Sourcing for Customers

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?”

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“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.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


5 Comments on “Sourcing for Customers

  1. All hail Maureen, Queen of Sourcing!!!!! I love it! Keep up the great work and the stories. I wish there was a ‘Golden Headset’ award.

  2. Canada is a big largely empty place. It divides up like this.

    West Coast – British Columbia
    California Lite. Warmest place in Canada in the south of the province. All forestry and mining up north. Fruit in the Okanagan Valley

    For sales jobs it is often combined with Alberta or even Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

    Alberta – is part prairie province and part Texas.
    It’s our “oil patch”. That’s made it rich. Otherwise it’s wheat farms. Home of the Calgary Stampede, a big annual rodeo

    Saskatchewan – prairie province – wheat – 1 million population – 35 below all the month of January

    Manitoba – prairie province – gateway to the west

    Sometimes one sales territory will cover all of the prairie provinces. It depends on the industry. There are industrial supply stores with outside sales reps in every community.

    Ontario – heart of English Canada

    Bay St in Toronto is our Wall St.

    All of the manufacturing used to be here but it’s out in China now.

    Big mining province. Fruit farms in the Niagara region near Buffalo.

    100 miles north of the US border it gets rocky. Lots of mining up there.

    Everyone else in Canada seems to hate Toronto. Don’t know why? Jealous of seat of power, I guess.

    Ontario used to be called Upper Canada (for real). Toronto used to be called Hogtown. Apparently, it used to be a very dull place until the 1960s. Now it’s full of itself being a cosmopolitan world class city.

    It is growing but it’s going downhill.


    French country inside an English one. They have never been happy in Canada since France dumped them. The Americans wanted Quebec to join the war of independence. Doubt it would have become part of the USA.

    Big dairy industry. Used to be very religious. Not any more.

    New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island.

    PEI – home of potatoes. tiny island

    Nova Scotia – the Acadians got kicked out of here and became the Cajuns in Louisiana, another once French colony

    The maritimes used to be fishing provinces but the cod stocks were fished out. I don’t know what they do now. Farming. Logged out.

    Canada’s hillbillies. Used to be a fishing province. Everyone lived in small isolated bays. Now they have offshore oil. Joined in 1949 so they could get pogey (welfare). Many people live part of the year on unemployment insurance. Lots of Irish stock here. Called The Rock.

    Quebec sales reps often handle the maritimes as well. Or you have a Quebec rep and one handling all of the maritimes.

  3. Animal, I learned more in that post about Canada than I’ve ever known about the country before. Thanks for the lesson, very informative.

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