Timothy HuffakerSalespeople are continually looking for new sales opportunities.  

Unfortunately, most salespeople must start over each month to find new opportunities for the next month’s sales.  There are many methods for finding new business.  For example, cold calling, leads groups, networking, referrals, industry publications, subscribing to bid lists, joining clubs and organizations, etc.  One of the best methods for finding new opportunities is often overlooked and yet it stares salespeople right in the face.  I refer to it as your “bucket of opportunity.”  This bucket of opportunity is comprised of every customer that has ever purchased from you or your company.

Several years ago I was working with a salesperson who mentioned he was the sole supplier of a certain product to one of his customers.  In other words, he was getting all the business he could with the customer.  I knew the customer’s scope of business and ask the salesperson what the annual volume was with this particular customer.  When he told me, I was shocked.  There was no way he was the sole provider.  I suggested the next time he called on this company that he ask his contact person if there was anyone else in the company that was responsible for making purchasing decisions for this product.  A few weeks later my client revealed there were nine other divisions in the company that all purchased the same products he was selling.  In reality, my client was selling only one tenth of what the company was purchasing.

Many years ago when I was in Graduate School at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, I made contact with many international companies in my search for employment.  Several of my classmates, in their quest for employment opportunities, sent letters to the HR Departments of different companies.  My strategy was to contact executives within the sales, marketing, and international departments directly.  I sent two such letters to the M.A. Hanna Company looking for an employment opportunity.  One executive responded with a note saying there were no opportunities within the company, and the other executive eventually hired me.  What if I had only made one contact?  The point I am trying to make is there may be multiple sales opportunities for the sale of your products and services within the same company.

Your “bucket of opportunity” includes every current customer who may be looking for products you could provide, although you may currently only be selling one product to them.  It also includes selling to different departments or divisions of the same company.  Your bucket of opportunity includes selling to all the buyers within a company who may be in need of your products and services.  It also includes contacting past customers with whom you have a relationship.  The world is constantly changing and just because someone quit purchasing from you doesn’t mean they won’t purchase from you again in the future if you just maintain the relationship.  

Review past customer lists and assess their current needs.  Contact every current customer and look for additional opportunities.  Identify other divisions and departments that might possibly need your products.  Ask your current contact person for introductions to other people within the organization who might have the need for your products.  The very best source of new sales opportunities is with your current or past customers.  I’m reminded of the marketing campaign used by the Larry H. Miller Group.  You see the picture of Larry Miller and the words say, “After all, you know this guy.”  Your customers and past customers know you and you need to build on that relationship.  Remember, people buy from people they believe, like and trust; you have that type of relationship with your current and past customers, which gives you the advantage over every other salesperson, to make more sales to your current and past customers.