An occasional hobby of mine is gold prospecting.
Once when my kids were little, we packed up everyone for a week-long camping trip to the Gold Rush Country of Northern California. The kids mostly played in the creek. My wife and I and a couple of friends shoveled lots of dirt into a sluice box.
One morning, there it was — gleaming bright and shiny right in the middle of the sluice box, a nugget about the size of the end of my little finger. We jumped and screamed and celebrated. Great fun.
[Editor's Note: This article is for advisors who pause occasionally to think about how to grow a business, which can be done by analyzing the “channels” through which assets flow; you really need is two or preferably three channels other than referrals. For a full understanding of them, see “Nine Prospecting Strategies to Grow a Business.”]
What we were hoping for, naturally, was what gold prospectors call a “glory hole” — a place where the dust and nuggets have washed and collected for hundreds or thousands of years.
In a blog, a gold prospector in New Hampshire wrote, “This clay bank in the woods is the Glory Hole. There was more gold pulled out of here in the two visits so far than I have collected in my twenty years of experience.”
Just as there are glory holes in gold prospecting, you can find them in sales prospecting, too. Some will produce only a few nuggets. Others can produce the fabled high-net-worth clients who can make a career.
Gold Prospecting Rules
When cries of “Gold!” echoed across the world, people streamed into Northern California. They did not stop in Los Angeles. Nor did they tarry long as they trekked across Utah.
They applied that first principle of gold prospecting: Go where it has been found before.
And then, “The main problem in gold mining is in overcoming unknowns. Until you find them, you do not usually know where the good gold deposits are located. If it were really easy, all the gold would already be gone. The fact that so much gold is being recovered by small-scale miners today proves it was not easy to find in the first place. Otherwise, the old-timers would have found it all!” (The New 49’ers: True Life Gold Prospecting Adventure by Dave McCracken.)
Note this and note it well: Sales gold is being found today. It is not all gone. You must go where it has been found before. Then you have to find the glory hole.
Where has it been found before? In your own book. In your neighborhood. In a local company. In a local trade association. In farm country.
How do you know there is more where that came from? To find the glory holes in gold prospecting, skilled prospectors engage in sampling. They test the ore.
In sales prospecting, skilled prospectors test a list. That’s our version of sampling.
Modern Sales Prospecting
How does this apply to the modern sales prospector?
Assuming you are not a soaking-wet rookie, you already know where it has been found before. You already have some. It is one or more clients in your book.
In my first book, Prospecting Your Way to Sales Success, I wrote: “Your best prospect is someone who looks just like your best client.”
I further elaborated with this story: “… [Y]ou need to learn to think like a fisherman. Suppose you are going fishing in the morning, but your alarm doesn’t go off, and you get a late start. As you walk down to the lake you see an old codger with a string of fish thrown over his shoulder. Naturally, you have some questions.
You: Where did you catch ’em?
Codger: Down at the lake.
Now, if you are not much of a fisherperson, you would let it go at that and wander on down to the lake. But if you are a real fisherperson, you would continue the conversation.
You: Where down at the lake?
Codger: By the big rock.
You: You mean the one over by the willow trees?
You: What were you using for bait?
Codger: Plastic worms.
You: Great. Thanks.
Take a look at your present clients as if they were that string of fish hanging down from the codger’s back. What pond did they come from? Or to put it in sales prospecting terms, what list could they have come from?
You are looking for lists of people on which your client’s name appears. Ideally, the people on the list will have some connection that will make word of mouth possible. Given a choice between a list of people who own a Mercedes-Benz and a Mercedes Owners Club directory, always take the list on which word of mouth can occur — in this case the club directory.
Just in case you missed it (and it’s right in my first book): you ideally want to “select a list on which word of mouth can occur.” This can be pure magic.
Here are some items to add to your “Little Black Book of Things Known to be True.”
Every prospecting campaign starts with a list.
No list = wishful thinking.
And another one.
Get list ideas by asking yourself, “What do I want more of?”
And a final one.
To sample that list, use a channel. If that doesn’t work, try another one. If that doesn’t work, look elsewhere for your glory hole.
Some explanation is in order.
A “channel” is a “trench, furrow or groove.”
Water flows in channels — and so do assets.
Example: You have a client who is a real estate agent in a high-end golfing community. She is making money hand over fist and adding $500,000 a year to her portfolios.
You ask yourself, “How can I get more of clients like this?”
Well, you need a list. Here are some possible steps.
Go to the realty board website for the market. I pulled up the Salt Lake County Realty Board. That produced a list of 11 award winners — top agent, top rookie, top broker, etc. Go to their individual websites. Get their contact info.
Then I searched “Top Realtors in Salt Lake County” on Google. That produced another batch of names. Get their contact info.
Now, let’s vet the list. Call your client. Go have lunch.
Show your client the list you compiled and say, “Liz, some of your competitors have shown up on one of my marketing lists. I have been thinking for a while I would love to have some more clients just like you. Would you look these over and tell me who I should not waste any time with?”
I promise you — because I have done it — that Liz will look over your list, scratch off a few, and even possibly add some. You can then say, “Who should I call first?”
And then, “When I call, may I mention you suggested I call?” The usual answer will be “yes.” And by the way, you are now perfectly positioned for some “precision cold calling.” (see below)
Is this a glory hole yet? Not yet.
One more step in sampling this “ore.” Decide on a channel.
Here are the possibilities:
Referral. Remember, we don’t ask for referrals. But as you look over the list of people Liz knows, she may well say, “You really should contact Bob Trucco. He just sold some property that has been in the family for a long time. Tell him I suggested you call.”
Introduction, where Liz brings one or more referral to an event. Perhaps Liz and some of her friends are tennis fanatics or smoke cigars or fly kites or whatever. Create an event. Ask Liz if she would reach out and invite one or more of the people on your list.
Networking. You could join the local realty board as an affiliate member. The point is to focus on meeting the people you have identified as top agents. Add these to your drip list.
Develop strategic partners who can introduce you to them. At the realty board meetings, you will meet other people who serve the real estate industry. Have lunches. Discuss how to better serve mutual clients.
Seminars. Get an intern to find as many home addresses of top agents as possible. Send invitations to their home address.
Direct Mail. Create a special report or white paper you could offer top real estate agents. Offer that in a direct mail letter.
Precision Cold Calling. Get a tightly defined list. Offer the list something they are likely to be interested in. If you can use the name of someone known to the people on the list, bam! You most likely have a winning campaign.
Which channel is best? I have no clue. But I know how to find out. Pick one. Try it. But always keep in mind the four basic mistakes.
The Four Basic Mistakes
Again, from my first book:
1. Failure to keep adequate records so that campaigns can be evaluated.
I promise you, I guarantee you, I assure you that if you do not evaluate campaigns, you will throw out lots of babies with their dirty bathwater. Or worse, you’ll end up with just the dirty bathwater.
If you do not keep records of your campaigns and periodically review those records, you will wind up, at the end of the month, quarter, year or career, with far less than you should. You will have retained failing campaigns and thrown out winners.
2. Get a bad idea and stick to it.
One of the reasons rookie salespeople go toes up is that they get a bad campaign and they stick to it. They are not failing because they fail to work hard. All too frequently, they work like Roman galley slaves. But what they’re doing is just not effective. If you keep trying one campaign after another, though, you will be and wildly so.
3. Get a good idea and change it.
This is an insidious mistake. I’ve committed it many times myself and have tried to buffer my own tendency to do it by having people around me who have enough sense to say, “But, Bill, we did it differently last time and it worked great. Don’t change it!”
4. Get a good idea and don’t do it enough.
* * *
Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing. His Gorilla CRM System helps advisors double their production or work half as much; visit www.billgoodmarketing.com. His book, Hot Prospects, is the book on prospecting for this industry and can be bought on Amazon. His blog, Advisor Tips and Tricks for Growth has lots of useful information for advisors who need to beef up marketing. To preview Bill as a speaker, see his YouTube channel.
— Related on ThinkAdvisor: