How to Penetrate A Sales Market in 90 Days – 5 Steps to Success

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If you only had 90 days to penetrate a market and produce sales, what would you do?

How to Penetrate a Sales Market by B2B Sales Connections

Do you sell a non techincal product? Maybe it’s in the recruiting services industry, employee benefits or financial services. Maybe it’s office supplies, credit card and payment systems or cleaning services. Perhaps it’s somewhat more technical like computers, electronics or SaaS.

Regardless of what you sell, ask yourself this. If you were opening up a new territory, if you only had 90 days to penetrate a market and produce sales, what would you do? 

I was asked that very question not that long ago in an interview with You can read other sales experts answers to the same question at 9 Awesome B2B Marketing Tips: Steps To Undertake To Penetrate Your Sales Channel In 90 Days.

My answer to the question on how to penetrate a market and produce sales is simply to implement a DRIP Marketing Plan.

DRIP – Directed Relationship Intervention Prospecting

In sales, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t so, the fact is a prospect buys on their own timeline, not yours.  If they will not buy today, you must develop a plan to stay in touch until they do.   

How to Penetrate a Market by B2B Sales Connections
How to Penetrate a Market? Drip Marketing!

A well-designed DRIP Marketing Plan is you key on how to penetrate a market. It ensures you stay in frequent contact to build a relationship with the prospect over time.  Then, when they are ready to buy, they will think of you first, and will either reach out to connect with you, or will be ready to open the sales process when you contact them.

It’s like each contact is a drip of water. On its own, it doesn’t amount to much, but over time, every drip adds up to a very large pool.

How to Penetrate a Market in 90 Days

Here’s how to create your DRIP Marketing Plan to penetrate your non-tech vertical market in 5 Simple Steps:

  1. Define your target market
  2. Outline prospect pre-qualification guidelines
  3. Create a list of potential prospects
  4. Initiate first contact using a diversified prospecting approach
  5. Stay in contact until the buying cycle dictates opening the sales process

Step 1 – Define Your Target Market and Create a Prospect List

Shotgun methods of prospecting may produce results, but it really is sheer luck if they do.  The chances that you happen to knock on the right door, or dial the right number, at the exact time when a prospect is ready to buy are actually quite slim.

Granted, sales is a numbers game, requiring you to make a certain number of calls to find one prospect, but what if you could improve the odds?  If it used to take you 20 calls to find one prospect, how much more would you sell if it only took you 10 calls?

Where You Prospect is Important

The fact of the matter is where you prospect is as important as how much you prospect.  In other words, you should spend your time where you have the greatest chance of making a sale today.

It is dangerous to believe that every company can and will buy your product or service.  For example, if you sell restaurant supplies, it is unlikely that you will make any sales to retail clothing stores.  You would be better off not even trying to in the first place!

To maximize your prospecting time, you need to clearly define what types of companies will most likely buy your products.  This definition is commonly referred to as your target market, and it is essentially a description of your current and future customers. 

This description should include the industry which they operate in, the size of the company perhaps based on the number of employees, the products they buy and the competitors they buy them from.  Your target market definition may be more specific depending on the product or service you sell.

Where Have you Made Sales Before

The best way to define where to spend your prospecting efforts is to analyze where you have been successful in the past.  Make a list or spreadsheet of all of your last quarter’s sales, and cross reference it to your target market definition, with a separate column for industry, size of business, geographical location etc. 

Do you see trends emerge?  Do you make more sales to certain sized companies in particular industries in specific geographical markets?  Chances are you do, and that is where you should be spending your prospecting time.

Step 2 – Outline Your Prospect Pre-Qualification Guidelines

Just as it is dangerous to assume that every business can buy from you, it is just as dangerous to believe that every business within your target market can buy from you at any time! 

To be successful in a non- technical vertical market, you need to know how often your prospects buy your products. In other words, how long is the typical buying cycle. 

This is not the same as how often customers use your products, but rather how often they renegotiate the contracts for their use.  For example, you use your car every day, but you only buy a new one every few years.

Knowing where your targets are in their buying cycle ensures not only are you in the right place, but you are there at the right time. To find this out, you need to develop pre-qualifying questions before you start prospecting.

Sample Pre-qualifying Questions

Some sample pre-qualifying questions that are extremely effective to determine if you are spending your valuable sales resources with the right company, at the right time are:

  • How many people are employed by your company?
  • Do you currently use widgets?
  • Who supplies your widgets?
  • How many widgets do you use on a monthly basis?
  • Many users of widgets also tend to use gadgets.  Do you as well?
  • How long have you been dealing with your current supplier?
  • How long have you been using your current system?
  • When did you last negotiate your current contact for widgets?

Step 3 – Create Your Prospecting List

Now that you have defined your target market and when they typically buy, the next step is to create a list of companies to contact. 

Creating a prospecting list can be quite simple and you will find the information you need is readily available from several different sources.

Sources of Prospect Lists

  • Business Directories – A quick google search will yield many online directories, many of which can be viewed on the internet at no charge or downloaded for a nominal fee.  Some sites to look for include municipal government directories, business associations, the Chamber of Commerce, Boards of Trade and even the yellow pages.
  • List Brokers – Purchased lists tend to be more expensive, however the benefits of working with a detailed and segmented list may make the investment worthwhile.
  • LinkedIn – Although you can use any social media platform to generate sales leads, the main site for business is LinkedIn.  You can search by company, job title, industry and geographic location.  Since every user maintains and updates their own profile information, LinkedIn is the most current and most accurate source for prospecting lists available.
  • Referrals – Considered by many to be the most valued and effective lead source available, yet studies show very few sales people ever ask.  If are one of those sales people, check out this video to get detailed scripts on how sales people should ask for referrals

Step 4 – Initiate First Contact

Now that all the necessary prep work is done, it’s time to start contacting the companies on your prospect list. You can either do this yourself, or to save you time, you can automate your lead generation by outsourcing the process.

The purpose of your first call is to obtain the name and contact information of the Key Decision Maker (KDM) within each company.  A very effective opening greeting that I have used for years is:

“Hi, I hope you can help me today.  I am looking for the name of the person in charge of purchasing widgets.”

One of the reasons this greeting is so effective is the job description of the receptionist. We tend to think of them as only gate keepers, however in reality, they are responsible to greet and assist all those that call the company they work for. The chance of any receptionist saying “no” to your request for help in the first sentence is extremely remote.  If they did not want to help, they would not be receptionists in the first place!

You Want the Decision Maker’s Name

Also, note that the greeting specifically asks for the name of the person.  If you just ask to speak to the person and they are not available, your call could end without you gathering any more information than you had before you made the call.  All you have done is waste your time. 

By asking specifically for the name of the person, no matter what happens in the rest of the call, at least you have gathered the name of your key contact.  If they are not available to speak with you now, you at least you have their name for next time and can open your second call with “May I speak to John Doe, please.”   This alone makes your prospecting effort worthwhile!    

Look for The Real Key Decision Maker

Lastly, and most importantly, the greeting asks for the person in charge of purchasing your product.  If you don’t actually use the word purchasing, often you’ll get the name of the person who operates or uses your product, as opposed to the name of the person responsible for buying it. 

While important in the process, operators rarely have the authority to make the final buying decisions.  Those decisions are normally made by someone higher in the organization, someone who has budget accountabilities for the expense of the use of your product.

The Purchasing Department Is Not Your KDM

Please note, although you are asking for the person in charge of purchasing your product, you are not actually asking for someone specifically in the purchasing department.  A purchaser’s role is to execute a purchase for a product based on another department’s purchasing criteria.  Unless you are selling purchase order forms, your key contact is the person in the other department.

After your opening greeting, be sure to confirm the KDM’s complete contact information, including Proper spelling of name, title, email address. 

Even if you do not talk to the KDM in the company now, your prospecting call doesn’t have to end there though.  Ask the receptionist your pre-qualifying questions just as you would if you were speaking to the KDM. 

The Ultimate Goal of First Contact

The more information you can gather, the better.  In other words, your prospecting call is considered successful if you answered the following questions:

  • Is this company really a prospect?
  • If yes, are they a prospect today?
  • If not today, then when?

When the prospect passes all you pre-qualifying criteria, and you think they are a prospect today, great!  Book your Fact Find appointment and open the sales process. If not, file it in your CRM system until the prospect’s buying cycle determines further sales contact.

Remember, sales is a numbers game.  When doing your first contact calls, you need to be persistent.  The chances of you connecting on your first try aren’t great.  

As I discuss in detail in my webinar training video, You Can’t Sell Unless You Get In The Door! – How to prospect the executive suites using today’s technologies, use a diversified prospecting approach, including email templates, telephone, and other prospecting techniques, and execute your prospecting activity on a planned schedule.

Step 5 – Stay in Contact with Your DRIP Marketing Campaign

How often you “drip” your prospects will depend on your product and the average prospect’s buying cycle, however there are some general guidelines you should keep in mind:

Where Is Your Prospect in the Buying Cycle?

  • If the buying cycle of the prospect indicates he will purchase your product within the next six months, the frequency of contact should be at least once per month until you obtain the Fact Find appointment
  • If you believe the prospect will purchase in the next year, the minimum frequency should be once per quarter, moving to once per month in the last six months before the purchase
  • When the prospect is not likely to buy for a few years to come, you should contact them at least once per year, and then increase the frequency as time goes by.
  • If you are not sure of the customer’s buying cycle, or you sell the type of product that can be purchased at any time when the prospect may see fit, contact should be made at least once per quarter until you determine otherwise

As stated earlier, you want to stay in touch with your prospects so that when they are ready to buy your product or service, they think of you first.  Therefore, you really can’t stay in touch too often.  When in doubt, make the follow-up call!

The Bottom Line on How to Penetrate A Market in 90 Days

No matter what we do as sales professionals,

  • The fact is prospects buy on their own time frame, not ours
  • The key is to create a very simple and repeatable process you can implement to stay in touch with prospects so you stay “top of mind”
  • In sales, “top of mind” means “top of the leader board”

Remember as the old sales saying goes, “Failure is the path of least persistence.”

Aim Higher!

Susan A. Enns, B2B Sales Coach and Author of Action Plan For Sales Success and Action Plan For Sales Management Success
Schedule a free sales coaching strategy session with Susan here.

Do you have a question about sales? You’re not alone.  Most salespeople have questions like this on how they can sell more. For the right answers, check out my book, Ask the Sales Coach-Practical Answers to the Questions Sales People Ask Most.

A version of this article was also published as “5-Step Plan to Penetrate the Market in 90 Days (In Any Industry)” with permission on

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