Top Three Prospect Categories and How to Manage Them

Prospecting is a crucial part of any technical sales process. One method that will help you close more deals is using prospect categories to keep your pipeline full.

Although it can be tempting to focus on high-profile clients and big, possibly life-changing deals, a technical sales engineer should always focus on the bottom line – results and revenue.

Whether it comes from closing one major deal or closing ten small deals, your total sales revenue is what matters the most.

How Do You Manage Prospects?

One way to help keep you on track is to organize and categorize your prospective leads. They can be divided into three categories. You can give your own label or name to each category of your prospect list.

For example, you can keep it as simple as A, B, C. The label you give doesn’t matter as long as you understand clearly what differentiates one category of leads from the other. You may also choose to use the terms we like to use – Whales, Sharks, and Fish.

From the names alone, you can already imagine what kind of prospective clients fall under each category. Take a look at who belongs to each category:


The top prospect category is the Whales. These are the accounts with the most significant potential. They are typically very large in size and revenue. Think closing a sale with a Fortune 500 company or a household brand name like Electrolux. If you can close a deal with a Whale, it could be life-changing. Maybe you’ll earn enough from this one sale to move to a bigger house or hit your 6-month sales target instantly.

Huge potential also comes with a much longer sales cycle, which is to be expected. However, a more prominent company with greater sales potential also means more gate-keepers as part of the decision process.

Furthermore, it can also mean presenting more than once to various people in the buying organization. Closing a sale with a whale may take several months or even take a year or two. This extra-long sales cycle is important to keep in mind when thinking of your sales pipeline.

One mistake that some technical sales engineers make is to focus on whales. When you do this, you may end up killing your pipeline because you are just waiting for Whales to show up or for a potential deal with a Whale to push through finally. If your pipeline dries up and your Whale deal falls through, you won’t have anything to show for the months you spent waiting for this ideal customer.


Sharks are the next category on the prospect list. Just as the name suggests, these are potential customers with medium revenue and operates in your city or county. It may not be a multi-national company with operations nationwide but a regional company with a presence in several cities.

A couple of Sharks can equal one Whale. These aren’t life-changing deals. You probably won’t reach your yearly quota immediately with one or two Sharks, but the potential sale could still be significant. Adding these types of prospects and deals can keep your pipeline full and productive.

Instead of just focusing on one Whale, it’s worth the time and effort to make sure to have some Sharks in your pipeline as well. Seeing the big picture and keeping your bottom line in mind means that you should never count out any potential leads and clients. Even if waiting for a deal with your potential Whale to close, these deals are worth working on.


The final prospect category is the Fish. Just as the name suggests, these are smaller and more plentiful deals. You may need ten Fish to equal one Whale. Some technical sales engineers might disregard smaller companies and clients to focus on Sharks and Whales. However, doing this is a big mistake, and you’ll be missing out on clients with shorter sales cycles, fewer decision-makers, and are generally easier to close sales with.

Imagine you’re in a sales meeting with your boss. She asks you what’s keeping you busy or what leads you have lined up. If you’re waiting for your Whale to close, you probably won’t be able to say much, which doesn’t reflect well on you and your work ethic. On the other hand, if you have a variety of clients and deals that you’re working on (including Fish), you’ll easily be able to enumerate what you have in your pipeline.

One more important thing to remember about Fish is that it can suddenly turn into a Whale. Maybe a Fish you closed a deal with was acquired by a larger company and wants to maintain past suppliers.

Let’s say that you closed a $50,000 sale previously. You might find in a year that you could be working on selling them $500,000 worth of equipment because of a big merger. Although this probably won’t happen often, it’s a genuine possibility. This is another reason why you should never neglect Fish when thinking about your pipeline.

Learn how to quickly build a list full of strategic prospects to keep your pipeline full so you can take your sales career to the next level.

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The Best Prospecting Strategies

Make Contact

Sending out follow-up emails to 10 prospective customers won’t take more than an hour. Doing this is an hour well spent. Who knows, out of the ten you contacted, you might close 1 Shark and 1 Fish, and suddenly you’re two steps closer to achieving your sales target.

Set Your Own Goals

Even if your company doesn’t assign you or your sales team monthly sales targets or other specific goals, you should have your own goals and targets that you are working on to achieve.

Do you want to close a sale monthly? Maybe you have a specific dollar amount that you want to earn this year? Whatever your personal goal is, make sure to keep these three important prospecting categories in mind, and you’ll find yourself closer to achieving your goals.

Update Your Call List

Make time each day in your calendar for getting on the phone and making calls. Keep contact information updated for potential customers. If information is out of date, reach out to the company to determine who the new point of contact is.

Use Social Media

One of the easiest ways to turn qualified leads into a prospect is by using LinkedIn. Reach out to your ideal customer by liking and commenting on their post or sending a personalized message using InMail. Once a connection has been made, share industry-related content and continue to build the relationship.

An effective technical sales engineer must balance the three categories –Whales, Sharks, and Fish. A healthy pipeline should be full of leads. Your prospective leads should have different sales cycles and revenue opportunities which means you are constantly working on a deal.

With over 15 years of experience, we don’t just teach “theory.” We provide actionable lessons so you can see results tomorrow by providing you with all of the tools you need to not only significantly increase your personal income but become a top performer at any company. If you are ready to take your technical sales career to the next level or are eager to make a career change, then click here to take the next step towards success with Technical Sales University.