May 11, 2020 • Podcast

How do I effectively research prospects and customers? with Sam Richter

Paul interviews sales intelligence guru, Sam Richter. Sam shares ideas for salespeople to become more relevant with better customer research. 

Show Notes:

The goal is to be exceptionally relevant to what the customer cares about. Most salespeople are missing an opportunity to instantly connect with prospects at a deeper level. 

CRM is more than customer relationship management; it’s customer relevancy management. 

In the post-COVID-19 world, information and relevancy is key. Salespeople can no longer afford to make an “irrelevant” cold call. 

Understand what is relevant and align your message with what the prospect is deeply passionate about. 

“Here’s what salespeople are doing wrong…”

“When you mention something genuine, you move up the relationship scale.”

In every interaction, create value for the customer. 

“In a value-added follow-up, you share something that is extremely valuable to the other person.”

The following links have additional information on Sam Richter’s content:


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How do I effectively research prospects and customers? With Sam Richter

(Transcribed from podcast interview)

You must align what you have to say with what you know they care about. The first words out of your mouth in today’s world needs to be about the other person more than ever, because, they don’t care about you, but they’re massively passionate about themselves. And if you want to have any chance of selling in today’s world successfully, you’d better align—I call it real-time relevance or hyper-relevance—you’d better understand the other person, or, otherwise, they’re just going to hang up on you. – Sam Richter

On today’s episode, we have my friend Sam Richter. Sam is the world’s leading online information expert. He’s also a bestselling author and Hall of Fame keynote speaker. I’ve heard Sam speak on several different occasions, and I’m always amazed at how much I learn, how much I can take back and apply to what I do every single day. If you’re anything like me, sometimes I spend countless hours researching customers, prospects, clients, trying to figure out pertinent information that can help me become a more effective salesperson—that can more effectively help me help my customers. Sam has some tools and ideas that are going to help you. If you’re tired of spending hour after hour researching your customers and prospects, you have to listen to this interview. Sam has also graciously made a lot of this content available on his website, so there are going to be a lot of links back to what Sam does and you can review that.

Before we get into it… A quick shout-out to our sponsor, The Creative Impostor Studio. If you’ve ever thought about starting a podcast, if you have a story to tell, reach out to Andrea and her team. They do a wonderful job. They help you get it started; they offer some ongoing support to help your podcast grow. Check them out. There’s going to be a link to them on this episode’s web page.

Paul Reilly: On today’s episode, we have my friend, Sam Richter. I’ve heard Sam speak several times, and I’m always amazed at some of the tools and techniques that he offers the sales community, especially as it relates to research. In fact, Sam, I never told you this, but, I sat in on one of your programs, and some of the tools that you put together on how to find information about people online, I was actually able to use those tools to research a prospect that I had a call with the next day. I found an article that the VP of sales had put together and it was published in Forbes Magazine. I started off our meeting by saying, “Hey, I was doing a little research and I found this article.” I read the article for the VP of sales, a few excerpts from it, and I said, “Although you’re describing your business and your philosophy, you could be describing our Value-Added Selling program. I’m just amazed at how much they align with each other.” As soon as I said that, the VP of sales literally said, “Well, I can see why you came highly recommended to us.”

I ended up booking that client, and I really owe my thanks to you for that, Sam.

Sam Richter: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s a great story. Thank you for sharing. And I think that really ties into the whole concept of what we’re here to talk about today, which is research and doing your homework and relevancy, really, of making sure that you understand what others care about. And that’s really the essence of everything that I teach.

Paul: Well, Sam, would you mind just taking a few moments and telling the audience here—the sales community—a little bit about what you do and also some of your programs?

Sam: Sure. I’m a keynote speaker and I also do workshop trainings (now obviously everything’s virtual) but, my area of expertise is— I kind of coined the phrase sales intelligence. There are lots of definitions for that and a number of companies that now do sales intelligence. My definition of sales intelligence is really understanding how to find information on other people so, in the sales process, you’re exceptionally relevant to what they care about. Or, said another way, a lot of companies have CRM systems. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. A lot of companies have used their CRM system to manage their customers, so they do the CM part very well. They know how many people are ordering; they know how many people are reordering, how many times they come to the website, and, how many times they call customer service. They can use the CRM system to create pull-down menus and optimize and create efficiency for a company.

But a lot of companies forget the R part of CRM, which is relationships. And that’s really another way to say what sales intelligence is. It’s how to really understand your customer, your prospect, so you can really build relationships on what they care about. Another way to use the R, if I were to name CRM, it would be Customer Relevancy Management, because the R also stands for relevant. And, today more than ever, I think that’s important to really understand what’s going on in your prospect’s and your customer’s world. Again, the story you shared at the beginning is you walked in and you were highly relevant to what you already knew your prospect cared about. And that took on the relationship side— You know, on a scale of 1 to 10. One is you walk in, you don’t know this person. Ten is, you’re the best man at the person’s wedding. You went in and—just by mentioning that one article and kind of aligning what you do with what you knew they cared about (that relevancy area)—you went from a 1 to probably a 5 within 30 seconds. And that’s really the power of what I teach.

Paul: Nice. Now, Sam, that’s great, and I appreciate your tips. I don’t know if I’ll be able to send you a commission from that program…

Sam: No. I don’t want it [Laughter].

Paul: Maybe a couple of rolls of toilet paper.

Sam: Yeah. Toilet paper would be good.


Paul: It’d be crazy not to talk about what’s going on right now in the midst of this global pandemic and all that. And especially how this relates to sales and that relationship and relevance piece that you mentioned. So, looking at our current situation, why is research even more important right now than it was pre COVID-19?

Sam: Sure. Well, if we go back to “pre,” so, let’s go back to let’s say January of 2020. You know what I teach would have been a “nice-to-have,” because a lot of people were just really fat and happy. You know, the order would come in; they’d take the order. They were very successful in sales, so they were able to do a cold call, and they kind of had it numbers based. “Yeah. If I call enough people… I’ll go online and buy a list. Let me buy a list of the industries I sell into, the job titles I sell into. If I call enough people, mathematically, somebody would buy from me.”

A large number of companies that I work with in manufacturing, insurance, financial services, distribution… A lot of those companies were able to generate leads by going to trade shows, conferences. It’s estimated (I think the number is higher, much higher depending on the industry) anywhere between 40 and 70 percent of conferences, the only reason the conference existed was to bring buyers and sellers together. And so the thought of relevancy, doing your homework, “Yeah, hey. That’ll help me close a bigger deal.” I totally get it. Fast forward to today. I think it’s a must-have, a must-have for a number of reasons. One, for the first time if you’re in sales and you’re calling on a prospect, historically, that prospect really cared about creating efficiency and generating revenue. Those are two big reasons why you would call on a prospect and you could sell into that.

Well today, the mentality of our prospects that we’re calling into, creating efficiency and generating revenue might be, for some, number 100 on their priority list. It’s weird to say, but creating efficiencies and creating profit for a company is, for some of those companies, a nice-to-have right now because their must-haves are, “How am I going to survive? How am I going to manage a workforce? How am I going to manage my four kids and homeschooling?” Bottom line, you can no longer do what I call, an irrelevant cold call, because the irrelevant salesperson is going to get deleted, is going to get hung up on really quick, because your prospect and your existing customer doesn’t care.

And then the other thing is, the way these companies used to generate leads was by trade shows and conferences. Well, obviously those are gone. And so, today more than ever, I believe, if you’re going to pick up the phone, send an email, a social-media connection, you absolutely must understand what’s going on in the other person’s world, their industry, their company. What are the things that they care about? And then, just like you shared in your example, you must align what you have to say with what you know they care about. The first words out of your mouth in today’s world needs to be about the other person more than ever because they don’t care about you, but they’re massively passionate about themselves. And, if you want to have any chance of selling in today’s world successfully, you’d better align—I call it real-time relevance or hyper-relevance—you’d better understand the other person, because otherwise they’re just going to hang up on you.

Paul: Well said. That relevancy piece and just aligning yourself with what you know is important to them, especially right now… You know, when I think about this, I’m going back to some of my early days when I worked in sales. And, luckily, I was in sales in the advent of technology, so I could always go to Google and pick up my phone and just look at some of the companies that I’m trying to meet with. Salespeople might not be efficient at doing that. And what I mean by that… Salespeople, right now they’re out there trying to gather information, research their prospects. What are some of the ways that they can improve, or, what are some of the things they’re doing wrong as they go out there and they try to look for this information?

Sam: Yeah, that’s a great question. I guess it’s why I have a job, right? Because, take a look at Tom Reilly Training. I know you’re one of the best in the business. And I know that one of the things that you talk about is the need to do your homework. You’ve got to ask really good questions. I mean, I know that’s embedded into what you do. And everyone who attends your training shakes their head and says, “Oh yeah, that’s true. I’ve got to do that.” But they don’t know how to do it, which is really getting to the essence of your question right there. How do you do it efficiently?

Going to somebody’s website, I call that sales intelligence preschool. Of course, you’re going to do that. You’ve got to know what the company does for a living. But when you go to somebody’s website, what are you really looking at? You’re looking at their online marketing brochure. They’re not going to tell you anything that they don’t want you to know. But of course, that’s the information we want to know in sales. So how do you do it?

The first thing is, when you search for a company, put the company’s name within quotation marks when you do a Google search. For example, if I’m looking at a company called Widget and Company, and I just type in widget and company, the likelihood that their website is going to show up number one is pretty high. Google is good at that. But what you’re doing when you’re typing in multiple words within Google, you’re telling the search engine that all three of those words must appear somewhere on the page. So widget might be in paragraph one, and company might be paragraph four. So like I said, you’ll probably get their company website, but that’s not what we want. We want to get other information. Put it within quotes. You’ll get a much better result, because when you put something within quotes, you’re telling the search engine that the words within quotes must be in that exact order.

Once you do that, we’re going to look at their company website. Got to do that. But then, you’re going to click on the News tab and you’re going to see if there’s any recent news articles going on about the organization. Again, when you’re going to search for the name within quotes, and let’s say it’s a big company like 3M or, Ford Motor, there’s going to be thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of articles over on the Google search result. There’s a little button called Tools. You can click on the tools button, a drop down menu will appear, and now you can sort those articles by date, so only show me articles from the past week or the past month. And so, I want to find a news article and it could be something like you used with the Forbes article where you referenced something that the CEO said or you referenced. It could be, “Hey, congratulations on winning this new account,” or whatever it might be. If you’re calling on smaller companies, there’s actually a website I developed. It’s completely free; no registration or anything. It’s called, You Got the News: By the way, you won’t find that in Google. You’ve got to actually go in and type that in the web address. That allows you to sort your news by not only date, but by sources of news. So, Google news only covers the main publications. I’ve got another button in there that will pull up trade journals, magazines, press releases, social posts. Bottom line, what we’re looking for is what’s going on in their world so the first words out of your mouth can be about them, and you can ask them more challenging questions and align what you have to say with what you know they care about. So just finding those news articles is step one. And you should be able to do that in 40 seconds. You know the search itself—five seconds—read the article; 30 seconds later you’ve got your piece of information.

Paul: Excellent. I remember you mentioned the news piece before, and the tools and how you can look at date ranges and things like that. And it’s one of those things I remember: the real life example, again, of using those types of tools. I remember getting ready to go meet with a prospect at one point (this was when I was selling tools and fasteners), and just utilizing the Google news and the date range, found out that the company I was going to meet with the next day was declaring bankruptcy.

Sam: Yeah, you’re probably going to have a tough time selling into them.

Paul: Yeah. [Laughing] So it ended up saving time where me and my sales manager figured something else to do. But finding this information is critical. And sometimes, I think we forget how good we have it right now with information. Oftentimes, when I’m training salespeople that have been selling for 30, even 40+ years, they’ll tell me stories about how they used to go to the library the night before they would go out and make sales calls, and have to find trade journals in the library. And, you think about the discipline that that requires to go out there and to do that. And all, really, in an effort to help the customer become more successful.

Sam: Yep. Absolutely. And other things we have it so easy with, too, is even on people searching. The majority of us are calling on somebody who probably has a LinkedIn profile. Go into LinkedIn. Again, same thing: type in a person’s name within quotation marks. I can do this right now. Type—my guess is there are a whole bunch of Paul Reillys and Tom Reillys—those names into LinkedIn. I’m going to put the name within quotation marks, and I’m going to just actually do this while we’re talking here. So, I’m going to go in and I’m going to put the name within quotation marks. You do have a unique spelling, so I guess I’ll give you that, but I bet you there’s more than one of you in the world. And also, when you search on someone’s name, in the search field, put the name within quotation marks, and then just put part of the company name, or what do you do, or the city that you live in. That will really help you get the right number.

There are 493 Paul Reillys in the world. I can type in Paul Reilly within quotes, and then put in +sales or +St. Louis, or something like that, to make sure that I get you. Then, when I get you, I want to find out if there’s something in your background that also aligns with some of the things that I care about, or some of the things that I sell. Because, then, what we’re looking for is the ability to build that relationship. So where you went to school, where did you use to work? And the key here, by the way—and this is so important, what I’m about to say—we’re not looking for information to state fact because we could be wrong. You know, what we find could be inaccurate. What we want is information that gives us permission to ask a better question.

Let me give you an example. If I say to you something along the lines of, (let’s say I’m making a call), “Hi Paul. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your company?” Not a bad question, but Paul, you’re a pretty smart guy. You know that, as a salesperson, when I ask you that question, I’m going on a fishing expedition, right? Intuitively, in your brain, you’re saying, “Oh, this guy doesn’t know anything about me.” Or, I could say something (and here’s kind of the language I use), “Hey Paul. You know, before I meet with people, I like to do a little bit of homework. You’re a busy guy. I don’t want to waste your time. And so I was on your LinkedIn profile, and I see that you have a business degree from the University of Missouri. And that’s so funny because both of my kids go to the University of Missouri.”

Boom! Remember on that relationship scale from 1 to 10? Old way of doing things, “Hi Paul. I’m so great to meet you. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” Well, maybe I just moved my relationship meter from a 1 to what? A 1.5 maybe? But the second I mentioned that both of my kids are currently at the University of Missouri? Well, you tell me on the relationship meter scale of 1 to 10, where did we get to? Just that one sentence.

Paul: Oh, that one sentence. I mean, I would say we’re up to a 5 or a 6, like you mentioned earlier.

Sam: Exactly. And that’s the goal. The key here, Paul, is you have to be genuine. So, if I don’t care where you went to college, you’re going to see through that: “Oh my goodness. This guy’s trying to manipulate me.” But, based on tone of voice, energy, which can be captured. Hopefully, the people listening right now can hear that energy, that tone of voice, that confidence through the phone, through a Zoom call, versus a manipulation. You can genuinely tell that I thought that’s cool that you have a business degree from the University of Missouri. My kids go there. Heck, we’re going to even talk about some of the activities you’re involved with. We’re going to talk about our favorite restaurants on Broadway Avenue in Columbia before we even start to talk to the business.

We’re going from a 1 to 5 and we’re connecting. Now we’re— And, by the way, in sales as we know, we’re not always going to close the deal. We can talk about that in a second: the concept of the value-added follow up. We’re not always going to close the deal, but we’re going to have a lot more fun. We’re going to leave that meeting and you might say, “You know, Sam, I’m just not ready to buy it today, but boy, I really enjoyed [it]. Stay in touch.” And I’m going to look forward to staying in touch with you. Let’s say University of Missouri wins a big football game. I’m going to send you a note: “Hey Paul, this was awesome. You know, you’re ready to go to the bowl game. This was amazing! They’re in the SEC championship!” That’s how you build these relationships. And what did it take me? Fifteen seconds doing the LinkedIn search.

Paul: That’s amazing. You hit a couple of great points there. Especially with making that connection and just researching and being able to find out the information and drawing the connection. My only hope is that you wouldn’t be able to find pictures of me from how I acted in college.

Sam: Well, I found them. It’s just, you know…

Paul: Whatever you want. I’ll pay for them. Just take them off the internet, right?

Sam: What’s that line from the movie stripes? “Convicted? No. I was never convicted.”


Paul: There you go. Wow. That’s great. Well, you know, one of the things that I think is important right now, a lot of salespeople are in a very bizarre world where they either have existing customers that they’re reaching out to, that they’ve built rapport (use that R scale where they’re already close to maybe an 8 or 9).They have a good relationship with existing customers. But, you know, people are still out there prospecting and trying to reach out to new clients. And I think that they should, because I truly believe that salespeople create value, and the need for that is stronger than ever. But I think it’s important to look at the tone of that outreach during this time. So, you know, just out of your thoughts, what advice do you have for salespeople reaching out to prospects during this crisis?

Sam: Well, I think it really ties into what I know is one of the big tenets of what you teach at Reilly Sales Training, and that’s the concept of the value add: you must always provide value. And again, now more than ever. Pre COVID in January, “Ah, I’ll provide a little value.” Or, I’m sure you’ve heard this, “My value is, I get the order out in time at a fair price.” Well, I think we got to go above and beyond that right now. It really ties into what I call the value-added follow up. And the value-added follow up is really nothing more than… I’ll give you an example. If I call you right now, Paul, and we’ve got a relationship (maybe we’ve got it from a 1 to a 7 or a 1 to a 6), but the likelihood of you buying from me after this call is going to be pretty low. You’re probably going to say something like, “Sam, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today. Stay in touch.” I’m going to say, “Well, how often should I stay in touch, Paul?” And you’ll say, “Why don’t you give me a call in three months?”

Well, I’m a good salesperson. I go into my calendar. I say, call Paul in three months. Three months rolls along. I call you: “Hey Paul. You ready to buy yet?” I don’t use those words, but we both know that that’s what’s going on. I don’t like to follow up when you tell me, the buyer, you-the prospect, tells me to follow up. I want to follow up on my terms. I want to follow up when I want to. The only way I gained permission to do that is if I’m providing exceptional value.

So let’s say that you just told me, “Sam, follow up in three months.” Well, what I’m going to do is I’m going to go in and try to block off a half an hour to an hour every week. So not a lot of time. But try to find a piece of information that’s of extreme value to you that might not have anything to do with me. So, for example… Paul, I know that you’re a professional speaker, you’re a trainer, and you’re not doing in-person programs right now. You just told me to call you in three months. I don’t want to call you in three months. One week from now, I’m going to send you an email with something as simple as, “Hey, Paul. I stumbled across this article online: Top five ways as a training company that you can deliver your content virtually with exceptional results. I saw this article and immediately thought of you. Hope all is well.”

That’s it. I’m not selling. It’s just, here’s something that I found that’s of value to you that has nothing to do with me. I think that’s so important in the sales process and every one of our follow ups from our initial meeting thank-you note to our ongoing communication with somebody. And I know that’s exactly what you teach. I mean, heck, you’re the co-author of Value-Added Selling. Every interaction you have has to provide value. I know, in Value-Added Selling, a lot of what you’re talking about is, you’re not just selling a widget, you’re selling the ‘why is the widget so important and why should you use this widget versus that widget’.

What I’m saying is even in the communication with your prospects, you need to be always providing that value. And in my world, the value has to be all about you and nothing about me, because that’s how we, again, take those relationships to even the next notch. And in today’s world, where your buyer and your prospect, like we mentioned earlier, might not be in the buying mode right now, but we need to stay in touch with them in ways that provide value so when they do get in the buying mode, they’re going to remember the value you provided. And you’re going to be first on that list.

Paul: Well said, Sam. That is so critical, taking your message and making it customer focused. In Value-Added Selling, we talk about that—being customer focused versus seller focused—and that aligns perfectly with what you just said about making it all about them without the intention to try to sell, but just to create value. That’s perfect.

I’ve used your tools before and I think it would be amazing if you could tell a little bit more about Selling Intel. I know that’s one of your signature tools that you have for salespeople. How can salespeople get a hold of this information and utilize it?

Sam: Sure. A lot of what I teach is going to sound boring, but it’s actually really cool. It’s, complex mathematical algorithms to use in all sorts of different types of search engines from social media to Google to the invisible web. People who attend and take my programs learn how to do that. It sounds complex, but, I guess I pride myself on making the complex easy.

I’ve also developed a tool that automates a lot of what I teach. It’s called the Sales Intel Engine, and it’s not really an engine, per se. Think of it as a search engine overlay. So instead of you having to go into a search engine and type in a thirty-word equation, you just go in and say, “I’m interested in manufacturers in, Los Angeles.” You can find who they are; you can find their contact information. And I’ve built what I think is really cool and especially critical in today’s sales world.

There’s a whole category of searches we do on sales triggers. So a sales trigger is “Why would someone want to buy from me today or want to hear from me today, where three weeks ago, they wouldn’t have wanted to hear from me? What’s going on in their world?” Go in there and just type in manufacturing, Los Angeles. You can find a key executive changes, new contracts, anybody who’s received funding, executive retirements, mergers and acquisitions, relocation. So, basically anytime there’s disruption going on in a company or in an industry, that’s a good time for a salesperson to call. The Intel Engine allows you to just type in one or two words, find those triggers, even find the contact information, do new searching. You can quickly search for executives, “Hey, I want to call on Widget Corporation. I want to call on the chief engineer there, or the design manufacturing engineer.” How do you find those people? The Intel Engine allows you to do that. The most important… Really, the Intel Engine is designed to do three things: find the right person (who’s the contact) at the right time (what’s going on in their world), where they actually might want to take your call today.

That whole concept of sales triggers is probably more important than any time in history because nobody wants to hear from the irrelevant salesperson with the right message. “How do I make sure that the first words out of my mouth are about the other person?”

You can learn about it by going to my website, which is or you can go directly to the sales intel engine. That’s And if anybody’s interested, they can save 25% for life on the sales intel engine in the ordering process. Just type in the coupon code, Sam friend 25 and you get 25% off for life. I’ve calculated the ROI for most companies you should receive. Oh, probably about a 10,000 X ROI. And I know that’s crazy, but that’s because the sales intelligence, especially with the discount, what’s that going to run you? About 30 bucks a month?

I’ve calculated that you should be able to get a minimum of 2000 highly qualified leads (based on sales triggers) a year using the Intel engine. And so you’re not just picking up the phone and starting at A and ending at Z. You’re actually calling people who, for reasons you’ve identified, actually need your product today based on what’s going on in their world. That’s the easiest way to do it, and it’s a huge time saver. I think in today’s world, probably more necessary than any time in history.

Paul: Sam, thanks for sharing those resources. We’re going to put a bunch of links on the website as well,, linking directly to all of those tools that you have available. We really appreciate your time, and coming on today and helping out the sales community. I think you’re right. Salespeople are at home. They’re behind their computer more. They have the actual time to do the thorough research before a call. I think this stuff is more relevant than it has ever been before. So, again, Sam I want to thank you for coming on the show today. Certainly appreciate it.

Sam: Well, thank you for the opportunity and to all the listeners out there, stay safe. Good luck. And I know sales is really hard right now, but it’s also an amazing opportunity, because there are businesses out there that need to hear from you. There are businesses out there that are thriving and that need your service. But, this is also the time to build those relationships based on value, based on what the other person cares about. Because we will come out of this, and I think those that are providing value, those that show they care, those are the folks who are going to be remembered when we do come out of this. So build that value. Build those relationships.

Paul: Make it a big day!

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