Through the years, expert contributors to our magazine have pointed out the importance of researching a merchant before reaching out to connect by phone, email or in person. Several potential areas to explore include company mission and guiding principles; history, including financial and sales highlights; market niche; products and/or services offered; current payment acceptance setup; distinct challenges the individual merchant likely faces.
Having this information on hand enables you to assess which products and services you could tailor for their specific needs before you meet, realizing you will learn more during your meeting and reassess accordingly.
It's not possible, of course, to find all relevant information about every merchant prospect, but with the internet resources at our fingertips, much of it can be discerned with, for example, a review of the merchant's website, googling them and studying their social media activity. It's also helpful, when possible, to visit the merchant's location to browse and observe.
Just as researching your prospects before you reach out is invaluable, so is researching a destination where you may be headed for a tradeshow or business meeting. If it's a meeting in a town near your home base, you can review the town's website to see if there are local developments a merchant might be concerned about. This is not necessarily so you can bring those issues up, but more so you can have knowledge of them should the merchant mention them.
If you're traveling to a region of the country you've never seen before or visiting a foreign land for a tradeshow, learning about the locale beforehand will provide essential context for things you observe while there. For example, you could learn about certain expressions that are common only in the region, so when you hear the expressions, you'll know exactly what the words mean.
And while you're away, befriend people, like Uber or Lyft drivers, who serve you. They may offer key information about a place you won't be able to get anywhere else. You may think such research isn't necessary since a tradeshow you plan to attend will take place in a huge convention center where you'll spend almost all your time. But research can pay off.
You might, for instance, learn of a highly rated food truck or cafe that's a short walk from the convention center, and you could invite a potential new partner to lunch there to experience the local cuisine. Or you could end up getting a job offer from a company based in the town you're visiting, and if you've done preliminary research, you'll already have an idea of some of the pros and cons of living there.
Another thing to consider is that absorbing too much new information at one time can be exhausting. If you already know some of the basics of navigating the city and its culture, you'll be less likely to experience information overload during a conference. So take a little time to dig into the places you'll be visiting. You'll be better prepared to interact with the locals, ask intelligent questions of prospective clients or partners, and enjoy your travels.
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