Monday, April 27, 2009

What Are You Really Looking For?

One of the first things you’ll need to do in order to set up an effective prospecting system is clearly identify your goals. When you look for new prospects, exactly who do you want to find? It’s not enough just to find new prospects; they have to be the right kind of prospect. For instance, does the prospect need to be Sales Ready? Efficient prospecting means that based on your criteria, you can:

• find all the qualified prospects in your territory

• prioritize them, based on any criteria you want to select

• introduce your company and your services

• make a great first impression

If you don’t have clearly defined goals when you begin your prospecting activities you’re likely to attract the wrong types of prospects and never develop the contacts that would have been truly valuable. If it isn’t going to expand your business in a high quality manner, if it isn’t going to maximize your income, it simply isn’t worth your time and effort. As Steven Covey would say: begin with the end in mind. (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Steven R. Covey Free Press; 15th Anniversary edition (November 9, 2004) pg. 95)

As I’ve indicated before, one of the best places to start any prospecting effort is from wherever you are right now. It’s that first step beyond the status quo that will determine where you will find yourself 90 days or 90 months from now.

Begin by making sure you deliver the right marketing message. What is your brand? Why should customers do business with you rather than your competition? Make sure you, and everyone else in your company, understand the answers to the “W” and “H” questions your English teacher was so fond of. Can you accurately identify: who you want to attract, what you expect them to buy, why you are the most qualified business to provide this service, the when and where goals of timing, and lastly, how you will present this information to a Highly Qualified Prospect. Remember, part of what creates a Highly Qualified Prospect is the understanding that the client and the business are well-suited to each other and ready to work productively together.

Next, look at your existing clients once again. We have discussed the prospecting efforts you can consider within your known pool of clients that will help generate additional sales revenues and strengthen those relationships. Let’s investigate this even further. What have you learned about your clients? What kind of information do you keep on file about them? If you haven’t done so already, take the time to at least create a complete spreadsheet of your current customer information. You are looking for trends and patterns, both good and bad.

Here are some of the things to consider:


Number of employees

Type of business

Geographic scope of business

Revenue levels

Growth trends

Purchase patterns

Previous sales encounters

Don’t forget to include “Business Friendly” traits such as:

Easy to work with

Pays on time

Amount of credit approved for

Understand and values your services

These may not seem quite so pertinent at the moment, but they make a big difference down the road by creating a productive and satisfying work atmosphere. During this exercise you are likely to discover (or automatically thought of) that one certain customer who, no matter how much you nurture the relationship, makes everyone they deal with in your company miserable. Retaining or attracting clients who do not value you rarely leads to a satisfying end; monetarily or personally. If you can identify the factors surrounding these unfortunate business relationships they are easier to avoid when you are seriously looking for prospects who are true Wanters.

Now, set your parameters. If you could wave a magic wand and produce the ideal client for your business, what would they be like? Take what you know about your business, your goals, and your current client base. Then, don’t be afraid to make concrete statements. You want to clearly understand both angles. Identify what both the client and business will bring to the table. What should ultimately result from your relationship?

Of course, ideal customers do not magically appear. But, when you have defined your parameters, and gauged your prospecting accordingly, you’re on the right track. If you can define the demographics and traits of your “best clients” you can use that information as the criteria for putting your prospect list together. The results of your prospecting efforts are going to be much closer to Prince Charming relationships rather than blind dates worthy of the horror hall of fame.

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