Published: May 27th, 2016

Moving into a new sales territory is an exciting time for your business.

Since you’re eager to capitalize on the fresh opportunities you’ve identified, it’s tempting to assume that the sooner you plunge in, the sooner you’ll be savoring sweet victory.

Not so fast.

In my experience studying sales leaders, there are three steps you need to adopt when planning to enter that new territory. In this first of three articles, let’s look at Step One.

Know thy prospect.

Do thorough research on your prospects. Decide if their goals align with yours. Consider the experiences of early 20th century Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

After his first expedition ended in abysmal failure, he developed a smarter plan for next time. He understood reaching the South Pole was barely half the goal: endurance in the face of tough odds was even more important. Success hinged on choosing crew members who understood this.

To attract the right prospects, he ran the following ad: “Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

He received more than 5,000 replies.

Sir Ernest Shackleton
Sir Ernest Shackleton

Shackleton and his 28-person crew were thwarted from reaching their first goal — Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen made it first to the South Pole. But smart prospecting helped them achieve their bigger goal: survival. Despite suffering terribly after their ship was destroyed by ice, against incredible odds, they were rescued. Not a single member of his crew was lost.

For those of us in sales today, charting new territory is nowhere near as perilous as the work of those explorers. Yet our need for careful planning remains just as vital: there’s plenty on the line and our success hinges in part on whom we choose to work with.

Start by looking at your current customers and identify the following:

  • How many of them comprise 80 per cent of your overall sales revenue?
  • Who is your top customer, and what is their annual revenue to you?
  • How big are these corporations (e.g. employees, market reach)?
  • Who is the primary decision maker?
  • What industry segments do they fit into? Handy tip: use Standard Industry Codes (SIC) when doing this. It will make researching for prospects easier later on.
  • In which countries are they located, and how are they organized (e.g., headquarters and branch offices)?

Next, don’t just go with what’s worked before. Look strategically at where your market is going.  Consider new trends, economic outlooks, emerging markets and corporate performance.

With all your research complete, consider who your ideal prospect would be in that new territory. Just like you did with the exercise with your current clients, look where your best prospects are located, examine their annual turnover rate, revenue, structure and which markets they serve.

Researching your prospects and ensuring they are aligned with your vision is more than the hallmark of smart planning. It’s also a golden opportunity to reassess and anticipate new market trends. So plan ahead. Your smart decisions about how to pursue these new clients will pay off faster and more profitably.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.