Now that you’ve determined whether your opportunity list includes the right contacts, what’s left to examine?
That’s right -- your target companies. How do you pull your top opportunities from a list of several hundred prospective clients?
It depends on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to. For example, if you sell an HR service, it makes sense to prioritize the companies with the most employees. However, if you’re selling a product designed for startups, this approach obviously wouldn’t fly.
Although each sales force targets different companies based on their market, there are a few transferrable methods to help you quickly identify your best opportunities.
1) Leverage your existing customer base.
If a customer is already paying your organization money for a service, it’s far easier to sell them an additional offering than to cold call a new company and begin from scratch. Many people call this “cross-selling.”
If an organization has already made the decision to conduct business with you, it’s because you’ve earned their trust. Trust is not an easy thing to build, so capitalize on it when you can.
2) Analyze the growth of your target companies.
As a general rule of thumb, companies that are pulling in revenue also spend money. With this in mind, you’re more likely to close a deal with a rapidly-growing organization than with a company coming off three straight quarters of losses, or one that’s still in R & D and generating no revenue.
If your company sells to enterprise customers, check if any of your opportunities are on the Forbes 500 or Fortune 1000 lists. I’ve also used resources like Hoovers to gather industry and financial data.
Keeping tabs on companies receiving funding is also a good strategy -- CrunchBase, TechCrunch, and VentureDeal are all tools you can use to follow the growth of smaller companies. Figure out what resources or tools track your target companies’ growth, and watch them closely.
3) Pinpoint which industries are best for your offering.
Trying to sell a luxury good or service to an industry on the decline isn’t a smart move. Certain industries are faring better than others. Today’s hot industries include biotechnology, pharmaceuticals,computer software & services, and outsourcing.
If you concentrate your time on companies in healthy industries, you’re more likely to set up high-quality meetings that ultimately lead to more closed deals.
But what if you sell into one primary industry? Use the advice from the previous steps to identify the healthiest companies in your buyers’ vertical and start there.
Sales is a volume game to an extent, but you only have a set number of hours in the day. This means you must be intelligent about who you spend your time chasing down. It’s always good to have a long target prospect list, but without prioritization, its value erodes significantly.
Originally published Sep 3, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017