Face it, you can’t know every single deal that is going down right now around you.  Your competitors have clients… otherwise they’d already be out of business. My guess is you’ve looked a their website’s Client Case Study section and said to yourself: “How the hell did they win that business? I didn’t even know they were looking to buy!”

Newsflash: Your sales team will lose 100% of the deals they don’t know are happening.

I call this the “Black Hole Sales Deal” – A deal that is being negotiated right now between your dream prospect and your biggest competitor. The only problem: You don’t know it’s happening. You missed the opportunity. Completely.

What’s the solution?

There is no way to find 100% of deals (If you’ve found a magic trick to uncover every Black Hole Deal, please call me).  So it’s probably important to set your expectations of what is acceptable.

Here are 6 tips that I’d recommend as ways to avoid these Black Holes:

Pay Attention: Are you listening to the chatter that surrounds your space? Pay attention to industry news. Who is advertising in those publications? You can start to see where money is being spent and by whom. Are you looking at your prospects’ earning results? There are huge opportunities to be early in the conversation with prospects when they make quick decisions to address stagnant or poor earnings. Are you prepared to help them address this challenge? Being early is huge.

See what Jill Konrath has to say about the early bird here: 3 Early Bird Tactics to Uncover New Sales Opportunities.

Build Partnerships. By partnering with your eco-system and building credibility, you will be brought to the table when your partners uncover opportunities. Are there opportunities to partner with channel organizations who don’t sell competing products? Build trust with them, and figure out ways to make them look awesome if they bring you to the table.

For some great thoughts on how to create the right type of sales partnerships listen to Alan Spoon, General Partner, Polaris Venture Partners: 5 Steps to a Successful Sales Partnership

Attend Industry Events and Trade Shows. The more you rub elbows with folks in your industry, the more they will come to trust you and see you as the thought leader in your respective space. They might ask you to speak or ask for advice on a topic that could lead to new opportunity. Who knows? You might even create a new buyer from an event like this exposing a pain that someone didn’t know they had. These events can cost a pretty penny, but they don’t have to. You don’t have to be a platinum sponsor. Just go as an attendee and be aggressive in your networking strategy. There are also plenty of free events that you can uncover. You can also network virtually on social media for free. Learn how to do that here.

Follow the advice of Brent Gleeson, and try to get a team member to speak at the event! Great stuff here: 7 Tricks For Trade Show Domination!  

Analyst Coverage.  Are you promoting your product and service to the news or industry analysts who cover your space? Not only will they promote you by including you in published lists of vendors, they might even pass you a lead when one fits with your offering. They have to be in the know on the latest and greatest, so make sure they think you should be included in that list.

Interview Your Clients. Don’t be afraid to ask your existing, trusted clients for three things:  1) Ask them for referrals to other peers in their space that they might be willing to introduce you to. 2) Ask them if they ever hear that their peers are looking to buy or expand or were evaluating a competitive product. Don’t think for a second that they aren’t talking to each other about you and your competition. 3) Ask them if they are being contacted by your competition. Don’t be blindsided by a change of direction.  This is an internal “Black Hole” that can knock you out at the knees. It’s better to be proactive in knowing what your clients are thinking.

Do yourself a favor and take the advice of Wendy Maynard from Kinesis make this part every relationship: How to Get Referrals From Your Existing Customers.

Social Listening.  Use LinkedIn and Twitter to uncover hints towards opportunities. I’ve found many deals from paying close attention on social media. If you’d like examples and want to know specifically how I do it, don’t be shy… reach out. Set up Twitter Lists to pay attention to trends, key words, specific competitive mentions. I want to know any time any of my customers or prospects tweets or mentions something about my industry or a competitive product. I dig into the context to understand if there is risk or opportunity. 10 years ago it would be impossible to gain visibility into these Black Holes through social. Today, there’s an opportunity to uncover information that can help put you in the driver’s seat!

Want more sales tips? Check out our free sales enablement webinars here.

This post was originally featured on LinkedIn Pulse. Read it here