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Let’s start off with that old Willie Sutton saw, when asked why he robbed banks, the famous (or infamous) bank robber responded, “Because that’s where the money is.” And then there was the drunk who had lost his keys one night after trying to unlock his car door. When a patron asked him what he was doing looking under a streetlight 20 feet away from his car, the drunk answer, “Because the light is better here.”
This reminds me of some of the salespeople we know, out prospecting for new customers and orders with no idea what they are looking for. They are just hunting.
Sometimes it’s because the company they work for has not figured out what it does best. Sometimes it is because the salesperson is not paying attention to what the company for whom they are selling does best. Often, the salesperson and the company cannot even agree either on what they do best or which companies they should be targeting as customers.
In some cases, the companies and the salespeople are so lost that they can never get anywhere. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, then how are you going to get there? This is where a customer profile starts getting everyone back into agreement
There are a number of valuable reasons to develop a good customer profile, including that it will be used as a “filter,” to eliminate chasing the wrong type of customers, thus saving us all a great deal of time and energy. Not to mention, this filtering effort will give you the following advantages:
- Cuts down on the amount of quoting you do.
- Focuses on the right customers.
- Lets your reps and direct salespeople know what type of customers you want and who they should be targeting.
- Allows more time to service the right customers.
This is why it is so important to develop a good ideal customer profile. I know we have talked about this in the past, but it is a problem that just refuses to die.
I would urge all of you to have a good, accurate, ideal customer profile listing the kind of customers you should be targeting and why.
Here then is what to consider when developing your idea customer profile:
Part one: Your company’s sweet spot
- Who are your best customers and why?
- What technology is best suited for your process?
- What services are best suited for your company?
- What do you do best?
- What markets are you better at addressing?
- What specs and qualifications do you have?
Part Two: Type of company to target
- Match the technology to what you do
- Match the services to what you do
- What size company do you want to deal with?
- Does what you do match what they need?
- Do they have the right synergy with your company?
Part Three: Services they require
- USA domestic partners
- Global sourcing
- Product development
- Working with engineers and designers
- Engineering services
- Some R&D
- Low- to mid-volume production
Part Four: Other factors
- Do they place a high value on what we do best?
- Do they appreciate quality products?
- Do they appreciate reliability?
- Do they want to be a true partner?
- Do they see us as part of their future?
- Are they financially stable?
- They pay their bills on time?
- They are willing to pay for what they get?
- They are serious about buying a great board to go into their great products?
Finally, get to know everything you can about the customer and potential customers who make up your ideal customer profile. Learn what is important to them and make sure that you can provide them with what is important.
Oh! And there is one more thing, one more way to find out what is important to your targeted ideal customers – simply ask them! When you get in front of those customers, ask them what is important to them specifically. I say specifically because no matter how much you work on the ideal customer profile, there are some things that are not going to apply to that customer. While it is true that you can generally categorize and sort customers, each and every one of them has particularities that apply only to them. And that, is the last step in accurately defining your ideal customers.
All of these factors and characteristics have to be evaluated when creating your ideal customer “filter.” This is not an exercise to be taken lightly because this exercise, done correctly, will go a long way in making sure that your company’s sales and marketing effort will be as successful as possible.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.