If you could invest just a few hours to dramatically improve the results of your sales efforts, would you?
“Of course!” you’re probably thinking. “What’s the catch?” There isn’t one. All it takes is a little focus and discipline. So what’s the secret?
Understanding Your Ideal Customer Profile
I’m not talking about your target markets or who the typical buyers are, but the person who is your ideal customer. The one who is most likely to buy when you get in front of them because your message resonates so well.
This is the person who’s head starts nodding in approval when your sales team tells their story because it aligns so elegantly with their own issues, concerns, and objectives. The person who is ready to sign as soon as you prove you can do the job.
They’re not a pushover, not gullible. But they are perfectly aligned with your business model, a match made in prospecting heaven.
How do you find this mythical creature?
There are a number of ways to build an ideal customer profile, and they all start with a little research and analysis. Set aside preconceived notions of who you sell to, and spend some time to really understand who buys from you and why. Explore past deals that have gone well, and find patterns in projects that have gone awry. What can you learn from them?
Here’s an example:
Mary sells IP phone systems. She thinks every business in her area with a budget above $15,000 and at least 10 employees is a candidate for her solutions, so she spends all her time prospecting and pitching, with a very low close rate.
Frustrated, Mary sits down and review her sales activity over the past year, and discovers some patterns. What she finds in this:
- The deals that closed most quickly were ones where she met with an educated buyer, who had already done some research on IP vs. traditional phone systems.
- She spent a lot of time on prospects that weren’t well informed, educating them about benefits only to be told they weren’y ready to make a change, or that they had gone with a competitor.
- Her best buyers were not IT managers or CIOs, but small business owners who understood the bottom line value of the enhanced feature set her phone system offered and how it could impact productivity.
- She also learned that clients who were most decisive were those that were in growth mode and needed to leverage productivity improvements for improved profitability.
- Finally, she realized that a predefined budget was less important than an empowered client who understood her value proposition and had the authority to spend what was needed to get significant return on their investments in communications technology.
As a result of this exercise, Mary developed a short checklist to benchmark prospects against her “Ideal Client Profile.” She established 5 key criteria and began rating every prospect using her formula.
- Almost immediately, Mary learned that prospects who met 4 or 5 of the criteria were worth pursuing because her close rate was much higher.
- She also discovered that if a prospect scored a 3 on her scale, they could potentially be a good client, but the path would be much longer and the odds of success were lower.
- Finally, Mary understood that those prospects meeting just one or two of her key filters simply were not a good match for her business. They might buy eventually, but even then, she would have a hard time fully satisfying their needs, and they would be unlikely to provide referrals to other solid prospects.
Using this knowledge, Mary adjusted her sales approach. When she met a prospect who was not a good fit, she referred them to another firm would better meet their needs. She focused her efforts on finding the four- and five-star prospects, spending less time on meetings and proposals, but closing a much higher percentage of the deals she bid on.
Putting it to Work
The beauty of this approach is that it can work for any organization that invests the time to understand their ideal client. But knowing who they are is one thing, adjusting your efforts to focus solely on these ideal prospects is another. Once you understand who your best prospects are, it is essential to walk away from those that don’t fit the model.
This is difficult for many sales people who are measured on the number of prospects in the funnel or those who are expected to have a certain dollar volume in the pipeline at any given time.
To successfully implement the ideal client profile as part of your sales process, you must accept that your funnel will be narrower at the top. Because you’re being more selective, not everyone will make it into the funnel. But once they do, you can expect a much higher close rate.
Get the ebook: Meet Your Ideal Customer
Has an Ideal Client Profile Helped You?
Several of my clients have benefited from this approach, using their Ideal Client Profile to tailor not only their sales process but also to focus marketing messages and educate referral sources.
In fact, building an Ideal Client Profile is a great place to start when you are repositioning a business or trying to reinvigorate growth. If you’re not comfortable with the process or feel as if you’re too close to be objective, engaging a consultant to walk you through the exercise can be a worthwhile investment.
If you’ve tried a similar approach, please share a comment about what you learned, I’d enjoy hearing from you.
Image by Carl Dwyer.