Spraying and Praying? The Art of the Target List

Every year about this time, I start hearing the same refrain from the sales community: “Where can I go?” or “I have called on everyone I know,” and that starts a downward trend in performance and results. Then the inevitable starts. Salespeople of every ilk start to do the dreaded “spray and pray.” In other words, proposals and sales calls happen with increasing and indiscriminate frequency in the hopes that the more that gets thrown out, the more that has to stick, right? If I keep tossing out the same template for my product or service, someone has to buy, right? The answer is yes, no, and maybe.

Yes, the more you put out there in and of itself increases the odds to a certain degree that someone will buy. But it’s inefficient and a bad way to sell…and it has a very high probability that what you sell will be seen as less valuable by the consumer. No—selling this way is dangerous and has no good end. It’s a small world, and people talk. Clients and prospects make fun of salespeople who send the same offering out regardless of whether they are the right type of client who is most likely to buy their product. I once keynoted at a meeting where people had the same proposal, and they all brought them to show how they were all getting blasted in the same way.

How can we sell more efficiently and with a higher chance of success? The answer is a more thoughtful approach to creating a target list that defines WHO will be most likely to be a client and benefit from our product. This is not new, and the concept of a target list has been around since selling began. It is also a frequently forgotten tool when pressure to sell mounts and bad sales management is more focused on metrics, regardless of their value. In other words, useless metrics mean fewer sales and more “spraying and praying.” (A word to the wise here: This applies to everyone. Think about this concept if you’re searching for a job and find yourself repeatedly hitting “enter” and “send” on one of the job boards in the hopes of getting the interview. Enough said.)

5 rules of creating a rock-solid target list for success

  1. It starts with your value proposition. Your target list is a list of prospective clients and prospects who will most likely buy from you because they know what you do and the value you bring to them. If your clients know you can help them meet their agendas, then they are great targets with a higher probability of a successful closing.
  2. It’s focused. There are no prizes for having the biggest target list. There is a prize for having the right target list—not of the most people but of the right people. Having a focused target list requires courage in defending the quality and not the length of the list. More is not always better.
  3. It’s mutual. A great target list comprises clients and prospects who have a mutual interest in doing business. Here is a shocking proposition: When you are building your target list, ASK your clients and prospects if they see themselves on that list. Are you still breathing? Think I am crazy? (Please don’t answer that.) If you have the courage to ask someone you know is going to benefit from your sell—product, service, or yourself—then by asking, you engage in a conversation that builds trust and strengthens the relationship. You also hear possible objections that you can get ahead of and start working on early.
  4.  It’s proven. If you know where you have sold successfully, then you know where you are likely to have more success! Right? You need to identify and define the same types of clients who have proven to be successful in the past. Don’t spend so much time reinventing the wheel if the right type of client is in abundance. Now, this does not mean that you shouldn’t try in new markets. It does mean you should be deliberate and careful with your target list selection.
  5. It’s growth oriented. Your target list will grow because of the success you bring to your existing clients and by asking for referrals. Yes, ask your clients for referrals and letters of recommendation. The value is obvious and will pay off big time.

Are you following my five rules of target list success or are you “spraying and praying”? These five rules will allow you and your management to work more constructively together and develop the best places to offer what you sell and the value you bring. This will mean more closing and happier and more satisfied customers.

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