Focusing on target customers is critical to improving effectiveness and producing results. Many sellers focus solely on qualification and not on disqualification. While it may seem like semantics, sales professionals need to focus on disqualifying bad deals – opportunities that are not in the ‘sweet spot’. They may be real opportunities – things that would otherwise pass normal qualification tests – but they may not be good opportunities for you or your company. Sellers need to focus time and company resources on deals in the sweet spot, which will result in increased productivity, sales effectiveness and ultimately, win rate.
While we get excited about the features and capabilities of the products that we sell, we sometimes forget that value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder (and in this case, that’s the customer). Until we, as part of our discovery process, determine what the customer values, we cannot truly present a unique and differentiated value proposition.
Disciplined customer selection and a rigorous process of disqualification will increase the ROI from sales efforts and deliver greater results. In other words, your time is spent where it counts most. Too often, sellers adopt a ‘spray and pray’ attitude to business development, which is almost always a recipe for sub-optimal performance. How can you apply your solution to a customer’s problem, unless you have focused on the needs of that specific customer? It’s not possible. Your success depends on thoroughly understanding customer needs and how you can uniquely and competitively meet their requirements.
(Click here for a software solution to help you operationalize a proven approach to disqualify deals not in your sweet spot.)
Once you know your customer’s needs, the next step is to describe the value that your product delivers in the context of those needs. The question you want answered now is whether this particular customer wants what you have. Your next task is to describe, in terms the customer understands, why he should care about your offering. How is it going to help solve his unique business problem, better than any alternative?
Customers care about a product’s benefits – not it’s features. You should too. It’s not that the technology, or innovation, that’s at the core of your product isn’t important; it’s just that, unless it delivers value, it doesn’t matter. It’s not that your lower price isn’t advantageous; it’s just that, until you create value in the mind of the buyer, the buyer isn’t interested at any price. That’s the power of a well-crafted value proposition. It expresses your unique value, and gets the customer interested – it’s your promise to deliver.
Think about the value you deliver in terms of what I call ‘measurable’ and ‘ambient’ value. Measurable value is tangible. ‘Reduce response time by 30%’, ‘increase market penetration by 10%’, ‘reduce labor costs by half’, are all examples of measurable value, easy to identify and explain.
Ambient value is harder to explain and sell. ‘Improved image’ and ‘stronger morale’ are examples of ambient value. A common mistake is that sellers often describe their measurable value as ambient value. ‘Better customer satisfaction’ and ‘increased productivity’, unless quantified, are perceived as ambient value and entirely subjective. Better customer satisfaction translates into a reduction in customer churn, while increased productivity brings lower production costs. Do the work, run the numbers to quantify the benefit, and make the effort to turn a perceived ambient value into a real, measurable one.
The following five questions will help you define that area of focus:
- Who is the real buyer or buyers in the target customer organization?
- What is the impact of your product on the buyer’s company? What business problem does it solve?
- What are the [ranked] purchase criteria that arise from the buyer’s perception of how your [type of] product might impact his organization?
- What are the existing and potential sources of unique value that you can deliver – what’s your ‘special sauce’?
- How do you know your ‘sauce is special’ and that the customer cares?
The market’s continuous state of rapid evolution and dynamic market conditions places severe stress on sellers striving for success. Most sectors are in a state of constant flux. New products, trends, and increasing levels of customer sophistication, combine to create a Darwinian environment, where only the fittest can survive. To stay alive, you must have a focused proposition that delivers value for each target customer. The delivery of superior value to your customer – at a competitive price – lies at the core of success, and you will only find that success recipe in a subset of the customers with whom you engage.
Failing early is better than failing later. If ambiguity or fuzziness exists, sustained success is impossible. Disciplined disqualification should never be viewed as failure – it is, in fact, the quickest path to your optimum win rate.