How well do you know your prospects? When you go into a meeting, are you prepared to discuss their business and concerns? Do you have access to the right search tools and information to find this information? These were the questions addressed at the “Take the Cold out of Cold Calling” event sponsored by EBITDA partners and Olsen Thielen & Co. on Wednesday, April 28, 2010. Presenter and award-winning author, Sam Richter, spent the morning giving us his top tips and tricks for finding business and competitive information on the Internet – for free.

According to Richter, no matter what business you’re in, if you don’t find a way to show them you provide value, you become a commodity. If you want to increase your chances of turning prospects into customers, you need to be able to talk about their business and show them that you understand what their issues are. You can’t just show up and tell them how great your company is.

Richter is a big fan of Google for searching for business information. However, to get the right information and filter through all the noise, you need to know some search tips. For example:

  1. Use quotes when searching for an exact phrase. For example, Googling Sam Richter would return all results for Uncle Sam and the Richter scale. But including quotes around “Sam Richter” will narrow your result to only those that include his name. 
  2. Use the plus sign (+) to include multiple search terms. Searching for “Sam Richter” + books would return information about his book “Take the Cold out of Cold Calling”. 
  3. Use asterisks when you are searching for an unknown item. For example, if you know what the company name starts and end with, but are fuzzy on the middle, try using one or more asterisks in place of the unknown information in your search ( “Anderson ** associates”). 
  4. Use the filetype: filter to narrow your search results. For example if you are looking for powerpoint presentations, enter your search criteria followed by filetype: ppt. This will return only results that have a power point file included in them.

You can get these and other search tips at www.googleguide.com.

While using Google and other search engines can help you uncover a wealth of information on your prospects, it only encompasses about 20% of what is actually available on the Internet. The rest is what Richter refers to as the “Invisible Web”. This includes database information that is available using a paid subscription, but may also include content that just requires a registration or sign up process to get access. Because search engines cannot access that data, it isn’t included in their search results.

While most people are aware of the popular search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc, there are many other search sites available that are more specific in nature and may be more successful at tapping into the “Invisible Web” content. For example:

  • www.mool.com/media is a search tool that will search over 4,500 media websites for articles posted on a specific company (or search term).
  • http://topsy.com is a search engine of twitter tweets. You can search and find all the tweets that have been posted on a particular company (or search term).
  • www.bizstats.com provides industry specific financial statistics that can be used for benchmarking and comparison purposes.

The more you dig into this information, the more you realize how little privacy we really have on the Internet. As Richter points out, identity theft is a concern we should all be taking seriously. Companies like LifeLock, Protect My ID, and TrustedID all offer identify protection for less than $10/month.

You can read a review of the top 5 identity theft protection services at www.5identitytheftprotection.com.

If you are interested in finding more information on these and other valuable, free Internet search tools, visit Sam’s website at www.takethecold.com. There you will see a listing of his favorites as well as his free “Warm Call Toolbar” which will add these search websites to your browser toolbars. With these tools at your disposal, you will soon be researching on the Internet like a pro, and using that information to win more business.

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