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Prospecting

Definition: The search for potential customers or buyers

When it comes to drumming up new business, like anyone involved in sales, your first big challenge will be to reach the right individuals. To successfully find new prospects for your products and services, you'll need a hard-working prospecting program that reaches out to qualified prospects and moves them through the sales cycle from cold to warm to hot. Your program must incorporate a range of marketing tactics that, over time, bring prospects incrementally closer to a decision to hire you.

Cold prospects are customers or organizations you've identified as well-qualified but that have little or no awareness of your company. They can be reached through advertising, public relations, cold calling and networking. Begin a campaign of magazine advertising to showcase your unique selling proposition, and set up an ongoing public relations program that targets the same publications. Also create a prospect list of qualified individuals or organizations, and support your marketing efforts with cold calling. To round out your efforts to reach cold prospects, begin networking within select groups where you're most likely to come into contact with members of your target audience.

Once you've begun calling on top prospects and leads from your advertising and PR programs start to roll in, you'll need to set up a database using contact management software. This will help you consistently maintain ongoing contact with warm prospects-companies and individuals with whom you've previously spoken or met. Initiate a direct-mail campaign to make frequent contact with your database. And support the campaign with sales activities, including follow-up phone calls as well as meetings with prospects generated by your direct mail, advertising and public relations.

Hot prospects are the ones you've successfully moved through the first two stages of your sales cycle. When your marketing program has brought them to this point, you'll need to get personally involved to supply the "heat" to close sales.

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