You’re a busy CEO of a growing company and you want to feed your sales team with a steady stream of leads …leads that are NOT out of the phone book. But you’re not quite big enough yet to have dedicated marketing or sales resources to source new leads. What to do?

Here’s a 5 step process that won?t take you longer than a few hours to complete. When you are done, you’ll have hundreds if not thousands of sales leads to distribute to your team. Here goes:

1. Generate a short list of some of your CURRENT customers. This needs to be a manageable list but also large enough for some patterns to emerge (more on that in a moment). I suggest you get a list of 20-25 of your largest customers and another 20-25 of your fastest growing customers. Get their company name, full address and you might as well include any other data at hand like their sales rep?s name, sales, average sale (if applicable), source (how they came to you), etc. Presumably, you would LOVE to have dozens more just like them. Put them all in a spreadsheet.

2. Look for preliminary patterns. It’s possible that this is the first time that you’ve looked at your best customers in this manner, all at once. Do you see any patterns? For example, do these customer cluster by geography? Are there any other discerning commonalities. Let this wash over you …you might be surprised what insights it solicits.

3. Identify?the industry to which your customers belong. This next step is the most time consuming because you need to do some cursory research on each of your customers. However, this is an easy task so if you have an assistant, a sales administrator or any person with some smarts and eye for detail, delegate the task. Objective: Indentify the NAICS code for each customer.

One at a time, cut & paste a customer’s name and address into Google. Here’s an example for a random company: Apple Center Whittier Paralegal,?14454 Whittier Blvd,?90605. A Google search would show a result as follows:

Look for search results for your customer in business directories (as highlighted above) like BizCompare, Manta, AllBusiness or others.

Next, follow that link and look for the company’s NAICS code. Example:

The number ?541199? is the official NAICS numeric code. The words All Other Legal Services? is the official NAICS description. Record the number and description in separate columns in the spreadsheet beside each customer name. Repeat for all customers.

4. Look for more patterns. Go to the NAICS description column and apply a ?sort? function. Alternatively, you can also apply a filter function. Both actions will deliver the same result which is to cluster “like” companies by NAICS description. What is the data telling you? How many unique industries are there? What are the industries with the most occurrences?

Now, maybe for the first time, you are looking at empirical information telling you the specific industries to which your best customers belong. Starting with the ones that occur the most, you now have your target industries to help fuel your growth.

5. Look for other companies in your target industries. Now you have your top NAICS industry descriptions and you want to find other companies in those same industries. You have a couple of approaches to choose from. You can do a Google search using the industry phrase and, again, look for sites like BizCompare, Manta or AllBusiness. Or you can simply go directly to these sites and search/browse for your target industry. Either way, in short order, you will be presented with a list of companies for that industry. The list could easily be thousands of companies so some sites provide ways to further filter the results by state, number of employees and sales to refine and reduce the quantity of companies (see a sample list of companies with filtering tools).

Voila! You now have a list of companies in relevant industries that you can distribute to your sales team. In many cases, the individual company profiles on these business directories provide valuable information for your sales reps such as contact name, additional locations etc.

A word of caution. While I suggested a total of 40-50 customers, I would advise if possible to try to use more customers in your analysis. This will just increase the sample size and ergo the accuracy level.