Sourcing For Customers

Oct 6, 2010

On Tuesday, September 28 at the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Shally Steckerl gave an interesting presentation at SourceCon, one that covered competitive intelligence.

As an example of how competitive intelligence can be gathered over the telephone, let me tell you a simple story of a job I started upon my return from the conference.

On Thursday morning, I began sourcing sales reps for a paper manufacturing company in Canada. About two hours into my efforts I was talking to a receptionist in a company that was a supplier of industrial paper products to the Canadian marketplace.

There were a few names on LinkedIn at the company, but there were no sales reps listed. There was someone listed as “sales” but no other identifying information was contained on the person’s profile.

After identifying myself and stating that I was calling “from the States” I asked her if she could tell me who the sales rep was for the Toronto area. My customer was especially interested in names in the Toronto area, relocation being the challenge it is today.

SOURCING HINT: For some reason, when you call Canada, if you say your name and then say “calling from the States” it seems to turn some kind of cooperation key in the Gatekeeper’s mind. I meant to relay this information in my presentation in D.C. but I remember not following through as someone asked another question that I went on to answer. I do believe I never gave this hint in my overview of phone sourcing, but here it is now.

She told me there were two reps servicing the Toronto area.

I asked for their names and she gave them to me.

Then I asked who handled Quebec.

She told me that position was open at the moment and the sales manager was looking for someone to fill it.

I then asked her who the sales manager was.

She told me.

I then asked if there was anyone handling British Columbia or Manitoba, knowing that these were west coast and central provinces, respectively, in Canada.

Asking for two things at one time can be hazardous, but hey — I was on a roll. I took the chance. I’m a professional, if you know what I mean.

She then told me those two areas had nobody in them at present also and again mentioned that the Sales Manager, whom she now called out by name, was looking for someone for the “western provinces.”

I mentioned something about them having two sales openings and she said:

Actually, we have three. We need another rep for the Maritime provinces (I think she meant the east coast — I didn’t ask). It sounded like maybe there was someone in the “Ameritime” province so I asked:

“Now that you mention it, is there someone in that area as well?”

“Yes, Jacqueline Spencer handles that area. But we’re hiring another one there too.”

Now, I don’t know if Jacqueline is being replaced or if they think New Brunswick/Halifax/Newfoundland (you need to look at a map to see what I’m talking about here — I keep a big map above my desk on the wall for easy eyeballing when I’m on the phone) is a big enough territory to require two reps, but something tells me Jacqueline may be on her way out the door. In that case they have a minimum need for one rep in that area.

Then she went on to encapsulate all that she had revealed:

“We have three sales reps plus a sales manager. Our Sales Manager is looking for someone for the western provinces, another in the eastern Maritime area, and one also in Quebec.”

Now that’s a minimum of three possible hires and, if you did as I told you and looked at a map, you’ll see Canada’s western provinces are vast just as the western United States is vast. Maybe they’ll need more than one out there but it’s more than doubtful if you consider that the western provinces are starkly populated. Canada has 1/10 the population (30 million) overall of the United States and the majority of that population resides in the eastern half of the country in some of Canada’s largest cities: Toronto (4.5 million), Ottawa, the country’s capital (1.2 million), Quebec City (750,000) and Montreal (2 million).

In addition, the eastern Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island contain almost 2 million people.

Who ever said understanding geography wouldn’t pay?

On Friday, after I’d gathered about 60 names over the telephone for the job I sent it to my customer. On the job, next to the company name, in red, I put, in large capital letters:


My customers have long appreciated that kind of extraneous (competitive) information.

Oh, by the way, before I left that informative Gatekeeper I asked about the person who was on LinkedIn listed at that company as “sales.”

He’s been gone a long time,” is all she said.

re-posted with permission from

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