Sales and Selling


How to Hook More Prospects


Your big prospects need something. They have plans. They're looking for solutions, ideas, services, products -- everything they need to implement those plans. Maybe you have exactly what they need. Maybe you have all the answers. Maybe your company would be the perfect fit for their big plans and they just don't know it yet. So how are you going to figure out what they need? And the real challenge, how are you going to convince them you're "the one?"

Whatever your methods for sussing out your prospects' needs, and however you usually go about pitching your services or products, there is a highly effective shortcut that will help you find and land the deal. This shortcut is all about looking for opportunity in an unlikely place: job listings.

When companies expand, take on new projects or reorganize, they start hiring. When you know what type of positions they are hiring for, you can figure out what they've got planned and what they need.

It's simple enough, but there are other benefits to taking this shortcut. For example, it's challenging to get a face-to-face with the right person, especially when you don't know who he or she is. The receptionist may be hesitant to give you contact info, but companies almost always give a point person in job listings.

The other hidden benefit of this shortcut—and if you can think of any others, tell me in the comments—is it lets you learn a little about a company's language and culture. It's all right there in the job description. The company is trying to attract someone who would be a good fit, and if it has a smart hiring manager, the job description is crafted to appeal to the right people.

Now you know the company's terms for this or that, if its communication style is super formal or off the cuff, and how it describes itself. And because you know this, you can pitch prospects using their own terminology in a way that makes them feel like you just "get them." After all, now you do.

This shortcut is one of my favorites because it works on so many levels. No blind cold calling. No pesky surveys. No buying lists. No direct mail. No weeknight networking meetings. Okay, maybe you'll still have to show up to those, but this time, you'll have something really specific to say, and you'll know exactly how to say it, which means this time, you'll get their attention.

Start with the short list of companies you'd do anything to work with (short of murder and auditioning for American Idol), and then move on to other big companies in your industry. Go to their websites and click on "Careers" or "Job Opportunities." Study their list of available jobs.

Could your company be an outsourcing alternative for them? Do you have a related product or service that they need? Sometimes your company can do the same job a new hire could do; sometimes you'll have to put on your creative hat to find the opportunity hidden in the listing.

For example, if a company is looking to fill multiple positions for one location, it could be opening a new branch. What services or products do you provide that would help with its launch? Event coordinators could pitch organizing a grand opening. PR folks could offer to help with local press outlets. Security companies could try to secure a service contract before the company even goes looking for it.

Or maybe one of your prospects keeps recruiting the same position over and over again. This should tell you to contact the point person and give him or her 10 good reasons why the company should outsource the work to you instead. Or, if a prospect is looking for a new office manager, this may be your chance to become one of his or her preferred vendors, because you're probably not getting the old office manager to switch teams.

Billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, one of the richest people in the world, once said, "Always think outside the box and embrace opportunities that appear, wherever they might be." It's a simple quote, but most people don't follow it. (Mr. Mittal does. And he has more than $3 billion to show for it.) If you're willing to get a little creative, this is one shortcut that will uncover scads of hidden opportunities and help you land prospects before your competition.


About the Author

Mike Michalowicz is the author of "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur." He is an advocate of a business philosophy by the same name, believing the greatest business successes come from underfunded, inexperienced entrepreneurs. His website is