Relationships begin before you meet.

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I was bingeing one of my favorite television shows, “Psych”, when it occurred to me that the premise of the series is a great life (and sales) lesson.

The main character, Shawn Spencer, is a consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department. His advanced observational skills and impressive memory allow him to convince people that he solves cases with psychic abilities. 

Shawn originally becomes known as a psychic when, after calling in tips on dozens of crimes covered on the news which help the police to close the cases, the police become suspicious of his knowledge. The police theorize that he could only know this information by being on the "inside", so they decide to arrest Shawn as a suspect. To avoid being sent to jail, Shawn uses his observational skills to convince the police that he is psychic. The police chief warns Shawn that if his "powers" are fake, he will be prosecuted. With no choice but to keep up the act, he establishes a psychic detective agency and becomes an outside consultant to the police.

But how does this relate to life and sales?... Shawn does his research, and you should too.

  • When I receive an email from someone I do not know, I research them.
  • When a probable client hands me a business card, I research them.
  • When I schedule an appointment, I research the company and every person who is involved with the meeting.
  • When I have a networking event, I research who will be there before arriving.
  • When I am going to meet anyone in any situation, I research them.

When you spend the time to do your research, you greatly increase your chances of making a new friend and turning a probable client into a lifetime client. While everyone else is looking around the room for something to use as a rapport builder, you already know where they grew up, what university they graduated from, the name of their spouse, how many children they have, their favorite sports team, what sort of music they are in to, and where they like to go on vacation.

You see this all the time in sports. Every team will scope out their competition before the big game. They learn the key players, the way their opponent plays, their strengths and weaknesses, et cetera; and a plan is developed that will give them the best chance to win.

You may be surprised by what you find when you do your research. I prefer to conduct business and meet new people on referrals from friends and loyal clients, but sometimes I am meeting a complete stranger. Over 50% of the time, I discover during my research that I have a mutual friend with the person I am meeting. When this happens, I contact our mutual friend and ask them to shoot the person I am going to meet a short email to let them know of our connection. This creates a strong and instant way to open the conversation when we meet. Having a mutual friend also conveys a small sense of trust, and even a little trust is better than none at all when meeting someone new.

7 research tools to help you get started...

  1. FullContact — FullContact is a powerful contact management tool. There are apps available for iOS, Android, Mac, Chrome, and the web. FullContact will keep your contacts synced over iCloud, Google, Exchange, and Office 365 accounts. You can scan a business card with your smartphone, and real humans (not OCR) transcribe the card’s information to your contacts within minutes. The best and most useful aspect of FullContact is its ability to do some of the researching for you. When you enter the information that you know about your contact (such as name, email, et cetera), FullContact will begin searching the internet and pull additional information into your contact listing. If any changes to your contact’s information is found, it will updated those fields for you. I have been using FullContact for a few years, and I find it to be a very valuable tool.
  2. Google — Search for a person’s name on Google; and you may gather a lot of information including their website, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, any podcasts they may have appeared on, any publications they were in, blog posts, and much more. While you are at it, you should probably do a search on your own name. If you are using Google to research others, people are probably doing the same to you. You want to stay on top of what people are seeing when they search your name... good, bad, or indifferent.
  3. LinkedIn — LinkedIn is not the place to go to catch the latest memes that your friends posted, but it is a great source for anyone conducting research. With a simple search of a person’s name, you will usually find a plethora of information about that person including where they work and have worked in the past, where they attended college, what interests they have, if they have been published, reviews of their work, other LinkedIn members they are connected to, and much more. For business purposes, I begin my search here.
  4. Facebook — I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  Recently, I have all but boycotted this social site; because I disagree with many of their practices. I do, however, keep my personal account open; and I keep my professional page up to date. I use my personal account to conduct research. As with LinkedIn, you can usually find some very useful information about people by conducting a simple search of a name. What makes Facebook useful is the personal information you can find about people. If someone has their profile open to the public (and most people do), you can get a rather accurate picture of the inner-workings of their mind. People tend to dump on their feeds all of their hopes and fears and political views and party photos and religion and favorite movies and on and on. In addition to finding out the names of their entire family, you will also be able to determine what kind of person this is when no one else is looking or at least when they are in front of a screen. I encourage you to read their profile as well as their posts. I admit that I make judgements from a person’s Facebook feed as to whether or not I want to meet them in the real world.
  5. Twitter — Twitter is like the worst bar you will ever encounter where you stand on a table and tell everyone your deepest thoughts. There are people yelling, spreading rumors, talking about sex and politics, sharing happy stories, telling horrible tales, arguing, and the occasional fight breaks out; but there is some great information on Twitter if you are willing to dig. Simply by scrolling through who a person follows will give you a look into their likes and dislikes. Being the “bar” that Twitter is, you can determine how someone thinks when they believe their post is going to get lost in the Twitterverse. Like Facebook, I find Twitter a tool to help me determine if I want to meet someone in the real world. Twittter does, however, have an advantage over Facebook... If you make contact with someone on Twitter, there is a very good chance that you will receive a reply. For example... I recently contacted a large pencil manufacturer via Twitter to start conversations about a sponsorship for my show. A very large number of people in my audiences receive a pencil during the show, and my son suggested that I should find a sponsor. Within 24 hours, I had a response back from this particular manufacturer; and within a few days, the first shipment of pencils was on its way to me.
  6. Alignable — I do not spend a lot of time on Alignable, but it is worth a look if you are not finding much information on other social media sites.
  7. Hunter —  Hunter lets you find email addresses in seconds and connect with the people who matter most for your business. This site is very easy to use. Here is how it works... Say you know that John Smith works at Johnson & Johnson and would like to shoot him an email, but you do not have John’s email address. You simply enter Johnson & Johnson’s web site (jnj.com), and it will give you a listing of all the email addresses within Johnson & Johnson. If you do not find John’s email listed, Hunter will also give you the format of the company. For example... {f}{last}@jnj.com. Chances are that John’s email address is jsmith@jnj.com.

Too many people walk into meetings, business and personal, without any sort of preparation. It is worth your time to arrive with an arsenal of information that will help you quickly build a relationship, start and guide the conversation, and achieve your desired outcome.


Bill Gladwell is an entertainer, speaker, and trainer as well as a self-contained, one-man spectacle and Social Dynamics expert.