Sometimes the world is just too big. It’s full of customers, but finding them is like playing the game, “Where’s Waldo?” And just like in the game, you need a strategy for finding your customers. You only have so much time and resources to put into the search.
But unlike the game, you have to capture sales from Waldo. And it’s competitive. You may find him, but that doesn’t mean he’ll become a customer. When the game is business development, it’s not just about finding as many Waldos as you can, it’s about converting as many Waldos into customers as you can.
When you do business in a complex environment, your ability to convert Waldos into customers will have as much of an impact on your sales as your ability to find leads. Probably more. Finding buyers is easier than turning them into customers. This means that what you do when you find Waldo is more important than finding as many Waldos as possible.
Selecting the right targets means both looking in the right places for Waldo, and looking for the right Waldos, the ones who may become customers. It’s almost enough to make you want to wait for Waldo to hold up a sign saying “I’m a customer” and “Download my RFP!”
The problem with that approach is that you are a stranger to Waldo. Not only does he not trust you, but you don’t know anything about him to make your proposal matter to him. And if your proposal doesn’t matter, he’s a Waldo with a low probability of becoming a customer. You want a Waldo who you can get to know a little bit before he puts out his RFP, so you can make your proposal reflect the things he cares about.
Since the world is so big, you have to make it smaller in order to find that kind of Waldo. How you go about doing that is the key to targeting. You want your smaller world to be full of potential customers, who you can get to know and convert a high percentage into paying customers.
Here are five considerations:
- What does your sales cycle look like? Is it short? Long? Simple? Complex? Seasonal? Event driven? If you have a nice, easy, and short sales cycle, you can reach out to many potential customers. But if you have a long, complex sales cycle, you need to be selective to ensure you pick the right Waldos because it takes time to guide them through the procurement process.
- Seeking Long Term Relationships. People buy from people they know and trust. So start with people you know. You might not know the buyer, but you might be able to get there through a friend of a friend. Work your network. Grow your relationships into something larger. It’s a quicker payoff than trying to start new relationships from scratch. Especially if you’re going about it randomly.
- Who buys what you sell? This is a simple data problem, but it’s amazing how many people want to start selling before they know this. Targeting is about figuring out who you want to get to know. The organizations you want to build relationships with are the ones that buy a lot of what you sell. Do your homework and crunch the numbers, then prioritize your efforts.
- Market segmentation to divide and conquer. There are an infinite number of ways to divide up potential customers to create a group that’s small enough for you to reach, but large enough to fulfill your needs. The most common forms of segmentation are by market, location, size, and demographics.
- Who’s willing to talk to you? Some customers are better to have than others. Some are easier than others. If you have limited resources, you should focus on the customers who are willing to talk to you, and skip the rest. This means ignoring potential customers who want to keep you at arm’s length or who treat vendors as the enemy. They might be worth pursuing later, when you’ve got the resources and the time.
The smaller you make your world by matching potential customers to your sales cycle, segmenting it down to a manageable size, and limiting it to customers you have relationships with or can develop relationships with who frequently buy what you sell, the better your chances are of finding customers. But then there's…
The elephant in the room
If you make your world too small, it will be full of customers, but even if you win them all there won’t be enough of them. The question becomes whether you can reach enough buyers for what you offer? Sometimes your customers segment easily. For example, they’re all in one location. But sometimes it’s not so easy because they are widely spread out and you can’t reach them all. The elephant in the room is whether you should be offering something else that will appeal to the customers you can reach to better sustain your business.
Sometimes finding Waldo isn’t about the hunt. It’s about the bait.
Waldo has to want to become your customer. You have to be able to position your offering relative to what Waldo needs and is willing to purchase. And there has to be enough of the right kind of Waldos within your reach.
You are far more likely to capture Waldo’s business through strategy than by waiting for him to hold up a sign, ignore all of your competition, and pick you even though he does not know you.
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