What’s the first step toward making a sale? It’s not making the right type of sales; it’s not setting an appointment. It’s not even picking up the telephone. The first step in making your sale is to decide who to call.
Who should you call? It’s an old adage, but still true: if you are marketing to everyone, you are marketing to no one. So before you can develop a list of prospects to call you must first create a profile of your ideal customer.
Be specific. The better and more targeted your profile, the easier it will be to sort through all of the contacts you make in a week and decide which are truly in your target market. Make a list of all the criteria: location, revenue size, number of employees, types of industries, and whatever other criteria is relevant. Try to discover what the typical title of the decision maker is in that type of organization; it will make it easier for you to find the decision maker’s name when you research specific prospects.
Once you have an ideal customer profile, or profiles (your business may have several different markets with a different ideal customer profiles for each) it is time to develop a list with the names of specific businesses that you want to target. Getting the name of the decision maker when you do your research will drastically improve your results when it comes down to the actual appointment setting.
There are many ways to develop a list. One easy and inexpensive way is to go to your library where dozens of association directories, trade journals, business directories and other resources are available for free. Explain what you are looking for to the research librarian, she can probably help you find exactly what you need. However, this process can be very time consuming, so if you have more money than you do time, keep reading and find a better way!
Other good ways to develop lists is by joining trade associations or the local Chamber of Commerce. Some associations make their membership directories available only to members, others offer them for sale. There are also “list brokers” that allow you to rent a list. However, if you choose to go this route, make sure that you use a list broker who is knowledgeable, helpful, and who listens to your needs. Purchased lists allow you to decide on the “selects”, by staff revenue, industry, sales revenue, zip code, etc. Purchased lists are especially helpful when you’ve identified very specific industries of a specific size, in which networking with these folks would be difficult. Costs range from $150 to $3000, depending on the quality of the list. It is important to note that a purchased list has its share of inaccuracies, including bad phone numbers and bad addresses. It’s a good place to start when an association list or in-house list is not available to you. Generally, the source of most compiled lists is from Dun & Bradstreet and InfoUSA. There are many resellers selling the same information. These two companies usually start with Yellow Page headings, as the main source.
One of the best sources of a prospect list? The one that you develop yourself from the contacts you make at your speaking engagements, trade shows or networking events! The biggest advantage to this list is that the prospects aren’t truly “cold,” they’ve already had some contact with you and your product or service. When you call them or send them a direct mail piece, there is an affinity.
But wherever your list has come from, your list won’t help you unless you put it to work. If those businesses cards are sitting in an unorganized heap in your drawer, they aren’t working for you. After each networking event or trade show, set aside time to look at the cards you’ve collected and add them to your database. A handwritten list of prospects on paper is the least effective way to go about looking for business. You may still cling to a paper day planner but put your list on the computer! For purposes of direct mail, email marketing and telemarketing, an electronic list is crucial!
While there are several excellent software programs to help you manage your contacts (such as ACT or Goldmine), one of the simplest and most effective ways is to use a spreadsheet such as Excel. This allows you to sort your contacts in countless ways: by region, by size of company, or by the last time you made contact. You should create 2 columns called “last results” or “next step” as well as “notes” to manage the data you collect.
Now that you’ve developed your contact list, put it to work for you!