Seven Steps to Creating a Powerful Prospecting Plan Do you have a prospecting plan? If you want to boost your sales, it can be a huge help.

A prospecting plan is like a business plan for your sales efforts. It’s a planning tool that helps you sketch out your goals, your best prospects, how to reach them, and more.

Sound complicated? Don’t worry, it isn’t. All you have to do to is answer seven simple questions.

1. What are my sales goals?
Do you want more new customers or more repeat sales to existing customers? Are you trying to break into a new industry? Is it more important to push a new product or revive a sagging performer in your line? Do you want to move cheap stuff or big-ticket items? Do you want to increase your sales by a certain dollar amount or by a certain percentage?

You can have more than one goal. You may have two or three of the above goals and some additional ones as well.

Regardless of how many goals you have, be specific, with numbers and dates. When you know precisely what you want to accomplish—and by when—it’s easier to do it, because your goals will help define other aspects of your plan.

2. Who are my ideal prospects?
Here’s a hint: “everyone” is the wrong answer. Too many salespeople waste a lot of their time with prospects who will never do business with them. To maximize your prospecting time, you need to spend it with the people who are most likely to buy from you.

Start your profiling by examining your current customers: What do they have in common? Then decide who else you want to target and list their defining characteristics: size, income, age, industry, health status, gender, job title, etc. This doesn’t mean that you will ignore everyone else, because you’ll happily serve someone who doesn’t happen to fit your profile. But your ideal prospects are the people you want to devote most of your time and energy to.

3. Where are they?
Whoever your ideal prospects are, you’ll find some of them everywhere. But you want to focus your efforts where the greatest concentrations of them are.

For example, if your target market is the elderly, you know that there are large populations of retirees in warm climates like Florida and Arizona. In any given community, you’ll find concentrations living in retirement centers and assisted living facilities. By contrast, if you’re targeting Millennials, you’ll tend to find them in apartment buildings in urban areas and along the coasts.

And I’m not just talking about where people live. You might also want to know where they work, what business or industry events they go to, what social media platforms they spend their time on, where they go for fun, what they read, what they watch, and what they listen to. Because they more you know about where your ideal prospects are and what they do, the easier it is to figure out the answer to the next question.

4. How will I reach them?
You have dozens of prospecting tools at your disposal, including networking, direct mail, cold calls, Facebook ads, trade shows, special events, LinkedIn Groups, referrals, and more. Choose several and use them simultaneously.

Don’t despair if you don’t see results immediately. It takes an average of nine “impressions” (anytime a person is exposed to you, your name, your product, or your company) to move a prospect from apathy to action. So be persistent in your efforts. And be fanatical about following up with each prospect. The more tactics you employ, the better your results will be.

5. What is my hook?
Here’s a secret about sales in general and prospecting in particular: Nobody cares about you, your company, your product, or your service. Which means if you try to open with a sales pitch or by shoving a bunch of sales material into the hands of a prospect, you’re wasting your time.

What people really care about is themselves. So lead with a hook instead of a pitch. A hook is something that is of value to the prospect and requires no effort, obligation, expense, or risk on their part. Its purpose is to grab their attention and create a sense of perceived value and appreciation. Great hooks include:

• Free samples
• Gifts
• Invitations to an event or party
• Articles, reports, white papers, or eBooks
• Contests
• Webinars
• Free consultations, evaluations, or audits

Think about how you could use one of the above ideas (or one of your own) as a hook and how you could get it to your prospects. A hook will radically improve your chances of securing an opportunity to talk further with your prospect.

6. What steps am I going to take and in what time frame?
This is a critical part of your plan. Unless you commit to taking action, you won’t achieve the goals you’ve set. Schedule what you’re going to do and when, with as much detail as possible. Break each project into incremental steps, with a time line for each one. This will help ensure that those things get done.

7. How often will I review this plan?
After you’ve written your plan, review it periodically: weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly. You’ll probably want to review it more frequently at first, then you can reduce the frequency as you see results. But keep reviewing it! Are you on track? How is each prospecting tactic working? Have you forgotten some items? Does the plan need to be revised? Adjust your plan and your actions as needed.

A prospecting plan can be a powerful tool in your kit. It’s a road map to higher sales. And the more effort you put into it, the more sales you’ll make and the faster you’ll make them.