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There is an old axiom: "you have to hunt where the ducks are." This is especially true in selling. If you do not have a pipeline filled with prospects, you are not putting yourself in a position to sell very high volume. The Champion Salesperson recognizes that the lifeblood of sales is prospects. Before you can begin developing prospects, there are a couple of things that need to be defined.

The first step in prospecting is to understand what a prospect is. A Prospect has to meet three criteria:

1. they have a need for your product or service,

2. they have the ability to make a decision,

3. they have the ability to pay for your product or service.

If you are talking with someone and you don’t know if they meet all three criteria, you are talking with a suspect. At one point all prospects were suspects. The key here is that you need to find out if your suspect qualifies as a prospect. If not, move on. Don’t waste valuable time on people that will not buy.

The next step in prospecting is to understand what business you are in. There is a story about a drill bit manufacturer who when asked about his business said, "We provide drill bits for businesses and individuals." Later that day he saw a man using a hammer and nail and asked, "What are you trying to do?" The man replied, "I’m making a hole." From then on the manufacturer recognized he was in the business of helping people make holes. Once you begin to think in terms of what benefits your product or service provides, then you are on your way to defining what business you are in.

Once you know how to identify a prospect and what business you are in, you can go out into the marketplace to target prospects.

— Reprint permission granted by author Andre Boykin of CAPITAL iDEA.