When it comes to finding sales leads, try being a little audacious -- ask your competitors to point you toward potential customers. Impossible you say? It's easier than you think.

Competitors might be willing to give you leads once they've given up on them -- especially if they can make money by turning them over to you.

In return for cold leads that are no longer worth pursuing, your competitors can share in potential sales.

For example, a real estate agent was looking for creative ways to boost her business. She was based in a small, scenic town and had been trying to attract out-of-state buyers by running ads for retirement homes in big city newspapers.

Then, her marketing consultant suggested she contact rival agents who had run ads for retirement homes in other scenic parts of the country. She proposed they give her the names of people who responded to ads but hadn't bought anything. In a letter she said, "You've probably given up on those people, and you've made nothing for your efforts.... I'll try to sell them real estate in my town. In return, I'll give you a commission on any sales I close."

If competitors think they can profit from a dead-end lead, they'll be likely to hand over the contacts. What have you got to lose?

It's a win-win situation.

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