One surefire way to increase your selling success—close more sales, more quickly, and more consistently—is to call on the right people for the right reason with the right product or service. That makes sense. But, for the product or service you want to sell, who are the right prospects and what are the right reasons?
The right prospects are the people or companies whose wants and needs mirror those of your existing best customers. They face the same or similar challenges, seek the same outcomes, and have similar values and principles.
The right reason is to help those prospects obtain the outcomes they desire and to do so more quickly, effectively, or efficiently than they could do it on their own, or with one of your competitors. Developing a profile of the right prospect starts by first identifying the characteristics of your best clients and customers—the people on whom the prospect profile will be based.
Can you fully describe your best customers’ and clients’ problems, challenges, and goals that relate to the outcomes your product or service facilitates? Can you answer the following questions about them?
- Why did your best customers become your customers in the first place? (Unless you are in the enviable position of being “the only game in town,” they had other choices. So, why you?)
- What were the three to five core challenges your product or service helped them successfully face?
- What roadblocks and detours did your product or service remove from their paths?
- What outcomes did your product or service enable them to obtain?
- Why have they remained your best customers? (Surely your competitors have come knocking on their doors.)
- What is it about the way you do business (and your competitors don’t) that has persuaded your customers not to “jump ship?”
- What are their principles and values, and how does your product or service and the manner in which you conduct business enable them to adhere to and honor those principles and values?
If you can’t readily answer these questions, it’s time to do some research.
How do you go about gathering the intel on your best customers and clients so you can develop a best-customer profile from which to develop a right-prospect profile? Ask for it. If you don’t already conduct regularly scheduled “state of the relationship” meetings with your customers, start doing so.
What, exactly, is a state of the relationship (SOTR) meeting? It’s a meeting during which you ask your customers to give you feedback about the relationship aspects of doing business. Specifically, you want to find out:
- What is working well
- What can be improved
- What they would like to see implemented or changed
The primary purpose of the meeting is to examine the nature and processes of working together. It’s not a meeting to discuss specific features and functions of your product or service. That should be a topic for a different meeting.
The secondary purpose of the meeting is to find out, from your customers’ perspectives, what is going on in their industries and in the markets they serve. The more you know about what’s going on in their worlds, the better able you will be to serve them (and the prospects you target).
If you meet with customers frequently (every few weeks, for instance), have the discussion during one of those meetings. If you meet with customers less frequently, schedule a meeting specifically to have the discussion. Plan on having a SOTR meeting as least semiannually.
How do you start the meeting? Here’s an example:
Tom, we’ve been doing business for about a year, now. From my side of the desk, it looks like things have been going along smoothly. I’m wondering what the relationship looks like from your side of the desk.
Once the conversation begins, you can weave in the questions listed previously.
The SOTR meeting gives you an opportunity to uncover any issues regarding the process of doing business that needs to be addressed. And, it helps you identify which of the intangible elements you and your company bring to the table that your customers value highly, the ones they appreciate, and the ones that, in their minds, have little value.
The more you know about your best customers, the better able you are to establish your credibility with prospects who match your best-customer profile. You are also better able to position your company, along with its products and services, as a means for them to obtain the results they desire. And that means more sales.