Social engineering means talking to people other than your prospect in order to gather information to help your prospect. Use social engineering and you will make your prospecting calls much smarter!

Buyers today expect salespeople to have done their research. They don’t have time to respond to generic “pitch” messages, or engage with someone who only wants to sell his stuff.

And it’s easier than ever to, with a few mouse clicks, gather insightful, useful information about prospects that we use to personalize and customize our value-filled outreach messaging.

One of the best—and most underutilized—sources of sales intelligence is speaking with other people within our prospect’s organization. This is called social engineering.

Social Engineering

The term is most widely used to describe unscrupulous behavior, such as misrepresenting oneself and lying to manipulate someone to provide sensitive information.

However, we use it positively and ethically to gather intelligence for our Smart Calls™. To us, social engineering simply means talking to people other than your prospect in order to gather information which will help you help your prospect.

Social Engineering can be done:

  • as a separate call before your first call to your prospect; and,
  • every time you call your prospect.

All it requires is that you take the time to do it, develop a sense of curiosity, and cultivate some conversational questioning techniques.

Completing all of these steps may indeed grant you a revelation that many of us have had: people are willing to give you amazing amounts of quality information if you just ask them.

Just Ask

Kevin Mitnick was one of the most notorious computer hackers in the world; and at the time of his arrest in 1995, the most wanted computer criminal in US history. After his release from prison, he wrote the book entitled The Art of Deception, in which he shares precisely how he pulled off many of his hacking jobs.

Mitnick claims that he compromised computers solely by using passwords and codes that he gained by social engineering; in other words, simply talking to people. Now a speaker and security consultant to corporations, Mitnick points out that the weakest link in any security system is the person holding the information. You just need to ask for it.

The Social Engineering Process

Of course, we are using social engineering in the positive sense: asking for information from people that will help other people and the organization as a whole. The social engineering process for Smart Calling™ is as follows.

Upon reaching a live voice, you:

    1. Identify yourself and the company you represent.

      As in, “Hi, I’m Jason Andrews with National Systems.” This immediately shows that you are not hiding anything.

    2. Ask for help.

      “I hope you can help me out” or “I need some assistance” are requests that can go a long way. Most people have an innate desire to be helpful to others in some way.

    3. Use a Justification Statement.

      This is the key that will unlock the most useful information. Some examples are:

  • “I want to be sure that I’m talking to the right person there…”
  •  “I’m going to be speaking with your VP of Sales, and want to be sure that I have accurate information…”
  •  “So that I’m better prepared when I talk to your CIO, I have a few questions you probably could answer…”

Dr. Robert Cialdini — widely considered as one of the foremost experts on persuasion and influence— discusses the theory behind the success of these Justification Statements I suggest in his classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Cialdini cites an experiment conducted by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer where students let others cut in line in front of them at the copy machine simply because they provided a reason for their request—“because I’m in a rush.”

I recommend that you take the time to create your own Justification Statement — your “because” reason — and use it regularly.

  1. Ask questions. You can ask about the basic, factual material for which you might not have information yet. But don’t limit yourself. The quality and quantity of information people will share with you if you just ask might surprise you. This depends both on what you sell, and the level of person with whom you’re speaking. In general, the higher up you go, the better the quality of information.

Smart Calling Exercise

  1. Prepare your own script for social engineering using the process above. Be sure you have a justification statement you are comfortable with.
  2. Brainstorm for the questions you will ask at all levels of an organization, and write them out.
  3. Use your newly-found intel to personalize and customize your emails, voice mails and call openings so that you can be more relevant and targeted with your value messaging.


About the author

Art Sobczak

Art Sobczak, President of Business By Phone Inc., specializes in one area only: working…

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