Prospecting: The First Step in the Selling Cycle

It can also be called a search for a new job. It includes strategies for finding the right potential buyers for what you’re selling. When thinking about your product or service, ask yourself, “Who would benefit the most from this?” for example:

  • If the end user is a company, you need to make connections within companies. Usually, a purchasing agent is appointed to make purchasing decisions on behalf of the company, so you need to know who that person is and how to contact them.


  • If your end user is a family with school-age children, you need to go to where the families are (eg soccer games, groceries, dance classes, park, etc.). Or get a list from a trusted source and start contacting these people at home or through the different organizations they belong to.

To make an informed decision about who to contact, you need to know some information about them or the companies you have chosen as prospects. Most of your research can be done online. This legal work is a kind of prequalification step in prospecting. You are more qualified when you meet a potential client – but why waste time on a date with a company or someone who has no need or ability to pay for your offer?
Pre-qualification helps you just like market research helps companies to identify the best target markets. In fact, one of the best places to start your search to find the most likely candidates for your product or service is your company’s marketing department. The marketing department conducts research during the product development stage to determine what people want in the product or service you’re selling. Study their results, and you’ll know where to start.
If your company engages in advertising to promote your products, you will likely receive leads – the names of people who have contacted the company or reached out to get more information about the product. Treat any connection a customer creates like gold! What better person to contact you first than someone who called you for information!
Other valuable assets are your friends, relatives and acquaintances at work. Tell them what kind of product or service you’re selling. Listen to the ideas and suggestions they come up with. Who knows – someone might know people at one of your potential companies and be happy to talk to you because of their relationship. If something good is going on, people will always be willing to share their stories with others.
A word of advice here applies to all selling situations: never start a selling cycle until you have taken a few moments to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Take yourself out of the picture and look at the whole situation through the eyes of the buyer. Put yourself in their shoes mentally and think about what might motivate you to invest your valuable time learning about your product or getting a call from a salesperson.
If you can’t come up with solid answers, you may not have enough information about your product to even sell it in the first place. Or you may not know enough about your potential audience to sell to them. If that’s the case, we’re back at the books for you. Study more about both areas until you feel comfortable wearing this one. In other words, don’t start looking for potential clients until you have something of value to share with your potential clients – something you trust is worth their time to investigate, and hopefully buy.
If you have challenges reaching potential customers, you may need to take a somewhat unusual approach to getting their attention or eliciting a positive response. Here are some ideas:

  • Including a warm, smiling, professional selfie or even a video of your product in action. If your goal is to arrange to meet these people at their homes, they will need to make some kind of contact with you other than seeing your signature line on a letter or email.


  • Including a mouth-watering storyboard about the situation your potential customers find themselves in without your product or service. Your potential customer will learn about the relief or benefit that the product provides much sooner.


  • Add a smart quote or anecdote at the bottom of your cover letter or email. You can find books with quotes for almost any occasion. Check out BrainyQuote to find just the right quote online. Taking a few moments to find this kind of attention grabber can make your initial connection stand out from the rest.


  • Use letters instead of numbers for your phone number to make it easier to remember. If your phone number is 344-6279 and your name is Mary, you can use the alphabet on the phone pad to ask potential buyers to call 344-MARY. (If your name is Optimus Prime, this method will not work for you.)

These ideas might be a little catchy if you sell company planes, but they worked with people who were marketing everyday products and services. The idea is to open your creative mind to unusual ways to reach people and get their attention.
To make sure that your name appears in front of a potential client more than once, send a thank you note the day you made your first contact with them. Handwritten thank you notes are the best and wise use of the time it takes. Thank you notes are always read – and if a potential customer doesn’t have time to review your letter and/or brochure when they receive a thank you letter, don’t you think they’ll look for your name among the other mail or emails they’ve received? You will leave a positive first impression that will very likely bring you closer to getting a chance to connect on a deeper level.