In an industry in which some may wait for the leads to pour in, others are using progressive strategies to develop their businesses. The latest involves sales representatives seeking out customers who will utilize their services.

This technique, called vertical market development (VMD), begins in one of two ways. You notice a specific industry that is purchasing your product, and then you seek out other businesses in that specific industry. Or you create a need for your product or service within an industry, and then you seek out businesses within that industry to address this need.

Seeking out a customer is a proactive approach that not enough companies use. Those companies who wait for the customer to come to them are reactive and may fail or limit their growth. VMD will increase the growth and stability of your business quickly while establishing credibility within a specific marketplace.

By approaching other customers within the same market that have the same need, you will increase your opportunities. Doesn’t everyone want to keep up with the Joneses? VMD aligns you with businesses of similar industries and gives you credibility. This builds rapport and helps people feel more comfortable doing business with you.

For example, the managers of a manufacturing plant may use video surveillance to protect the shipping docks and inventory areas against theft. They also may monitor specific areas to protect against workers’ compensation claims and assess employee productivity. Proactively asking other organizations about these issues when meeting with them will help these prospective customers realize that you know their business.

Building a Vertical Market

1. Explore your entire existing customer base.

Do not limit your research to recently sold customers. Not only may you find a vertical market opportunity, you also may find a sales opportunity to sell them additional equipment.

2. Field cold calling.

This opens the door to vertical market opportunities and promotes a non-threatening way to get in the door to make a sale.

As you enter a business, notice any security equipment, such as burglar alarms, access control or video surveillance. Remember, businesses with these needs represent similar businesses with the same needs.

When you enter the reception area, look for association plaques on the wall or trophies. These associations often have similar members.

Ask the receptionist, “Who is responsible for attending the association meeting?” Then see if there might be an opportunity for you to speak with that individual.

When meeting with these new or existing customers, you have two objectives:

1. to assess if this is a vertical market opportunity, and

2. to become an expert in their business.

A vertical market also can be identified through research on the Internet, in directories for local chambers of commerce or on association lists. Find out how many similar businesses exist.

Once you have assessed the situation and see the viability of a vertical market, it is up to you to become expert in their business.

If they have a burglar alarm, video surveillance, access control or have taken any type of security measures, ask them why they designed the system the way they did, how their business operates and what drives their bottom line. Learn the business as though it were your own.

Finding Associations

Although you can research association lists through the Internet and then cold-call them, it is much easier to pursue vertical markets when you already are working in a specific industry because you know a need exists.

Regardless of whether you see an association plaque in the reception area or not, before leaving your meeting, ask, “In which associations are you currently involved?” “How often do they meet?” “How many members do they have?” “How would I attend as a guest?” “Do they have speakers?” “Who would I need to talk to about becoming a speaker?”

You have now begun to qualify the association and assess its viability.

When you contact the association, mention who referred you and let them know that you would like to be a guest at their next meeting or even a speaker.

Although you can attend a meeting as a guest and collect business cards, nothing is more non-threatening than sharing some general safety information on how these organizations can best protect their businesses and employees. An educational speech subtly sells and enables you to walk away with an abundant amount of leads. I always ask, “Would you rather sell to one individual or 100?”

If you want to attend as a speaker, make it crystal-clear to the association that you will be presenting “business safety tips” that will help their members better protect their businesses and their employees.

Many associations may think that you are there to sell, and although you ultimately are, many associations do not want speakers who are only there to sell. They want speakers who will deliver important information to their members. If you do so correctly, the sales will take care of themselves. However, if you only want to attend as a guest, for a small fee most associations will welcome you.

If you find the meeting to be effective, join the association and start attending. But remember, consistency is key. Inconsistency breaks the rapport process. The more you attend, the more businesses will call upon you for your expertise.