You must be realistic when creating a prospecting game plan. If you create an overly ambitious plan that will cost an arm and a leg, it’s not going to work (unless you were smart enough to cash in your Internet stocks at the top). So your plan has to fit your budgetary constraints.
Time is another issue. You have little league games, on-call chauffeuring duties for the kids, church functions, and other personal commitments. You want to get ahead, but you don’t want to put yourself in the bondage of sixty to seventy hour workweeks. The system I am going to outline can fit into any time constraint and still work for you.
Let’s put a ribbon on this territory thing by citing one last example. Say we just opened a flower shop on the upper east side of New York City on 76th Street and Third Avenue. We are as excited as two people can be. I’m the flower arranger, and you are my only salesperson. After we open up and toast our success, I send you almost eighty blocks away down to Wall Street to sell flowers. Does that make sense? Of course not. In New York City, every two blocks has a shop where you can buy a bouquet of flowers. Every two block square has a drug store, a grocery store, a liquor store, etc. Every two block square has everything you could ever need. The shop owners in New York City are smart enough to realize that their territory is two blocks… and that is a big enough territory because it is filled with people. Therefore it is a foolish waste of time and energy to run down to Wall Street to find a customer. We have plenty of would-be buyers in the immediate vicinity.
Many small businesses, including travel agencies, establish a business presence on Main Street and then start running all over the countryside trying to sell their product. A little discipline is needed here. Define your territory and then start digging.
Hit The Books Before The Bricks
The next step involves a little research. You want to find out how many people within that territory might have a reason to talk to you or have a use for your service. Here’s another example:
Suppose your sixteen-year-old daughter wants to make a few bucks to go see *NSYNC. Babysitting is a natural, but she doesn’t drive. And for purposes of our example, Mom and Dad’s Limo Service is closed. (Clearly this is a fantasy example.) So, her territory has to be limited to walking distance from the house.
Is every house within a mile a good prospect? (Again, fantasy strikes… assuming any teenager would walk a mile.) Of course not. Many homes don’t have children. Many homes have children, but they are old enough to have already copped *NSYNC tickets from a scalper. Obviously, just because a house was built within her territory, doesn’t mean it automatically qualifies as a prospect for babysitting services.
But once your daughter has identified those specific houses with kids between six months and ten years old, her job of selling babysitting services becomes very straightforward.
The same is true for small businesses. Once you have defined your territory, you have to identify all the potential customers (prospects) in it. One easy way to get started is to visit your town library and ask your reference librarian for help. Every state publishes these resource tools. These books cost about eighty dollars apiece, but you don’t need to buy them. (If you are “e-powered,” go to the appropriate state’s “.gov” website and start surfing.) For example, if you are selling to industrial or manufacturing companies, ask to see your state’s Industrial Directory.
These resources are typically organized by town and/or county. Decide what towns or counties fall within your defined territory. You will find the following information listed for each manufacturing company: The name of the company, address, phone number, products they make, sales, square footage of the plant, when it was established, number of employees, and corporate officers (e.g. chairman, president, treasurer, purchasing agent, controller, etc.) You will find out who the directors are, who they bank with, and who their accounting and law firms are. All this information is going to be listed on a single page, and there will be thirty companies per page. Now this is called jumping out of the blocks on a mission.
Here is where salespeople who take shortcuts make a costly error: The companies listed on these pages are not prospects. By definition they are nothing more then “suspects” at this juncture. Here’s the difference. When you think someone has a need for your service, they are a suspect. When you know they have a need for your service, they become prospects.
How can you tell the difference? Phone the company and say,
MM: “Good morning, my name is Mike Marchev from Small Company USA. I am updating my mailing list and at the same time asking two questions to complete a survey. Do you have time to help me out today?”
They will say “yes”… or they will say “no.” If they say no, do not take it personally. But in 99 out of a hundred calls, they will say yes. You then say:
MM: “Does your company travel for business purposes?” They will say yes or no. If the person says “yes”, the company might be a prospect.
Follow with this question,
MM: “Does your company use a travel agency?” The person will answer either yes or no. If yes, that is a pretty good clue that they might be a prospect. If they say that they don’t, ask another question,
MM: “Does that mean you book tickets directly with the airlines?”
Once again they will respond with a yes or no. That’s all you are looking for right now. You don’t want to try to sell anything or give the impression that you are eager to gain entry into their work environment. They didn’t ask you to call, so in effect you are an intruder.
Remember, at this stage of the game all you want to find out is who uses your type of service or product so you can determine if they qualify for your prospect list or not. When companies eliminate themselves from your prospect list, don’t interpret this as a bad day at Black Rock . It isn’t. Quite the contrary, it is good news. Your success rate will improve the more tightly you define your prospect list’s qualifications. You can’t afford any deadbeat candidates on your list. You must become highly disciplined at building your prospect list. That means controlling your natural salesperson’s optimism. No, that octogenarian couple that runs the “No Chew Luncheonette” is not likely to franchise the concept and begin flying all over the country. Scratch them off the list.
So, that’s how you get started, but this job is never over. You must continually look for new names for your prospect list. Growing your list will soon become a very enjoyable and rewarding part of your business.
Now, I can hear many of you saying, “but I don’t sell to manufacturing companies.”
The State Industrial Directory was an example. I still want you to make contact with your reference librarian. Naturally, I suggest that you use the appropriate directory that makes the most sense to you.
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