Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power, says, “The main purpose of a salesperson is not to make sales, but to create customers.” Identifying potential buyers of translation services is an important aspect of your language business. This is commonly known as prospecting. A potential client, or prospect, is someone who meets the qualification criteria established by you or your business. But where do you start? Your business strategy will serve as the blueprint for your sales, branding and marketing strategy.

In a nutshell, you need to have a clear unique value proposition, i.e., a clear statement, in line with your market’s challenges and desires, that communicates the unique contribution you (as a business entity) and your services provide to your market that is different from your competitors. Then you can focus all your resources on attracting that particular target market (prospecting). Prospecting requires planning, and you should develop a prospecting system that is suited to a particular selling situation.

Some of the sources of prospects (and, once again, it all depends on your business strategy) that you should consider are:

  • Referrals. This results in higher close rates, larger sales, and shorter sales cycles.
  • Directories. Here is a list of some popular U.S. directories:

– Middle Market Directory lists 14,000 firms worth between $500,000 and $1 million (available from Dun & Bradstreet.)

Standard & Poor’s Corporation Records Service provides details on more than 11,000 companies.

TrackAmerica is a database management company that offers online information on millions of U.S. businesses and consumers.

Reference USA provides a comprehensive directory of businesses in the United States and Canada. Searches can combine multiple criteria, allowing for the generation of customized  lists of businesses. This resource is recommended for courses in business.

Thomas Register of American Manufacturers provides a listing of 60,000 manufacturers by product classification, address, and capital rating.

Polk City Directory provides detailed information on the citizens of a specific community. Polk, in business for over 125 years, publishes about 1,100 directories covering 6,500 communities in the United States and Canada.

–  The Encyclopedia of Associations lists more than 23,000 U.S. associations and more than 20,000 international organizations with details on membership, publications, and conferences.

  • Trade publications. These publications provide a status report on every major industry.
  • Centers of influence, friends, and family members. Even if they don’t make the buying decision, they have influence on others that do! Facebook and other social media outlets are good for this.
  • Trade shows and special events. Focus on events where you can find your target market in masses. Research studies indicate that it is much easier to identify good prospects and actually close sales at a trade show. In most cases, fewer sales calls are needed to close a sale if the prospect was qualified at a trade show.
  • Telemarketing and e-mail. I personally do not like telemarketing, but it can be used to quickly and inexpensively qualify prospects to follow up on. As for emails, they should be used with those who have opted in to receive them. Avoid spamming.
  • Direct-response advertising and sales letters.
  • Websites.
  • Social media like LinkedIn. It can be a valuable prospecting tool. Make sure your profile and your business profile are created to attract those you wish to network with.
  • Computerized databases.
  • Cold calling.
  • Networking. Attend networking events where you can interact with your target market.
  • Educational seminars. Attend or provide educational seminars.

You can and should use a combined approach to get prospects. Then make sure you have a sales process in place so you can improve the closing rate.

What other tools do you use to develop new business for your language services?