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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Here's how turning over rocks can reveal hidden prospects

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When I started back in the family staffing business, my sales manager gave me a list of companies I was forbidden from calling. She and her sales reps were worried about one of the owner’s sons being given preferential treatment, and they wanted to protect their turf.

Related: 4 tips for cold-calling confidence

Honestly, they didn’t have a firm grasp on how a family business works. In most family businesses, you are expected to do more than anyone else, whether or not it is “your job,” and regardless of what you are paid — or not paid. That is exactly the preferential treatment I was given, and I never expected anything different.

The list they handed me had all of the most well-recognized companies in and around Columbus, Ohio. You would still recognize many of these names. They cherry-picked what they believed to be the biggest and best prospects, and they walled them off from me. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it.

Not being able to call on what everyone else was calling on forced me to call on companies with names no one would know. The Internet wasn’t what it is now, and I dialed through the business pages of the phone book. I literally started at the letter A, and I dialed number after number, unless it was clear that we couldn’t serve them. I skipped churches, auto repair shops, and day care centers.

I got a lot of appointments. When I got to M, I found a company called Murfin. Murfin was tucked away on the middle of a road that had a gas station at one end and apartment complexes on the other. Because the building was surrounded by residential areas, you would never suspect a plant to be located deep in the neighborhood.

The small building that housed the business was no indication of what they spent. They were spending millions of dollars on temporary employees. No one would ever happen upon this client by chance. I won their business because I was ridiculously disciplined about cold calling.

On the way out of Murfin, I noticed another building across the street. I wrote down the name, Weathersfield, and upon arriving back at my office, I called them and scheduled an appointment. Weathersfield was spending a couple million dollars when I won their business. Two hidden companies resulted in millions of dollars in business.

These two companies became anchor accounts for our office. I would not have found them had I not called companies without knowing whether they used a service like mine. I turned over a lot of rocks to find these accounts, because a lot of prospecting is simply turning over rocks to see what lies beneath.

You should have a list of known targets. You should have another list of your dream clients. But you should also turn over rocks to see if there is anything there. You never know what you’ll find.

Maybe right now you should call all of the leads that you haven’t yet tried.

Editor’s Note: This essay published first in the author’s own blog.

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