It is easy to fall into the habit of\u00a0believing that everyone is a potential client.\u00a0Some business owners will\u00a0even say that they want to obtain ALL of the business out there ... that everyone is a prospective client. This is a dangerous mindset. Business growth isn't about selling to everyone; it is about selling to every right one\u00a0--\u00a0that is, everyone who is a "qualified" prospect.\u00a0 When you try to sell to everyone your efforts are too broad. You aren't focused and you soon are faced with failures, because you are wasting time trying to sell something without understanding the value in other people's eyes - or even whether they are truly a good fit for your product or service.\u00a0 In short, you aren't qualifying companies/individuals in the field.\u00a0 Qualifying\u00a0--\u00a0that is, effective prospecting and information gathering\u00a0-- leads you to the clients you should have.\u00a0 Qualifying prospects includes 4 steps: 1. Understand the real value of your product or service. Whatever you're selling, whatever "it" is, it IS a thing. Even if you're a service provider and don't have a product per se, know exactly what you're selling and think of it as a product.\u00a0 That's the first step. Now, why do people/companies need it? What does it do for them? How does it help them?\u00a0Be specific. Example:\u00a0 You are not just a consultant selling an hour's worth of time. Rather, you are a sales coach selling a program designed to help people create a strategy to increase their client base and their annual sales. 2. Understand WHO needs or wants it. This is easier to answer once you know the answers to the first point. Once you know the true value (or benefit) you'll have a better idea of who to target. Example: Now that you understand the value of your service you realize that small business owners who have no previous sales experience are the people who truly need your program. 3. Define your target market.\u00a0 Now that you have a good idea of who and what, you can create an effective system for targeting those prospects. Target marketing is following a specific structured process focused on a particular group of prospects. To be effective you have to narrow the field of prospective clients. Select a segment of your market to focus on first. Example: From step 1, you now know the value of your sales coaching program. From step 2, you realize that the group that needs it is small business owners who have no previous sales experience. Therefore, looking at that pool of prospects you determine that IT professionals are a good target segment because, while they possess excellent computer and web skills, they often lack effective sales skills.\u00a0 4. Have a clear vision of your ideal client.\u00a0\u00a0You still have to break it down further.\u00a0 This includes asking yourself questions such as:\u00a0 What's their ability to make the decision to buy, as well as their ability to pay for your product?\u00a0 Where are they geographically? What is the ROI?\u00a0 In other words, is the time you will spend with them equal to or less than the revenue you will realize? Example: After thinking it through further you determine that your prospective target market\u00a0consists of\u00a0those IT professionals who have been in business for at least 2 years, are within a 75 mile radius from your office, and have annual revenues of $500,000 or more.\u00a0 These four points are important to know before you start your sales and marketing. Having this knowledge when you approach the actual sales process will help you qualify the prospects even better. Look at it this way: You know who you prefer to work with (ideal client) You know who needs your product or service When you target market and get in front of those who need it, you can further qualify them based on who you prefer to work with; thus, further narrowing the field. This is where information gathering comes in. You've defined the field and are marketing to them. Ask all the questions you need to ask to make sure that they truly need what you offer, and they fit your ideal client mold.\u00a0 When those two areas are met, you can SELL. Selling, in this scenario is really information giving.\u00a0 You've narrowed the field and are now in front of a truly qualified prospect. It is time to offer the information you have -- how your product or service meets their needs, the cost, the process -- the details.\u00a0 You are fitting the pieces of the puzzle together for the prospect. They should see the benefits clearly because you've done your job leading up to this point. You haven't wasted your time or theirs.\u00a0 This is why qualifying is so very important. It helps you stay on task and use your time wisely. When you do your work from the beginning you avoid spending time with people who are never going to become clients.\u00a0You will feel less frustration, because you'll close more sales from true qualified prospects, than you will from randomly approaching the world at large. Create your sales plan around the notion that you want to gain every Right One and you will be ahead of the game - and the competition. * * * * * About the Author: Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Sales Experts Panel at Top Sales Experts.