I have a good friend that loves to hunt. When he was younger and went hunting he would shoot at anything that moved. His dad called it “buck fever.” He did not care if it was a young buck with fuzz on the top of its head or a 6-year-old buck with a record set of antlers, he was shooting. Now of course he wanted to shoot the bigger buck, but more importantly, he just wanted to shoot anything and everything. So, at the end of the day he typically shot nothing.
Well, the same thing happens in sales. When I first got to my first B2B sales job there were six sales people. There were no assignments of accounts, territories, or verticals. We had three different people calling on Verizon, two of them calling on the exact same person. But, most importantly we simply did not have a plan, unless “go get ‘em” is a plan. Why would we need a plan? We had good sales, good sales increases, and unlimited opportunities because our competition was not any better. In fact, they actually only sold on a technical basis, not on a business needs basis, so perhaps they were even worse off, but that is a discussion for another day.
When I got a call from my friend at Verizon asking me why we were not any more organized than we were, I sat down with the owner of the company and explained how much of our resources were wasting and how much better we could do. So he said “all right, (cannot use those words here) if you are so smart show me a plan.”
The first question I asked myself is whether or not I would I would buy from our company back when I was with Tandy. While I was very fond of the company and the owner, when I was with Tandy this company was too small for me to consider. They were not doing business with companies my size yet. So here was my first rule of targeting: Target companies that are similar in size, or just slightly larger, than the companies I am currently doing business with. If you want to do business with the WalMart’s, Targets, and Kroger’s of the world you are going to have to build up to their size. While they may be polite and chat with you, unless you have a reasonable set of client references, you are just wasting your time. They should be on your marketing list, but not on your sales target list. Marketing will begin the awareness campaign for you, but you don’t have the time to waste chasing them.
My next question that I would ask is can I actually help this company become more successful. Businesses measure success much differently than governments, educational institutions, or non-profit organizations. Businesses are interested in only three things, increasing sales, lowering cost, and increasing profits. And, they are really only interested in increasing sales if it will increase profits. Only target companies where you can reasonably show that you can increase sales and profits and lower costs. If you cannot do that your target is not interested in speaking with you.
Next on my list of winnowing my targets adaptation within my business segment. For instance, if I am targeting the restaurant industry in particular, I would ask, “are more companies adapting my product or service in the Fine Dining, Casual, Fast Casual, or QSR segment.” Or as my dear friend Hank Allen would say, “Fish where the fish are running!” While being a pioneer in a particular segment has its rewards, the expense in time and energy does not normally have a good ROI.
Finally, you should limit your number of targets. If you have gone through the first three steps and you have 200 targets you have too many. I would recommend that you keep the number of targets around 100. Screen out where you know your competitors are (while you may be able to steal their customers there are normally lower hanging fruit). Only sight in the number of targets you can keep track of. Each prospect should have contact at least twice a month. A phone call, an email, a personal note in the mail (very impactful since not many are sent), should happen every other week.
Let’s take a moment to fully understand the positives of having a limited target list.
· It will force you to realize the value of each prospect that you have as it is a finite number as opposed to an infinite number. In this case, less is more valuable than more. Think about cars. A Bentley convertible is more valuable than a Bentley sedan because they have made fewer of them…and they are cooler looking.
· Having a limited target group will give you the time to fully understand the business of those targets. With that understanding you can develop the need of your prospect for your product or service, and develop that need from the client’s perspective. If you cannot help the client you should not be trying to sell them anything.
· Having a limited number of targets will also give you the time to professionally reach out to them on a regular basis. If they really are worth your time, they are worth your time at least twice a month. Remember, it is not their job to return your call or correspondence, it is YOUR job to get in front of them.
· Having a limited number of targets will also give you the time to work your contact list to determine who has the best access to your targets. It will also give you the time to reach out to your contacts and ask for their help to meet your prospect.
It continues to amaze me the number of companies that simply do not create a target list. Especially new companies. They want everyone and will take anyone. Here at Axcelora we have two sets of targets. One is for our Partner Group and the other is clients. Fortunately, we have not had to make any effort to find clients, they have found us either through our web site, these posts, or through friends. There is not lack of demand for quality appointments. But we have had to focus on who we want for Partners. We have a couple of criteria that we use as we hunt for the right people to join our journey. The first thing we ask our potential Partners is if they know what a Rolodex is, if they don’t than we realize that they have not been around long enough to build relationships with people that have decision making authority. Our second criteria for hunting Partners is how many different retail or restaurant companies they have worked for. It is our experience that people that have worked for 4-6 different companies make for the best partners. They typically have been around the company long enough to build significant relationships and have also gotten to meet lots of people.
Whatever you use to winnow your target list, just do it and you will have time to have the success you are looking for.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.