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Industry Commentary

Uncovering Prospective Customers

Sphere may be much larger than most salespeople realize

December 6, 2007


photo of Dave Hershman

A good marketing plan includes identifying sales prospects. Among prospects are people within a salesperson's sphere, and this may go way beyond what he or she realizes.

The term "sphere" might be the most overused term in sales and marketing literature. For some, the sphere is represented by one's immediate friends and for others it is someone's previous customers. In reality, your sphere includes these elements and much more. It is when we define the sphere in the right way that we actually find out how important our sphere actually is with regard to our marketing plan. In the long-run, our sphere should be the basis or foundation of this plan.

First, what is one's sphere? A sphere is comprised of those you who know and you know them as well. Put it this way -- if you were walking down the street and passed someone -- would you say hello? If you would, they are part of your sphere. In addition to this relationship component, there is also a component of commonality. There are those you don't know, but with whom you have something in common.

For example, let's say you go to church or temple. There may be 500 families and 1000 members of the group. You probably know 50 of these people because you live near them, sit near them or even have served on committees with them. But there are 950 people that you don't know whom are part of the sphere. The "commonality" component adds the largest numbers to your sphere while the relationship component adds the most important individuals to your sphere.

Now that we have defined the sphere, let us look at the specific components of a sphere. In all, there are seven all-important segments of one's personal sphere.

Friends, family and neighbors are the part of your sphere that is comprised of those with whom you have the closest relationship. We could say that you have built up an "emotional" bank account. This can be the most important segment of the sphere because the members have a vested interest in helping you succeed. And many times it is under-utilized because call reluctance keeps some from calling on the personal segment of the sphere.

Previous customers are a segment of the sphere that is well defined in practice and literature. Sometimes this segment is interchangeable with the term sphere. There are many "customer relationship management" programs available to help sales and business people keep track of and deliver value to this segment. One important point -- if you are new in your present industry, be sure to include the previous customers from your previous industry. These are people you have served and with whom you have developed a relationship. Starting with these customers puts you on "second base" instead of home plate.

Present and previous co-workers would include everyone you have worked with in this industry and previous industries. Many have worked with hundreds of different people. You may have helped someone start a career. Perhaps you have promoted someone. These relationships can be turned into dollars because you have good will built up. If you work in an industry where turnover is rampant among sales personnel (for example, as a real estate agent or loan officer). Every time someone leaves the industry the sphere they have built up disappears unless you take the initiative to work with them and turn them into a referral source. In reality, the group of "previous practitioners" makes a great referral source because they are familiar with screening prospects and they are known as having expertise in the industry. In other words, don't let your previous peers from this profession or your previous profession go untapped.

Previous prospects are important for two reasons. First, if they choose not to do business with you, they might change their mind sometime in the future. Perhaps they decided not to purchase at all. Keeping in touch with this segment is essential.

On the other hand, there are prospects that you were not able to help because of one reason or another. Perhaps they had bad credit or no savings. You should be referring these people to those who can help them (perhaps credit counselors) so they are more likely to become clients in the future. Those who receive your referrals that are comprised of those you can't help are helping you with your future business and can become important referral source on their own. It is said that "someone's garbage is someone else's treasure."

When we described the sphere, we described both a "relationship" and "commonality" segment. Your associations will produce targets that represent both segments, but this category actually has the ability to add more from the "commonality" segment than any other category. Associations would include religious, academic, business, civic or even special interest associations. Your church/temple, alumni association, chamber of commerce, homeowners association and even country club are all examples of these associations.

If you are not a "participator" or "joiner" -- your marketing plan may require that you start joining and participating in these associations. An alumni association may have 2,000 members. You might develop a relationship with only 50, but you have something in common with all of them. If you took a sales course, they would teach you to find something in common with prospects. Why not start with those with whom you have something in common? That will make the sales process even easier.

Vendors are also in your sphere. There are actually two subcategories of vendors. First, there are those from which you purchase. You make both business and personal purchases. Your business vendors may include your landlord, printer, advertiser, etc. Your personal vendors may include your dry cleaners, favorite restaurant, etc. Every time you make a purchase from a vendor you are helping that vendor succeed. Our question to you -- is that vendor helping you succeed? This brings up an important sphere-marketing rule -- stop buying things from vendors that are not helping you succeed.

The second subcategory of vendors would include those that sell to your targets. For example, if you are a real estate agent, you are not the only one who calls on potential homeowners. If you are a loan officer, you are not the only one who calls on real estate agents. It is from this subcategory that you can find potential synergy marketing partners. Synergy marketing partners are those who have the same targets as you but sell a non-competing product. Why not coordinate your marketing efforts and share relationship referrals?

The professional category includes doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial planners and other professionals who may be singled out among your sphere. Professionals are very important because professionals typically have a higher income than the average person. Therefore, their purchases of such things as homes are expected to be of a greater magnitude. In addition, professionals typically have large spheres of influences themselves and therefore can make very attractive referral sources. Professionals also know many other professionals. For example, if you are interested in marketing to divorce attorneys, you can cold call them. Or you can meet many divorce attorneys through one divorce attorney. You may know one or two, but they are likely to know ten or twenty. They went to school with them, practice with them and compete against them. And we all know that divorces produce many transactions, especially in the real estate world.

By the time we identify these seven segments of our sphere, you can see how quickly our database will grow. If you have a goal to build a marketing plan that will produce and grow by referral rather than through cold calling, you can see that this sphere is the key to this marketing plan. It is hard to generate a full marketing plan with less than 100 in your database. But this exercise is designed to move your sphere into the thousands.

But it is not enough to say that your plan should revolve around the sphere. Now we must be more specific in delineating this marketing plan. The goal of the plan will be to identify, grow and provide maximum value to important segments of the sphere.

Dave Hershman is a mortgage industry author and speaker -- with 8 books and hundreds of articles to his credit. He also heads OriginationPro.com Mortgage School.
e-mail: [email protected]

more articles by Dave Hershman

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