Finding Potential Clients

Homebased expert Kim T. Gordon answers our readers' questions: How can I locate prospective clients?
This story appears in the July 2000 issue of Startups. Subscribe »
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Question: Last October, I started my own business doing financial analysis of commercial real estate. I use different software programs to produce a value for commercial real estate. Until recently, clients seemed to just fall into my lap. I'm a member of my alma mater's real estate alumni club and have been sending out e-mails and faxes with information about my business. I've gotten some response from that but no work yet. I don't have enough money to advertise in trade journals, and because real estate is so behind the times, it doesn't really matter what I do on the Internet because few people will see it. I don't know how else to get in touch with potential clients.

Chicago, Illinois

Answer: It's time to take hold of the business reins for a more proactive approach to marketing your business. Instead of sitting back and waiting for prospects to respond, follow the typical contact sequence for business-to-business sales-call, mail, call. On average, it takes about eight contacts with prospects before you'll close a sale. It's your responsibility to initiate contact with top prospects and follow up either by mail or in person until you reach your goal.

Your first step is to build a list of commercial real estate developers who would make good prospects for your new business. Not to be confused with a list for direct-mail purposes, you're building a prospect list to use daily as you call on your best prospects. Use trade journals, association lists, information from the Internet and articles in magazines and newspapers to flesh out your list. Decide on the title of the highest-level person who'll be responsible for making the decision to buy your type of services and then call each company to get the name of the person there who fits that title.

Before you begin working with your list, prepare yourself with a set of high-quality tools and materials that communicate that your business is solid, professional and here to stay. It should include a customizable top-notch sales letter you can use to follow up telephone contacts with prospects, a brochure or portfolio with sell sheets, and presentation tools to use in meetings. Since you'll need to make a number of contacts with each prospect in order to close a sale, you should construct a database using contact management software that contains the names of the prospects you speak with. Contact them at least every six weeks by mail or by broadcast fax with postcards, newsletters or other materials. Then use a personal follow-up-either by telephone or a one-on-one meeting-to close sales.

Edition: October 2016

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