Filling Your Pipeline with the Right Kinds of Prospects: Part 1 of 3

Target the Right Suspects

By David Yesford

“Too much rejection . . . time away from my customers . . . too hard!” Sound familiar? These common statements made by salespeople explain why they don’t like to prospect. Ultimately, prospecting is seen as “a lot of work with no guaranteed return.” In order to remain relevant as a salesperson, you must prospect. And you must prospect differently than you might have in the past—if you want to keep the pipeline full and develop new business.

Some experienced professionals manage to schedule appointments with most of the prospects they contact, and they’re able to turn a big percentage of those meetings into sales. How do they do it?

There are three parts to the answer. The first part is this: Instead of playing a numbers game, they ask, “Which companies are most likely to be good for us?” With this question in mind, they filter their initial list of “suspects” to create a short list of the most likely prospects. Now they can make earlier go/no-go decisions and invest their time in a smaller group of companies most likely to offer good business opportunities.

Here’s how it can work for you:

Instead of making a random list of every company in your territory, develop a profile describing the characteristics of your “ideal” customer. Use the profile as a filter to do some up-front research on your possible prospecting candidates.

For example, you might be looking for evidence that a company . . .

  •  Matches your economic and strategic priorities
  •  Has the right level of profitability and fits your industry/market segment requirements
  •  Has healthy annual sales/net income
  •  Is the right size and has the right number of employees
  •  Is in your target geographic location
  •  Has the budget and ability to spend on what you sell, or evidence of buying from companies similar to yours

Once these questions have been answered, you can sort out the list of suspects and cross off the ones that don’t meet the criterion of “good for us.” Those who are left will become your Strong Suspects—those you can leverage into good potential prospects.

Using this filter could actually make prospecting a positive experience, leading to more satisfying calls, more sales, and increased revenue.


David Yesford

David Yesford, Senior Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. and Managing Director of Wilson Learning APAC, has more than 30 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions around the world. He brings valuable experience, strategic direction, and global perspective to his work with clients. Mr. Yesford is an active member of the Wilson Learning Global Executive Board, with current responsibility at a global level. Over the years, he has held strategic roles in our core content areas of sales and leadership, as well as e-learning and strategic consulting. He has also held managing director positions in both China and India.

Mr. Yesford is the contributing author of several books, including Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, and The Sales Training Book 2. He has also been published in numerous business publications throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific. Mr. Yesford frequently speaks at international conferences and summits, focusing on issues such as sales and sales strategy, leadership, employee and customer engagement, brand, and strategy implementation.