I was recently discussing the launch of my new company, Black Dot Messaging with Lisa Alpert, owner of the innovative web services company, web 360. Lisa asked me how I plan to find clients for Black Dot. I really didn’t have a good answer. I have scores of friends in the high- tech industry, not to mention valued contacts from several alumni associations and professional groups. However, I haven’t put together a full- blown business development plan.

My profound hope is that hundreds of people will read my weekly blog, decide they cannot succeed without my valuable consulting services and immediately offer me open-ended contracts with hefty retainers. Since hope isn’t a strategy my online activity will need to be supplemented by other actions.

I realize that I will need to hit the pavement to solicit new clients. It’s been while since I last relied on my sales skills to put food on the table (Actually, we have plenty of food but single malts and good pinot noirs are getting ridiculously expensive).
I spent 25 years in high-tech sales and developed a level of proficiency that I was never able to attain in algebra, art, archery, or accordion playing (and those are just the activities that begin with “a”).

Once I hit a high level of sales achievement where I had the total respect of my management chain, I decided that I could pick and choose which customers I would work with and which ones I would toss back to my boss. In some cases, I told certain annoying customers that we were out of business (a particularly neat trick when your company is named Verizon).

I decided on three criteria that a customer must have for me to work with them. I don’t recommend that everyone use this formula but you might have fun applying it to your prospect list. Alternatively, you might come up with your own formula that gets rid of customers who will never buy, increases your closing percentage and might even prolong your life.

A major caveat is that there is no perfect customer. Therefore, I decided that I would work with any customer that had two of the three criteria.

Criteria 1: Do I like the customer contact(s)? Can I work with this person or persons? Do I believe that they are honest?

Criteria 2: Does the customer waste my time? Many technical contacts will just try to soak up as much knowledge as possible from you with no intention of ever buying.

Criteria 3: Do they have budget?

To quote Meatloaf: “Two out of three ain’t bad”.

I have excelled at selling to customers that I don’t like personally. If they are well funded and treat me in a business-like manner, I’ll happily take their abuse and work with them. I just won’t invite them to join us on vacations.

Another case is where a customer contact is smart and likeable but doesn’t have money. I’ll gladly provide time and information and hopefully someday they will have the money.

The ideal customer would have the brain of Harry Potter, the likeability of Rubeus Hagrid and the financial resources of J.K Rowling. Those customers rarely come along but I’m writing this blog in my beautiful family room that was paid for by doing business with a customer that was highly profitable and employed highly intelligent people that I eventually grew to like.

I hope that you have fun identifying your ideal customer.