up to be notified when any articles are published about your prospects anywhere on the network.

  • American Association of Association Directors If you need to know more about an industry, check out this site. Find and contact the relevant associations to learn about industry trends and key players.

  • Glossarist Need help understanding business terms and acronyms? From "abandonment options" to "zero sum game" you'll find all the definitions you need on this site.

These sites should get you started, but there still are sites you can't access. If you want more information, check your local library. They often subscribe to these "hidden" databases.

And I can't say enough good things about the James J. Hill Reference Library. (Check it out at ). For a small annual fee, you have online access to an incredible trade journal database, the best of business website, D&B, a special issues index and much more. You can do your research at home or in your office. Best of all, you get live help (online & phone) from a specialized business researcher who can shave hours off your searches.

On a final note, a recent survey of 23,000 purchasers of business-to-business products found that 76% of the buyers were sick and tired of sellers who didn't understand their business.

Knowledge is power in sales. Be prepared - learn about your prospects, business and industry. Figure out how to align your offering with their strategic initiatives and critical business issues. Come up with ideas to solve their problems or achieve their objectives.

Alignment and ideas - that's what it takes today to get your foot in the door of big companies.

Jill Konrath helps salespeople get their foot in the door and win big contracts in the corporate market. Sign up for her free e-newsletter by sending an email to . You get a free "Sales Call Planning Guide" ($19.95 value) when you subscribe.Contact Jill Konrath at (651) 429-1922 or visit

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