Resources  >> 3 Types of Prospects to Go After in a Volatile Economy

About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  November 01, 2008

3 Types of Prospects to Go After in a Volatile Economy

Originally published for RainToday.com

When the economy is unpredictable, it’s very tempting to run around selling to any kind of prospect with a budget. In the spirit of “just get out there,” many professional service firms will talk to anyone, sell to anyone and as a result, waste a lot of time with folks who may have the resources but are not willing to buy. Instead of looking at who has the budget, let’s also look at urgency. In this economy, three agendas emerge that create the motivation to buy. Clients with these inclinations are more willing to move past economic fears and move money around to get what they want. They are a better group to devote precious marketing efforts on.

The unstoppable visionary

Who are they: Visionaries are the evangelists. They are on a mission. They aren’t going to let the economy stop them from attaining their goal. Some are in denial and need a reality check. Some are well aware of the violate economy and believe they can win anyway. The urgency comes from within. With these folks, it is personal. Coaches are a natural fit for visionaries, as they realize that the journey to their goals requires changing their behavior in order to influence others to change as well.

Where to find them: In the media and in industry conferences. Visionaries are natural hosts — they build bandwagons then invite others to the party. They are easiest prospects to find, as they are out-front and very vocal about their views. The goals will be transparent; the agenda behind the goals will require more work.

What to pitch: Because they are so easy to find, visionaries are deluged with offers to help. The key: focus on being the conduit without coming off with a brown nose. Visionaries don’t need more visions — and they won’t tolerate any conversations on why their goal won’t work. They need a path to get them from point A to Z. They need accountability and ongoing feedback in the face of obstacles. They need to hone their personal brand and interpersonal skills to build support. Start with conversations that show that you have unique approaches that are in sync with their world view. Suggest nuanced ideas that make them think. And be bold. Visionaries love stimulating conversations with peers. Chemistry is everything with these clients.

The opportunist

Who are they: Opportunists are the predators. They see the economy as clearing out the deadwood and want to use the situation to their advantage. They are on the hunt for new opportunities and want to springboard their current success into something bigger when the economy turns. Their urgency is speed. They don’t want to miss any chance to get ahead. They are motivated by winning. Like the visionaries, these folks are forward-thinking. Unlike the visionaries, opportunists look outward rather than inward. They love working with consultants, especially those focused on strategy, finding and exploiting opportunities.

Where to find them: Harder to find than the visionaries because they are lurking. (It’s hard to pounce when everyone can see you.) Best place to start is the grapevine. Most companies in a position of strength will want to get stronger in this economy, so they will put out the feelers. Look at media announcements for mergers. Your brand is critical here. Be attractive with speeches, articles, etc. on opportunities and let them come to you. Personal introductions work well, too.

What to pitch: When word gets out on who is on the prowl, these folks will also be inundated with offers. They key: focus on having the inside scoop. Opportunists don’t have time to waste, so they approach who they want to work with rather than working with who shows up. Those who show thought leadership before the search will have the inside track. Start conversations and/or speeches on trends and where to find the best opportunities. Be strategic and show nuance. And be prepared to apply your ideas to their situation (just a sample!) to differentiate you from the hordes.

The paranoid

Who are they: In the animal world, the paranoid would be the gazelles. Fast, nimble but always on the lookout for predators. These folks are strong enough to withstand the economic pressure but still feel the effects and are worried nonetheless. Like the visionaries, the paranoid have goals. Like the opportunists, they want to grow. But their urgency is based on survival. Already successful, these organizations want to keep what they have. They are concerned enough to avoid risky strategies but not panicked enough to shut down all spending. They will invest in staying strong. This is the most conservative group, but don’t count them out. Survival is a great motivator. These folks resonate with the feel-good message many motivational speakers bring.

Where to find them: These prospects are the hardest to find. Of all the categories, they feel the most vulnerable and don’t want to tip their hand. Networking and referrals is the best way to flesh out this agenda. Like the opportunists, attraction works well for the paranoid. So any articles on how to survive/thrive will bring out the kindred spirits. Speaking at industry events is very attractive; speaking at their events is the best way in.

What to pitch: Because they are already strong, even the paranoid will be flooded with opportunities to invest. Many professional service firms won’t get past the gatekeeper because they confused the paranoids with the opportunist and pitched new growth too hard. The best approach is a blend of reassurance without appearing fatalistic. They are not struggling — just more concerned.

You’re only as good as your clients

Regardless of the times, there are always winners and losers. Those who have the urgency to act will do what it takes to get what they need to prosper. By going after clients based on their reaction to the economy, our efforts won’t be bogged down with fishing expeditions and folks too paralyzed to buy. And that’s a win in any economy.

Filed Under: Sales


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.