In this era of Do-Not-Call restrictions and growing competition, it's not easy to prospect for new business. That's why you need a prospecting plan that is strategically focused and easy to execute. This article points you in that direction with a plan you can start implementing tomorrow in seven simple steps.

This plan is based on three basic ideas:

  1. Focus on small business owners in specific local industries that contain attractive prospects for your practice
  2. Offer to help these owners interpret the economic environment in which they are making decisions.
  3. Cultivate "industry-based referrals" by networking among owners who share common interests. Sponsoring a quarterly "small business roundtable group" is a great way to start.

The power of this plan is that it connects your strengths in client service and advice with critical concerns of small business owners. You don't have to be an economist to implement it, because the insights that you will offer are based on official U.S. government research designed specifically for small businesses. And it will work regardless what products or services you offer to small business owners?for either their businesses or personal planning.

Why Focus on Small Businesses?

Many financial professionals now recognize that it is more rewarding to prospect among businesses than consumers, for several reasons:

  • Only consumers are covered by national and state Do-Not-Call initiatives. These rules do not apply to most businesses. (Consult your firm's guidelines for details.)
  • You can easily identify small businesses in your market and access data about them.
  • Small businesses owners always have financial needs to address. Unlike some consumers, they can't afford to "stand pat."
  • You can develop powerful referral networks by focusing on specific industries or types of small businesses.

Step 1: Be conscious of industry codes.

The first step is to become more conscious of industry codes, starting with your existing clients and prospects. Two coding systems are used in the U.S.: 1) the four-digit Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system; and 2) the six-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The NAICS system is recommended because it is used by the data bases you will consult in Steps 2 and 3 below. You can download the IRS Instructions for Form 5500, which contain a list of NAICS codes, here:

(NAICS codes are listed on pages 64-66. Another set of valuable codes, discussed later in this article, is located on pages 18-19 of the same guide.)

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