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?”