- An overview of the prospect's business, including products or services.
- A detailed knowledge of the department in which the salesperson's products or services might be needed.
- A working knowledge of the key people in the organization.
- A thorough profile of the head of the department that would be likely to use the products or services being offered.
- Information on at least one current activity of consequence within the organization and preferably within the department.
- An awareness of a specific need for the products or services being offered.
- The skills to convert the salesperson's products or services into benefits that the prospect will find attractive.
- An inquiring mind and an ability to listen actively.
It doesn't matter whether the market is up or down or whether your particular field is growing or shrinking. You need a job, and no matter what the employment situation or the economy looks like, you have to go about it with your full energy. Forget "buyer's market" and "seller's market." It is neither one nor the other, because nine out of ten jobs at management levels are never even advertised. Even the amount of display advertising in the employment section of a major newspaper has little bearing on how easy it will be for you to find a job and get hired. Lots of ads merely mean that there are lots of employers who have jobs they have not been able to fill without resorting to expensive measures. These are not necessarily are good employers, nor are the jobs necessarily good ones. They are just jobs—and they may not even be right for you.
If lots of jobs are advertised, does that mean you should sit back and wait for an employer to call you? If few jobs are advertised, does that mean you should give up?
Since most good jobs never reach the newspaper, you have to go out and find them, and you won't find them by looking in all the traditional places and ways. Salespeople don't wait for customers to advertise that they are looking for products and services: They develop their own prospects lists, and they learn as much about those prospects as they can before they make their calls.
There are many directories that can help you do this. You can either compile your own information or hire someone to do it for you. Don't worry about getting outdated information when you retain an outside source. Any list will be out of date the minute you prepare it, no matter who develops it.
If you can afford to do so, consider retaining someone who can develop a list based on the criteria you established during the earlier exercises. List houses are sometimes helpful; you can find them in the Yellow Pages. You need only tell a list house what information you need from the following categories:
- Types of employers by field of endeavor
- Which department heads you want, by name and title
- Your area of specialty
- Geographical area(s) in which you would like to work
- Employer size in dollars and personnel
- Any other criteria you feel are relevant to your search, including phone numbers
Many list houses now have data bases that enable them to sort information quickly and at relatively low cost. Start locally, but be prepared to go to major cities to find the right firm. Keep calling until you find the one who can help you.
Some firms have minimums and will be reluctant to sell you less than a certain number of names. So when you negotiate with them, you may have to let them know that you are willing to pay on an hourly basis if your target list turns out to be smaller than their requirements.
In most cases, a list house will use the same sources you would use if you were developing your own lists. The following list names the principal sources and explains what they do.
- The Business Periodicals Index lists the publications that serve each individual field.
- The Directory of Directories provides the names of all directories in print.
- Gale's Encyclopedia of Associations maintains listings on more than 1000 associations that might lead you to additional prospects.
- Gale's Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources enables you to locate a wealth of resources that provide information on business.
- The Guide to American Directories offers information on more than 3000 directories and nearly 500 topics.
- Moody's manuals divide U.S. industries into five categories and analyze each one.
- The Standard Rate & Data Business Publications Directory lists publications by topic in nearly every field.
- Statistics Sources provide statistical data by topic.
- Thomas Register of American Manufacturers provides extensive, in-depth listings on manufacturers, trade boards, chambers of commerce, and more.
Don't ask for the lists on labels; get printouts. That will be cheaper, and you are probably going to transfer the data into your computer anyhow. On the other hand, if the list house can provide you with floppy disks that are compatible with your computer or if it can input the data to your computer directly through a modem, consider having it do so. The time you save could be well worth the expense.
If you have a computer or have access to one, it will save you a tremendous amount of time during your search. With a computer you can store and update all your prospect records, generate envelopes, create custom letters and resumes, and proofread your materials before you print them.
These services can be provided by outside organizations as well, but you may find that the costs add up quickly especially if you do your writing and editing on the firm's time. Consider purchasing your own computer and taking lessons on it. You may be money ahead in the long run. If you do purchase, give serious thought to an IBM or a machine that runs IBM software. As much as I like Apple (and we also have Apple hardware), I haven't seen any companies marketing Apple clones, whereas IBM has set the industry standard and, together with third parties, offers more programs that can be run on more computers. You would be well advised to keep this in mind when you purchase your own computer.