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Target the Right Customers

You may have seen that humorous State Farm commercial where a guy keeps saying “I’ll never” to the many big changes in life: getting married, having children, moving to the suburbs and — the mother of them all — buying a minivan. In each case, however, the very next scene reveals he’s in fact done that particular thing. And he comes to be grateful for it all, with State Farm by his side.

This commercial clearly illustrates the company’s target market: people who are building lives together and want insurance they can count on for all their needs. Forget the competition, State Farm is for them. 

This is what I call being “shamelessly exclusive.”Having the ability to say “no” to others in favor of your ideal buyer.

The most profitable companies in the future will be those who, like State Farm, choose a target audience. Why? Because markets are rapidly growing and adding new buyers. That means more demand of time and energy for selling. That is, if we keep thinking all buyers are created equal.

Too many sales teams sell to those who don’t meet ideal targets or who won’t ever buy. The best companies I work with, however, clearly define their target market and sell only to them. They say “no” to buyers who don’t match their criteria.

Think about it. Being shamelessly exclusive frees up time for your most promising customers, allowing you to reduce closing cycles and sell more with less time and energy. Another bonus? With an ideal target, you can customize your information to attract that target buyer (as explained in my previous article Control the Info Flow.)

Now you’re thinking, “Great! But how do I get started?!” It takes two steps to find your target clientele. First, identify what they look like.

Go for ‘value’ and ‘interest’

Base your best buyer list on your most lucrative and sustainable clients — making them your benchmark. Look at your current customers and ask yourself:

-         How valuable are they to me?

-         How interested are they in buying?


Create a 4-block square graph. List the companies that have “Value To You” vertically and “Interest In Buying” horizontally. Place those that match both criteria in the bottom left square. Then, record the clients with both characteristics in the top right quadrant.

Now, note any further similarities:

·         Are they from specific industries?

·         Similar in size?

·         In similar geographic areas?

·         What’s their organizational structure? (Public, private, family owned, non-profit?)

·         What’s the title of the buyer?

·         What’s the average order size?

·         How long did they take to close?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be closer to finding your best client. Let’s now move on to step two.

Choose your market segment

This time, we’re identifying your ideal niche within an industry. By doing this, you’ll build solid relationships and establish a proven reputation more quickly than with a broad market approach. You likely have ideal customers and segments now but — if you’re like most salespeople — they’re a small portion of your client list. And you haven’t clearly identified them!

Ask yourself, “Who are my best buyers?” In the business market, your ideal clients might be the biggest companies — Fortune 100 if you sell internationally or the largest businesses in your area if you sell locally.

If you’re in the consumer market — a banker, retail store owner, or medical practice — your top customers are likely in the best neighborhoods. They have the most money and biggest sphere of influence. Look at your client list, identify where your best ones live, and then market to more customers in those neighborhoods. You’ll use the same amount of effort to nurture this ideal buyer as a general buyer — and I guarantee it’ll bring you higher profits!

Consider further what your current clients all have in common:

Are they:

·         Privately held or publicly traded?

·         Government organizations or consulting companies?

·         International or domestic?

·         All run by women?

Once you’ve found that common thread weaving together this “best of the best” list, use the same criteria to be shamelessly exclusive with potential clients.

Hit your highest numbers

Donald’s goal, when he first came to me, was to reach a million dollars in sales from temporary staffing jobs. His database revealed his best customers were in one specific market. We told him, “Be the number one provider,” for all the companies with that particular need.  

Next, we recommended he expand that group. Since the customers were all food producers, we asked him to consider the beverage, dairy and pet food industry. To branch off from that one target he was pursuing. As a result, Donald exceeded his target by 90 percent. Instead of a million in sales, he achieved $1.9 million! He zeroed in on a market and expanded to even more ideal clients. He displaced the competition by becoming an expert in his area. Sales became effortless. Amazingly, Donald achieved this record-smashing growth while those in his staffing market were being upended by the recession!

Targeting and becoming specialized works for small companies like Donald’s as well as for large firms. Consumer credit giant Experian segments its most strategic sellers by target market. Antivirus giants Trend Micro and McAfee also create sales teams by market size, and The Royal Bank of Canada divides its sellers by product type and scope of market. All are great examples of companies in a “nonstop sales boom.”

We’ve now found your ideal buyer and you can start being shamelessly exclusive. Find what works best for you. Whether it’s focusing on a specific geographic area, product specialty or service offering, the possibilities are endless. The key is finding customers you enjoy working with and vice versa. Determine their needs and concentrate on selling in a way that fulfills those needs.

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