Prospecting: Is Everyone a Prospect?


Is Everyone a Prospect?  Yes!  Really?

Sales and income are lost when a salesperson does not know how to: find the persons who should buy his product/service; recognize when a prospect has an interest in his product/service; identify the level of interest; create or increase the level of interest so as to produce a qualified prospect.

Is everyone a prospect?  Yes!  Really?  Of course!  He is a prospect for someone.  Whether or not he is a good prospect for us is what we must determine.  Each of the various sales areas requires the ability to identify prospects for its products/services.  There are some salespersons who have the benefit of a specific and limited market.  An example would be a salesperson who sells hospital equipment.  It is not very difficult to find your prospect, if it is a hospital.  Some salespersons have a dramatically unlimited market.  An example could be life insurance.  It is going to be much more difficult to find that prospect.

Regarding the number of prospects a salesperson could have, most of us subscribe to the philosophy that: some is good, more is better and too many is just right.  If our prospects are not specifically identified for us, where could we look to find some?  Some sources follow:

The “Rule of 250”

The “Rule of 250” says, “Most adults in an industrialized nation know 250 or more persons with whom they have some degree of influence.”  To use the “Rule of 250” requires the gathering together of a few items.  We need a legal pad of paper and some pencils.  We need to collect in one place all of the resources we have that contain the names of as many persons we know as possible (telephone directories, school yearbooks, holiday card and gift lists, former clients, current clients, religious association lists, colleagues from previous employment, etc.)  We make a list of everyone we can think of.  We prioritize the list into different categories.  One category would be “Decision Makers.”  These are persons who can use our product/service and have the funds and authority to make a buying decision.  Another category would be “Influencers.”  These are persons who do not have the money or authority to buy our product/service; however, they have significant influence with the “Decision Maker” and can help us persuade the “Decision Maker” to buy.  Another category would be “Introducers.”  These are persons who have neither the money nor authority to buy, nor do they have any real influence with the “Decision Maker.”  However, they can, at least, introduce us to the “Decision Maker.”  A final category would be “Everyone Else.”  You may ask, “Why would I want to talk with persons who can neither buy, influence nor even introduce me to a sale?”  The answer is that they too can use the “Rule of 250.”  Though, within their own organization, they cannot help us to make a sale, they may know of persons outside of their organization with whom they have some influence or could get us an introduction.  The “Rule of 250” has been the most successful prospecting tool in the kit of persons involved in direct sales (life insurance, vacuum cleaners, encyclopedias, home repairs, etc.) for decades.

Vertical Marketing

Vertical Marketing is the prospecting process of working up and down the business ladder of an existing client.  If we are selling a business-to-business product/service that crosses many different business types (such as copiers), we may be able to sell to companies that supply our client as well as to companies that are clients of our client.  For example, if we sold copiers to a carpeting wholesaler, we could then move up the ladder by using our client as a referral to get into the carpet manufacturers.  We could move down the ladder by using our client as a referral to get into the carpet retailers.

Horizontal Marketing

Horizontal Marketing is the prospecting process of calling on prospects who are in exactly the same business as one of our clients.  If we are selling a product/service that has value to companies that do exactly what our client does, we could use our client as a referral to sell their competitors.  In the example of selling copiers, we would now call on the other carpet wholesalers.


Often a client may belong to his industry’s association.  Builders often belong to the Association of Building Contractors; printers often belong to the Printing Industry Association, etc.  We may find it of value to become a “Vendor Member” of their association.  We would then be invited to attend a number of their functions; which would give us prospecting opportunities with the credentials of being a supporter of their association.


Tom Hopkins may still be able to hear the great J. Douglas Edwards say, “A person who calls himself a salesperson yet does not have a felt tip pen in his hand as he reads a newspaper is lying about being a salesperson.”  That is typical of Doug Edwards to speak so strongly about something.  However, his point is a good one.  We can prospect by reading the newspaper and local business publications.  Often there are articles in those publications that reveal or announce something that opens up a sales opportunity for the observant salesperson.

List Companies

There are companies that are specifically in business to help us prospect.  These are list companies.  A simple search of the Internet will help us identify many such companies.  We can find a company that specializes in almost any kind of list.  If we need to qualify our prospects by: income, geography, employee size, gross annual sales, marriage status, education, age, any number of identifiers, there are companies that can provide us with lists that meet our specifications.

The Library

As for my list of resources, last but certainly not least, is the library.  Dr. Denis Waitley refers to the library as “the forgotten place.”  If we were to ask a librarian to help us find resources that could point us in the direction of persons or organizations that could use our product/service, the librarian would most likely be able to show us shelves of books or periodicals that would contain helpful information.

Just remember the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says anything left to itself over time will decay.  Our source of sales will also decay if we are not diligent in refilling the pipeline.  We must always be prospecting.

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