Perfect Beaches (Issue 426, A Summer Rerun)

In which we are encouraged to define target prospects more carefully for referral sources. Our rainy summer in New England this year reminds me of the year I took my children to Cape Cod for a week. Yes, it rained that week, too, and when the sun appeared in strength, we decided to head to a beach. We sorted out a general location and headed out. We looked at several beaches, some we'd seen before, others not; it soon became clear that each of had a different view of the perfect beach for the afternoon. [Hear the sound of gentle snarling in the car.]

We could have saved a lot of time and aggravation had we started out with a little exercise (this would have made my children nuts, and it would have saved us some time): “A perfect beach for me this afternoon looks like_________.”

Can you do that for your prospects and clients, by the way? Could you answer if one of your referral sources approached you and asked, “What does a perfect client look like for you?”

Well, I’ll bet you could, at some level. You could say, “this much in sales, that much in employees, growing about this fast, located in this or that area.” The basics.

Trouble is, that’s like saying a perfect beach has sand, water, waves, and parking. The description doesn’t narrow your focus much.

So, if the perfect beach has sand, water, waves, and parking, what else does it have? Boardwalk? Clam shack close by … or not? OK to build a fire? Lifeguards? Lots of families? Typically windy? Water warm or cold? Quiet or noisy? Sand – course or fine? Stones or not? Seaweed or not? Strong tidal pull or not? Buildings in sight… or not? Shower near the beach, or not? Takes a little time to think it through, but we could get there if we spent a few minutes on it. (Oh, do you think I’m the analytic in the crowd?)

Likewise, dig deeper with prospects. What else could we say beyond the basics? Consider the clients with whom we’re most successful. What’s common and compelling about them? What conditions lead best to our strengths? What characteristics distinguish ‘good’ prospects or clients from ‘great’ prospects or clients?

It could be any number of things, including

* current number of employees and hiring rates
* current and planned numbers of business locations
* owner or CEO age-related issues (e.g. succession)
* owner or CEO style (e.g. conservative/worried, visionary/expansive)
* life cycle stage and transition points (e.g. trying to move from entrepreneurial to professionally managed)
* sales growth rates (consider past, current, and future)
* plans (e.g. aggressive growth, moderate growth, steady state, declining)
* asset expansion requirements
* cash flow management requirements
* investment concerns
* cost reduction concerns
* risk management concerns
* technology standards
* number of ‘seats’ for computing
* … and on and on.
Takes a little time to think it through, but we can get there if we spend a few minutes on it. So, when a referral source asks, “What does a perfect prospect look like for you,” you’ll answer in enough detail that you get what you want without driving around, wasting a lot of time, snarling.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, we’re approaching our ten minutes of sun shine in New England. Time to motor out looking for… the perfect beach.

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