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When my daughter was six or so the game we enjoyed playing most together was Where’s Waldo. It involved finding the Waldo character amongst a crowd of other people, who were usually doing interesting things like juggling or lion taming.

If you ever played that game with your kid, you know how challenging it can be. I remember one time searching a page for nearly half an hour before becoming convinced – convinced! – that Waldo wasn’t there.

(My daughter found him about a minute later.)

Fun game, even when it’s frustrating.

But it reminds me of another game that business owners play that is rarely, if ever, enjoyable. And that is: Where’s The Prospect?

This came up a few times last month during my Practically Painless Prospecting workshop. It’s easy enough to find companies you want to do business with. But how do you find the names of the people in those companies you need to reach?

For example, say you’re a graphic designer and want to do business with XYZ Plastics. You probably want to reach the marketing communications manager. But who is that person? What is his correct job title, phone number, email address, and specific areas of responsibility?

Unlike Where’s Waldo, most business owners hate playing that game.

So how do you find prospect names and contact information? Well, there are many ways. A business directory that contains the names of your prospects may be available. You can join the same association your prospects belong to and get access to the membership directory. You can dig through the company’s website in the hopes you’ll find the right name.

One of my favorite techniques is to do a search on LinkedIn.com because most of my prospects have LinkedIn profiles.

But all of these methods can be frustratingly time-consuming. A coaching client once told me she spent three hours researching the internet to find exactly four prospects names. Ouch!

Is there a faster way?

There is. Just pick up the phone.

Calling the company is not only the quickest way to find out who the best person is to talk to about your services. In some cases, it may be the only way.

So how do you make that call and what do you say?

Rather than calling and speaking to the receptionist – or whoever has “phone duty” that day – I suggest you ask for the sales manager.

The sales manager is most likely to be on your side. After all, she has probably made hundreds, if not thousands, of similar calls during her career. She sympathizes! She knows what you’re trying to accomplish and, unlike the receptionist, is likely to be helpful.

When you reach the sales manager, say something like, “Hi, this is Jane Sangster of JS Design calling. Can you help me? I’m trying to reach your marketing manager but I’m not sure who that is.”

It’s that simple.

Will every sales manager you call give you the information you need? No, not everyone. But a good percentage will. In fact, calling the sales manager at a company you’re targeting is probably the quickest and surest way to get the prospect name you need.

Try it. Unless, of course, you really do like playing the game of Where’s The Prospect? for hours on end!