How to Find and Cultivate Prospects that Fit Your Business

August 29, 2018 Tony Cole


This week, we welcome our first guest blogger. Tony Cole, Founder and Chief Learning Officer at Anthony Cole Training, has been helping banks, insurance and financial services organizations close their sales growth opportunity gap for the past 25 years. Here, he shares how to home in on your ideal prospect persona. You can read more of Tony's thoughts on bank sales tactics on his blog.


Today, our customers are bombarded with sales pitches, marketing, and advertising from companies all hoping to win their business. They’re overwhelmed, or, in most cases, they simply tune us out. So, we try to reach as many potential customers as we can, but we spin our wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

The problem? We’re not sure who we’re trying to reach. Many of our potential customers view their time as their greatest, most valuable, asset, and so should we. We can protect that asset by having a clear understanding of who our target customer is.

Identify What Is a Zebra

In order to hone that understanding, we have to begin with first identifying our “Zebra,” or our ideal prospect persona. We can do that in three easy steps:

  1. Begin by segmenting our business’s book into thirds. For most companies, that top third brings in 90% of the company’s revenue. They are generally the best clients.
  2. Look for common traits and demographics in that top third. Ask questions like:
  • What do these customers have in common?
  • What industry are they in?
  • Who is our main point of contact?
  • How do we contact them?
  • What is the size of their organization?

Having the answers to questions like these helps identify other potential customers in the market.

  1. Once we know what traits we’re looking for in that top third, commit 2/3 of our time to looking for, or attracting, customers from this group.

Identify What Isn’t a Zebra

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, what isn’t a Zebra for us. If we know who doesn’t fit our ideal customer persona, we’ll bring clarity to our network and prospecting efforts, and again, continue to value time as our greatest asset. Here’s why it’s important to know what a Zebra isn’t:

  1. We eliminate ambiguity

Introductions have been proven to be the No. 1 way that top producers grow their business. But if we aren’t specific about who we serve best, it’s hard to get those introductions. We need to be specific and clear about what type of zebra we serve best.

  1. We reduce frustration with our centers of influence (COI)

We want to capitalize on our COI’s relationships, but if we’re not crystal clear with what we’re looking for, our COI may make an introduction to someone we can’t help. When working with our COI, it’s helpful to articulate the type of business we’re looking for, along with what we’re not looking for and why.

  1. We reduce our opportunity cost

Our opportunity cost is what we’re not working on that might have been more viable for our organization. If we’re calling on Company ABC, we’re not working on Company XYZ. Are we losing out on better business, because we’re not calling on the right prospects?

If  we know what we don’t want and the reasons why, it might reduce the quantity of opportunities in our pipeline, but the quality will increase dramatically. 

Cultivating Zebras

Once we’ve determined which customers are and aren’t Zebras, we need to understand the best ways get in front of them and build relationships.

Start by doing some research. Should we call or email them? What is their preferred social media platform – LinkedIn, Facebook, or LinkedIn? Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business. Furthermore, we must also utilize the relationships we have with our top third by asking them to introduce us to others they know, who will most likely fall into that ideal customer profile.


It takes work to find these prospects and then make contact with them, but it’s well worth the effort. Our chances of success are now much higher because we know we’re reaching the right audience, the Zebras who become our best clients.


Tony Cole, Founder & Chief Learning Officer

For 25 years, Tony Cole and Anthony Cole Training Group have been helping banks, insurance and financial services organizations close their sales growth opportunity gap. Utilizing science-based, data-driven research and working hand-in-hand with clients, ACTG evaluates the organization, the market and current company strengths. Our skilled and seasoned Sales Development Experts then help to align company strategies and implement a customized Sales Managed Environment® framework that fosters sales growth and production. Upon program completion, sales managers are Sales Managed Environment® Certified and are trained to cultivate and grow the company sales culture and results. ACTG is expert in Sales Development and Talent Acquisition and through our Hire Better Salespeople program, our detailed and effective selection process serves up sales candidates who can and will sell. Our dedicated financial focus, specifically developed programming and industry-experienced personnel have made Anthony Cole Training Group the Financial Industry’s Source for Revenue Growth.

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