090808 Finding Your Fit

In which we are reminded that not every prospect is worth our full attention. When I heard Al Hirt (jazz trumpet player popular in the 1950s and 1960s) play the song, "I Can't Get Started," as a 10 year old, I fell in love with that song and the horn.

I knew I had to play it. I knew I wanted to make that sound – rich, brassy, and powerful, never mind the guy’s speed and technique. (If you have access to i-Tunes, you can hear a bit of Hirt playing the song there.)

So, my parents rented a trumpet. I started lessons. By high school, I had a good ear, good tone, great enthusiasm, and one thing became clear. I was not going to out-hit Hirt on the horn. My jaw wasn’t structured to do what I wanted to do on the horn, never mind the difference in body bulk – 150 pounds and the power Hirt’s diaphragm could generate. The pressure required to hit the notes I wanted to hit caused problems with my ears. We tried different trumpets, different mouth pieces, and different teachers, and we could not make it work.

So, I switched to the baritone horn. Big mouth piece. Big tubing. BIG difference. Still have the horn. Still play it from time to time. I’d found my fit.

This idea of "finding your fit" is as critical in prospecting as it is in music. It’s completely counter-intuitive to the "fill the funnel" mentality that seems to drive the sales business. We and our companies are not a good "fit" with every prospect out there. Pounding our way through lists of names one after another hoping that the next one will be a good fit is almost a complete waste of time.

Three steps help us find our fit when we’re prospecting.

Step one: Develop profiles that define our sweet spots (and their outer boundaries) in terms of:

Demographics — Company size, industry, number of employees, maturity, etc.
Psychographics — Our customers’ psychological profiles, particularly those related to how they buy.
Trigger events — Conditions that prompt prospects to consider a change or buy.

We may create different profiles for the different products and services we offer. Inside the limits: good prospects. Outside the limits: Drop ‘em.

Step 2: Craft a “story” for each profiled group. The story should say why our companies exist in terms meeting the challenges our prospects face; prospective customers who hear the story should be able to see themselves in it. The people who don’t see themselves in our story are telling us they’re not likely to be customers.

Step 3: Pre-approach preparation to determine whether specific prospects fit our profile and whether they are currently facing or about to face trigger events. If they ARE, we begin our approach. If they are NOT, then we either save our breath and leave them for later or we deepen our research to learn more about what’s hidden from public view. Drop any prospect that doesn’t fit the criteria in one or more significant ways.

Just like my body was a good fit for the baritone horn not for the trumpet, our companies and our suites of products are a good fit for some prospects and customers and not for others. The trick is to figure out the fit before you cause problems with your years.

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