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Stop Selling If They Aren’t Your Customer!

by David Brock on December 10th, 2013

Wally Bock and I were talking the other day, he posed the question, “What if your products and services are the wrong choice for the customer?”  My knee jerk reaction was, “They aren’t your customer!”

Too often, we find ourselves in a situation where our solutions aren’t right for the customer.  Perhaps they aren’t right, period, or they aren’t right, right now.  But if they aren’t right then they aren’t a customer/prospect, and little we can do will change this (The “aren’t right, right now, issue is something we can do something about, but that’s another blog post.)

Yet we waste a lot of time, trying to convince the customers and ourselves it’s the right thing to do.  Perhaps we’re under pressure to make our numbers.  Perhaps, we think it’s a fit–we may have sold similar customers in the past.  Perhaps. our motivations are less than good, and we don’t care–we just want to trick the customer into ordering (I don’t think any sales people in this category are reading this post, but I had to mention it.)

Some of you might be saying, “But Dave, that’s so obvious!”  Yet too often, I find sales people wasting their and their customers’  or prospects’ times chasing the wrong deals.  It’s a classic qualification problem, unfortunately, the dominant qualification criteria is the prospect fogged a mirror.

It’s critical that we understand what problems we are the best in the world at solving.  It’s important to know who has those problems.  Those people/organizations are our customers and prospects, they represent our sweet spot.  No one else is, so don’t waste your time on them.  They’ll thank you and you will have time to focus on your real customers.

If we want to maximize our impact and ability to connect with customers in a meaningful way, we have to be viciously focused on customers in our sweet spot — and not waste time outside this.  It’s with these customers that we maximize our value creation.  It’s with these, that we maximize both our win rates and deal margins–because these customer value what we sell.

Seems simple—it is!  Yet, we make our lives tougher and waste our time.

We may not know or understand our sweet spot.  We don’t do the homework of honestly understanding what we are the best in the world at doing and who needs what we do.

Or we are struggling to make our numbers, so we relax our criteria, chasing people who may have money and may want to buy something, but they are far outside our sweet spot.  Trying to convince them to buy is wishful thinking and a huge time sink.

Or worst, we are too lazy to do the research.  We buy lists, dialing number after number, pitching our wares to people and organizations we have no business bothering.

We have to be thoughtful–individually and organizationally.  We have to know who our customer is and just focus on them.

Note to managers:  Make sure your people understand the sweet spot and they are focusing 100% of their prospecting on that sweet spot.  In your reviews, if they are pursuing opportunities outside that sweet spot, inspect it carefully.  If you and they are struggling with making your numbers, don’t relax you qualification criteria, it’s the certain way to de-focus the entire team and guarantee you won’t make the numbers.  Tighten your and their focus, viciously disqualify everything outside the sweet spot.

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  1. Dave,

    The concept of a “sweet spot” seems to be something that a lot of sales leaders are familiar with. When I talk about it they nod (virtually, since I’m usually on the phone).

    Being familiar with, and having the discipline to, reign in your team are two very different things.

    It is counter-intuitive for a sales rep to decide to give up on a prospect willing to spend money, but who has needs we can’t address.

    Disqualifying everything outside the sweet spot is the right answer. Giving them enough Sales Qualified Leads to keep their pipeline healthy is another story.

    That’s why Marketing must be in this conversation.

    Great post.

    • Great comment Dave! It is counter-intuitive, and a huge challenge if you aren’t making your number. This is where great discipline and focus is required on the part of sales leadership. They need to have the courage to stay the course. Anything else gets them into a performance death spiral.

      At the same time, it becomes a much larger business issue. Is marketing doing everything they can to develop sales qualified leads in our sweet spot, or are they diluting their efforts by casting a much wider net and looking outside the sweet spot.

      Beyond that, if sales and marketing are leaving no stone unturned in the sweet spot. If they are maximizing their impact and the results produced in the sweet spot–having very high win rates and very high share, but still aren’t making the number; this becomes a business strategy problem not a sales problem. It means our addressable market isn’t large enough to support our business goals or aspirations. No amount of beating sales up will change this picture–Yes, they will start chasing fringe/marginal deals–then their effectiveness starts to plummet. This is where the business has to come in to say, “How do we expand our addressable market?” or “How can we sale more within our sweet spot by expanding our products and services?” Getting corporate management to understand this requires strong sales management leadership. Sales executives need to have the courage to say, “We have dominant market share. We have very high win rates. We are closing every piece of business in our sweet spot. We are growing as much as we can with the solutions we have. We need to adapt our solutions to appeal to more or larger sweet spots. We need to have be able to solve more problems within our current sweet spot.”

      Thanks for the great comment Dave!

  2. John Sterrett permalink

    Why am I going to go into hard sell mode to get the PO and then have the customer resent me because mine was not the right or best solution?

    In my 18+ years in Field Sales, I have many times offered a solution that was not mine, but was the best. If I was selling a commodity, and the right product was not on my line card, I would tell them where they could get it. If my service would only get them 1/2 way to a solution, but I knew of the perfect solution, I would tell them.

    What I won in lieu of a short term sales number was a long-term relationship and the #1 spot on their speed dial, because they saw me as a trusted ally who delivers solutions.

    I have also been able to call in those favors from time to time to make month end or quarter end numbers.

    They may NOT be our customer – not yet – but it’s a long road…..

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