Want Business Advice? Just Ask!

Most of us were told by our parents that you’ll successful if you work hard and work smart. Later on we go into business and found out that it’s not quite that simple. Every day, we have significant challenges thrown out at us, ranging from the economy to competition to having a well trained work force, amongst others.  These challenges impact all types of business, whether they are newer or more mature businesses. As business people, we’re all looking for answers about how to meet these challenges, but not sure where to find them.

Market intelligence, gathered through research calls, is a crucial piece to solving this puzzle. Research calls are completely different than sales calls because they are geared toward asking for knowledge instead of sales. They are designed to figure out where to fish for new clients, what bait to use (what kind of product or service is needed) and how and when to use it. Research calls are usually done in person or by phone by people responsible for making sales or determining the strategic direction of the company. They help you uncover market holes and competitive advantages that you can leverage for success. I’ve been surprised by how much information and advice people are willing to give you when you simply ask them for help and advice on growing your business.

Research calls can be broken down into different categories by the type of person on whom you’re calling: thought leaders, other providers, likely buyers, competitors and current clients.

Thought Leaders are people “in the know.” These people are successful in their own right and have a good feel for what is going on in the market. Examples of thought leaders are executives, consultants, authors, association directors and business owners.

Other Providers are those who also serve your client base. They can give you insight into the needs of a particular industry or even a specific prospect with whom they may already have a relationship. This group might include bankers, attorneys, insurance providers, suppliers, etc.

Likely Buyers are people who utilize some or all of the types of products or services you provide. They can give you information on exactly what they are looking for as it relates to the service or goods you have to offer. Sometimes this type of research call will also end up in an opportunity for a sale to a likely buyer. This is fine, but be careful and remember that is not the reason for your call on this group.

Current Clients are a great source of information and will often bend over backwards to help you. They can give you feedback on the quality of your current services and what else they’d like to see in terms of service delivery or product offerings.

Competitors may seem to be a tough nut to crack, but they’re one of my favorite sources of market intelligence. Often, they are willing to talk to you and you can discover similarities and differences in your product offerings and approaches to doing business. At these calls, you can learn which ventures have been successful for them and which haven’t worked so well; this will inform your own strategy. Competitive research calls can be a little tricky because you’ll have to divulge some information to them, too. Make sure to watch what you say and only share information that you’re comfortable having publically available.

One last thought!  I hope you consider putting the research call program into your tool kit and utilizing it to you fullest. You’ll learn a ton and meet great people you may or may not have gotten to know otherwise. But most importantly, you’ll gain business intelligence that will help you get an edge on your competition and grow your business.

Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.