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Smarter ways to hunt for new business

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Who doesn't want to land new business that will take their company to the next level? The desire to find new business is often on a basic emotional level ("me want more revenue"). The more emotion is connected to the hunt, the more logic leaves the discussion of what you should pitch.

When hunting for new business, sometimes sales people can pull the tiniest scrap of data about a prospect and make an enormous projection about what the prospect will or will not want. This can lead to some very dangerous conclusions. Here are five logical ways to hunt for new business:

1. Attract new business with helpful information
"Clients today are bombarded with articles, speeches and seminars that contain generalities and do not distinguish the author or presenter from any of his or her competent competitors," says former Harvard Business School professor David Maister. He says the key to finding and attracting new business is to demonstrate that you have something to offer that your competitors do not. The answer, says Maister, is a neglected sales tool: Conducting proprietary research on topics of interest to prospective clients. You don't have to be a marketing research expert to pull this off.

2. Be a new business scientist
Conduct research you can use in seminars, websites and publicity. Remember those lectures in science class about the scientific method? Well, it's time to dust off that knowledge. The scientific method is about observing, forming a theory (or hypothesis) and then experimenting to test the results. From your experience and observations, pick the three biggest problems you solve for clients and turn each problem into a research topic.

3. Choose topics carefully
Ask yourself: "Will this research be relevant to potential clients and trade journal editors?" If no, rethink the topic. If yes, proceed. Surf the web to review the literature of books, articles and published studies that relate to your research topic. Collect data through opinion surveys, focus groups, and analysis of case studies. Probably the best thing you can do is interview about a dozen people who match the description of your target client. Tell them you are using the information to write an article (and then write that article).

4. Make research-based recommendations
Analyze the data to draw conclusions and make recommendations. Write a summary report on the findings of your research (this can be as simple as a report or as elaborate as a book). Use the research information in your seminars, speeches, how-to articles, website content and publicity.

5. Name your process
Prospects find proven processes comforting. From the research and your experience, create your own defined problem-solving system that will help you attract new business. Outline what you already do to provide solutions to customers. Then break this process down into a series of defined steps (usually from five to seven are enough). Give the process an intriguing name, typically no more than four words. Begin with "The" and end with "System," "Process," or "Methodology" for your proprietary process name. A trademarked process communicates to prospects that you have done your homework and value your intellectual property. Search the U.S. Patent Office website ( to find out whether you can trademark the name (steer clear if it's already been used in your industry).

Follow these five steps and you will stand out from the competitors who are also on the hunt for new business. Start with the facts that you know, then evaluate the opinions you have heard and finally take a moment to consider the gossip. Just make sure you don't do it the other way around when you look for new business.

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