This is the time of year you get a request from your boss to choose target accounts you will sell in the upcoming year. To avoid this becoming a very haphazard exercise, here are few steps to speed the process along. Not everyone is prospect for your product or service. Believe it, or not, some prospects, will not or cannot buy from you.
- Profile Your Current Customers. This seems almost too obvious, but the characteristics of those currently buying your product or service can be duplicated for a prospect list. Profile your customer base. Uncover the commonalities; location, number of employees, annual sales, type of product they make or sell, their customer base, their SIC or NAICS code. Use your CRM software; it can be gold mine of information. Run a CRM report; it may tell you the majority of your sales in past six to nine months have been to companies in the same vertical market with annual sales of $25 to 50 million and within a 200 mile radius of your office. Given that little tidbit of information I trust you will not waste your time trying to get an appointment with a $1 billion global corporation in a totally different vertical market on the other side of the country. There’s power locked in your CRM. Take advantage of it.
- Talk to Your Current Customers. It is a good reason for you to make a sales call! Ask them why they decided to buy from you and how they are using your products or services. You may discover some common threads. You may also uncover some areas where you slipped in quality or service. BONUS: your customers will like the fact that you value their opinions and input. This will enhance your relationship with them. In the end, you will get a better understanding of the types of companies that are predisposed to buying your products and services.
- Research Your Competition. Who are your competitors selling to and who may be vulnerable? Ask around, talk to your suppliers who may supply your competitor’s customers. Other salespeople are a great source of information. What is the “word on the street”? Are there some competitor customers that would be willing to talk to you? Can you get some third party research done? The timing may be right for you at a prospect you haven’t called on because you thought you had no chance changing their mind.
- Think Beyond. Look beyond your target market once in a while. You may be surprised to find a great prospect just outside your normal calling pattern. It’s about keeping your eyes and ears open. Don’t spend a lot of time in the weeds, but every now and again ask a good customer if they know of some new application for your products.
The important thing to remember is that it takes some time and effort to accurately identify your target markets. It can’t be done the weekend before the budget is due. You should be continually refining and defining your targets.
Sales Quote: If you listen closely enough, your customers will explain your business.