It’s well known good practice to do your research before you meet with a potential customer. Spending some time understanding them so you can have a decent conversation with them when you meet goes a long way and shows you’re serious about them. The question is: how much is too much?
When selling in education, I worked with a guy for several years who made a point of researching the schools we were due to meet with; he wanted to come across as a ‘trusted advisor’ as opposed to a sales person. However, he would take it far too far and spend the meeting quoting their school motto at them, discussing their school trips and questioning their exam results; they didn’t feel like he had done his research, they felt like they were being stalked! It ended up having the opposite effect and the staff would become suspicious and back away – it rarely ended in a successful sale.
Your customers don’t expect you to be an expert on their business – they expect you to be an expert on your own business. The better way to approach things is to do your research to get some background information and then ask the meaningful questions when you meet. Be curious about your customer and their challenges; listen to their needs and discuss how your business will meet them. Go too far and you’ll just end up giving them the creeps.