June 23, 2010


Profiling is not allowed in a criminal case, but it makes a lot of sense in your business case. By establishing a set of behaviors and characteristics that define your best customers, you create a pattern or profile to use in searching for new ones.

That is our topic this time.

Tom Sant


Can you describe your best customers? Would you recognize them if you bumped into them at a conference or on a sales call?

You may be rolling your eyes at this point. Of course I recognize my best customers! I'm in their offices eight to ten times a year! I'm more likely to recognize them than I am to pick out my spouse's cousin at a wedding!

Right. But what I'm referring to is whether or not you've created a profile of your best customers. One that identifies the nature of their business, their business model, their financial situation, key recent events, significant pending changes, their current infrastructure, and any other characteristic that helps define them.

When I developed the first version of ProposalMaster almost 20 years ago, I did it based on the observation that most of my clients had a limited number of vertical markets to which they sold their products and services. Within those markets, there were half a dozen or a dozen reasons that clients needed their products and services. There were certain options and features that were of particular interest to certain kinds of buyers. By defining the typical buyers and what motivated them, we were able to create a taxonomy of the content sales people needed to deliver persuasive proposals to the buyers they encountered most frequently.

That same thinking can be the basis of creating a comprehensive sales toolkit. Everything from cold calling scripts to negotiation strategies can be thought through in terms of the typical patterns of behavior that you and your colleagues run into. And profiling your best customers can make it easier for you to find them and connect with them. In fact, profiling your best customers should help you figure out the most effective sales process.

Here are some questions that may help you start profiling for profit:
• Do our customers' needs vary by vertical market?
• Do their needs vary by the buyer's role?
• Do needs vary based on other factors, such as:
o Size of the customer's organization?
o Geography?
o Primary source of funding?
o Their use of certain legacy systems?

• Are there certain "trigger events" or "red flags" that are strong predictors of when a customer is most likely to need our help, such as:
o Explosive growth?
o Expansion into a new market?
o Release of new products or services?
o New CEO, VP of Engineering, VP of Sales, or other senior leadership?
o Recent or pending acquisition or merger?
o Obviously broken processes (for example, high rates of product returns, poor quality, late financial filings)?
o Employee morale issues as indicated by high levels of sick time, absenteeism, accidents, workers' comp claims?
o Market share erosion?
o Loss of patent protection?
o Declining productivity?
o Declining revenues?

The specific questions you ask to profile your best customers—and more importantly, your best prospects—will be different from these, of course. But figuring out what they are and then finding the answers to them is an important step forward in creating an empirical basis for your sales process, the tools your sales people use, and the content in your proposal and presentation libraries.

It will probably come as little surprise to you to know that we can help you with that process. We conduct Structure & Strategy sessions for our clients that uncover the right answers to the right questions, which is one of the reasons that companies that implement our proposal software see a near 30 percent increase in win rates on average. Give us a call if you'd like some help profiling for profit in your business.

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