In which we discuss the value of understanding"the perfect customer" when prospecting. My daughter is engaged in martial arts training. Last night, as I was (desperately) wanting to crawl into bed, she bubbled, "C'mon, Dad, lemme show you what I learned, no pain, I promise. (Grumble, grumble, "Sure, sweetie," or words to that effect.)

She showed me a series of holds, grips, and punches designed to redirect, deter, and disarm attackers, describing the specific points of contact that would inflict the most pain. “See,” she said, redirecting my thumb and elbow, briefly, “it doesn’t really take a lot of force.”
OK, it’s a bit of a jump from there to sales and…. Here it is.

The effectiveness of her art depends heavily on targeting… choosing precisely the right muscle or nerve group to attack in a particular way. “See, if I punch you there, your head goes back, then, if I punch you there, it comes forward, and then I can….” (this is really good pre-sleep preparation, you can see) “…. break your nose…” were the last three words in that sentence.

So, when we’re prospecting, this same concept of targeting (without the nose breaking) applies. If we choose precisely the right prospects and map our “particular way” of addressing them, it doesn’t take a lot of force. In other words, we get much better leverage for each hour of prospecting / new business development time.
So how to target more effectively? Well, just as in my daughter’s art, it depends what you’re seeing and what outcomes you’re intend to generate. Here’s one way:

Describe your most profitable, most satisfied customers. What’s common and different about them?

Common helps you see patterns you might look for in prospects. Different helps you determine whether you want to limit your focus (for example, in terms of company size).

Describe them in terms of demographics (size, employees, industries, growth rates), challenges they face (growth, efficiency, etc.), the primary benefits they get from their relationship with you, and preferences (e.g. ‘likes hand-holding’ or ‘buys primarily on price,’ etc.).

The test: If asked, can you describe the common themes among your most profitable, satisfied customers.

Describe your perfect prospect(s)…. Based on your best customers or (if you’re changing your focus or direction) criteria you develop yourself, describe your ideal prospects in the same terms you described your ideal customer profile. The test: Can you describe your perfect prospects and why they’re perfect for you at this time? (Hint: “They’re breathing” is not typically a tight enough description.)

Make a prospect list… or several lists of prospects who fit the criteria. Through research or network connections, make a quick assessment of the prospects to determine whether they really belong on your list. For example, do any of them fall into industries or geographies that you don’t want to go to for some reason (like, company policy, for example).

Assess your competitive position…Where you can, note any competitive firms that are already providing services to your prospects.

Compare your competitive advantages and disadvantages… How does your offer compare with those of other firms who want or have the business of the companies you want to attract. What do you offer that’s better or different in terms of your processes, products, people, or pricing?

Develop your message and approach strategy…Based on the challenges your perfect prospects are facing, your offer, and your competitive position, develop an approach message (awakens prospect attention and interest) and strategy (how you’ll approach – directly, through referral sources, through networking events, etc.)

So, eventually, my son stumbled sleepily out of his room and asked us to move away or talk more softly. This distraction proved enough for me to spin my daughter around and nudge her, protesting, down the dark hallway toward her own bed (which went well, until I jammed my toes on a fan I’d left in the hallway covered in a black plastic bag).

Which reminds me: No matter how clear your intent, sometimes there are surprises. And don’t leave stuff around on the floor.

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