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Select the Customer: Blueprint for Sales and Marketing Alignment - Part 2

by Donal Daly

In the first part of this series, I wrote that for sales and marketing to work together, there must be a common framework, or a blueprint of the deal. I suggested that we can use the following set of steps.

  1. Select Target Customer.
  2. Understand Buyer Need.
  3. Qualify the Opportunity.
  4. Plan and Manage the Pipeline.
  5. Execute the Sales Plan.
  6. Negotiate and Close.

This post will deal with the first item – selecting the target customer. [Note: If you want to work along with this series, you can create a customized sales process for your own company for free at DealmakerGenius.]

Select the Customer

Few companies have products that truly appeal equally to broad horizontal markets – and very few companies ever went out of business for being too focused. Concentrating exclusively on those customers whose needs mirror the advantages and benefits you offer is critical to efficiency. Making choices means that you must exclude some opportunities. You must ignore markets where the fit of customer requirements to your offering is not absolute. You must find your ‘sweet spot’ – one customer at a time. It’s where all the forces align. The benefit you deliver to your customer is extreme. Adequate, but not extravagant, resource is expended to acquire the customer. Profitability increases. Customer satisfaction is high, and the conversion rate of prospect to customer is greater than the norm.

Companies struggle to choose the companies they should pursue for business. In many cases, the irrational fear of potential missed opportunities drives otherwise rational sales and marketing professionals to adopt a scatter-gun approach to target customer selection. Choosing coverage over conversion, or market profile over penetration, will always end in tears, missed revenue targets and small commission checks.

Selling is not just a numbers game. Sure, if you don’t make the calls and don’t have the necessary coverage in the field, it is not possible to make your revenue numbers. On the other hand, if you are calling on the wrong people, or the right people but with the wrong offering or message, you will waste sales resource or burn valuable opportunities. Effective selling is about quality not quantity, profiling your target buyer, and assessing your offering from the customer’s perspective. If you are getting positive responses from only 10% of the targets you contact, you are wasting 90% of your time. Spend the time on the right customers, by selecting them well, and you will need to contact fewer customers to get better results.

Choosing who not to do business with is sometimes easier than choosing those with whom you should engage. Where competitors are stronger than you are – move on. If customers are married to traditional practices and your offering promises advantage through discontinuous innovation – look elsewhere. If your product is leading edge, your customer must fit the profile of an early adopter.

Customers’ demands are increasing and standards are high. As you redesign your efforts to make it as easy as possible for a customer to buy, you must consider the specific profile of that customer. Otherwise, you will fail to meet his exacting needs.

Value must be expressed, and value expression implies that you understand the position you want to occupy in the mind of the buyer. Positioning is not about you, your product or your company, but about the place in the customer’s mind that you want to inhabit. If, from the broad expanse of the world’s companies, you have selected your customer targets well, customers chosen to meet the inherent value of your product, and pruned by profile to meet the competitive advantage you bring, then your positioning should self-suggest. It will encompass an expression of value that sets you apart as the preferred supplier or customer partner.

And this is where well-directed, strategic marketing travels side-by-side with effective selling. The determination of what specific value you can provide to a customer better than anyone else is the one silver bullet that is crucial to the sales role. Successful companies are not concerned about marketing activity to win marketing awards; they are focused on providing a compelling expression of value that helps them win sales awards.

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