Yesterday I wrote about Knowing the Whale, first phase of The Whale Hunters Process. That’s about determining ideal criteria. Once you have written down the criteria, it’s time for the next phase: Seek the Whale. Go out into the marketplace to find lists of companies that meet your criteria.
If you’re the harpooner (salesperson), the chief (CEO), or shaman (sales manager), chances are you do NOT want to take on a big research project–which is just what Seeking is all about. How are you going to accomplish this task?
I recommend two resources for this phase of your sales process development: an intern or college student team and a reference librarian.
First, the intern. An undergraduate business major or MBA student can conduct this research for you. Call the career services offices at a college or university near you and inquire how to get connected. Students need to have work experiences in real businesses, and you have a real business experience to provide. You may pay the student a modest wage or the college may award college credit, or both. Sometimes you will find a student team that needs a project. Once you explain what you need, turn them loose to conduct the research for you.
Second, the librarian. Odds are good that your local public library subscribes to several online business reference databases that you can access if you have a library card. A university library will have even more–if you are an alum or a donor, see if your relationship includes a library card with online access. If you are engaging students, send them to visit a librarian. If you’re doing it yourself, drop in and talk to a reference librarian about the databases and services the library offers and how they can help you.
Here’s the research question: “I have a list of criteria of the kinds of companies that I would like to contact to purchase my products/services. How can you help me find companies that meet these criteria?” [Believe me, librarians love to get questions like that!]
There are paid research services that you can use, but I suggest you exhaust all of the free services first!
You are looking for specific companies that you can research and, if the research proves out, contact. The list of companies becomes what we call your Whale Chart.
The librarian is going to look for keywords and key distinctions on your target filter–for example, you want names of public technology companies in the research triangle with revenues of over $1 billion. Or, you want names of privately held companies in Texas, with revenues over $10 million, that provide healthcare services. If you have two few differentiating characteristics, a librarian can tell you how to be more specific to do a reasonable search.
This is not a typical business marketing process. Rather than putting your message out to “the market,” you will be strategically identifying those potential buyers who are the best fit for you.