Become The Exception: Prospecting Preliminaries, Part 1 | TravelResearchOnline

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Become The Exception: Prospecting Preliminaries, Part 1

So you have decided to go into business. Congratulations! For the sake of an example, let’s say you have decided to start a travel agency.

You heard that business travel could supply a consistent flow of clients, so you want to go out and sign up a few good accounts. Most people in your position, I’m sorry to say, would hire an outside salesperson and say, “There are millions of companies out there who travel for business purposes and who need our services. Don’t come back without a bunch of new clients.”

This is a mistake. The deck is shuffled. Most people get so excited about their new venture they just jump in the water head-first and wonder what happened within a year or two. Let’s do a little walking before we break into a run.

If you worked for me, the first two weeks you would be at your desk or in the library creating a game plan so you would know exactly what we wanted to achieve every step along the way.

Click here to grab your own copy of "Become the Exception"

Click here to grab your own copy of “Become the Exception”

Divide And Conquer

The first step would be to outline a logical sales territory. Let’s go to school by learning from a couple of the more successful companies. Take a look at IBM and Xerox. They have zone managers, territory managers, divisional managers, and national managers. They break down the country into saleable sections. They cut the whole pie into pieces.

Small business owners fail to see the logic of this simple yet winning strategy of “Divide and Conquer.” They insist on trying to be all things to all people… everywhere. When I ask travel agents in my sales seminars, “Where’s your territory?” they answer “New Jersey” or “Illinois” or “My territory? It’s anywhere I can find a client.”

If you’re going to be successful and your territory is “everywhere”, then you better be able to tell me everything about “everywhere.” Say you think your territory is New Jersey, and I ask, “How many corporate accounts are there in New Jersey?” You answer “Thousands.” That doesn’t tell me anything. That doesn’t give me any confidence that you are on top of things.

Let me explain what I’m driving at from a different angle: If you’re playing basketball, you are playing the game “on the court.” Football players play football “on the field.” Clearly visible white lines mark out-of-bounds from the actual playing surface. You need to be on the field or on the court to be in the game. The same is true in ice hockey. You need to be on the ice to be playing hockey. If you are not on the ice, you are watching hockey.

Salespeople, to be effective, also need a well defined arena, a court, a field of play. In the game of sales, this is called a territory. And until you know exactly where your defined territory is, you cannot begin to create an effective prospecting and sales system.

Get this as straight as you can, as early as you can. You can’t go out and sell everywhere effectively. Your brain can’t comprehend “everywhere,” so you will fail to systematically prospect what really should be your territory. Instead, you will eventually short-circuit with sales overload and become another statistic on the “former salesperson” chart (the fastest growing chart in American history).

The solution is easy: Define your selling territory. Start defining it as it relates to your specific place of business. In our travel agency example, your territory may be a set distance around your office from where your “product” is distributed.

Think small in the beginning. A mile from your business might be a good starting point. I know what you’re thinking, “I already have accounts five miles away. Why should I be confined to such a small area? There is action out there, and I want my piece of it.” That’s fine. Keep ‘em. But I still want you to define and start developing a territory one mile from your primary location. Trust me. This is the only way to do it.

Once you define your territory, make it your business to know what’s in that area. Let me ask you a question: Do you now know where every business office is within your one-mile territory? Have you called every one? Are there any new startups which could be insulated or hidden? Is there a new suite of offices in your territory with twenty-five guys who could use your product by the ton?

My point is this: There are many of these “little gold mines” near your office that you are not presently aware of. (Often they don’t look like prospects… until they become clients.)

Why be concerned locally? Because all things being equal, if your business is equal to the competition in every other way, the single factor that separates you from the rat pack is your proximity to the prospect’s front door.

Once you have defined the territory, two challenges common to start-up business efforts must be faced head-on immediately. The first one I call your “Awareness Factor.” Simply put, not enough people beyond the confines of your immediate family and friends know that you are alive. You are just another Yellow Page line paying rent down on Main Street.

Your second problem negatively affecting your future eating habits is that once prospects know you are alive, they don’t (yet) have a single reason to choose you as a provider of goods and services.

Your objectives just became clear. You have to make sure more people know you are alive, and then you have to give them plenty of reasons to want to do business with you. Once you realize the importance of this last sentence, the game becomes fun, and you will be in for the ride of your life.


Mike presents a business-building webinar on the third Thursday of every month sponsored by AmaWaterways. To receive monthly invitations send Mike an email with the words “business training” in the Subject Box. You will also receive a link to the recorded version.

For information on Mike’s Fourth Annual Training Cruise, email Mike at mike@mikemarchev.com with the word “cruise” in the subject box.
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