Yesterday, I wrote about some online research techniques. If you want to get even more specific with your research, talk to people within the company. Jeffrey Gitomer mentions that one of the best ways to get information about a company is to talk to the sales department because sales people love to talk. Set up a casual meeting, buy them a beer, and get all sorts of inside information about how the company thinks its fortunes are going, whether or not they've recently had a very successful or a failed launch of something else, what their priorities and goals are, and so forth.
You can also talk to the sales team about other leaders and influencers in the company. Very few people in large companies operate as solo players, and you have to understand how each person fits into the team and who else is going to be part of the decision-making process.
Once you know who the other players are, you can go home and use your research skills to find out more about them. Look them up on Google and visit their social media profiles (particularly LinkedIn and Twitter). You can learn so much about people’s personalities and values and what they’re famous for inside and outside of the organization by looking at their social media pages. How do they self-style themselves? The persona they put out to the marketplace can provide insight into how you might approach them during your first meeting.