One of my colleagues, Rick Cooper, The PDA Pro, posted this comment:
One of my top challenges is locating ideal prospects in a market area. I do well meeting individuals through networking, but the challenge comes when trying to identify prospective corporate clients. What is the best approach to narrow in on organizations to contact and then make contact with the CEO or VP of Sales?
As I read this, I'm thinking that you might not be clear on the fact that you can do both at the same time: in other words, you can meet CEOs and VPs of Sales through networking, but not just any networking.
Determine your target market - then find out where the executives in those organizations go (idea 1). Make a list of ten people you'd like to meet who represent 5-8 organizations or corporations.
One great place to find C-level folks is at large charity or fundraising event - this is where the "pillars of the community" show up (plus it is always for a good cause, so even if you didn't meet someone on your target list, it is still good works) This is harder to do than just showing up at a networking function, but can be much more rewarding.
Try online, such as through LinkedIn (Idea 2) to connect to who you want to know through someone you DO already know. I've had great success with this - most recently connecting to one of the LinkedIn co-founders about a speaking engagement on Social Networking.
But is your question really this - how do you find names within the companies you are targeting, and once you get names, how do you best connect?
It is easy to find VPs of Sales or CEO information via the web - and one of the best strategies I've used is to call in and ask for SALES - you will get someone on the other end of the phone who understands what you are going through - unless they are an admin person, they make calls like you do as well. Determine if you are in the right sales area. Ask them if they have a moment, and then ask about their boss, or boss's boss. Get enough information to make a direct call or email - then fire it off. You'll be surprised at the reply rate when you know a little something about your target or about their organization. Don't forget to send a hand-written thank you note to the person in sales who gave you the inside scoop if you end up with an appointment or had a vaulable conversation - because that will motivate your original contact. It's about goodwill, and what goes around does come around.