First Person: Sales Success Means Focusing on Your Ideal Customer Profile

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One of the most challenging things I have to get across to clients is the critical nature of the ideal customer profile. In part that's because most of us in sales or as small business owners and managers want to believe that what we have is valuable to everyone so let's advertise to everyone and let's call on everyone. As a smart marketer, however, you narrow your focus to those most likely to buy. After all, sales success means focusing on your ideal customer profile.

At one time in frontier America there weren't discount warehouse stores, retail megastores and the Internet. In fact, back then if you were lucky, you lived within a few hours ride of a general store. When a peddler came through with his wagon, it was exciting. You could buy what he had on the wagon right then and there. Of course you could also put in a special order then wait weeks or months for him to return with it. In other words, your choices were limited so you listened to his spiel about whatever he wanted to sell.

Now Prospects Ignore What Has No Meaning for Them

Today, we're busier than ever so we tune out messages that have no appeal or interest. For instance, I tend to replace my car every three years or so. My tires at the end of that time have lots of tread left on them. And I live in Southern California so I don't need snow tires. I lack an interest in off-roading or any activity that needs special tires. Because of this profile, I ignore any ads, flyers, TV commercial, radio spots or Internet messages about tire sales.

As a Small Business Owner, I Looked for Vendors Who Provided Both Parts and Support

When I had my printer maintenance company, however, I had very specific needs and we actively sought out people who had what we needed. For instance, we serviced every type of line printer we could get a service call for or a contract on. Line printers are those heavy duty printers used in major corporations to print reports. Some can print a whole sheet of wide report paper that was 60 lines deep in a few seconds.

If you knew how to fix one, you were in good shape to fix another brand, another model. The problem was that every brand, every model, had its own unique problems. We could spend hours and hundreds of dollars replacing every part on the printer in order to fix it eventually. However, our contracts were priced tightly enough to be attractive to our customers so that approach would have sucked up all of our profit and left us in the hole.

Instead, we searched the Internet for parts suppliers who had printer support for us. They could answer our questions and tell us the most likely parts needed and how to replace them. Generally they were right the first time so we only had to order what they recommended and the next day we would have our customer's printer up and running.

Their Support Was Worth a Premium Despite Our Desire to Keep Costs Down

Because of this higher level of service, we would pay these vendors more for the expertise which we counted on. As a small business, we had to managed costs and expenses carefully so we would still negotiate the best price we could. Nevertheless, their advice saved us time and money elsewhere and enabled us to give better service. The value of the part was worth their premium price.

The point of all this is that the smart marketer narrows his focus to those most likely to buy. As a small business doing printer maintenance, we had a need for more than just parts. We frequently had an even greater need for expertise and advice from vendors we could trust. Most of the vendors we chose specialized in certain brands. Regardless, they understood sales success means focusing on your ideal customer profile and concentrating on filling specific needs. We found them because their websites spoke to what we needed. As a result, they made more profit than the average parts shop.

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