Systematically Identifying New Prospects

By Dave Kahle

Your business, like every other one, needs a constant stream of new customers if it is going to remain viable.  The constant churn in the market place means that some of your customers will be acquired and others will go out of business.  Unless regularly replaced by new customers, your business will inevitably dwindle. If you are going to thrive, you must replace and add to them.

Which brings us to the need for prospecting.  As you know, “prospecting” refers to the front end of the sales process.  It is the necessary process of identifying companies and institutions who could buy your products, and then arranging a first appointment with them.  As with every other stage of the sales process, there are ways to do this better than others.

In today’s economy, it is not just about identifying a prospect, it is about identifying a prospect who is likely to buy.  The quality of this first step can be a key determinant in your long-term success, as it will keep you focused on those who are most likely to buy.  The more information you can obtain about a prospect, and the closer you bring him/her to doing business with you in the early stages of the relationship, the further ahead you are in the process.


Here’s a two-step process to jump start your efforts:

Step One:  Buy a list.  This is so simple and so obvious, yet I’m amazed at how relatively few people do this.  Study your best current customers and develop a profile of how they look.  How many employees?  What SIC codes?  Any geographical demographics?  Who are their customers?  Once you have a profile in place, go to the Internet or the yellow pages and look up “mailing list brokers.”  Call two or three, tell them what you are looking for and ask them to quote you for the count and cost for a list that includes the name, address, phone number and employee size of the businesses that meet your criteria.  For anywhere from $.20 – $1.50 per name, you can obtain a list of those companies who look the most like your good customers.  That’s a great way to start.

Step Two:  Offer an “enticer” to sell to your prospect list.  An enticer is an offer for something they are probably currently buying which is such a good offer they can’t refuse.  For example, if a certain type of imprinted pen is going for $.55 each, offer them a one-time purchase at $.25.  Yes, I know that you’ll lose money on the deal.  But I also know that if someone takes you up on it, you will have moved the sales process considerably forward.  You will be on their computer vendor list, you will have a reason to call on them, and they will be predisposed to spending some time with you.  In other words, you will have lost a little money and gained a customer for it.  Think of it as buying a customer.  How much is one worth?  The few dollars you lose on an initial order is a bargain.

this simple two-step process and in a matter of a few weeks, you’ll have a handful of high-potential prospects who are open to doing business with you.

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