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Is the world your oyster or do you have a defined sales territory? Most likely you cover a state or a city. If you cover a few states or a portion of a big state, there is likely a major metro area with lots of potential. How do you build a base of prospects and work through it?

  1. Define your market. You might be looking for companies with under 100 or 500 employees. Maybe you want firms with all their offices or factories within your territory. Perhaps store owners will make great prospects. Establish your criteria.
  2. Define the universe. Dunn & Bradstreet has been a traditional source for finding companies and contacts. Many people also used Hoovers, which is part of D&B today. Your firm might have access to this research, but if not, you might need to buy the data you need. Starting with your metro market, build your pool of prospects.
  3. Is your universe only for profit businesses? Nonprofits also have staff. Everyone would want to be offered employee benefits. Determine if these organizations fit into your universe.
  4. What can you learn from each company's website? From your list, you can determine which firms are better prospects than others. Most firms have a website today. This often includes vendor information, detailing how the company buys products and services. Does it show contact names?
  5. Is there a professional organization that can help? Chambers of Commerce exist to bring managers and business owners together. There are often multiple chambers in metro areas. Their business directory lists members and contact information.
  6. Who can help you? You should already have a robust LinkedIn page. Begin a project seeking second level connections at companies on your prospect list. These people might be a college alumni or people who changed jobs. Reach out, connect and get onto their radar screen.
  7. How will you market to them? You have many channels including letters, e-mails, texts social media and phone calls. This is business to business calling, which is treated differently than residential calling under Do Not Call (DNC) rules. This does not stop businesses putting their phone numbers on the DNC list. You want a broad brush strategy to get onto as many radar screens as possible.
  8. Be alert for interest. Some people will respond. It might start with "Thanks." Others will say "Unsubscribe."  It happens. When people respond, thank them for taking time to send a message.
  9. Identify the right contact people. People might not want you selling to them, but many will help point you in the right direction. Your LI connection might be the decision maker or they could point you towards them.
  10. Reach out and set up appointments. At this stage you have learned who has a competitive bid system you can join. You have learned which LI connections or e-mail responders are decision makers. If not, you have been pointed in the right direction. Start asking for in-person appointments.
  11. Research each business before you meet. People are impressed when you have done homework. They are put off by generic presentations. Try to maximize your chances for success.
  12. Follow up. There will be some ready to make a decision. There are others who will tell you these decisions are made in certain months. Learn their follow-up procedures.

Related: 6 ways to get on those hard-to-reach decision makers' radars

To be successful, you need a system that takes a large universe, distills it down to potential prospects, gets you in front of the right person and allows you to close business immediately or establish when you need to be in front of them again at decision making time.

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