If you gather together a group entrepreneurs who have just started their own businesses – or some hard working salespeople who can’t seem to find enough prospects – and ask them the question;
“Who are your customers?”
There’s usually a fairly substantial group who like to reply – “Everyone”.
As examples – there are Wine Merchants who will tell you that every restaurant is a potential customer, Corporate Travel companies who say that any businesses who need to book hotels can’t be ignored and Accountants who believe that every SME on their mailing list might one day come knocking for tax advice.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to work out the targets you wish to hit – and then understand the number of customers you genuinely need to attract to achieve those figures – and then reach out to the ones who are MOST likely to come on board?
Your product or service might feel fairly universal to you – but there are always factors that start to whittle down the numbers – exercises that help you understand what type of person would really like to hear from you and processes that can bring you face to face with your perfect prospect.
So stop beating yourself up about all those people who don’t want to speak to you – and then working like a maniac to find more people just like them.
It’s a lot easier and far less stressful to go where the business is and then choose which group (within that group) want to speak with you the most.
One old boss of mine always used to tell us to “fish where the fish are” (because that’s where the business is) – and I often tell sales teams not to cross an ocean before they’ve crossed the street (by which I mean they need to work out where their easiest wins can be found).
There are some people that will tell you that sales and marketing is all about finding your potential customers – but it’s equally as important to be able to work out who definitely isn’t a potential customer – who it is that we shouldn’t be wasting our precious time with.
Perry Marshall tells a great story about exactly that: In a noisy club in Las Vegas, a professional gambler pulled a sawed-off shotgun out of his jacket, racked it, and looked around to see who recognised the ratcheting sound and turned their heads. He said to his protégé, “John, the people who turned their heads are not marks. Do not play poker with them. Gamble with everybody else.”
Everyone who turned around was somehow aware of the sound of a shotgun loading – and was by definition – far too dangerous to upset. Everyone else could be counted as a prospect. The gambler was showing his protégé how to whittle down the numbers.
And every time you decide who you are going to visit, telephone, email or post out to – you need to Rack The Shotgun.
Gather a whole list of people who would be interested – then Rack the Shotgun to see who falls by the wayside – those who are left should be the ones who want to see you the most.
Some People Genuinely Can’t Afford You
I wouldn’t mind a brand new Aston Martin.
In fact there’s an Aston Martin showroom just down the road from where I live – I walk past it quite regularly, I have one or two friends who own one – and, if I’m honest, I’m probably a little bit envious.
Truth is – right now (even if I could put my hands on the cash) – I’ve got other things that I need to spend my money on. Different priorities, other choices, a whole list of commitments – not to mention a perfectly decent car which would have stunned a younger me if given a glimpse of his future.
If I walk into the showroom, the sales team aren’t going to have a whip round for me out of pity – I’m not their customer.
If someone played on my emotions, pushed me with some clever (by which I mean immoral) techniques to really get me hooked and commit – went through my options, helped me work out how I could in fact raise the money if I really wanted to – well, let’s just say it would not go well for me when I got home.
Because – at this time – I’m not their customer.
Try and push people to find money they don’t have if you like – but why bother wasting all that time and effort when there are more than enough eager prospects waiting for you, who can easily afford exactly what you’ve got to offer.
Some People are Set in Their Ways and Will Never Change
The welcome notes for our training workshops all have a similar message.
They state that I’m a great believer that there is no such thing as a bad student who wants to learn, only bad educators who can’t explain themselves properly – so the pressure is on me to help them understand what I’m trying to get across and get the most out of our day together, they just need to turn up open minded and raring to go.
I genuinely don’t mind if delegates disagree with what’s being put forward – in fact I actively promote them to do so – I want to talk through real life problems and issues that really matter, not just glibly deliver a presentation and expect all those listening just to accept everything I say as fact.
So all I ever ask, is that everyone who attends one of my workshops turns up with a positive attitude, something to write with and a desire to leave having learnt something new.
On the whole, that’s exactly what I get.
But every once in a while, there will be someone in the room who really doesn’t want to be there.
The fact that his business has invested money in his personal development won’t change this delegates mind that he’s been forced to attend.
Arms crossed, scowl on face, he’ll try to bring as many people down in the room with him as he can.
But that’s just Lobster People for you.
He doesn’t think he needs it, he certainly doesn’t want to hear it and he can’t wait to get out and tell everyone what a terrible waste of his time it was – and the fact that he has no idea why he was made to go in the first place.
So should I spend the entire workshop concentrating on changing his mind – help him to recognise why his business paid good money for him to attend – at the expense of all the other delegates who desperately want to improve?
Should the rest of the room get less of a day because they are sharing it with someone who isn’t going to change or benefit anyway?
And should you spend hours trying to convince prospects who are never going to buy off you – at the expense the customers who really need your help and are waiting somewhere in that overcrowded list of maybes?
Some People Will Never Choose to Be Your Customer
In his book Purple Cow, Seth Godin explains the events that occurred when South Park (the cartoon series on comedy central) was first shown to a test group.
It scored a score of 1.8 out of 10 among the women in the group – a record low.
Allegedly, one person even started crying half way through.
However, during the same test, the pilot episode recorded unanimous high scores among all the young males in the audience – a demographic that has ensured (at time of writing) that South Park has aired for 19 seasons – producing 267 episodes – been one of the highest airing programs on cable TV, received numerous accolades (including five Primetime Emmy Awards) and even released a feature-length film.
Comedy Central could have said; “Hey don’t give up on that demographic, we just haven’t been convincing enough yet.”
But that would just have been foolish, wouldn’t it?
Distil and Filter Your List Until You are Left with Perfection
The master distillers who make the worlds greatest brandy – Cognac – start off with an extremely acidic base wine – which they boil, filter and distil until there is only a small percentage of the original liquid left.
Then, during the ageing process, even more of the alcohol evaporates through the wooden casks and is lost forever into the atmosphere – this lost brandy is poetically referred to as “the angels’ share” by its makers.
In total about 22 million bottles per year just disappear into thin air – a heavy price that the producers are happy to pay to reach perfection.
So, keep working on your list – recognise that some unnecessary elements need to be boiled away – and that others are close to what you’re looking for but just not quite good enough.
Keep doing that until you have distilled your list down to the only prospects who matter – like an alchemist turning base metals into gold – and then get to work on a more focused group than you ever previously thought possible.
The fact is, very few people with a full pipeline and an order book that takes them beyond capacity ever worry about the fish that got away – especially if that fish would have been impossible to catch anyway.
Feel free to share this first article so that people you know can also follow this series.
I’ve just finished putting together a series of 12 articles regarding Sales Prospecting that includes, amongst other things;
- What it takes to build a steady sales pipeline
- Working out how many suspect and prospect leads you’ll need to hit your target
- An explanation of Trigger Events – what they are and why they’re useful
- Building a targeted prospect list
- The truth about 21st Century sales prospecting
If you’d like them delivered free of charge on a weekly basis, straight in to your email inbox – then just follow this link and they’ll be sent automagically to the email address of your choosing over the course of the next 12 weeks.