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Creating Sales: The Secret to Finding Hidden, but Ripe Opportunities
By Jill Konrath, President,

Traditional sales wisdom says that focusing on the low-hanging fruit is the fastest way to get business. I beg to disagree.

Quick. Qualify your prospects. Make sure they have the budget for your product or service. And, if not, move on. Your time is precious and you can't waste it with prospects who aren't ready for change.

Heard those words before? Traditional sales wisdom says that focusing on the low-hanging fruit is the fastest way to get business. Look for the "ready now" buyers and ignore the rest - that's the key to success.

I beg to disagree. If that's your thinking, you're missing out on a bunch of sales.

Why? Because then you're continually in the midst of competitive battles, where pricing becomes the prime differentiator and nothing else seems to matter. You have minimal ability to influence their decision - even if your offering is a better value or could make a bigger impact on their company.

To be really successful, it's imperative to find opportunities ripe with potential, but not yet in existence. In short, you need to create these opportunities by your own business & sales savvy.

Here's how I first discovered that sales secret.

Shortly after starting my own company, I won a contract to design & deliver a customized sales training program at a major law firm. Since I was unfamiliar with how attorneys "sold", part of my project involved in-depth interviews with their top "rainmakers." (Note: This term is used in lieu of "sales" which many deem a 4-letter word.)

As in most professional services firms, nearly all the top sellers were senior members of the firm. In interview after interview, I kept hearing that the key to sales success was:
  • Returning phone calls promptly.
  • Giving good customer service.
  • Building strong relationships.
  • Entertaining & golfing with clients.
  • Having law school friends finally in positions of power.
While all those things may have been true, I wasn't satisfied that doing them was enough to be a top seller. Nor was I willing to accept that you had to wait till you had gray hair before you could be good in sales.

I kept searching, looking for skills that could be taught to the younger lawyers. There had to be something more.

Finally, I talked to Paul. While he uttered the same platitudes, when I asked him about landing his newest client, I got a different answer. Then I found out he used the same strategy to expand his business with existing clients.

AHA! At last, I'd found a way that any reasonably intelligent person could use to create sales opportunities when none existed.

Better yet, this strategy actually prevented competition. By using it, decision makers had minimal desire to look for alternatives. They wanted to work with you - and get started now!

How was Paul creating business from thin air?

First of all, he kept up-to-date on what was happening to his existing clients, targeted firms and any legal cases that might be relevant to them.

When he read about a recent judgment on an intellectual property issue, he started thinking about how it might impact his clients or prospects.

When he learned that a product liability case had been settled, he assessed its potential ramifications for his current and desired clients.

Then, he'd call his primary contact and say something like this:
"Bob. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the BIG DEAL case that was just settled out in California. It was an intellectual property issue related to part-time workers.

"That got me thinking about your own policies in this area. Based on the court's decision, you may be at risk. We should get together and look at this. After all, better safe than sorry."
BINGO! It worked. Yup. Nearly all the time. Paul had discovered the key to creating sales where none existed - triggering events.

Virtually overnight, these sales catalysts transform the status quo from acceptable to unacceptable. Funding suddenly becomes available as it's reallocated from elsewhere in the budget to this new priority. Plus, you don't have to constantly fight competitors.

Now I'm not a rocket scientist, but I am smart enough to recognize a great business-growth strategy when I see it. By using these sales-generating triggers, I could stop my never-ending search companies currently evaluating sales training and focus on demand creation.

After a thorough review of my customer base, I discovered these triggering events were fertile ground for generating more sales:
  • Sales were stagnant or down slightly, but not horrible.
  • Important new products were being introduced.
  • Companies were going through mergers or acquisitions.
Once I knew my triggering events, my business took off. Once you know your trigger events, the same thing can happen to you.

POOF! You've got a new customer. It can go that fast. It can be that easy. And you can create sales versus waiting till someone is finally ready to change.

Jill Konrath helps salespeople get their foot in the door and win big contracts in the corporate market. Sign up for her free e-newsletter by sending an email to . You get a free "Sales Call Planning Guide" ($19.95 value) when you subscribe.Contact Jill Konrath at (651) 429-1922 or visit

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