Whether you’re a sales professional, sales manager, or business owner, prospecting should be an important part of your plan.

After all, getting in front of more qualified prospects is one method for increasing your sales. Qualified prospects are of enormous importance to your company or career.

Here are some best practices for prospecting to help get you focused:

Define your target audience
Who buys from you? Build some demographics around your best customers. Likewise, build a list of characteristics of those unqualified ‘suspects’ who can not purchase from you.

Understand what your product or service does
What problems do you solve? What solutions are you creating?

Perfect your value message
By ‘value’ we mean what benefit does your prospect or customer derive from doing business with you? From purchasing your product or service? Benefit – not features.

Meet your prospects where they are
If you’ve defined your best customer characteristics, it is important to learn where they are so you can go meet them. Do they belong to particular groups or associations? Do they have continuing education or other conferences? Spend time with them where they live professionally.

Know what prospects want
What they really want. They do not want your product or service, and all of it’s features. You must ask questions about how they build their business, who they want to meet, what needs they have, or problems they may be facing. Forget about you. Focus on them, their needs and desires.

Understand the difference between Networking and ‘Not-Working’
So many professionals we meet spend and inordinate amount of time in the wrong places. When networking you don’t want a big crowd, free beer, all-inclusive food offerings, etc. You should want the room to be filled with your previously defined best prospects and customers. avoid wasting time attending random events simply because they’re called “Networking”.

Understand the purpose of ‘Prospecting’
There are three primary purposes of a prospecting activity. And none of them are to sell, close business, learn more about x, or build your brand. Here they are:

  • Get information (e.g. who makes decisions regarding x?)
  • Qualify a prospect – Ask pre-qualifying questions to make certain they fit your target client demographic.
  • Set an appointment with a clear purpose.

Referral Partners
You must have them. We call these partners Strategic Alliances. Who already has the trust of your key clients and prospects? Who is visiting them in their offices/factories? Who does something that complements your product or service? Identify these professionals and spend a good bit of your time building relationships with them. These professionals are among your best prospects.

Build your network
Once you’ve identified the best possible referral partners, remember to ask your clients and prospects for introductions to these professionals. For instance, let’s say that a CPA is a particularly good referral partner for you. Ask to get introduced to the Accounting firms your clients and prospects use. This is an easy ask and a great way to build your professional community.

Build their network
Everyone you meet has value. If they’re not a potential client or referral source for you, I can assure you that they still have a high value. Make certain you’re connecting prospects, and potential referral sources with each other, as appropriate. Become a super connector to deliver value to your prospects, clients, and referral partners. Introduce them to the professionals they’d like to meet.