You have a call today via video or phone, and you’re scrambling with your personnel research. Come unprepared with stupid questions like, “tell me a little about your history with XYZ” when it’s all over their LinkedIn profile… you’re a dead duck. But, this blog isn’t about the generic stuff people will guide you to look for:

  1. Common Connections
  2. Job History

Those are rookie moves. You’re a rain-maker and want to really come armed as a trusted resource. After talking to 1,000s of sales reps about this over the last 90 days, here are three strategic insights that best-in-class sellers look for:

1. Buying Clout “Yellow Flag”

I use the proxy of six months. If you notice the buyer has been at the company less than six months, raise the yellow flag.

Why? In larger organizations, that person may not have experienced a buying cycle. They may not actually know the procurement process, buying red tape, or buying levers (as an example, if outside the budget, will the CFO allow transfer of budget from other stakeholders?). Do they even have a direct line to the CFO and understand when money can be released (monthly, quarterly, annually, in/out of budgets)? Do they have the clout to pitch the CFO on new ideas? There are so many factors that this buyer may not have experienced internally yet.

This is so critical because your time is very precious. Your buyer could have all the love and interest in your solution but have no idea how to get it over the goal line! In CEB’s book Challenger Customer, you could be meeting the “talker.”

2. Business Acumen – Left Brain vs. Right Brain

What you’re trying to avoid here is coming to a meeting to talk about a subject when the buyer is clearly an expert or interested in talking about the “clouds” or “dirt” (Gary Vaynerchuk saying). First, within their business acumen, you’re avoiding talking about “What is VoIP call networking” with a person who spoke at CIO Forum last month on the topic. Second, there are typically two types of people in this world (rarely the shared unicorn):

  1. Right Brain – strategic – E.Q. – “Clouds”

This is showing up to a call with visionaries, dreamers, strategic/creative types. The devil is NOT in the details. These people are typically focused on the big picture and how to drive business outcomes. Talking about features and widgets will bore them to tears.

I’m looking for the words people use on their profiles, how they measure themselves, how they describe the projects they’ve worked on. Do they appear like they prefer to set the vision or execute the plays?

  1. Left Brain – analytical – I.Q. – “Dirt”

This is meeting the operators, executors, or worker-bees who need to know HOW this works by connecting one phase to the next. Talking at a high level is very frustrating to these people because they believe you’re just blowing smoke up their rear-ends. They want to see that you understand HOW this works.

I’m looking for buzzwords, technical terms, and statements on their profiles that tell me they’re a ditch-digger and implementer. With these people, I need to prepare even more for their onslaught of detailed questions. Don’t skip steps or you’ll appear shady.


Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, look for anyone in the company who has keywords associated with your COMPETITION in it! Here, I’m looking for “poison pills” in my accounts for people who could spoil the party for me.

Here is a real-life example. If I worked at Microsoft, and I was going after Walmart in the USA, if I look up the senior IT department there, you’ll notice that four people have AWS certifications and job experience at AWS. In a buying committee world, these types of people could put a big wrench in your plans.

call best practices

Of course, I can do the same for people following my company or have keywords of our certifications, courses, skills, etc. For larger companies with Sales Navigator, there is a button at the top that will actually show you anyone in the company who’s following your company. LinkedIn does the work for you.

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Jamie Shanks

Author: Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

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