How to Know Who to Prospect

“No wind blows in favor of a ship without direction” — Seneca

I walked into the office for the interview for my first sales job. I was 23.

We were 10 minutes in when the office manager asked me.

“So what’s your income goal this year?”

“$121,000.” I said.

“Ok. Who makes $120,000?”

Dang! I thought, how did he know I was trying to one-up my brother.

Rookie mistake.

You’re going to learn about an industry-specific, initiative-based, sales approach. As the name aludes to, this is all about being laser focused. Time to get dialed-in.


  1. Target an industry
  2. Research the industry
  3. Set a goal


 *An industry is like energy, an industry vertical is like solar.

Target one to three industry verticals

 The 80/20 of selecting is 1) choose 1 -3 industry verticals and 2) stick with these for a set amount of time.

The delta between 80% to 100% has a million and one strategies that have varying degrees of impact, depending on your offering.

Here are a few I like.

  1. Target an industry based on their natural business cadence (ie 30–90 days before budgets open or three weeks left in their slow season)
  2. Target an industry based on their initiatives (ie read a few company’s 10-K reports. Then, map their objectives to their initiatives to frame your offering around big budget opportunities)
  3. Target an industry based on their annual conference (explained: annual conferences are where decision-makers will be, so you overlay your sales cycle with the date of their annual conference. At the conference schedule side meetings.)

Let’s do a quick dive into strategy #1.

Get to the party early, to help set up

 Being fashionably late, in business, is where the first forgotten names in next years line start.

Society is on a natural cadence. Each industry has its own seasonal pattern. “Winter” in one industry may not be during actual winter months.

The best time for a negotiation meeting is approximately four to six weeks left in “winter”. These companies have been hungry for a bit but can see the light of spring approaching.

So, get to the party early to help set up. It’ll be more fun that way. 😉


 Now that you have your industry verticals selected, it’s time to learn.

The best resource I’ve found for industry research is IBISWorld.

The 80/20 of research is answering these questions below.

  1. What companies are in this industry? Understand ‘who is who’.
  2. What work do they perform? What are their workflows and operations? The deeper your knowledge base you have on the technical part of their company, the more trust you will gain.
  3. What is the industry jargon? jargon plus a deep knowledge base is powerful as this combo lets you pull back the onion layers on what problems you need to solve.

If you don’t feel like you’ve totally ‘got it’ on the research part, don’t worry. If you ask the right questions during outreach, your knowledge base and confidence will grow with every interaction.


 Here is a basic sales goal setting framework.

  • Revenue Goals (set a deadline, ie this month or quarter):
  • Average Revenue per Account:
  • Number of Businesses Needed (input close ratio):
  • Number of Meetings Needed(input sales cycle):
  • Number of Selling Days (input timeframe):

The mistake at the beginning of the story was that I should have set my own goal. Due to my preference, this goal should have been BIG and aligned with my vision.

I eventually changed my goal based on my vision. Which was the right move? That’s when huge opportunities, I barely dreamed possible, started to open up.

I’ll put my cards on the table, money is nice but I’m more interested in learning how to use it constructively to build my vision.

What I love about sales is the rush! I have done deals with local roofing contractors and major telecom companies, the payouts were different but the rush is the same.

When you’re setting goals to make sure it aligns with who you want to be in this world, your purpose and vision

-Tom Ayling-

Tom is a Director & Head of Sales at Aerial Applications. He is the author of “How to Find Your Passion: 10 Simple Steps to Living a Purpose Driven Life”, this book was an Amazon bestseller at its peak. He studied telecommunications at Pennsylvania State University. While in college he helped launch social media app called, Tag, with investors like Eduardo Saverin and Tim Draper. Tom is an expert in sales & marketing.

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