I went from hero to zero. I left a lucrative high-paying sales position with a national lighting management company to start my own business making “zero”. It was the single biggest leap of my professional career.

I had completely underestimated how challenging it was to find customers without a network of people to call on. The business contacts I had made over the previous four years were across the United States, not the local market where my new business efforts would be focused.

After three weeks of 50-plus cold calls per day, with virtually no results, I knew there had to be a better way. So, I put on my thinking cap and created a 6-part prospecting plan that helped me go from no leads to two qualified appointments everyday in less than six months, sustained indefinitely.

A 6-Part Prospecting Plan that will Net You 2 New Sales Appointments per Day:

1. Establish Your Database

There are a number of different ways to organize your contacts.

Back in the day, I used Act and Goldmine but I have experience working in NetSuite, Salesforce.com, Zoho, and Sugar, along with a number of other customized, industry specific database solutions. Do your research and decide which one of the number of software solutions is best for you.

While finding a software solution is important, that’s not the true meaning of establish your database.

The most important part about establishing your database is doing your research to find associations, trade organizations and clubs where you’re likely to find the decision makers and high-level influencers located in your targeted geographic territory. Use the directories of those associations and clubs to help you establish your database. Eventually, you may need to rely upon a sourcing company such as InfoUSA, ResourceUSA or Harris. There are several that you can use, along those who are industry specific. Make it your goal to get a minimum of 3,000 contacts and then go to work.

2. Attend 4-6 Networking Events Every Month

Attend 4-6 networking events every month with associations, trade organizations and clubs located in your targeted geographic territory. Before attending each event, set a goal to have in-depth conversations and trade business cards with a minimum of three decision makers or high-level influencers with whom you can count on setting an introductory meeting within the next week.

When you meet people at networking events, think about how you can help them before you think about how they can help you. Be a giver, not a getter. Every purposeful conversation can deepen connections and help you build long-term professional relationships. Look past the person with whom you are speaking to at a networking event. Many people you speak to will have established connections and networks with whom they can connect you. Be sure to add any new decision makers or high-level influencers to your database.

For more about networking, refer to this blog post on the aspects of successful networking.

3. Make 15-30 Dials Every Day

Establish a goal. If you don’t have any appointments on your calendar for the day, then plan on making 30 dials. If you have one appointment on the calendar, the make 25 dials; if two, then make 20 dials; if three, then make 15 dials.

Your 15-30 dials a day must be aimed at decision makers and high-level influencers located in your database. If you are calling on anyone new, be sure to put them in your database before you call them. As you make your dials, plan to have one third of them turn into in-depth conversations from which you will set one to two introductory meetings.

Many of these dials may be cold and challenging. Cold calls are an important part of prospecting. For this reason, make sure you have a script so you know what you are going to say, before you say it. Don’t get trapped by sounding like every other salesperson. Your script will allow you to give the recipients of your calls the impression that you are intelligent and knowledgeable about their business.

4. Give 3 Referrals Every Month

In his essay Compensation, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, that each person is compensated in like manner for that which he or she has contributed. I have found this to be true in the area of giving and receiving referrals.

As you network and make your calls, you will speak with many people who can be of service to other people you know. Leverage these conversations. Over the years, I’ve discovered that for every three referrals I give, I receive at least one in return.

In addition, establish relationships with centers of influence with whom you can trust and recommend to others. Meet with your centers of influence regularly and follow up on all of your introductions. When others refer business to you, send them a hand-written thank you note and enclose a gift card in order to express your appreciation. Be generous, always giving with the intention of helping others. As you develop the attitude of serving others, others will want to take care of you. Always give with the intention of helping others and never expecting anything in return.

For more about referral partnerships, refer to this blog post on the do’s and don’ts of referral partnerships.

5. Host and Facilitate 1 Convening Meeting Every 2 Months

A convening meeting can also be referred to as a lunch and learn or executive briefing. Either you speak, or partner with an industry expert such as an industry-specific consultant, attorney, CPA or banker. Invite them to come to your office and speak for 60-90 minutes on a topic that will be interesting and valuable for the decision makers and high-level influencers in your database.

The primary purpose of the convening meeting is to position yourself as an industry expert and educate the prospects in your database. I recommend that you host these events at your office. It’s an excellent way for your prospects to get comfortable with you and your team.

There are four ways to promote your convening meetings:

  1. Offer it up at networking events.
  2. Mention it when making your calls.
  3. Discuss it with your referral partners
  4. Invite everyone in your database through email and social media.

6. Continuously Brand Yourself

Here are three simple and inexpensive ways to brand yourself:

  1. The associations, trade organizations and clubs located in your targeted geographic territory are always looking for help. Sign up to be a volunteer, sponsor events or offer to be a speaker at an upcoming lunch or dinner meeting.
  1. Your prospects see you as an exert and they want to know what you know. Create a blog or monthly publication that will benefit them. Ask the associations, trade organizations and clubs you work with to make it available to their members. Then send monthly emails to the contacts in your database.
  1. Connect to everyone you meet, on LinkedIn. Then, post at least three valuable pieces of information daily. This will allow your contacts to notice you. When you are actively posting, you building a persona and it will be easier for people to get to know you without actually knowing you.

Effective prospecting will not happen in a silo. Many salespeople make the mistake of doing only one or two prospecting activities with little or no consistency. If you do this, you won’t gain much traction and and most importantly, you won’t saturate your database. When you put a prospecting plan in place, you won’t just add people to your sales funnel, you will consistently refine your database and eventually become the trusted go-to person in your field of business and you’ll never have to cold call again.


Jeff Ruby

Jeff Ruby

Founder of RedRock Leadership

During the course of his professional career, he has worked in organizations ranging in size from a sole practitioner to Fortune 500. Included in his experience are roles in starting and selling companies, sales and sales management, training and development and executive coaching.

RedRock Leadership is a sales training and leadership development company committed to growing companies by growing individuals through on-going training infused with the competencies of emotional intelligence.