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Tips for targeting the right prospects

Successful entrepreneurs choose their best prospects; they don't wait forprospects to choose them. Here are three important steps you can follow to putthis strategy to work for your business:

Step 1. Focus on a narrow target. One of the biggest stumbling blocks toentrepreneurial success is a lack of focus. Some entrepreneurs think theirproduct or service is so terrific, anyone can use it. They're marketing tobusinesses, children, adults--anyone they think might listen to their message.Instead of producing maximum sales in all markets, these entrepreneurs get justa trickle of sales in each. Their lack of focus fragments their marketingefforts--not to mention their budgets.

To increase your sales, narrowly focus on your best prospects and use yourresources--time and a marketing budget--where they'll get the best results.

Step 2. Identify your prospects. You'll identify prospects differentlydepending on whether you're marketing to businesses or consumers.

First, identify your types of prospects by category. What types of businessesare they? Hospitals, restaurants and law practices are a few examples. Selectthree or four primary categories, which you'll fill out with about a dozenprospects in each.

As you choose businesses to put in each of your categories, consider thequalifying criteria important to you, such as their length of time in business,number of employees, location and any other factors that make businessprospects more desirable. Use trade journals, directories, associationmembership lists and the Internet to compile your list.

Step 3. Meet with qualified prospects. Unsuccessful meetings cost youplenty in lost time and money. So it's vital to pre-qualify every prospectcarefully by phone before you set up a meeting. No matter whether you'reselling to businesses or consumers, before you make that qualifying phone call,prepare a list of questions. Then arrange to meet only with the prospects youdetermine are the best qualified.

A qualified prospect has a need for your product or service, can afford it andis willing to pay for it. That's why it's good news when you discover prospectswho are buying from your competitor. It means that person fits the criteria.

The next time you encounter a prospect who says she's perfectly happy with yourcompetitor, think of it as your chance to prove how much she'll benefit byworking with you instead. By choosing your own clients or customers in thisway, you ensure higher profitability and faster growth for your new business.

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