By Will Turner

You have no doubt heard, read or seen stories about prospectors in olden days searching for gold. Perhaps an image of a crusty old man bent over a running brook and repeatedly examining for glitter in the bottom of his pan comes to mind.

The prospector knew that he could repeat the process over and over and it may not yield that “Eureka” moment. But it was the hope of finding the mother lode that kept him panning day after day. The old prospector thought that if he was diligent, his efforts would eventually pay off.

The truth is that despite the thousands of gold seekers that scoured the West during the U.S. Gold Rush of mid-nineteenth century, very few prospectors made a living off of their findings. According to Harold Kirkemo, “Of the few significant discoveries reported, nearly all were made by prospectors of long experience who were familiar with the regions in which they were working.” So are there some history lessons here that we can glean from these gold prospectors?

Modern day prospecting, in the context of business development, has some strong similarities. Instead of looking for gold, you are in search of the perfect client. It’s a necessary step in the process of building your own sales practice.

Unfortunately, most salespeople, fall into the trap of the countless prospectors of yesteryear who searched and searched for gold, but who saw little return for their efforts. It’s easy to get lulled into hopeful anticipation that all your prospecting efforts will yield results. The reality is that simply panning for gold, or in your case, prospecting for clients, is not enough. Your must know the lay of the land and choose locations (and activities) to increase the likelihood that you will find what you’re searching for.

Here are three lessons you can learn from the old prospector to increase your sales results:

  1. Go to the gold. You need to know where to look. Not all markets are created equally. You must go to where you have the highest likelihood of success. That means, first and foremost, you must clearly identify who you are looking for. Being all things to all people is one of the biggest prospecting mistakes you can make.


  1. Develop expertise. The gold prospector that made it big knew what to do once he got in the right location. Once you know who you’re looking for, you must build some experience and expertise with that market. What is important to them? What are their biggest concerns? What do they want to accomplish? How can you add value to them? The more you know, the better off you’ll be.


  1. Track what works and what doesn’t. The gold prospector who sat in the same creek bed for months with little to show for his efforts is not who you want to emulate. Instead, examine what is working and what’s not and direct more energy and time to those activities that yield the best results.

Category: Editorial