3x3 research 101: What it is & how it can transform personalization in prospecting

Rocco Savage
July 7, 2024
 min read


Ever felt like you’re drowning in a sea of potential leads, wondering how to make meaningful connections without spending all day doing it? If so, 3x3 research is going to be your life raft.

At a high level, 3x3 research is a strategic approach to prospect research that allows sellers to quickly gather valuable insights that they can use to craft highly personalized outreach. This method involves spending three minutes to find three key pieces of information about a prospect. By adopting this technique, reps can enhance their prospecting efforts and create more meaningful connections with potential customers.

Key takeaways from the article:

  • Personalized outreach, every time: This method helps you connect more meaningfully with prospects, identify potential pain points, and build rapport faster. Do it right and you’ll likely see higher response rates and more productive initial conversations.
  • Simple process, major results: We’ll walk you through a very simple seven-step process for conducting solid 3x3 research on prospects. We’ll also share recommendations for the types of information to focus on, as well as key data sources you should use. 
  • Measuring impact: Keep an eye on metrics like response rates, meeting bookings, and time saved. This data will help you refine your approach and prove the value of your 3x3 efforts.
  • Benefits & challenges: The 3x3 method boosts efficiency and improves personalization, but be prepared for some time pressure and the challenge of determining which info is most valuable. Like any skill, it gets easier with practice.
  • How AI can help: AI can be an absolute game-changer in this arena: it can gather and analyze data at lightning speed, provide smart insights, and even help craft personalized outreach. When used right, it can be a powerful tool to help you personalize your outreach at scale.

Whether you're a seasoned seller or you’re new to the game, we've all wrestled with the challenge of personalizing outreach without spending all day (or all week) doing it. 

It's like being a chef in a busy restaurant, trying to craft gourmet meals at fast-food speeds. Tricky? YES, Chef! But with the right recipe, it's completely doable.

Enter 3x3 research: a powerful approach to prospect research that’s an invaluable tool in any seller’s arsenal. As the sales landscape becomes increasingly competitive, the ability to quickly connect with prospects on a personal level can make all the difference. The 3x3 research method offers a structured approach to achieve this goal without sacrificing precious time.

If you’re just starting out in sales, this technique might be unfamiliar, but don't worry: we’ll tell you everything you need to know in this article. 

If you’re a seasoned seller, you're likely already very, very familiar with this method; that said, a little refresher never hurt anyone, and brushing up on the basics can often uncover new insights or practices you can incorporate into your day-to-day workflows. 

Regardless of where you are in your career, feel free to use the table of contents to the left to bounce around to the topics you want to brush up on the most.

Let’s dive in to learn how 3x3 research can transform how you personalize your outreach.

What is “3x3 research”?

The 3x3 research method was originally coined by Steve Richard, co-founder of Vorsight and SVP of revenue enablement at Mediafly. It's one we use quite a bit internally at Regie.ai; the gist is that it provides a more structured approach to prospect research, in which reps devote only three minutes to finding three key pieces of information about a prospect. This focused strategy allows reps to quickly gather valuable insights without getting lost in endless research.

By setting clear boundaries on time and the volume of information gathered, the 3x3 research method is designed to prevent sellers from falling into “analysis paralysis” and ensures that they can move swiftly from research to outreach. 

It's a practical solution to the age-old problem of balancing thoroughness with efficiency when trying to personalize outreach.

How does 3x3 research help with sales prospecting?

The 3x3 research approach significantly enhances prospecting efforts by enabling reps to create more meaningful connections with potential customers. Let's dive deeper into how this method elevates the prospecting process:

  • Personalize outreach with relevant context: The 3x3 method allows reps to tailor their initial contact in a way that resonates deeply with each prospect. By uncovering specific details about the prospect or their company, reps can craft messages that speak directly to the prospect's situation, interests, or challenges. This personalization helps cut through the noise of generic outreach, increasing the likelihood of capturing the prospect's attention. Example: Instead of a generic "I hope this email finds you well," a rep might open with, "I noticed your company recently expanded into the Asian market - congratulations on this exciting move!"
  • Demonstrate genuine interest in the prospect: By investing time to research each prospect, reps are able to clearly show that contact that they value the potential relationship. This demonstrated interest can set them apart from competitors who use a one-size-fits-all approach. It signals to the prospect that the rep is prepared and serious about providing value, not just making a quick sale. Example: A rep might mention, "I read your recent article on sustainable manufacturing practices - your insights on reducing carbon footprint were particularly intriguing."
  • Identify potential pain points or opportunities: The focused research often uncovers challenges the prospect's company might be facing or areas where they're looking to grow. This insight allows reps to position their product or service as a solution to these specific issues or as a means to capitalize on particular opportunities. Example: If a rep discovers that a prospect's company is struggling with supply chain inefficiencies, they can tailor their pitch to address how their solution could streamline operations.
  • Build rapport more quickly during initial conversations: Armed with relevant information, reps can establish common ground faster, leading to more natural and engaging conversations. This rapport-building can help overcome the initial skepticism prospects often have towards sales outreach. Example: A rep might find that they share an alma mater with the prospect, providing an immediate point of connection.
  • Increase response rates: It’s been shown time and time again that personalized outreach typically yields higher response rates compared to generic messages. Prospects are more likely to engage when they feel the communication is specifically relevant to them.
  • Improve qualification process: The insights that reps gather can help them better qualify prospects early in the process. By understanding the prospect's current situation, reps can more accurately assess whether their solution is a good fit, saving time for both parties.
  • Enhance the value of initial conversations: When prospects do respond, the conversation can immediately dive into relevant topics rather than spending time on basic discovery. This makes the initial interaction more valuable and productive for both the rep and the prospect.
  • Facilitate more targeted follow-ups: If the initial outreach doesn't receive a response, the information gathered can inform more focused and relevant follow-up attempts, increasing the chances of eventually connecting with the prospect.
  • Support a consultative selling approach: The 3x3 method aligns well with consultative selling techniques. By starting with a solid understanding of the prospect's context, reps can position themselves as knowledgeable advisors rather than just product pushers.
  • Improve efficiency of the overall sales process: While the 3x3 method requires an upfront time investment, it often leads to more efficient overall processes. By focusing on well-researched, high-potential prospects, reps can avoid wasting time on poorly-suited leads.

By leveraging the 3x3 method, reps can transform their prospecting from a numbers game into a more strategic, targeted approach. This not only improves immediate results in terms of response rates and meeting bookings, but also sets the foundation for stronger, more productive relationships with potential customers. The key is using the gathered information judiciously to create genuine connections and demonstrate real value to prospects.


How to conduct good 3x3 research that delivers results

Now that we understand the “what” and “why” of the 3x3 method, let's cover the “how.” Effective implementation of this approach requires a strategic mindset and disciplined execution. 

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty of making this 3x3 process work for you. It isn’t rocket science, but a little structure goes a long way. We've broken down the process into seven manageable steps:

  1. Set a timer for 3 minutes. 
  2. Choose your research sources.
  3. Start scanning for relevant information. 
  4. Note down 3 key insights as you go. 
  5. Review and refine (if time allows).
  6. Stop when the timer rings. 
  7. Organize findings for easy reference. 

Let's dive into these steps in more detail.

Step #1: Set a timer for 3 minutes. 

This time constraint is crucial - it forces you to focus and prevents you from falling into research rabbit holes. Remember, the goal is quick, actionable insights, not an extensive biography.

Step #2: Choose your research sources. 

Before the timer starts, have your go-to research sources ready. Prioritize 2-3 reliable sources like LinkedIn, the company website, and a recent news search. Having these prepared in advance saves precious seconds once the clock is ticking.

Step #3: Start scanning for relevant information. 

As soon as you start the timer, begin your rapid-fire research. Skim through your chosen sources, looking for standout information. Focus on recent activities, notable achievements, or anything that could be a potential conversation starter or pain point.

Step #4: Note down 3 key insights as you go. 

Technically, this should be happening in parallel as you scan for information, but we felt that this activity was important enough to have its own callout. 

As you scan, jot down the most impactful pieces of information you come across. Aim for a mix of professional and personal insights. For example, a recent company announcement, a career milestone, and a shared interest or connection. Keep it to three points max; quality over quantity is key here.

Step #5: Review and refine (if time allows). 

If you have a few seconds left, quickly review your notes. Ensure they're clear, relevant, and truly the most impactful points you've found. If not, use these last moments to refine or replace any weak insights.

Step #6: Stop when the timer rings. 

When the 3 minutes are up, stop immediately. We know: it feels like another “duh” step, but once you get into the zone, it can be hard to stop. Resist the urge to continue researching - trust that you've captured the most important information in the allotted time.

Step #7: Organize findings for easy reference. 

Once you’re done, take some time to organize your findings in an easily referenceable format. This could be bullet points in your CRM or a structured note in your prospecting tool. The goal is to have these insights readily available when you're crafting your outreach or on a call.

Remember, the 3x3 method is about working smarter, not harder. By sticking to this disciplined approach, you'll strike the perfect balance between personalization and efficiency when generating content for your outreach. With practice, you'll find yourself becoming more efficient and effective in extracting high-value insights in just three minutes.

What types of information should you include in 3x3 research?

Remember: the goal of 3x3 research is to find information that allows you to connect on a deeper level and demonstrate that you've done your homework. This approach shows genuine interest and sets the foundation for a meaningful conversation.

By focusing on the categories below, you'll be able to gather a mix of professional and personal insights that can help you craft compelling, personalized outreach. 

Company’s business goals

This can include:

  • Core values and/or mission statement;
  • Cost-reduction or efficiency programs;
  • Customer experience improvement efforts;
  • Digital transformation initiatives;
  • Growth plans or expansion strategies;
  • Stated company objectives; and,
  • Sustainability or corporate social responsibility goals.

Company news

This can include:

  • Awards or recognitions;
  • Changes in leadership or organizational structure;
  • Company blog posts or whitepapers;
  • Expansion into new markets or territories;
  • Funding rounds or financial performance;
  • M&A news;
  • Participation in recent industry events or trade shows;
  • Partnerships or collaborations;
  • Product launches or updates;
  • Recent job postings;
  • Relevant press releases; and,
  • Sister portfolio companies (if applicable).

Company and/or industry pain points

This can include:

  • Challenges mentioned in interviews or articles;
  • Competitive pressures or market share concerns;
  • Customer feedback and reviews;
  • Inefficiencies in their current processes;
  • Issues facing their specific industry or market; and,
  • Talent acquisition or retention difficulties.

Industry trends

This can include:

  • Competitive landscape changes;
  • Emerging technologies in the field;
  • Market shifts or disruptions;
  • Regulatory changes affecting the industry;
  • Sector-specific challenges; and,
  • Sustainability or Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG) initiatives.

Prospect’s professional background

This can include:

  • Career progression within the company;
  • Certifications or specialized training; and,
  • Current projects and/or initiatives they’re working on;
  • Current role and responsibilities;
  • Educational background;
  • Notable projects or achievements;
  • Previous positions and companies;
  • Promotions or other career advancements;
  • Published articles or thought leadership pieces;
  • Speaking engagements at industry events; and,
  • Work anniversaries.

Prospect’s personal interests

This can include:

  1. Group and/or association affiliations;
  2. Hobbies or extracurricular activities mentioned in their profiles;
  3. Schools they’ve attended or sports teams they support;
  4. Shared connections or mutual acquaintances;
  5. Social media activity (LinkedIn posts, Twitter threads); and,
  6. Volunteer work or causes they support.

By focusing on these categories, you'll be able to gather a mix of professional and personal insights that can help you craft a compelling, personalized outreach message.

What types of data sources should you use for 3x3 research?

To make the most of your three minutes, it's important to know where to look. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some valuable sources of information where you can get started:

  • Annual reports
  • Company websites and blogs
  • Company’s competitor websites
  • Company's customer case studies
  • CRM
  • Crunchbase, ZoomInfo, or similar databases
  • Glassdoor and other employee review sites
  • Google News search
  • Industry news sites, publications, and podcasts
  • Industry-specific forums or communities
  • LinkedIn profiles and company pages
  • Local business journals
  • Patents and trademark databases
  • Press releases and financial reports
  • Professional networking events or conference speaker lists
  • SEC filings (for public companies)
  • Social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.)

Each of these sources can provide unique insights. For instance, LinkedIn might offer career information, while a company's press releases could reveal recent achievements or strategic directions. The key is to quickly identify which sources are most likely to yield relevant information for your specific prospect and focus your efforts there during your three-minute research sprint.

Remember, the goal isn't to exhaust all these sources in one session, but to know where to look for the most impactful information efficiently. Over time, you'll develop a sense of which sources tend to be most valuable for different types of prospects or industries.


How to measure the impact of your 3x3 research

After you conduct your 3x3 research and use that information to craft personalized outreach, it's crucial to assess its impact on your prospecting efforts.

Below, we’ve provided a list of key metrics to monitor, along with details on how to measure and interpret them. 

  1. Response rates to personalized outreach:
    1. Track the percentage of prospects who respond to your initial outreach.
    2. Compare this to your response rates before implementing the 3x3 method.
    3. Look for an uplift in responses, indicating that your personalized approach is resonating.
  2. Conversation quality and engagement levels:
    1. If you’re able to book meetings with prospects, use call recording software to analyze the quality of your conversations
    2. Look for indicators like longer call durations, more interactive discussions, and fewer objections.
    3. Track how often prospects mention the personalized information you included in your outreach.
  3. Meeting booking rates:
    1. Calculate the percentage of prospects who agree to a meeting after your initial outreach.
    2. Compare this to your pre-3x3 method booking rates.
    3. A higher booking rate suggests that your personalized approach is creating more interest and trust.
  4. Conversion rates from prospect to qualified lead:
    1. Monitor how many of your 3x3-researched prospects convert into qualified leads.
    2. Compare this to your standard qualification rate.
    3. Higher conversion rates indicate that the 3x3 method is helping you target more relevant prospects.
  5. Time saved compared to more extensive research methods:
    1. Track the time spent on prospect research before and after implementing the 3x3 method.
    2. Calculate the time savings and translate this into potential additional prospecting activities or calls made.
    3. This metric can help justify the use of the 3x3 method to management.
  6. Positive feedback from prospects on personalized approach:
    1. Keep a log of prospect comments that specifically mention your personalized approach.
    2. Use post-call surveys to gather feedback on the relevance and value of your outreach.
    3. This qualitative data can provide insights into what aspects of your 3x3 research are most impactful.
  7. Sales cycle length:
    1. Measure the average time it takes to close a deal with prospects approached using the 3x3 method.
    2. Compare this to your standard sales cycle length.
    3. A shorter sales cycle could indicate that the 3x3 method is helping you build trust and relevance faster.
  8. Quality of sales pipeline:
    1. Assess the overall quality of opportunities in your pipeline generated through 3x3 research.
    2. Look at factors like deal size, close probability, and alignment with ideal customer profile.
    3. A higher quality pipeline suggests that the 3x3 method is helping you target more valuable prospects.
  9. Return on time invested (ROTI):
    1. Calculate the revenue generated from prospects approached with the 3x3 method versus the time invested.
    2. Compare this to your ROTI from traditional prospecting methods.
    3. This metric can help you quantify the value of the 3x3 approach in financial terms.
  10. Adoption rate among team members:
    1. If you're implementing this across a team, track how many reps are consistently using the 3x3 method.
    2. Look for correlations between adoption rates and individual performance metrics.
    3. High adoption rates coupled with improved performance can validate the effectiveness of the method.

By monitoring these metrics, you can gauge the effectiveness of your 3x3 research and make data-driven decisions to refine your approach over time. Remember to establish a baseline before implementing the 3x3 method so you can accurately measure its impact. Also, consider creating a dashboard that tracks your KPIs over time, allowing you to visualize trends and quickly identify areas for improvement.

Ultimately, the goal is to prove that this targeted, efficient research method is driving meaningful improvements in your prospecting efforts and contributing to your overall sales success.

What are the benefits of using the 3x3 framework for prospect research?

There are a number of advantages to leveraging the 3x3 method in your prospect research; these include:

  • Increased efficiency: The 3x3 method limits research time to prevent over-preparation. This allows reps to maintain a high volume of outreach while still personalizing their approach. By setting a strict time limit, reps avoid falling into the trap of excessive research that doesn't translate to better results.
  • Improved personalization: By focusing on finding three key pieces of information, reps can tailor their outreach more effectively. This targeted approach allows for more relevant and engaging initial conversations, increasing the chances of capturing the prospect's interest.
  • Better time management: The method creates a clear structure for balancing research with actual prospecting activities. Reps can confidently allocate time to research knowing it won't eat into their core selling activities. This balance often leads to more productive workdays and higher overall output.
  • Enhanced confidence: Armed with relevant talking points, reps enter conversations feeling more prepared and self-assured. This confidence often translates into more natural, flowing conversations that put prospects at ease and build trust more quickly.
  • Higher quality conversations: The focused research enables more meaningful initial interactions. Reps can ask more insightful questions and provide more relevant information, leading to deeper, more productive discussions from the outset.
  • Consistency across team members: By adopting a standardized approach to research, teams can ensure a more uniform quality of outreach across all reps. This consistency can lead to more predictable results and easier performance benchmarking.
  • Easier scaling of prospecting efforts: The structured nature of the 3x3 method makes it easier to scale prospecting activities. As the process is clear and repeatable, it's simpler to train new team members and maintain quality as the team grows.

What are the challenges of using the 3x3 framework for prospect research?

As with any sales technique, there are some challenges associated with leveraging a 3x3 approach to prospect research; they include:

  • Time pressure: The 3-minute time constraint may feel rushed for some reps, especially when they're first adopting the method. There's a risk of feeling pressured to find information quickly, which could lead to overlooking valuable insights.
  • Information overload: With limited time, determining which three pieces of information are most valuable can be challenging. Reps might struggle to prioritize between different types of insights, potentially missing crucial information.
  • Consistency: Maintaining the discipline to follow the method for every prospect can be difficult, especially during busy periods. There may be a temptation to skip the research for some prospects or to extend beyond the 3-minute limit for others.
  • Relevance: Ensuring that the gathered information is truly useful for outreach isn't always straightforward. Reps might focus on interesting but ultimately irrelevant details, reducing the effectiveness of their personalization efforts.
  • Depth vs. breadth: Balancing surface-level insights with deeper understanding can be tricky within the time constraint. There's a risk of gathering shallow information that doesn't provide genuine value to the conversation.
  • Over-reliance on certain sources: Reps might fall into the habit of always using the same information sources, potentially missing out on valuable insights from other channels.
  • Avoiding assumptions: With limited information, there's a risk of making incorrect assumptions about the prospect or their situation. Reps need to be careful not to over-interpret the limited data they gather.
  • Keeping information current: In fast-moving industries, information can quickly become outdated. Reps need to ensure they're accessing the most recent and relevant information within their 3-minute window.
  • Balancing personalization with authenticity: While personalization is valuable, there's a risk of coming across as insincere if the gathered information is used too heavy-handedly. Reps need to find a natural way to incorporate their insights into the conversation.
  • Measuring effectiveness: It can be challenging to directly attribute success to the 3x3 method, as it's just one part of the overall sales process. Developing meaningful metrics to assess its impact requires careful consideration.

By understanding and addressing these benefits and challenges, sellers can maximize the effectiveness of the 3x3 research method, leading to more productive prospecting and, ultimately, better sales outcomes.


How AI can streamline 3x3 research for you

It’s time we address the elephant in the room: we know how important personalization is in sales, but that also doesn’t cancel out the fact that doing this level of 1:1 customization of our sales messages and outreach can be extremely – almost prohibitively – time consuming, especially at scale. Manually personalizing outreach for hundreds – or even thousands – of prospects isn't just daunting: it's often impossible. 

This is where AI steps in as a game-changer for your 3x3 research process.

Here's how AI can transform your prospecting efforts:

  • Lightning-fast data gathering: AI can analyze tons of data in mere seconds, pulling relevant information from multiple sources. It also can identify the most pertinent details, saving you from information overload.
  • Intelligent insights: AI doesn't just collect data—it analyzes it, providing you with actionable insights. It also can spot trends and connections that might not be immediately obvious to human researchers.
  • Consistent quality: AI maintains a high standard of research quality across all prospects, eliminating human fatigue or oversight.
  • Scalability: Whether you're reaching out to 10 prospects or 10,000, AI can handle the volume without breaking a sweat.
  • Time savings: What might take you hours can be accomplished by AI in minutes, freeing you up for high-value activities.
  • Personalized outreach generation: Beyond research, AI can craft personalized messages based on the gathered insights. This ensures your outreach is always relevant and tailored to each prospect.

Platforms like Regie.ai’s Auto-Pilot take this further by not only fully automating the entire research process, but also by using the information to generate highly personalized outreach and even sending it to prospects using dynamic sequencing.

Crazy, right?

By leveraging AI for your 3x3 research, you aren't just saving time: you're supercharging your entire prospecting process. You get the benefits of deep personalization without the time sink, allowing you to focus on what you do best: connecting with prospects and driving deals forward.

Final thoughts

The 3x3 research method offers a powerful framework for balancing personalization and efficiency in your prospecting efforts. By adopting this approach – and potentially leveraging AI tools to enhance it – you can significantly improve your outreach effectiveness and overall sales performance.

Remember, the key is consistency: make the 3x3 method a habit, and you'll soon see the benefits in your results. And don't be afraid to iterate and refine your process; what works best for one industry or target audience will likely not work for another. Over time, you may also discover your own version of the methodology that works best for your needs and goals. This research methodology is flexible, so don’t be afraid to make tweaks as you see fit.

Now go forth and prospect with precision and purpose!

Want to see how Regie.ai streamlines the entire 3x3 research process for you?

Check out the demo video in our Value Corner!

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Regie.ai's AI Sales Agents can do 3x3 research for you - and oh so much more.

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