Over the past several months, I have received e-mails from readers who are starting to make introductory calls. They ask how they can pinpoint whom to call. They are really asking two questions. The questions are: "Who should I call?" and "Who is most likely to buy?"
Part of sales is simply numbers. If you open the telephone book at random and simply start dialing, if you stay at it long enough, eventually, you will reach someone who will say "yes." This would take a long time and not be particularly productive— but it would happen.
A better approach is to create an "ideal customer profile." And here you need to be very specific. You are creating the model to which you will match all of your prospects. I call this "prequalifying." The more specific you are, the easier it will be to find the best prospects—the ones who are most likely to buy. Look at all the demographics; location, revenues, number of employees or specific industries. If you are in the consumer market, look at age, income level, interests...
If you've been in business for a while, take a look at your top 10 customers. Plot out what they have in common. Look for similarities—you can assume that businesses that are similar might also need your products or services. What are the industries? Do the decision-makers have similar titles? Take the time to fully break down all of the similarities in your customer base. The more clearly you can define your potential customers, the easier it will be to find them.
Another good place to look when creating your "ideal customer profile" is at your competition, because your competition's customers are potentially your customers as well. Call your competition and ask for their marketing materials or visit their web site. Generally, these will list past and/or current customers. You can analyze this list in the same manner that you analyzed your customer list.
Look also at why your customers buy your products and/or services and why they buy from you. Understanding the need and understanding the benefits to your potential customers will go a long way to help you target whom to call.
Once you have your "ideal customer profile" (and by the way—you could have several different "ideal customer profiles"), go to the library and tell the librarian exactly what you are looking for. She should be able to tell you exactly where to find lists of prospects—for free. At the library, they have association directories, trade journals, business directories…
Also, join associations in related industries where you might find prospects. This will provide you with valuable networking opportunities along with a membership directory. If you do not want to join an association, contact them anyway—sometimes they sell membership directories. You can do the same thing with trade publications in related industries. They sometimes sell subscriber lists. Your local chamber of commerce is also a good place to look for leads.
Lists of prospects are everywhere. All you need to begin is the company name and main telephone number. Everything else—the name of the decision-maker, the correct company address, etc.—you can find out in your telephone call.
Once you have your list, divide your leads into "A," "B" and "C" according to the priority you give them—"A" being highest priority and "C" the lowest. You can move leads from list to list as you gather new information. Concentrate on your "A" leads. They are the ones with the most potential. If, however, you are a beginner, are not yet comfortable and/or are trying out a new approach, start with your "C" list. It will be low priority, low anxiety, and you will get some practice and more than likely some "yes's."