hand pick

If you know exactly what you want, you increase the likelihood of getting exactly what you want.

The converse is also true.

If you don’t know what you want, or what you’re doing, you’re likely to cast a wide net, cross your fingers and wait. When you’re fishing, for example, this results in catching littered coke cans, old shoes and a few miscellaneous sea creatures—if you’re lucky. If instead you know exactly what you want, you’re likely to cast your net at dusk during low tide, and skim the bottom near the shoreline.  This preparedness drastically increases your odds in catching what you want—lots of good-sized shrimp.

The lesson: When you’re fishing for clients, know what you want or you could end up with a less-than desirable catch.

Unfortunately, most businesses set themselves up to catch less-than desirable clients. For instance, most businesses hand their sales reps a random list of prospects pulled from the phone book and send them out to sell. The goal is simply to catch something rather than catch the right thing, resulting in a mismatched and sparse client list and a frustrated team.

The solution: Prepare first. Build a “Dream List,” which outlines the best clients for the company so you know what you want to catch before you go fishing. Here are four steps to make your dream list a reality:

  • Identify—Understand exactly what you’re offering. Dig deep and focus in on the unique benefit you provide customers that competitors don’t or won’t. Don’t settle with highest level of customer service or best product, everyone claims that. Find your sweet spot. It’s what you uniquely provide that clients will pay to have. That’s what you take to market.
  • Analyze—Examine your current client base. Think about which clients you’d like to clone 50 times. These clone-worthy clients love you, you love them and everything is kumbaya. Similarly identify those clients who may not love you or find value in your service or product. Finally, make a list outlining the attributes of your kumbaya clients. The first attribute may be, returns emails within 24 hours. The second may be, client must have x amount in annual revenue. Use your not-so-kumbaya client list to identify what you don’t want. Maybe your third attribute is, doesn’t micromanage the process.
  • Refine—Gather your team and narrow down your attribute list to 10. Have everyone discuss and vote. Your team must be in on this step. After all, they’re typically at the frontlines working directly with clients.
  • Match—Research the types of business that can fulfill your attribute list. Maybe technology companies tend to have the annual revenue and the right number of employees you’re searching for, plus that industry typically has a void your service or product can fill. Next, get more specific. Identify the businesses by name. Search through chamber listings and industry association member directories to pinpoint prospective “Dream List” clients. Here you can find the company’s stats like revenue, size and age. Take it a step further and visit company review sites like glassdoor.com to get an inside look at the company culture. You may discover your prospective client who has all the stats you’re looking for is a micromanaging jerk who will be more trouble than he’s worth. Luckily you gleaned this intel ahead a time and you won’t have to deal with it. Keep researching. Those companies that match your attribute list make your “Dream List.”

Once you complete these steps and have your list, you’re ready to send out your fishing team. Trust me, soon you’ll be reeling in clients you won’t have to throw back.




This article first appeared in The Tennessean 

 Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/shandilee/8546484756/”>Shandi-lee</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>